Well into the eight year of armed conflict in Syria there are not many highlights to report. Attempts to facilitate political solutions since 2011 have so far failed or stalled, despite the efforts made. The intra-Syrian talks in Geneva are still only so-called “proximity talks”, and the parties are as far from engaging directly with one another as ever. One aspect of the process which has not stalled, however, is the civil society track, as pointed out by Sara Hellmüller (swisspeace) and Marie-Joëlle Zahar (University of Montréal) in a new brief.
In the International Peace Institute (IPI) brief Hellmüller and Zahar account for the innovative work that has been done to include civil society voices in the UN intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. Against the odds, say the authors, progress can be observed: Syrian civil society has become better organised and more tightly interconnected, and its voice in the process has grown stronger. The establishment of the inclusion mechanism – the Civil Society Support Room (CSSR) – was initiated by the office of the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in January 2016. The CSSR has since then been facilitated by two implementing partners, namely swisspeace and NOREF. Read more about CSSR, its functions, contributions and challenges in the brief Against the Odds: Civil Society in the Intra-Syrian Talks informed and co-penned by one of the CSSR project managers, Sara Hellmüller.