President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, Rt Hon David Miliband led an expert panel discussion exploring the political, security and humanitarian aspects of the Syria crisis.
Syria is the defining humanitarian crisis of our time with 400,000 Syrians killed and 10 million people - half of all Syrians - driven from their homes. Recent developments in conflict dynamics in Syria have contributed to a reduction of violence in some areas of the country (such as the Southwest) while new or intensified clashes have erupted in others (such as Raqqa and Eastern Ghouta). Syria remains unsafe for those remaining in the country and for those who may wish to return. Yet, even in the context of ongoing conflict, donors, regional actors, and global powers are beginning to more clearly focus their interests, illustrated by the growing prominence of the Russian led Astana process in setting the international agenda on Syria and the pressure on opposition groups to accept the continuing role of President Assad.
Within this emerging narrative, refugees’ access to neighbouring countries has been reduced due to tighter borders, pressure on displaced Syrian refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to return home has increased (despite insecurity, lack of opportunities, or a developed international position on securing durable solutions for displaced Syrians), and questions over the necessity of cross-border humanitarian assistance are being raised, with significant implications for the principled delivery of support to conflict affected civilians.
It is therefore a good time to ask the question, what next in Syria? How will conflict-affected Syrians be supported in the next phase of the war? To what degree does the emerging narrative around Syria reflect the reality on the ground? What are the barriers to safe returns and what role can international actors play in addressing these?
The panel addressed critical issues for the future of Syria, including the changing conflict dynamics and how that might impact humanitarian actors; the role of European powers in peace-making; and the protection of those affected by the conflict inside Syria, in neighbouring countries, and beyond.
- Chair: Dr Karin von Hippel, Director-General, RUSI
- Rt Hon David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee
- Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent, BBC
- Dr Lina Khatib, Head, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
- Alison McGovern MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group Friends of Syria
- Yasmine Nahlawi, Research and Policy Coordinator, Rethink Rebuild Society