Last week International Alert co-hosted the launch of the Syrian Platform for Peace (SPP) in London with a group of UK-based Syrian civil society organisations. The evening highlighted the urgent need to find entry points for peacebuilding in Syria and emphasised the positive role the Syrian diaspora in the UK can play in beginning this process.
Dr Haytham Alhamwi, a founding member of the platform and Director of the Manchester-based non-profit organisation Rethink Rebuild Society, introduced the evening, followed by a Peace Talks panel discussion on ‘What is the role of the Syrian diaspora in building peace?’
Panellists included Lina Sinjab (Middle East Correspondent, BBC), Rouba Mhaissen (Founder and Director, Sawa for Development and Aid), Yasmine Nahlawi (Advocacy and Policy Coordinator, Rethink Rebuild Society) and Tahir Zaman (Research Consultant, International Alert), with video input from Anas Joudeh (Jozour, Syria) in Damascus. The discussion was chaired by Alert’s Secretary General Dan Smith.
To begin the debate, Dan posed the question: “While much is said about the conflict in Syria, what are the solutions?” In answering this, the panel explored how the Syrian diaspora can act as agents for peace through both their networks and relationships in Syria, and their ability to act as a bridge between the British government and those on the ground.
Rouba highlighted the positive role that diaspora communities have played in other conflicts, such as in Sri Lanka, whilst Tahir emphasised the positive role the Syrian diaspora can play in strengthening civil society and changing the narrative of the conflict away from terrorism and securitisation.
“A platform like this to be launched is crucial at this time,” said Lina. The SPP needs to represent a diversity of Syrian voices and, as Yasmine pointed out, “disagreement is inevitable, [but] we must remember that we all have the best interests of Syrians at heart.”
Following the discussion, Reem al Assil (Free Syrian Translators) presented the aims and objectives of the platform. The conversation then continued over food and music.
Alert will now continue working with Syrian individuals and organisations to help establish the SPP as an independent entity and help it build up momentum to create a constituency for peace.
You can watch the Peace Talks discussion at the top of this article and read our recent Peace Focus paper, The long road to peace, on engaging the Syrian diaspora here.
If you are a Syrian individual or organisation based in the UK and are interested in becoming a member of the Syrian Platform for Peace, please send us your details here.