#Madaniya2023: Syrian civil society groups gather in Paris in new peace push

#Madaniya2023: Syrian civil society groups gather in Paris in new peace push
3 min read
06 June, 2023
Dozens of Syrian civil society groups met to discuss how they can play an active role in their country moving forward.
The Syrian opposition has condemned Arab states' rapprochement with the Syrian regime after 12 years of war [Getty/archive]

Representatives of around 150 Syrian civil society organisations gathered in the French capital on Tuesday to discuss their work in war-torn Syria, amid a regional push for normalisation with the Assad regime.

Organised by Madaniya Network, the two-day conference - MadaniyaConf2023 - brought together actors of dozens of civil society groups at the Arab World Institute in Paris to discuss how they can reclaim their role in Syrian political life.

Representatives of Western states, such as the UK, were also present at the event, although organisers dismissed the idea of foreign intervention in the Syrian peace process.

Madaniya, a Syrian-led initiative, describes itself as being "independent of political and foreign influence" and "aimed at enhancing the political agency of the Syrian civic space".

It was launched at the start of this year by a group of influencers and business people involved in politics and headed by Syrian-British businessman Ayman Asfari, chairman of the platform.

"We can’t separate civil society from the political discourse that is happening on Syria," Asfari said at the conference.

The conference in Paris comes amid Arab states' rapprochement with the Syrian regime.

Damascus had been left out in the cold for much of the 12-year civil war it sparked by brutally cracking down on peaceful protests. It had been suspended from the Arab League since 2011, before it was welcomed back last month.

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"Restoring the political capacity within the Syrian civil space, under a civilian umbrella, does not mean an intention to replace the existing Syrian bodies participating in the political processes defined by UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254, but rather it seeks to complete her efforts," a statement issued by organisers after the conference said.

"The goal of restoring political capacity is rooted in our belief that we, the Syrian civil actors, must actively participate in shaping all paths that can lead to a political solution, as protected by this Security Council resolution."

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 was unanimously adopted on 18 December 2015 and calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria. It has formed the backbone of political negotiations to end the war which have been repeatedly blocked by the Assad regime.

Member of the platform’s board of directors Hossam Al-Qess said all proposals discussed at the conference are based on helping to ease the suffering of the Syrian people and reaching a political solution based on resolution 2254.

UN-sponsored peace talks between the Syrian regime and Syrian opposition collapsed last year and have failed to resume.

They came to a complete halt in June 2022 after the regime and its Russian ally said that the Swiss city of Geneva, where the talks were being held, was not a "neutral" venue, insisting they be moved to a different location.