SACD Newsletter

November 2022

SACD-led conference in Geneva marks the beginning of a new phase in the fight for rights of displaced Syrians

In a first event of this kind, displaced Syrians convened a high-level international conference in Geneva to address a dangerous paralysis in the political process and offer a roadmap for a political framework for establishing a safe environment needed for return of some 13 million refugees and IDPs. 

The conference gathered prominent Syrian figures from displaced communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Germany, France, Austria, United States, UK and inside Syria, as well as international experts to discuss the stagnation of the political process and the way forward.

The discussions were based on a substantive document titled “Roadmap for a safe environment in Syria” produced by the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD), as a result of three years of consultations with displaced Syrians and experts to detail what needs to happen before return becomes possible, during and after return of the displaced. 

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Establishing a safe environment in Syria as a policy imperative

The first session of the “Roadmap to a Safe Environment” international conference in Geneva explored the importance of elevating safe environment to the top of the political process on Syria and the possible ways through which this can be achieved. The conflict in Syria, which began with peaceful demonstrations in 2011 calling for reforms, is considered one of the most complex challenges that has faced the international community since the end of the Cold War, and there is no solution in sight. A comprehensive and sustainable political solution that fulfils Syrians’ aspirations remains the only way to end the war, restore stability to the region, and prevent the effects of the conflict from spilling over to neighbouring countries and Europe. In recent years, a “safe environment” has become a keyword in all influential countries’ political discussions of Syria. However, despite the assertion of all parties that a safe environment is a necessary condition for achieving any component of the political solution, it has never been clearly defined; nor has a road map for its realisation been drawn up. Most importantly, Syrians have not been consulted about the conditions and determinants of a safe environment. This session will explore the importance of elevating safe environment to the top of the political process on Syria and the possible ways through which this can be achieved. 

Moderator: Refik Hodzic 

Panelists: Michael Keating, Dr. Najat Rochdi, former Ambassador Ömer Onhon and Dr. Hala Al-Ghawi. 

Opening Statement by Dr Mazen Kseibi: Our work over the past four years has unequivocally shown us that the only solution to the Syrian issue lies in securing a safe environment for all Syrians

During the past three years, the Association made intensive efforts to communicate with segments representing all categories of Syrians everywhere and listened to their demands and aspirations to form an in-depth understanding of their reality and fears. We then transferred these outputs to academics, legal experts, Syrian and international experts to translate these visions into a roadmap that represents the basis and conditions necessary to build this safe environment in all constitutional, legal,

social, political, human rights and even logistical aspects. We also discussed with a group of international experts who had similar experiences in other countries, especially Bosnia and the Dayton Agreement, the practical steps to be implemented and in stages in order to succeed in this building process and enable the Syrians to take the decision of voluntary and dignified return to a safe environment that paves the way for rebuilding a new Syria, a Syria for all Syrians, a Syria of freedoms, rights and dignity.

This is what we came for today: to present to you a roadmap for a safe environment in Syria that carries the voice and vision of displaced Syrians, and we are confident that it will help break the state of political impediment and put the political process on the right track to reach a sustainable solution that guarantees all Syrians a better future.  

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Opening statement by Michael Keating: The need for a political settlement in Syria is more urgent than ever

Despite the dire economic, humanitarian, and security conditions in Syria and notwithstanding the support for refugees, refugees are under increasing pressure from host countries to return to their countries of origin. Circumstances in Syria and numerous testimonies, however, clearly indicate that there is no prospect for a safe and dignified return at the moment. 

The need for a political settlement in Syria is more urgent than ever, and yet the negotiations process is at a stalemate. In the words of UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, “work is needed to establish a safe, calm, neutral environment inside Syria, starting with confidence-building measures, as Resolution 2254 mandates.” 

Progress towards a safe, calm, neutral environment is the only way forward. Large scale premature and forced returns will lead to catastrophe if there is no agreement and guarantees on the rights of Syrians. Over these two days, Syrian experts, civil society and victim representatives are presenting a concrete vision on what that would entail. It is more than has been asked and delivered in other conflicts and is a testament to their commitment to the future of their nation. 

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Interview with Riyad Avlar, Co-Founder of (ADMSP): Detainees issue must be addressed before return

The Syrian Association for Citizens' Dignity (SACD) interviewed Riyad Avlar, Co-Founder of the association of detainees and missing ones in Sednaya prison (ADMSP), to talk more about the basic procedures that must be taken before the displaced return to Syria, explained the mechanisms necessary to reveal the facts about the fate of the detainees and the forcibly disappeared. In recent years, the term "safe environment" has become the keyword in all political discussions related to the Syrian issue. On the other hand, despite the assertion by all parties that a safe environment is necessary for achieving any of the components of a political solution. The nature of this environment has not been clearly defined, nor has a roadmap been drawn up to achieve it, nor have the Syrians been consulted about the conditions and determinants of that safe environment that is being talked about.

Roadmap to a Safe Environment in Syria

For over two years, the SACD has been working on gaining insight into what displaced Syrians in Syria and in the diaspora think about the Safe Environment (SE), in order to reach a clear definition that would eventually help in building consensus amongst Syrians, and produce a document that would be an effective way in conveying these ideas to policy makers and make the SE a fundamental part of the on-going political discussion, and potentially the corner stone of the future political solution.

Through dozens of outreach meetings, focus groups and surveys of Syrian in all parts of the country and approach, and with the collaboration of leading Syrian and non-Syrian experts in the legal and constitutional issues, the SACD managed to produce a comprehensive and detailed blueprint of what a SE would look in Syria and different phases to implement such environment. 

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