News | 25 05 2020
The conference to support the future of Syria and the region started in Brussels on Tuesday with the participation of more than 200 Syrian, regional and international NGOs as well as civil society organizations.
The conference will discuss key issues affecting the Syrian people with ministers from the region and from donor countries, the EU commissioners, and the heads of United Nations agencies.
During the opening session yesterday, Helga Schmid, Secretary-General of the European External Action Service of the European Union (EEAS), stressed the European Union's position on the necessity of reaching a political solution in Syria through applying the Security Council Resolution 2254, pointing out that the third donor conference in Brussels has a clear message in this regard.
Schmid highlighted the European Union's refusal to re-establish relations with the Syrian regime under the current situation, indicating that the EU is always reminding the allies of the Syrian regime, who call for the normalization of relations with the Syrian regime, of the necessity to implement Security Council Resolution 2254 in order to pave the way for the establishment of a political solution.
UNDP Regional Director for the Arab States, Mourad Wahba, pointed out to the role of host communities in facilitating the refugees’ lives, as he referred to his own experience as a refugee in the past.
He insisted that the civil society should be an eyewitness to what is happening in Syria, and asked the Syrian NGOs to shed light on the challenges that must be addressed in order to improve the lives of vulnerable groups.
A number of attendees also recounted their experiences as refugees, displaced persons, and migrants as well as civil society activists during the last eight years in Syria, exposing the challenges they faced in hosting countries, such as the labor laws imposed on the refugees.
All the parties, who attended the session, agreed on the lack of safety conditions that may guarantee a secure return to Syria. They noted that Syria is still unsafe as long as there is no justice, for the Syrian regime continues to employ a repressive security system that abuses the Syrian people.
In the same context, U.S State Department Deputy Assistant, Richard Albright, highlighted the need to support programs targeting disabled people, providing support at the level of health, education and employment, as well as fighting the issue of school dropouts.
The absence of Syrian civil society organizations active in regime-held areas was very obvious in this conference.
The issue of homosexual Syrians and their safe return to the country was brought to discussion for the first time, referring to the fact that this group is considered as vulnerable and fragile and it is in need for appropriate guarantees in order to return.
The issue of the UN's assuming responsibility for the wives of ISIS fighters and their children stranded in the camps supervised by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was raised in discussions. Questions regarding the same issue were raised, mainly these females’ fate after being abandoned by their countries and not being allowed to take shelter in any other country.
Voices of Syrian Immigrants
Among similar topics introduced by the Council of the European Union during the conference, are ways to develop digital solutions to support Syrians, empowering citizenship and civil society, promoting entrepreneurship, and engaging Syrian youth and Syrian women.
A number of civil society organizations members attended the session entitled "Prospects for Return: Now Is No Right Time". During this panel, participants discussed the danger posed by unsafe returns and the conditions necessary to stimulate a voluntary, dignified, and safe return on a large scale addressing both international community and the European Union in particular.
At the closure of the panels, the emphasis was put on the fact that the current crisis taking place in Syria is protracted and that the figures revolving around returnees do not represent a reliable indicator, yet they highlight the need to support the lives of the refugees in host countries.
Therefore, policies should be developed to provide assistance to those who wish to return and support should be granted to host communities as well. Without granting safe conditions there, the refugees cannot be guaranteed a safe return.