Syrian civil society and young people have a vital role to play in reconciling divided communities and bringing lasting peace to Syria, according to peacebuilding charity International Alert, which works in more than 30 countries around the world including Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
The remarks came on the day the Syrian crisis entered its fifth year, and as delegates in Geneva gathered for another round of peace talks in an attempt to resolve the conflict.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of International Alert, said:
"Everyone hopes that an official peace deal on Syria will be reached soon. At the same, we can already support the many individuals and organisations working tirelessly to de-escalate the conflict in Syria and bring together communities traumatised and divided by five years of war.
“This work on the ground is essential to ensure any peace deal on Syria holds.”
Alert’s work on Syria includes supporting local partners in Syria and neighbouring countries to provide peace education classes where Syrian children, young people and adults from all backgrounds can receive trauma healing and learn to respect and understand each other. As a 17-year-old Syrian refugee attending these sessions in Lebanon said:
"Without these classes, I would have returned to Syria and joined ISIS."
Abdullah Qabbani, a Syrian currently working as Project Officer for Alert’s peace education project with Syrian refugees in Turkey, said:
“Peaceful activities in Syria and neighbouring countries have been sidelined by violence, but there are so many Syrians eager to contribute to bringing peace to their home country. We must re-engage with them so that they can stay invested and be role models for their fellow Syrians, particularly the vulnerable youth amidst the growing normalisation of violence. Durable peace in protracted conflict must put the emphasis on and invest in children and young people. We are working with children helping them deal with their trauma and build their resilience.”
Alert also supports Syrian artists within Syrian refugee communities in playing an active role in reconciliation and enabling them to generate positive social change.
“Supporting artists and civil society actors who usually tell stories of Syrian people in an innovative way can help Syrian refugees have hope again. This is how we can build the conditions for peace.”
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