Honorable members of the Syrian civil society,
As humanitarian debates increasingly evolve around rehabilitation and early recovery, we must also think about rebuilding Syria’s social fabric. As a Syrian colleague present today stated in a recent gathering of civil society organizations:
“Constructing buildings and infrastructure is one, relatively easy task, rebuilding a war-torn society another, much more difficult one”.
We admire the resilience and strength of the Syrian people, courageous women and men. What we learn from them is clear: As long as there is no sustainable peace in Syria, the humanitarian crisis as well as IHL and human rights violations will continue unabatedly.
This brings me to my first point. Only a negotiated solution can create the conditions for sustainable peace. Switzerland lends its full support to the new UN Special Envoy Mr. Pedersen. Convening a constitutional committee would be a much needed step. However, our efforts should not be limited to the constitutional dimension.
One area that deserves immediate attention is the fate of the tens of thousands of detainees and missing persons, as well as their families. As one of Syria’s courageous women said:
“Since my husband was executed, I feel responsible for every prisoner and consider it my responsibility to fight for them. I believe that women can best deal with these issues as they play a leading role in shaping the future of Syria. They have proven that they are capable of mastering any obstacle that lies ahead of them."
I deeply admire the courage and strength of those Syrian women. In addition to losing a family member, they and their children often lose access to all legal documents. They deserve our full support.
In addition, international efforts are needed to grant the rights of those detained and missing and of their relatives. Through the Working Group of the Astana Format, a small number of prisoners has been released. This is a drop of hope in difficult times. More such drops are needed.
This brings me to my second, related point: the egregious violations of IHL and of human rights. At a high-level side-event co-hosted by Switzerland, Liechtenstein and a number of other countries, we sent out a strong and united message today: Without justice and accountability, there will be no sustainable peace in Syria.
The creation of the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM) in 2016 was a historic landmark in this direction. The IIIM is a true symbol for the fight against impunity in Syria. It cooperates closely with national judicial authorities and Syrian civil society, who possess a wealth of information on human rights and IHL violations. We support it financially and politically, and invite many others to do so as well.
My final and third point relates to the immense humanitarian needs in Syria. 12 million people need humanitarian assistance. All vulnerable people – refugees, returnees, IDPs or those that have never left their homes – need our urgent support.
Switzerland has provided nearly CHF 400 million to help those affected by the Syrian conflict. This year, we are pledging over CHF 60 million to assist the people in need and we will allocate a further CHF 7 million for peace promotion and international law.
We have a responsibility to create prospects for the future of all Syrians. Today more than ever, let us join efforts for a peaceful future of Syria.