The Voice of the Local Community in the Constitution, The First Workshop

The political solution in Syria has become something that irks the Syrians and the international community in light of the recent systematic bombing targeting civilians in Idlib by the Syrian regime and Russian forces. Continuation of the bombing and the violations by the regime from a side and its unwillingness to make any progress from the political point of view from the other side pushes the civilians and the opposition inside Syria to reject any political solutions with that Regime, fuel coexistence issues and hinder peacebuilding in Syria. However, some see that there is a necessity of mobilizing for a political solution, at least, to stop the military attacks, shelling, and displacement. Therefore, Stabilization Support Unit (the Stabilization Committee), through its project ‘’ The Voice of the Local Community in the Constitution’’, holds workshops on the constitution, and the work of the constitutional committee which stipulated in the Security Council’s resolution no: 2254, with the aim of that the participants be a team participating in the process of writing their country’s constitution, which will be part of the solution in Syria and will shape its future.
The Constitutional Committee member representing the civil society, local governmental authorities in the northern countryside of Aleppo, representatives CSOs, activists, and political/revolutionary gatherings participated in the workshop.

The Workshop divided into 2 discussion themes:

  • The first theme: Discussion and awareness-raising – On the mechanisms and methods of forming constitutions, then there was an explanation/discussion on the paths of political solutions regarding Syria, introducing the constitutional committee, discussing and exchanging opinions on previous constitutional experiences such as Tunisia and Lebanon.
  • The Second Theme: Six open-ended questions were asked to be answered by the participants (first individually and then in working groups), the questions were about the Constitutional Committee, the Constitution and the form of government/governance.
  • The first theme:
  • Firstly, there was a talk about the aim of the workshop, which is to get the common points of view of the participants, after discussions and exchange of views, visions, and ideas. These common points of view and ideas will be discussed in an upcoming workshop that will be held in the participation of the constitutional committee members representing the Syrian Opposition. Where the common points of view will be discussed broadly with the aim of transferring the views and aspirations of the local community inside Syria (regarding the constitution) to the members of the constitutional committee.
  • Then a video was shown, explaining what the constitution is, what its importance is, who constitutes it and how the constitution formed, then an extensive discussion took place on the mechanisms and
    methods of forming constitutions, alongside to discussing the political paths of the solution in Syria such as the Geneva path and the four baskets of de Mistura, Astana path and the reduce escalation agreements resulted from it and the UN Security Council’s resolution no: 2254.

After that, there was discussions and exchange of views between the attendees on the political gains, and the most important challenges and lessons learned, the majority of participants emphasized the importance of the role of the local community in shaping the constitution and the future of the country. On the political gains, one of the participants sees that the Constitutional Committee and political action is an indivisible part and a form of war that the Syrian people are going through and they must achieve gains in it in order to gain their freedom and emphasized that the Syrian people are stronger than the regime in this war because it seeks a society that protects freedoms and democracy.

Subsequently, Mrs. Huda Sarjawi, who is a member of the Constitutional Committee representative of the civil society, provided an explanation on the Constitutional Committee; starting from how it was formed, its reference, the number of large constitutional committee members (150 member), number of the members of mini constitutional committee (45 members), the decision-making mechanism in it which requires approval of the 75% of the members of the constitutional committee (113 members out
of 150) and that the proposals are accepted only if both (the large Constitutional Committee and mini constitutional committee) committees approve them and then a discussion took place on the formation of the constitutional committee, hopes, aspirations, and challenges. The opinions of the participants differed; some of them believe that the Constitutional Committee was formed under pressure and will of the international community or under pressure of the Astana group and others referred to the necessity of opening communication channels with the Constitutional Committee, following up on its work and permanently seeing what is going on in its meetings and participating in the constitutional process with them. And on the challenges facing the work of the constitutional committee, Mrs. Huda Sarjawi (the member of the Constitutional Committee), stated that the regime’s delegation always working (using anyway) to obstruct the constitutional committee’s work because it sees in it weakness/risk to itself so it did not want the constitutional committee to do its work and succeed.

Then the facilitator talked about some constitutional experiences happened in the Arab countries, such as the Tunisian experience, which is considered one of the most successful democratic experiences in the countries of Arab Spring (how the role of local community organizations and community unions was influential and important in shaping the constitution). He compared that experience to the Lebanese experience and how it resulted in a regime (system) based on sectarian quotas (according to that system/regime, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister must be Sunni, and the head of the parliament must be Shi’ite). Discussions took place between the attendees about those experiences, how to benefit from them and their (the community members) role today in the context of the work of the Constitutional Committee.

There were many opinions; some said that the local community wants to communicate its voice, but it needs to be more organized and that there is a great weakness regarding the communication channels between them (the community) and the political representatives of the Syrian people.

The opinion of Mr. Yassin Hilal, head of the Free Lawyers Syndicate, was that the local community initially has had a negative / rejecting attitude towards the constitutional committee, but this community can and has the potential to have on influence the work of the constitutional committee and the form of the constitution if it chooses to do so. Although there is a great difference between the circumstances of the Syrian experience and the Tunisian experience.

  • The second theme:
  • After that, the second theme of the workshop started, where six open-ended questions directed to the attendees, the questions were first answered individually, and then they are answered through six working groups. Here are the six questions :
  • 1- What are your concerns, remarks, recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee (formation, mechanism of work and procedures, etc.)
  • 2- Do you have any hopes, aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee?
  • 3- What do you think, how should the regime in Syria be?
  • 4- In your opinion, how should the presidency be in Syria? (Sex – Nationalism – Religion and Doctrine – Duration of Mandate – Powers … etc) 5- What are the merits that we must adhere to/stick to in the upcoming constitution of Syria?
  • 6- If the Constitutional Committee agreed on a draft constitution, (and conditions allowed for participation) would you participate in the constitutional referendum process?
  • First, the participants of the workshop answered the questions individually and then working groups formed and the members of those working groups held focused group discussions with each other to answer the questions as a group. The answers of each group were as follows:

The First Group:

1- Concerns, remarks, recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee: The Syrian people inside Syria should have been represented more broadly (Sex, nationality, ethnicity, etc..). Inexistence of a timeline for the work of the Constitutional Committee.
2- Hopes and aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: There is hope, in light of the existence of an international desire to find/reach a political solution necessary to end the suffering of the Syrians
3- The form of the regime: Parliamentary system
4- How should the presidency be in Syria? His / Her competences and the electoral program should be taken into consideration, the term of office of the president should be 4 years, the president’s powers should be identified clearly.
5- The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: Guaranteeing freedoms, rights of minorities, the dignity of the citizens and achieving social justice
6- would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: Yes, in case there is international
supervision and a safe environment to ensure the participation of all Syrians.

👈 Picture of Notes of the First Group

The Second Group:

1- Concerns, remarks, recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee: The formation was done under the tutelage of the great powers according to their interests without taking the opinion of the Syrian people into consideration. Russia is still taking advantage of the formation of the constitutional committee and is achieving gains at all levels, especially at the military level. Inexistence of a timeline for the work of the Constitutional Committee. Approval of 75% of the members of the constitutional committee needed to make decisions, we don’t know how this rate adopted and why. How the quota system was formed within the Constitutional Committee.
2- Hopes and aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: Preserving the rights of the Syrians and forming a constitution that respects human rights
3- The form of the regime: A system based on the rule of law and the separation of powers in the state
4- How should the presidency be in Syria? Sex: Basically unimportant – Nationalism: A Syrian citizen who holds Syrian nationality only – Religion: According to the majority – The term of office of the president should be 4 years and only for 2 terms – Powers: Specified according to Parliament and not absolute.
5- The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: Human rights – justice – freedoms and the fair distribution of wealth
6- would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: Yes, in case there is a safe and democratic environment

Picture of Notes of the second working group 👉

The Third Group:
1- Concerns, remarks, and recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee: Established as a result of the efforts of the international community, the Syrian People’s opinion was not taken into consideration. The absence of clear criteria for selecting members of the Constitutional Committee. The rate of votes (75%) that is adopted to make-decisions makes the decision-making process difficult. Inexistence of a timeline for the work of the Constitutional Committee.
2- Hopes and aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: The political vision is not restricted by yes or no. It will become clear after hearing from the Constitutional Committee.
3- The form of the regime: Parliamentary presidential system
4- How should the presidency be in Syria? Male, Representative of the majority in terms of nationality and religion, the term of office of the president should be 4 years and only for 1 term, limited powers. 5- The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: A democratic civil state, separation of powers (security – army – ….)
6- Would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: No, except if there is a transitional governing body.

👈 Picture of Notes of the third working group

The Fourth Group:

  • Concerns, remarks, and recommendations on the work
    of the Constitutional Committee:
    It was established without adequate consultations, the formation was not based on constitutional grounds but rather on international consensus, inexistence of a timeline for the work of the Constitutional Committee, there is no clear mechanism for communication between the Constitutional Committee and the people.
  • Hopes and aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: Separation of powers, decentralization of the state (administrative decentralization), limitation of the powers of the president.
  • The form of the regime: (Mixture) Parliamentary presidential system
  • How should the presidency be in Syria? Should be qualified to lead the country regardless of gender, race or religion, the term of office of the president should be more than 4 years and only for 2 terms. – The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: Deepening the democracy, separation of powers, the territorial integrity of the Syrian state and people, transitional justice and prosecution of war criminals.
  • Would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: Yes, in case there is a safe – neutral
    environment and international sponsorship and supervision.
    Picture of Notes of the Forth working group👉

The Fifth Group:

  • Concerns, remarks, and recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee: Formed by international consensus, we see that the majority of members who are representing the civil society are regime supporters.
  • Hopes, aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: Yes, this is the first-time regime is forced to go through a political process that could finally bring its end. The rate (75%) that is adopted to make-decisions makes the decision-making process difficult.
  • The form of the regime: Parliamentary system – Could be based on quotas
  • How should the presidency be in Syria? There is no problem with gender, nationalism, religion, and sect. the quota system may have an impact on it. The term of office is 4 years for two terms only, powers are restricted according to the parliamentary principles. – The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: Territorial integrity of Syria and the Syrian people, independence of the constitutional court, separation of powers, guaranteeing rights and freedoms, application of democracy and accountability.
  • Would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: Yes, and on the condition of a political transition of power, a safe environment for voting. Work according to the Geneva Sequence and Resolution / 2254 / and that there should not be any external pressures on the members of the committee to accept a detailed constitution that does not serve the aspirations of the Syrian people.

    👈 Picture of Notes of the Fifth working group

The Sixth Group:

  • Concerns, remarks, and recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee: The absence of a clear strategy for the work of the Constitutional Committee, poor representation and lack of competencies.
  • Hopes, aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee: Building real alliances with the Great Powers
  • The form of the regime: Republican system
  • How should the presidency be in Syria? Limitation of powers, limitation of the term of office (4 years – two terms). – The merits that we must adhere to in the upcoming constitution of Syria: An interim constitution that guarantees freedoms and the transition of power, prosecution of war criminals, political pluralism, defining the powers of the president (President of Parliament or President of the state)
  • Would you participate in the constitutional referendum process: Yes, on condition of integrity and international (UN) monitoring .

    Picture of Notes of the Sixth working group 👉

Head of the Stabilization Committee, Mr. Mounzer Al-Sallal, concluded the workshop by thanking all the attendees for their participation.

Our video for the workshop :

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