Syria peace talks begin at last, but Syrian civil society and women sidelined

Emergencies, Women's rights article written on the 23 Jan 2014

After months of postponements, the long-awaited Geneva II Conference to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria began yesterday in Montreux, Swtizerland. At the end of the first day of the conference, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor Shaheen Chughtai gave a wrap up of progress so far.   

It took a monumental diplomatic effort to make today’s conference happen. Grandstanding aside, the Montreux conference could mark the first step on a long, rocky road to the resolution of this devastating crisis.

Little – if anything – will have changed on the ground today for ordinary Syrians who are suffering however. The women, men and children struggling to survive the conflict need to see a breakthrough – and fast. A halt to the violence and allowing people to fully access humanitarian aid must be prioritized.

Oxfam is concerned that Syrian civil society organisations and women have, so far, been sidelined. Many representatives of Syrian civil society including women made the long journey to Montreux today – but were denied a place around the table. That must change as the talks progress if they are to deliver a sustainable political solution. The voice of the peaceful, yet marginalized majority, must be heard.

Additionally, we urge the international community not to undermine the negotiations and to agree a complete halt to the arms and ammunition transfers into Syria, which are fuelling the conflict.

The talks will continue throughout this week in Geneva.