The ongoing conflicts in Syria have claimed the lives of many innocent people whose main aim is to introduce democracy in a country that has always been under dictatorial rule. The international community is unable to intervene, even though various options exist. This is because of varying opinions and conflict of interests among superpowers. The United Nations report shows that over sixty thousand people have been killed so far and an additional seven-hundred thousand have been displaced from their homes. Recent report by the United States claims that deadly weapons were used on innocent demonstrators at Aleppo. This is shocking because the leadership of the country could be propagating terrorism. The US has committed itself to using full force to challenge the leadership of the country in case it is conformed that weapons of mass destruction were used on citizens.
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Conflicts have given room to emergence of Jihadist groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which are demanding establishment of the Islamic state. Russia and China are being blamed for supporting Assad, yet innocent people are suffering. The Syrian regime is unresponsive to wishes of the majority hence it should be removed. In a recent UN meeting, Moscow and Beijing vetoed the UN Security Council declarations, which prevented the use of force against the indifferent regime in Syria. The UN Security Council was proposing isolation of Assad whereby he would not be recognized as the head of state, as well as imposing economic sanctions on his regime1.
Russia and China are against the idea of slapping economic sanctions and imposing a no-fly-zone rule, which would prevent the killing of innocent people in the country. Other actors in the international system, under the hospices of the United Nations, are considering arming the opposition and giving it technical assistance to oust the Assad administration, which has caused pain and agony to the people of Syria2. This article reviews the role of the United Nations in mitigating crises and conflicts in the international system. The paper looks at the progress of the United Nations, as far as extenuating the Syrian crisis is concerned.
The Action of the United Nations
The United Nations felt in 2012 that Kofi Annan would not manage the Syrian crisis hence he was replaced with a veteran diplomat referred to as Lakhadar Brahimi who would be recognized due to his religious affiliation. Brahimi was named the new UN-Arab League special envoy in September 2012 to spearhead the peace process in the failed state of Syria. The envoy vowed to implement the Geneva plan, which was designed by UN officials to resolve the Syrian crisis. The UN resolution called for a ceasefire and the formation of an inclusive government that would represent the face of the country. The leader of the new government would have exclusive powers meaning that he would have powers to make and implement policies3.
However, such a leader would assume office through a general election that would be presided over by the United Nations. The Plan was supported by both the United States and Russia, which has constantly supported Assad. Unfortunately, the Syrian people, both the government led by Assad and the opposition, are not interested in implementing the proposal. The opposition demands the departure of Assad while the president is unwilling to surrender power to the opposition forces, terming them rebels who should operate outside state borders.
The Geneva plan is the only strategy that the United Nations has formulated to deal with the Syrian menace. The plan is supported by a number of European powers, including Britain and France. The UN-Arab League special envoy Brahimi urged all international actors to honour the Geneva plan because it would resolve the Syrian crisis. In particular, he requested the UN Security Council to make its policies based on the Geneva action plan. The United States has always demanded the immediate resignation of Assad while Russia is against this demand. Therefore, the Geneva plan is the best for all actors because it does not favour any group.
The Geneva Plan
The plan was spearheaded by the United Nations, together with the Arab League. The secretaries of the United Nations and the Arab League played a critical role in drafting the plan in June 2012, which is viewed as containing the solution to the ongoing Syrian conflict. The representatives of the five UN Security Council members were present, as well as the representatives of the Arab League, led by Iraq and Turkey. Moreover, the meeting was attended by the officials of the European Union and other Middle East states, such as Kuwait and Qatar. The UN special envoy and the Arab league envoy chaired the meeting that took place at UN quarters offices in Geneva.
The meeting was convened following deadly attacks on innocent citizens. All members in attendance condemned the situation in Syria and promised to act in their capacities to end untold sufferings. The UN was concerned because the rights of citizens could not be protected given the fact that the government would comfortably order its forces to attack the people it is mandated to protect. Moreover, the UN suggested that the conflict could lead to a serious regional crisis if adequate measures were not put in place. Therefore, it urged members present at the meeting to adopt a common position and embrace a joint international action to prevent a large-scale conflict.
While foreign actors would be allowed to intervene in Syria to protect human life, they were reminded to consider the sovereignty, freedom, national principles, and territorial integrity of Syria. Members were further requested to commit themselves to the ideals that would allow them to work intensively in order to stop brutality and human rights abuses in the country. This would facilitate the process of transition that would meet the justifiable objectives of the people of Syria. This would perhaps go along a way to allow Syrians to determine their destiny democratically and autonomously. The fourth agenda of the Geneva plan outlined some of the measures that would be employed in order to realize peace in the country.
The fourth agenda has three basic measures. One of the measures entails identifying necessary steps that would ensure full execution of the six-point plan. The first strategy would pave way to the implementation of the UN declarations. These resolutions provide that the two warring factions in the country should cease fire, as soon as possible. The second principle provides some of the guidelines that would guarantee political transition. This would definitely reflect the wishes of the majority in Syria. The third strategy would be to develop some ways through which special envoys would be helped to resolve the Syrian crisis. The United Nations is optimistic that these strategies will facilitate peace not only in Syria, but in the entire region.
Concerning execution of the six-point strategy and the UN declarations, all parties will have to adopt certain measures. All actors must channel their energies and resources towards cessation of fire and armed violence. In fact, each actor should work independently without necessarily waiting for the actions of the other player. For the Syrian forces and the opposition rebels, they must respect the UN resolutions and the six-point plan. In particular, the government of Syria should cease violence and aim at cooperating with the international community to resolve the crisis. The UN requested the Syrian government to release all political detainees, particularly the vulnerable. Individuals arrested during political demonstrations should be granted their freedom since it would facilitate the process of healing.
Before releasing political prisoners, the list of all those detained, as well as the place they are being held, should be provided to the UN office. The Syrian government should also provide adequate information to the UN regarding the status of prisoners in the country. To ensure that the freedom of citizens is guaranteed, journalists should be give visas without discrimination. Freedom of movement should not be denied because it deprives people their rights and freedom. The government should further allow people to demonstrate, provided they do not interfere with the rights of others. This would facilitate political development whereby the government would be held responsible4.
The Assad led government should show full respect to the United Nations and other relevant international actors, such as humanitarian organizations whose role is to provide and supply basic needs to the suffering citizens. The government should understand that it has a moral responsibility of ensuring that people are safe hence it should participate in evacuating the wounded and other individuals who feel their lives are in danger. Both the government and the opposition forces should obey the international law on protection of civilians. The sixth principle is the most important because it outlines the process of transition whereby group members must be committed to the principles set at the conference.
It was agreed that any political decision reached regarding transition must be in line with the views of the majority in Syria. Moreover, transition must have a time limit since the people of Syria are suffering, yet the current administration is unwilling to address problems. The transition proposal should be all-inclusive meaning that it must be implemented in a safe environment. Furthermore, it has to ensure order and tranquillity in the country. The proposal should be in a position to realize its objectives and aims without any bloodshed since the people of Syria have suffered enough.
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UN Proposed Actions
Perspective for the Future
In a study conducted to ascertain the views of Syrians, the UN established that many people in the country support an administration that would be genuinely democratic and pluralistic. This would allow emerging political actors to take part in the management of state affairs reasonably and uniformly through periodic elections. Moreover, the country should be committed to the ideals of multiparty politics whereby leaders would be tolerant to the divergent views. Democracy should prevail beyond the initial elections. Elections conducted in future should be consistent with the internationally established standards. In terms of political participation, the government should always respect human rights, respect the rule of law, allow the judiciary to operate as an independent entity, and hold government officials responsible.
For all these to happen, the state must come up with a strong constitution that would facilitate the creation of strong institutions to protect the rights of all people. To ensure economic and political development, the leadership of the country should ensure that individuals are provided with equal opportunities to enable people achieve their interests. In this regard, the government should never attempt to interfere with the market fundamentals, but instead the market should operate according to its internal logics. The role of the state is to create an enabling environment that would ensure individual fulfilment. This entails provision of healthcare, education, and infrastructural development5.
Clear Steps in the Transition
Peace in Syria will only be attained when the antagonists come to the realization that they need each other to develop their country. Therefore, the solution proposed should offer an irreversible step towards lasting stability. In this regard, a transitional governing body should be instituted. The transition government should have the capability of forming a neutral environment that would support transition. The transitional governing body should be given full powers meaning that it should enjoy executive powers. Since it is the role of the people of Syria to determine the type of government they want, all of them should be allowed to participate through a national dialogue process. Any policy formulated should always reflect the outcomes of talks. Re-examination of the instrument of government and the legal structure is critical as far as realization of lasting peace in the country is concerned. Constitutional review would be approved through a popular vote, particularly through a referendum. This would then pave way for credible elections to determine the leadership of the country. Moreover, all groups must be included in the constitutional making process, including women and the youths.
Safety, Stability and Calm
Transition entails change meaning that some problems will always be encountered when implementing change, particularly political change. In this case, the proposed solutions to the Syrian crisis should be executed in a way that would allow stability and safety. The UN suggested that all parties to the conflict should cooperate fully with the transitional governing body to ensure that no further violence is witnessed in the country. The government should withdraw forces from the opposition strongholds and the militias should be disarmed. The vulnerable groups, such as women, the disabled, and children, should be protected irrespective of their political affiliation. The process of releasing political detainees should be speeded up before any reforms are implemented. In the civil service, only qualified individuals with adequate skills should be given jobs.
Rapid Steps to Come to a Credible Political Agreement
Due to the violent nature of conflicts in the country, the people of Syria should be helped to realize their dreams, even though time is not on their side. Although international actors are willing to intervene, it should always remain clear to them that Syria is an independent and sovereign state, with its own territory. Other actors must therefore respect the territory of the country and aspire to promote unity through cooperation with Syrian leaders. Imposing on people would be a violation of their rights. Instead of intervening militarily, it is suggested that the international community should embrace peaceful dialogue and negotiation to prevent additional bloodshed, which has rocked the country for the last two years. The UN is trying its best to ensure that favourable conditions exist, which would guarantee political settlement.
If all parties commit to the six-point plan, there would be no atrocities6. It is also suggested that all actors interested in resolving the Syrian crisis should engage genuinely with the joint special envoy instead of coming up with new resolutions. An actor should channel its idea through the joint special envoy. Any decision reached should be pleasant to the people of Syria, which means that citizens must be involved effectively in designing and implementing policies. To achieve its political ambitions, actors in the international system should offer adequate education and information to the people of Syria. Information would help citizens to develop the courses of actions.
The United Nations has committed itself to resolving the issues affecting Syria, even though divisions among major world actors are affecting its operations. Recently, the UN Security Council came up with two resolutions titled 2042 and 2043, but China and Russia vetoed the resolutions meaning that they could not be adopted. The United States on its part suggested an alternative course of action whereby the opposition would be provided with arms to fight the central government. Russia and China were opposed to this decision because it would escalate the conflict. The fact remains that the problem facing the country would better be resolved through the Geneva plan.
Beinin, Vairel. Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa. Stanford: Stanford University press, 2011.
Dabashi, Hamid. The Arab Spring: The End of Post colonialism. New York: Macmillan, 2012.
Haddad, Bassam, and Bsheer, Rosie. The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of an Old Order? London: Pluto Press, 2012.
Lutterbeck, Derek. Arab Uprisings, Armed Forces, and Civil-Military Relations. Armed Forces & Society, 39.1 (2013), 28-52.
Ottaway, Marina, and Choucair-Vizoso, Julia. Beyond the Façade: Political Reform in the Arab World. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008.
Phares, Walid. Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuste, 2010.
- Vairel Beinin, Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford: Stanford University press, 2011), 90.
- Marina Ottaway and Julia Choucair-Vizoso, Beyond the Façade: Political Reform in the Arab World, (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008), 16.
- Bassam Haddad and Rosie Bsheer, The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of an Old Order? (London: Pluto Press, 2012), 43.
- Walid Phares, Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (New York: Simon & Schuste, 2010), 89.
- Derek Lutterbeck, “Arab Uprisings, Armed Forces, and Civil-Military Relations”, Armed Forces & Society, 39.1 (2013), 28.
- Hamid.Dabashi, The Arab Spring: The End of Post colonialism (New York: Macmillan, 2012) 36.