How to resolve the Syrian conflict?
Academics and practitioners compare international experiences of strife to identify processes that could help put an end to the civil war.
Participants from 15 countries representing 25 nationalities and 10 different religious groups took part in a two-day conference organized by LAU’s Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (ISJCR), in collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre.
Fifty academics and practitioners, providing a comparative overview of countries that have know or are currently suffering political instability similar to the one in Syria, attended the event, which concluded today at the university’s Beirut campus. “Our aim was to exchange expertise and discuss how such conflicts can be resolved and what kind of processes can help put an end to the conflict in Syria,” explained ISJCR Director Imad Salamey.
Participants contributed to one of five panels, the first of which focused on power-sharing in Syria.
“It is amazing how much I learned at this conference, thanks to the diversity of scholars from different fields,” said KAICIID fellow Sniha Roy, who spoke about the role of women in leading reconciliation during the first panel, which was moderated by Syrian UNDP Director Samuel Rizk.
“It was the first time I had heard him speak, and I found him most convincing,” said conference guest Samah Halwany, co-founder and peace projects manager of Lebanon’s ADYAN Foundation. “The comparison with Somalia in the fourth panel was also very enlightening.”
That panel addressed peace building in Syria and was moderated by Elie Abouaoun, director of Middle East Programs at USIP. “I myself am particularly interested in the topics of power-sharing and local wisdom based mediation, and the role of religious leaders in peace building,” he said of the conference.
Among the religious leaders present was Bishop of the Syrian town of Wadi al Nasara, Elias Toumeh, who visits Lebanon regularly to teach interfaith dialogue at Balamand University. “The discussions have been very good and we were certainly enriched by an understanding of other experiences,” said Bishop Toumeh, who contributed to a panel focused on dialogue in Syria. “The first days was mostly theoretical and the second more practical. It is clearly a quality academic conference and I hope it is a contributor to the peace we all want for Syria,” he added, noting that he would have liked to see more participants from within Syria.
Independent consultant Reem Alsalem was among the speakers on the final panel which addressed international mediation in Syria. “I accepted the invitation to attend because I was inspired by the agenda, which was very comprehensive, very timely, and included a diverse list of participants,” said the Belgium-based consultant. “The fact that it is happening in Lebanon is very symbolically important as the country has been hosting many refugees and has been affected by the crisis in many ways, so it is important that there continues to be leadership on mediation and reconciliation from within the region and not just from Europe or the U.S.”