Shaml believes its organizations together clearly demonstrate the body of work of Syria’s nation-wide network of civil society actors that provide services across the most critical sectors. By partnering with a professional advocacy organization, Shaml plans to create a dedicated effort that highlights these efforts and advances three key messages in Friends of Syria countries.
Syrian civil society offers an overlooked alternative to the Assad regime and violent extremists: Syrian civil society have proven a third way in Syria is the only viable alternative to this despotic regime and monstrous extremists that have killed, maimed, starved, and imprisoned Syrians by the millions. At this critical junction, we must place pressure on policy makers to build on the momentum already established, not leave it for abandonment.
Creation of civilian protection mechanisms must be enforced: As Russian, Iranian and Assad Regime aggression continues to escalate, it has become eminently clear that without immediate actions that facilitate the creation of civilian protection mechanisms, local governance and civil society activity will be wiped away. Such a development would decisively empower extremists and refugee crisis will spiral out of control.
Any political settlement should ensure meaningful civil society participation: Thus far through the Geneva process and the more recent Russian, Turkish, Iranian tripartite negotiations held in December 2016, meaningful participation of Syrian civil society has been noticeably missing. Despite clumsy efforts to invite civil society actors, the process has been cosmetic and lacks a clear framework of engagement.
MEMBERSHIP IN THE HLG
The Humanitarian Liaison Group (HLG), is the highest strategy advisory body in Turkey on the humanitarian response to Syria. The HLG is made up of representatives from all actors on the humanitarian response; including: all UN agencies, representatives from International NGOs, Syrian NGOs, Turkish humanitarian agencies and the Turkish government.
The HLG holds monthly meeting to discuss issues related to Syrian humanitarian operations. Four Syrian NGOs sit in the HLG meeting, representing in this position interests and concerts of the collective of over 160 Syrian NGOs registered with OCHA/UN.
In its capacity as HLG member, Shaml has achieved a number of successes:
SUSPENDING COOPERATION WITH THE WOS
Many reports have emerged accusing the UN of abandoning humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality in Syria. These include the findings highlighted in the Guardian article on the UN’s compromises, especially its Damascus office, in its dealings with the Assad regime; and also report prepared by the Syria campaign titled: Taking Sides. In addition to these reports, Syrian NGOs have previously highlighted the critical alterations that the Assad regime has made to the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan, and which were eventually accepted and adopted by the UN.
In response a group of 73 Syrian NGOs, including Shaml members, launched a campaign to hold the UN accountable to its principles. The campaign entailed a) suspension of information sharing with the WoS structure and b) press and media releases to ensure that our point of view is clearly and widely communicated. The campaign demanded revision and an investigation of the UN’s humanitarian operations in Syria and its adherence to humanitarian principles.
The Whole of Syria (WoS) is the body that was formed by the UN to coordinate the humanitarian responses amongst its hubs in Damascus, Turkey and Jordan. The WoS was previously headed by the Damascus-based Humanitarian Coordinator, and was responsible for approving the alterations made by the Assad regime to the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan.
There were three main results for this campaign: 1) Syrian NGOs were closely involved in the revision of the WoS structure; 2) the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan was developed and finalised in consultation with all the hubs, and no concessions that would jeopardise the standard of the document were made; and 3) Syrian NGOs became better represented on the different levels of the WoS.
LETTER TO THE
Shaml has also facilitated the preparation and publishing of an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. The article was in response to Samantha Power’s statement to the Security Council, in which she criticized Russia and Iran over besiegement of Aleppo, saying: “Are you truly incapable of shame?”. Titled: “Message from Syria to the United States: We’ll Never Again Believe Your Lofty Rhetoric”, the op-ed piece aimed at highlighting the US’s inaction on Syria, and how that as well have played a role in emboldening the aggression and crimes of the Syrian, Russian and Iranian regimes in Syria.Lette
Shaml and its member organisations joined the wide outcry of the Syrian civil society in response to the besiegement, and later forced displacement, of civilians in East Aleppo. In addition to organisation coordination and information sharing meetings, Shaml organisations participated in a number of campaign activities with the aim of ensuring the safety of civilians. Efforts also addressed the great risk to the lives of aid workers, medics and activists; as those who were particularly threatened to be singled out, detained, tortured or executed if their identities were checked during the evacuation.