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Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Supporting Syria civil society conference: final communique

3 February 2016

Civil society came together today to discuss how to support Syrians inside Syria and in the region. The communique below calls on world leaders to take action. Visit our Syria hub to find out more about what NGOs are doing in and around Syria. The hub also has resources you can use to support civil society demands.

Communique

As Syrian, regional and international civil society organisations (CSOs) involved in responding to the horrors faced by Syrians inside their own country and the needs of refugees across the Middle East and Europe, we call on leaders to take urgent action to respond effectively and in a timely manner to the most devastating humanitarian crisis of our generation.

We stress that Syrian CSOs with their expertise must be at the heart of the discussions at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference held in London on 4 February 2016, and beyond. It is crucial that we do not only see Syrian leadership as a token presence in the identification of funding priorities and in the subsequent implementation of projects on the ground.

Given that the London conference will be running almost simultaneously with the ongoing Geneva III talks, we strongly hope that they will be seen as two complementary processes. Humanitarian efforts for Syria must be accompanied by a guarantee for civilian protection and a comprehensive solution to the root causes of this brutal conflict.

Although we recognise the efforts to reduce the effects of the war on Syrians both inside and outside Syria, we stress the importance of ending the conflict to allow for the rebuilding to start. We need concrete action on your part to end the violence, stop the bombs and airstrikes, break the sieges, and release detainees.

We therefore call upon the Syria donor conference participants and the wider international community to:

1. Strongly and unconditionally condemn all attacks on civilian life and infrastructure, in particular health and educational facilities. Press all parties engaged in the conflict to uphold International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and hold those who breach IHL to account.

2. Call for an immediate end to siege tactics and demand unhindered access to humanitarian aid.

3. Redouble efforts to build a substantial civilian-centred peace process that ensures safety and protection of civilians, inclusive of women’s effective participation.

4. Improve protection for refugees from the crisis, including by providing safe and legal routes within and beyond the region and regularising their residency and registration.

5. Ensure that Syrian women and men are at the forefront in determining the funding priorities and setting strategies, and not only seen as passive beneficiaries or implementing partners.

6. Provide long-term funding directly to Syrian CSOs to support and empower them, while encouraging INGOs and international agencies into more equal and strategic partnerships.

7. Resolve limitations that CSOs face in acquiring legal status in neighbouring countries and beyond.

8. Amend counter-terror policies and sanctions affecting funding flows and banking for CSOs, so that remittances can reach affected men, women and children.

9. Couple emergency response with early recovery and development, providing long-term, flexible, multi-year funding plans and programs (up to 2020 and beyond).

10. Shift from tick-box approaches to gender and increase support for Syrian women-led initiatives and groups.

11. Commit to a Marshall-size plan for the development of countries in the Middle East affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. This plan should be in coordination with governments, the private sector and other agencies. It must include substantial, sustained funding to support job creation and livelihoods opportunities for refugee and host communities, enabling legal and decent work.

12. Ensure that all children and young people affected by the conflict are in education by the end of the 2016/17 school year, by increasing long-term funding for education. While certification of formal education services in Syria and refugee host countries is important, quality and sustainability through non-formal education must be ensured. Engaging with Syrian teachers is part of the solution.