Politics of Poverty

What’s at stake for the Syrian people at the Geneva II peace talks?

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Oxfam campaigners at the peace conference in Montreux install tombstones illustrating the urgent need to bring an end to the violence that has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions in and around Syria. Photo: Maria Christina Travaglio/Les Studios Casagrande

“All we want is to go back to our country and for peace to prevail.”

Vanessa Parra is Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Press Officer, currently based in Beirut.

World leaders have taken the stage today in Montreaux, Switzerland to kick off the long anticipated Geneva II peace talks. What’s at stake? A lasting political solution that will end the war and that will ensure that millions of Syrians—both inside Syria and the 2.4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries—find relief after almost three years of conflict.

The path to peace for Syria is a long one but not impossible to achieve. Here in Lebanon and in Jordan, the Syrian refugees with whom we’ve spoken tell us that what they want most in peace – a peace that will eventually allow them to go home and rebuild their lives.

As our Oxfam team in Geneva gets the word out, there are a few things we should all keep in mind:

1. We’ve already heard plenty of speeches from world leaders and political parties but some essential voices are missing. Civil society and women’s groups, who represent the views of the peaceful majority in Syria, are not yet a part of the political process. They represent the voices of millions of Syrians who want this war to end immediately and their participation is essential to making sure that Syrians get a durable, lasting peace.

These groups can play a key role in helping to implement negotiated agreements, monitoring ceasefires and human rights violations. They can also pave the way for reconciliation efforts and help support rule of law. All of this will help ensure that any outcome of a peace process has broad public support.

2. Steps to improve the humanitarian situation should not be part of the political tug of war. No matter what happens this week it’s key that the humanitarian suffering for ordinary Syrians ends and ends quickly. All of those in desperate need, including those in besieged towns and community, need access to life-saving humanitarian assistance. But that’s not possible unless all sides agree to make this a priority.

3. Arms are fueling this conflict and undermine the talks. Weapons are crossing the border into Syria and into the hands of all the groups involved in the fighting. Everyone attending Geneva 2 and contributing to the flow of arms must stop the transfer of arms and ammunition of any real peace is to be achieved.

Abu Hussein, a former shepherd from rural Damascus who’s now a refugee in Jordan’s Zaatari camp perhaps said it best, “All we want is to go back to our country and for peace to prevail. We want the conflict to be resolved. We to go back to our villages…These are our hopes.” A hope we all share.

Oxfam continues to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria and to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, reaching more than 800,000 people. Click here to learn more about Oxfam’s work to assist those affected by the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis.

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