The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) this year held 13 public consultations across all the contiguous regions of North and East Syria (NES). Along with ordinary civilians then Kurdish and Arabic opposition groups, Arab tribal representatives, minority religious and ethnic groups, women and youth organizations were all invited to share their perspectives, feedback, criticism and proposals on the political processes underway in the region, and on the internal policies of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
The short-term trigger for the meetings was recent local unrest in the troubled Deir-ez-Zor region. But the meetings were also more widely framed as Syrian-Syrian dialog, and a response to ineffectual international mechanisms (Geneva, Astana) which exclude the people and political representatives of NES, don’t result in actual outcomes, and are dominated by foreign powers without Syrian people’s interests at heart.
Following these consultations, SDC has held a pan-NES conference, where they put forward a number of common political stances and also announced a number of reforms and developments to SDC and AANES policy.
- Regional elections across NES within the year
- Anti-smuggling, anti-bureaucracy and anti-corruption measures, including specialized observation committees
- A new economic plan focused on support for agriculture and local investment
- Separating NES’ courts from political influence
- Incorporating more technical experts into AANES
Other points address education, security and political dialog – themes raised throughout the 13 public consultations. One notable absence from the program of reforms was a concrete new political settlement for Deir-ez-Zor. Tribal actors, the SDC and AANES continue to negotiate over an expected further devolution of power, which some local observers had expected to be announced at this conference.
What follows is a translation of the official concluding statement of the SDC conference. For a flavor of the feedback to which SDC was responding, you can see RIC’s translations of two important public consultations in Heseke and Raqqa here and here.
The Syrian Democratic Council has held thirteen consultations and a series of public meetings in the spirit of direct democracy in the various cities and towns of North and East Syria, with the aim of ensuring equal citizenship and the rights of all religious and ethnic identities in a unified Syria, enhancing participation in the institutions of the Autonomous Administration, and developing and empowering the autonomous and civil administrations.
Today, the Syrian Democratic Council held a national conference for the people of Jazira and the Euphrates. About 300 members of all North and East Syria’s ethnicities participated in the conference, including representatives of political forces and parties, independent public figures, sheikhs and tribal leaders, representatives of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Many opinions and proposals were put forward regarding Syrian-Syrian dialogue; ways to participate in the [official Syrian] political process; to end tyranny, terrorism and occupations; to develop and empower self-management; guarantee freedoms and rights; implement law, achieve social justice and equality; ensure the safe and voluntary return of displaced people to their homes; end all forms of demographic change; release political detainees, and disclose the fate of the kidnapped and forcibly disappeared.
The following decisions were reached:
1) Emphasis on the unity of the Syrian territories and respect for Syria’s sovereignty, and the constitutional recognition of the rights of all national, religious and ethnic identities.
2) Solving the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva Declaration, UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254 and all relevant UN resolutions, and emphasizing the need for the Syrian Democratic Council to participate in the entire political process and to achieve the goals of the Syrian people in a democratic, pluralistic, decentralized state.
3) Continuing dialogue with all Syrian parties who believe in a national political solution, and radical democratic reform, without exception.
4) Preparing for local elections in the Autonomous Administration’s regions of North and East Syria, within a period not exceeding a year.
5) Restructuring the institutions of the AANES in order to reduce bureaucracy.
6) Reassessing the work, qualifications and performance of departmental personnel, training them, and working to develop, empower and expand departments and recruit more expert, non-political personnel [‘technocrats’].
7) Preserving community peace and security, consolidating concepts of citizenship and accepting the ‘other’; combating intolerance and extremism in all its forms; and strengthening cohesion between religious and ethnic groups to ward off internecine conflict [‘fitne’] targeting the national societal fabric.
8) Empowering and strengthening the role of women and youth in all institutions.
9) Supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in their war against terrorism and extremism, with the support of the International Coalition to Defeat ISIS, in a way that preserves security and stability.
10) Reforming the judiciary to ensure its independence and integrity.
11) Obliging the security services to respect the rule of law and judicial orders, and developing their work and performance in line with human rights norms.
12) Combating corruption by establishing a Central Inspection and Control Authority to observe the AANES’ institutions.
12) Establishing a strategic economic development plan, facilitating investment, and giving priority to local investment.
13) Ensuring self-management of commodities and raw materials, preventing monopolies, monitoring markets and setting price controls in proportion to local income.
14) Fighting smuggling, controlling borders and crossings, and reviewing taxes and customs fees.
15) Empowering the agricultural sector, supporting farmers, providing agricultural supplies and controlling exports, especially livestock and agricultural crops.
16) Continuing to develop, improve and unify the educational system and its facilities, establish scientific curricula; train and raise the quality of the education staff; and find a mechanism for achieving international recognition of the NES education system.
17) Call on the international community to support the reconstruction of regions liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces, enabling the displaced to return to their homes.