In recent times, the Syrian Forum USA has redefined the role of advocacy, recognizing it as an integral and strategically vital function within its operational framework. The organization acknowledges the critical influence that advocacy wields in shaping narratives, policies, and international responses to the ongoing crisis in Syria. This shift in perspective emphasizes the need to proactively engage in advocacy as a core component of the Syrian Forum’s mission.
The recent advocacy journey across the United States epitomizes the practical implementation of this strategic reorientation. This journey was not just a routine expedition but a deliberate demonstration of the Syrian Forum’s commitment to integrating advocacy as a cornerstone of its approach. By traversing various parts of the country, the organization aimed to heighten awareness about the pressing issues stemming from the prolonged conflict in Syria.
A cornerstone of this nationwide journey was the organization’s engagement in numerous strategic meetings and profound discussions, each focusing on critical aspects such as human rights, the entrenchment of a narcotics economy within the war-torn nation, and the indispensable contribution of civil society organizations in navigating the path toward resolution and rebuilding. Each of these discussions brought together a diverse range of experts, policymakers, and stakeholders, fostering a collaborative environment where innovative solutions could be proposed and debated.
Highlighting the tour was the significant participation in the 54th Human Rights Council side event in Geneva, under the revealing theme, “Reshaping Syria’s Future: Examining the Roles of Trade Unions, Student Unions, and NGOs in Supporting Human Rights.” This event, a collaborative effort orchestrated by the Syrian Forum and generously sponsored by the EU Delegation to the United Nations, illuminated the troubling strategies employed by the Syrian regime. Notably, it delved into the regime’s manipulative methods of stifling opposition and free speech, exerting control over societal institutions to maintain power and silence dissenting voices.
The session in Geneva was a sounding board for expressing concerns regarding the Syrian government’s ongoing human rights violations and offered an international platform for discussing the potential of various societal sectors to contribute to the nation’s future. Trade unions, student bodies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) represent significant societal pillars that, if empowered and supported, could play substantial roles in a new, more hopeful chapter for Syria. Their potential to foster a culture that upholds human rights, promotes education, and supports economic development is invaluable in any post-conflict reconstruction scenario.
Moreover, the Syrian Forum USA, in a productive partnership with The Atlantic Council’s Syria Project and the New Lines Institute, initiated an insightful public conversation regarding the Assad regime’s dependence on a “narco-economy.” This discussion specifically tackled the U.S. strategy aimed at disrupting the trade of Captagon — an amphetamine-type stimulant known to be a substantial revenue stream for the regime. The discourse concluded with a strong consensus calling for a holistic strategy that goes beyond mere disruption. Experts and participants underscored the urgency of integrating criminal accountability measures to tackle this issue effectively, reflecting a profound understanding that the narcotics trade is not just an economic issue, but one deeply entwined with the ongoing violations of human rights and the perpetuation of conflict.
The advocacy tour was further characterized by a series of strategic engagements with international representatives at the UN headquarters in Geneva, as well as with various officials within the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. These high-level conversations focused on themes of humanitarian aid, continuous human rights violations, and the pressing necessity for enhanced support in critical sectors such as education inside Syria. The discussions were marked by frank exchanges and the sharing of insights on the ground realities, offering a comprehensive view of the challenges and potential pathways to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people.
One of the prominent figures leading these discussions was Ghassan Hitto, the CEO of the Syrian Forum. Hitto passionately argued for direct assistance to Syrian humanitarian organizations, effectively eliminating the need for international intermediaries that often slow down the delivery of aid. This position resonated during meetings with U.S. officials, including the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and representatives from the National Security Council. Here, the delegation made a compelling case for expanded American backing for stability programs in Syria, emphasizing that bolstering education, healthcare, and economic opportunity were not merely acts of charity but strategic investments in regional stability and global security.
As the tour reached its conclusion, the delegation engaged in crucial talks with permanent missions of Security Council members, zeroing in on the worsening situation in northern Syria, especially in Idlib, one of the last opposition strongholds. These discussions were a stark reminder of the dire circumstances faced by civilians, particularly the threats of displacement, food insecurity, and violence. The Syrian Forum USA utilized these engagements to advocate vigorously for more substantial, direct support to address the spiraling humanitarian needs, aiming to foster conditions conducive to stability and eventual peace in the region.
The advocacy tour, in essence, was a manifestation of the Syrian Forum USA’s unwavering commitment to elevating the Syrian crisis to the highest rungs of international discourse. It underscored the organization’s dedication to not just highlighting the multifaceted humanitarian needs but also to advocating for tangible, robust support mechanisms that can provide a lifeline to the millions affected by the conflict. Through these efforts, the Syrian Forum USA reaffirms its stance as a proactive ambassador for the Syrian people, championing their cause and striving tirelessly to usher in a new era of peace, stability, and prosperity for a nation that has endured years of unspeakable hardships.