Options for an Inclusive Peace Process in Syria

   •    October 25, 2013

A female activist from northern Syria maps out the web of relationships between various local and international decision makers during an advocacy skills training in Turkey, September 2013.

In June 2012, over one year after revolution erupted in Syria, international actors agreed on a set of principles for a Syrian-led transition to peace and democracy, including that “[a]ll groups and segments of society…must be enabled to participate.”

But 16 months after this agreement was reached in Geneva, how has it factored into planning for negotiations to end the war? The preliminary results of our forthcoming survey of Syrian civil society leaders indicate that, though they support inclusion of civil society in international-level negotiations (87% in favor), most (81%) have never been engaged by any of the international actors trying to mediate a political transition in Syria.

Research shows that peace agreements negotiated by both political actors and civil society representatives are 60% less likely to fail. To ensure the success and sustainability of a political settlement on Syria, international actors responsible for facilitating peace talks must ensure that civil society helps set the agenda, participates directly in the negotiations, and shapes the content of discussion.

Inclusive Security, International Civil Society Action Network, and Nonviolent Peaceforce recently convened representatives from diverse sectors to discuss concrete options for a more inclusive Syrian peace process. Meeting participants grappled with key questions:

  • What are the criteria for determining “legitimate” civil society interlocutors?
  • What steps need to be taken to prepare for substantive civil society engagement?
  • How can we ensure real influence over the talks, not just symbolic participation?

Representatives from diverse sectors meet in Washington, DC, October 2013, to discuss options for a more inclusive Syrian peace process.

The resulting report draws on historical examples and the collective expertise of the participants to detail three potential models that would allow substantive inclusion of Syrian civil society in the negotiations. Each model is presented with thoughts on participant selection, actions needed to pave the way for implementation, and keys to success.

Inclusive Security and its partners are consulting with networks inside Syria to solicit input on these models and modify them accordingly. In collaboration with Syrian civil society leaders, we’re committed to creating space for a truly inclusive and lasting peace.

Read the full report on “Building More Inclusive Political Transitions: A Review of the Syrian Case” in English or Arabic.

Additional Resources:
Nine Models for Inclusion of Civil Society in Peace Processes (prepared as a background memo for meeting participants)

Related blog posts:
Syrian Women Envision a Peaceful Future
Why We Need to Support Civil Society in Syria

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