Live stream the next Syria conference by the “Great Powers”
On Saturday 30 June, the “Action group on Syria” met in Geneva to try to address the growing crisis in Syria – they did indeed “address the crisis” but what progress did they actually make and how is that reflected on the ground where insecurity and a humanitarian crisis is only getting worse?
Analysts will have their own take on these matters just as parties to the talks had their own interpretations of the final text – Russia and China suggesting the document does not infer Assad should step aside and the US, France and the UK having the opposite interpretation.
Whilst there are actually some very positive elements in the document and I am not saying finding a resolution will be simple there is also massive frustration and anger from ordinary Syrians who are increasingly feeling betrayed and excluded by an “international community” which is failing in its responsibility to protect them.
Martin Chulov had a piece in the Guardian yesterday where he quotes a Syrian ammunition smuggler who says "Nobody listened to Kofi.. Not the regime and not us. There is no dealing with these people, and that is the truth. And what is a transitional government?"
Now I’m not one of the Kofi Annan bashers – I think it is self defeating, especially when a viable alternative plan which avoids a Libya style mess has not being proposed.
However I was also hugely frustrated by the events in Geneva – in part by the relative opacity of proceedings (despite tactical leaks of Annans “non paper” a day before the Geneva meeting) and I kept thinking these diplomats need to be much more open when it comes to life or death decision making, especially as this has been going on for so long. So how about the next Syria conference is live streamed in full and without a time delay?
This would certainly shake up the dynamics and make the conference much more transparent and participatory as well as making the parties to the conference more accountable.
These closed door meetings continue to deliver up results which are not seen as effective, that was certainly the feeling when I discussed the outcome and the running of the conference on Saturday night with Syrian activists here and inside Syria. They want to know why these “great powers” with all their assets, strengths and know how can still not find an effective resolution. They also want to know who or what is stalling matters inside the actual conference.
This feeling of exclusion is hardly surprising - since we started our Middle East & North Africa campaign in early 2011 Amnesty UK have called on the UK Government to ensure engagement in the Middle East & North Africa involves civil society, and not only governments and businesses and ensure there is meaningful political participation.
Surely it is logical that those most affected by the decisions of the Action group have more say or at least some say – live streaming the next conference would go some way to ensuring this. It will also give such meetings some legitimacy where it is most needed – with the Syrian people.
This may not be “active participation” but it will make the “great powers” rethink their approach to these meetings and increase the pressure on them to find a genuinely effective way forward to not merely manage this crisis but to effectively resolve it.
And diplomats should not worry too much – just as parliament in the UK is televised there is of course lots of decisions that go on behind closed doors in Westminster just as there will still be side meetings at future Syria conferences where a lot of the real work actually goes on.
So just as we called on the parties to this most recent conference to ensure there is effective human rights monitoring inside Syria, it would also be nice to see a type of monitoring of the next action group conference in the interests of protecting the human rights of Syrians suffering from 16 months of brutality, repression and ineffective international action.
Now of course live streaming is unlikely to happen without lots of popular demands and it may be too late anyway, especially for those who have given up on any diplomatic solutions and instead are determined to increase the militarisation. To them I would say conflict without a plan for eventual resolution is also not an option – sooner rather than later a diplomatic solution would be needed and that means more conferences and possibly more closed door sessions which merely seek to manage the conflict and peoples expectations.
Maybe a revolution in diplomacy really is needed as much as a human rights revolution inside Syria – engaging with modern technology like live streaming to increase participation in the political process is actually one realistic way forward. It is for those that prefer the tired old status quo and think such a suggestion would be unworkable to justify their reasoning.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.