Against the Odds: Civil Society in the Intra-Syrian Talks

On March 15, 2018, the Syrian armed conflict entered into its eighth year. Since 2011, attempts to facilitate a political solution to the Syrian conflict have either failed or stalled. Amidst this deadlock, one track that has not stalled is the civil society track. Against the odds, progress can be observed at this level as Syrian civil society has become better organized and more tightly interconnected, and as its voice in the process has grown stronger.

This issue brief looks at progress on this track through the Civil Society Support Room (CSSR), a novel approach to including civil society in a peace process that could become a model for other processes to follow. The paper outlines three of the CSSR’s central functions, three key contributions it can make to the peace process, and the three main challenges encountered. It also proposes three measures for the CSSR moving forward:

  • For both the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE-S) and CSSR participants to engage in an open discussion about the scope of the latter’s role in the process;
  • For the OSE-S to continue its efforts to reach out to and engage with civil society actors located in hard-to-reach areas inside Syria and in refugee camps in the region; and
  • For the OSE-S to continue to engage with civil society actors not only during intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, but also between rounds of talks and in the region.