The conflict in Syria: Great Power Politics and Humanitarian Consequences
This NUPI seminar will look at the Syrian conflict from different angles and perspectives – from geopolitical dynamics to humanitarian consequences and views from Syrians who fled the war.
The conflict in Syria, now in its sixth year, evolved from a revolutionary uprising against the Assad regime in March 2011, to a country-wide insurgency, pitting regime loyalists against fragmented opposition groups and jihadist militants. In parallel to the escalation of conflict within Syria, external actors have been drawn in – including neighbouring countries and regional powers. We have also seen the return of Great Power politics – with Russia propping up the Syrian regime through its bombing campaign, while the West’s approach of arming the moderate opposition has failed.
The conflict has precipitated one of the largest and most complex humanitarian disasters since the Second World War. Over 400 000 people have been killed and more than half of the population has been displaced – 6.6 million in Syria and 4.8 million in neighbouring countries. 13.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 4.9 million people who are trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. The situation has tested the boundaries of conventional humanitarian action, and revealed some uncomfortable realities about helping civilians in conflict.
This NUPI seminar will look at the Syrian conflict from different angles and perspectives – from geopolitical dynamics to humanitarian consequences and views from Syrians who fled the war. What has been the strategy of Russia and the ‘West’ in Syria? What have been the political challenges of negotiating humanitarian access and protecting civilians? How do Syrians look back on the revolution and consider prospects for peace in the country?
Watch the event on video:
09.00 Welcome: Sverre Lodgaard, Senior Researcher, NUPI
Panel 1: Internal Dynamics
09.05: Possibilities and constraints of the Geneva Peace Talks: LtGen(r) Robert Mood, Former Head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), currently Research Consultant at PRIO
09.15: "Extremists" and "moderates": The Syrian opposition at a crossroads?: Bendik Sørvig, Independent Researcher
09.25: Perspectives from the revolution and prospects for peace: Zeina Bali, Co-Founder, Syrian Peace Action Centre (SPACE)
09.35: Discussion and Q&A
Panel 2: External Dynamics
10.00: Russia’s Strategy in Syria: Julie Wilhelmsen, Senior Researcher, NUPI
10.10: Has the West betrayed Syria? Assessing the trade-off between geopolitics and morality: Lars Christie, Post-doctoral researcher, Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, University of Oxford
10.20: The Mosul Offensive: lessons in local, regional and international power politics: Morten Bøås, Research Professor, NUPI
10.30: Politics of Negotiating Humanitarian Access and ensuring Protection of Civilians: Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, and Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
10.45: Discussion and Q&A