The dialogue project was developed with the goal of stabilizing the region, engaging with the Syrian political process, and building positive relations with neighboring states. To achieve this, local constituents in NES must reach an agreement on political representation and resource management. For this purpose, the Stimson center (formerly the EastWest Institute) and IMPACT joined forces, reaching out to international, regional, and local stakeholders to realize a long-term project. Other renowned institutions joined us on an ad-hoc basis.
Through workshops, closed briefings, and extensive research projects, the project actively engaged with actors in NES. Our primary target groups included local political leaders, regional and international officials, and civil society.
The team engaged civil society actors from the start of the project in parallel as an alternative advocate for peace to the political track. The continuous engagement of civil society in meetings and media appearances helped pressure political leaders to start implementing confidence-building measures.
A series of meetings and closed briefings with experts and officials from the interested regional and international powers were held. Discussions in these meetings allowed stakeholders to better understand the political situation as well as the huge potential for achieving a mutually beneficial deal between the Government of Syria (GoS) and regional powers. Our efforts, along with similar initiatives by others, encouraged countries such as the USA and France to engage in dialogues and host official meetings among Kurdish actors.
The dialogues were supported by the publication of many policy papers and background papers. Some topics had never been formally studied before our initiative.
The intra-Kurdish dialogue project enabled local political actors and international backers to engage in confidence-building measures. As well as this, it propelled interventions in the region to a Track I dialogue, with official state presence. This began in Paris and was moved to NES where it was hosted by the Syrian Democratic Forces and supported by the USA.
In numbers, 22 background, briefing, and policy papers were published, more than 70 briefing visits by the project team to partners and donors took place, 38 Track II and III meetings between different stakeholders were hosted with more than 500 participants, and five meetings between experts and state officials were held.
Syria in ISIS’s Strategy: Can ISIS be defeated without a Solution in Syria?
In this paper, Abdulla Ibrahim examines the symbolic and strategic importance of Syria to ISIS against a backdrop of a complex challenging context, mainly in North East Syria; with the aim to answer the question if ISIS can be defeated without a solution in all of Syria.
Civil Society in North East Syria: A closer look
A collection of papers giving a closer look into some of the factors that shape the civic space in Northeast Syria, the structures , main stakeholders and human capital. These papers are based on data from a cross-sectional perception gauging survey of members of active Civil Society Organizations in NES
Project development stages
Phase I, 2018: Intra-Kurdish Dialogue
We invited Kurdish parties, mainly the Kurdish National Council (ENKS/KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to come together to resolve their differences and create a road map for solving relevant issues.
During the initial stage of the project, a series of meetings was organized with Syrian Kurdish actors across the political spectrum, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Track II and III meetings that included officials from different levels from Kurdish party leaders, local dignitaries were hosted. Our work has helped bridge different views in the region, elevating the issue of the Kurdish political agreement to popular demand.
Phase II, 2020: Priorities of Arab-majority regions
In the second phase, IMPACT and the EastWest Institute, along with local partners, expanded the scope of dialogues to other ethnic groups. A particular focus was placed on Arab-Arab and Arab-Kurdish dialogue in this phase. Our team supported civil actors in agreeing on regional priorities and improving Arab representation in NES. In doing so, IMPACT aimed at mitigating the risk of conflict among and between the groups in the future.
The project was then expanded to include Arab political leaders from the NES in preparation for a potential region-wide dialogue. Since the Arab political community in NES relies on tribal and political leaders to negotiate on its behalf, it was crucial to align the expectations and priorities of these leaders.
Phase III, 2022: AANES Reform and Public Trust
Currently, trust in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES/AA) is varied, in many instances quite low. A sustainable, efficient, and legitimate governance structure in Northeast Syria (NES) should reflect the diverse demographics of the region. Representation and inclusivity in the administration of NES are key to increasing local, regional, and international legitimacy. In addition, reforming the administration is essential to tackle the challenges of lack of resources, provision of services to a larger population, and reducing the influence of ideology on government structures.
Reforming the AA to include locals in the decision-making process and best use its resources will help increase public satisfaction. This initiative attempts to introduce practical solutions and provide recommendations to solve political disagreements and the public disapproval of AANES policies.
By introducing policies to be integrated into existing administrative structures, meaningful reform could take place. Inclusivity in governance is key for the stability and legitimacy of the AANES because it will allow Arab, Assyrian leaders, and non-PYD Kurdish actors to directly influence policymaking.
The main objectives of this project are to:
1) Build public trust in AANES through more inclusive and participatory policy and political decision-making processes.
2) Provide recommendations to AANES to advance the current legal framework and enhance principles of accountability, transparency, and citizen representation in AANES decision-making processes.
This program was made possible through funding from a host of partners such as the European Union, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and many invisible donors.