Ottawa, Canada – Ambassador Mark Green, president of IRI, today briefed the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the dire situation in Syria and the efforts of IRI and the Institute’s Women’s Democracy Network to help emerging Syrian leaders represent the needs of Syria’s moderate middle.
In his briefing, Green outlined the bleak situation facing Syria as its protracted civil war continues, stating, “A negotiated settlement is at this point as elusive a prospect as ever but it does not preclude efforts to develop democratic values and institutions that are both worthy and necessary to the success of an eventual political transition.”
IRI’s work with democratically minded Syrians is robust and as Green stated, is viewed by program participants as a lifeline to the outside world. “They risk their lives to take part in our programs but do so because they believe we provide value in furthering their democratic goals and help their voices be heard.”
As Green outlined, IRI’s work helps in four ways. First, a Schools of Politics program provides political know how to grassroots moderate leaders from inside Syria, individuals who oppose both the Assad regime and the radical Islamists, to help them build strong political and civic movements. Second, a democratic governance program helps improve the ability of Syrian local councils in opposition held areas to inform citizens of their important work and to work in a unified way when engaging external audiences. Third, through WDN, the credentials of Syrian women are strengthened, so that when the “day after” comes, there will be a broad network of women who can take part in decision-making. Fourth, support of the Syrian Youth Congress encourages collaboration among Syrian student and youth groups.
Although IRI’s work is making a difference, more can be done as Green stated. Focusing on the importance of preparing for the “day after,” Green offered the following recommendations on Syria’s future transition:
Greater support for local and provincial councils which serve as working models of democratic governance in areas outside the Assad regime’s control.
Increase efforts to teach democratic values to young Syrians as well as those helping Syrian youth to organize politically.
Additional support for inclusive peace building is needed so that equal opportunities are presented to all Syrian citizens, and especially women, to take part in rebuilding their country.
In closing Green stressed the vital role the international community plays in ending this conflict and stated, “All countries committed to democratic values must help put a political transition process in place that achieves a democratic outcome for Syria and its varied communities.”
A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, IRI advances freedom and democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civic institutions, open elections, democratic governance and the rule of law. Established in 1983, IRI is one of four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy.