One Step Closer To Peace In Syria: Constitutional Committee Formed

After almost two years of discussions, and a more than eight-year conflict in Syria, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on 23 September the formation of a Syrian constitutional committee. However, the director and spokesperson of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mustafa Bali, commented to a special UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen on Twitter, that Kurdish people were not represented on the constitutional committee.

The committee was proposed in January 2018, during a peace conference hosted in Sochi, Russia.

The structure of the committee will be a 45-person body, where 15 members from the government, 15 members from the opposition and 15 civil society members to elaborate the draft proposals. The 150-member committee in charge of discussing, adopting and decision-making on proposals, will be made up of  50 members representing the government, 50 opposition members and 50 members representing civil society. 

The Syrian government and opposition agreed not too long after the conference in Sochi on a list of 50 members. However, it took both parties 20 months to agree with the list presented by the UN of experts, independents, tribal leaders and women, “mainly because of objections from the Syrian government,” stated Associated Press.

“I firmly believe that the launching of a Syrian-organized and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee can be the beginning of a political path towards a solution” to the long conflict in this country, said Guterres to the reporters of the Arab News.

Pedersen and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem´s meeting, days after the announcement by the UN, focused on guaranteeing that the committee´s set-up would be free “from any foreign intervention” and would be managed by Syrians, according to Aljazeera and Syria´s official SANA news agency. Pedersen has also been in contact with Nasr al-Hariri who represents the Syrian opposition.

Moallem stated that Syria would continue to fight terrorism under international law.

However, there has been criticism of the make-up of the committee after Pedersen told Aljazeera that Kurdish representatives will form part of the committee. On Sunday, Bali criticized this statement on Twitter, alleging that if all the Kurdish members were allies of Damascus or the opposition there would not be proper Kurdish representation, therefore they will be leaving North-East Syria outside this process.

“Those who are acting at the behest of the Americans do not get to complain about their lack of representation,” said Akkam, the Syrian lawmaker dismissing Bali´s critics.

Many have stated that the constitutional committee involves just a few women. Indeed, although it was announced at the Congress of Peace in Sochi, Russia 2018 that 30% of the members would be women, on the first list drafts for members, only 16 out of 168 candidates were women. A step for women to be more involved in the politics of the country, but still as a minority.

The committee´s first meeting is scheduled for 30 October in Genova, Guterres announced, thanking Russia, Turkey, and Iran for their diplomatic efforts. Turkey is a supporter of the opposition in Syria´s civil war, and Russia and Iran allies of the Syrian President, Bashar ­al-Assad.

Joshua Landis, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said in an interview with Aljazeera that he fears that if only Syrians decide the future of Syria without any people immersed from the international community, things might remain the same. 

It is still unclear what direction, the committee will take since the opposition wants to write an entirely new constitution, while Damascus wants to amend the current one.

But for a war that has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions of people since 2011, having multiple groups who have fought against each other willing to cooperate to find better solutions and laws is an important step to hopefully someday end this conflict.