Geneva II offers best chance for a political solution to Syria Crisis, must start with commitment to halt violence and improve humanitarian situation

Oxfam calls for increased participation of women and civil society organizations in peace process

The Geneva II Conference, which opens today, must deliver real change in the lives of ordinary Syrians, says the worldwide development organization Oxfam.

The organization says that millions of lives are riding on this event, which offers the best chance of ending the violence and alleviating the suffering of the millions of Syrians caught up in the conflict. More than 2.3 million refugees have fled their homes to neighboring countries and an estimated 9.3 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria.

Opportunity for breakthrough

Oxfam’s advisor on humanitarian and security issues, Shaheen Chughtai, who is in Geneva this week, said: “Geneva II offers a real opportunity for a major breakthrough for all those who are suffering the effects of this devastating crisis. This chance must not be squandered.

“While negotiations will not resolve the crisis overnight, they should instead deliver a clear timeline and process for doing so. Time will fly this week – and every second in Montreux counts.

“The litmus test for success is clear. We need to see an immediate halt to the violence, which is tearing Syria apart, and concrete steps for improving the humanitarian situation. Whatever comes out of the talks, strides must be made to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of ordinary Syrians – this cannot be used as a political bargaining chip. All those people in desperate need, including in besieged towns and communities, must be able to access life-saving aid – the government and opposition must agree this as an absolute priority.”

Women and civil society organizations vital

Oxfam wants to see the full and active participation of women and civil society organizations in the political process moving forward.

“It is critical that a concerted and systematic effort is made to end the marginalization of Syria’s peaceful majority. This means meaningfully involving women and Syrian civil society organisations in the talks– and not leaving them out in the cold,” Chughtai added.

Oxfam called for Syrian civil society groups to be involved in the implementation of negotiated agreements, including monitoring ceasefires and human rights violations, conducting reconciliation efforts, and helping to support rule of law as this will help ensure that any final agreement enjoys broad public support – and will last.

And the aid agency also said the peace talks should involve all governments and institutions involved in the conflict and those intending to play a part in Syria’s reconstruction.

Halting arms transfers

Oxfam called on the international community not to undermine the talks and said those attending must agree a complete halt to the arms and ammunition transfers into Syria, which are fuelling the conflict and causing so much of the devastation.

Oxfam continues to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria and to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

The organization urged the international community to listen to those most affected by this crisis.

Um Hayel, aged 44, a former agricultural worker from Ghota, rural Damascus, now living as a refugee in Zaatari Camp, Jordan, sent a message to representatives attending the Geneva Conference. She said: “I hope we will go back to our lands, to plant and harvest. I hope it will become a safe and stable place to be. And the air strikes and the killing come to an end.”

Abu Hussein, a former shepherd from rural Damascus, also living as a refugee in Zaatari camp, Jordan, said: “All we want is to go back to our country and for peace to prevail. We want the conflict to be resolved. We want to go back to our villages….These are our hopes.”

Notes to editors

Download the Arabic version of this press release.

Oxfam asked ordinary Syrians -- many of them refugees in Jordan -- what they want to come out of the Geneva talks. Here's what they told us:

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Contact information

For more information or to arrange interviews with Shaheen Chughtai in Geneva, or Oxfam’s Syria Campaign Manager, Camilla Jelbert Mosse, please contact:
Zahra Akkerhuys on +44 7525 901932 or email zakkerhuys@oxfam.org.uk
Currently in Beirut for Syria Response – local # +961 70061797