On February 6, 2023, a series of devastating earthquakes struck northwest (NW) Syria and South Turkiye claiming thousands of lives, causing significant destruction on both sides of the border and leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians in dire need of urgent aid. 

More than three months since the disaster, the humanitarian and political effect of the earthquake continues to reverberate in the region, with Syrian refugees in Turkiye and the general population in NW Syria being the most heavily impacted. The speed and nature of the UN response to the earthquake in NW Syria particularly has caused consternation among those affected. As has the perceived acceleration in normalization by Arab states with the Syrian regime in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Those directly affected and working on emergency issues feel there is a critical need to convey to the international community, the donors and the UN with its respective agencies, the short and long-term humanitarian needs of the Syrian people in NW Syria. This includes their perspectives on the right political and legal framework for the sustainability of such aid and on post-earthquake rehabilitation/recovery. They also feel it is imperative for their voices to be included in discussions pertinent to finding a political solution in Syria and particularly, the UN OSE ‘step for step’ (S4S) approach.

On March 17, 2023, the European Institute for Peace (EIP) and the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) convened a conference bringing together a large group of Syrian civil society organizations to assess the humanitarian and political situation of the Syrians affected by the earthquake in South Turkiye, NW Syria. Following the meeting they penned a letter laying out their demands ahead of the International Donor’s Conference on March 20, 2023. 

As a follow up to the first conference, and in anticipation of the Brussels VII Conference ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ on 14 & 15 June, the EIP and SACD will host a second conference on June 8, 2023

The conference will gather the leading Civil Society and advocacy groups active in NW Syria and Turkey as well as leading displaced Syrian voices and figures, along with a distinguished group of international diplomats and researchers specialized in Syria to discuss the following topics (questions):

  • What are the most urgent humanitarian and aid needs of Syrians in NW Syria and south Turkey, and how can we ensure that aid reaches those in need?
  • How do we assess the UN response to the earthquake in its immediate aftermath and currently, and what lessons need to be learned?
  • How do we ensure the sustainability of the flow of aid and humanitarian assistance to NW Syria, and overcome the “cross-border” conundrum?
  • What are the implications arising from the earthquake for the prospects of a calm, safe and neutral environment for the return of refugees and IDPs: is normalization increasing; what is the agenda on rehabilitation; what is entailed by the ‘steps for steps’ concept at this point; is the risk of forced returns increasing?
  • What role for Syrian civil society in the post-earthquake assistance and rehabilitation/recovery?

The conference will enable Syrian voices active on the ground and with unique access and knowledge of the needs and reality of the victims of the earthquake to be heard, and to provide a comprehensive view of the Syrian panorama post-earthquake.

The outcome of this conference will inform the Brussels VII conference and provide policy makers with clear guidelines on what the Syrian people are expecting from the international community in the dire circumstances worsened by the earthquake.

Closing Statement