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"We want this conflict not to be forgotten, we want the people of Syria not to be forgotten, in a moment when the international community seems to care a little bit less about this. We gather here so many from all around the world to say that we have to keep focused on a political solution for the conflict in Syria. It is not over yet, people need our support," High Representative Federica Mogherini told the press ahead of the ministerial segment of the Brussels III Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region".
On 12 and 13 March over a thousand between representatives of international and regional NGOs, Syrian civil society, EU and UN officials gathered in the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss topics ranging from protection to justice and social cohesion. The "Days of Dialogue" were followed by a Ministerial meeting on Thursday with over 80 delegations and 55 countries present. The Brussels III Conference was co-chaired by the European Union and the UN.
The aim of the Conference remained to keep Syria and the Syrian people on top of the international agenda, renew the support to the UN-lead political process and mobilise international financial support for Syrians, for humanitarian aid both inside the country and in the neighbouring countries.
The conference raised a record figure of €6.2 billion in pledges for 2019, and €2.1 billion for 2020 and beyond to meet the needs of Syrians and neighbouring countries. Two thirds of the overall pledge come from the European Union. Since 2011, over €17 billion were mobilised by the European Union and Member States alone to support Syrian people inside and outside of Syria since the beginning of the crisis, with both political and humanitarian support.
"The goal remains the same: A Syrian led, Syrian owned political process facilitated by the UN to establish an inclusive, non-sectarian governance for a united Syria," Mogherini said saying that the solution to the conflict should not be about power-politics, but first and foremost about the people.
"They are Syria. The future of Syria belongs to them," Mogherini said Thursday to a room full of Foreign Ministers. "You are Syria," High Representative Federica Mogherini told a room full of more than 500 Syrian civil society the day before.
"The young Syrians, who managed to study and get a degree after they had lost everything they had. The human rights defenders. Those who provide the most basic services in refugee camps," Mogherini said. "In these years, we have stood by their side, we have worked with Syrians of all backgrounds and from all walks of life," she added.
The people of Syria, Mogherini said, ask for a country where each and every one of them can find their place. An inclusive Syria, a sovereign and united Syria, a democratic Syria, a reconciled Syria. A place that every single Syrian citizen can call home.
"This week, we have brought them and their stories to Brussels, to the international community," Mogherini told the Ministers.
The Brussels Conference this year, indeed, saw an even bigger participation of Syrian women and civil society compared to previous editions.
The Days of Dialogue were an occasion for Syrian civil society and international organisations to discuss topics of fundamental importance, from displacement to education and regional socio-economic development. The recommendations from the various panels were presented by Syrian rapporteurs to the foreign ministers gathered in the plenary session.
"We want your voice to be heard at the table of the decision-makers," Mogherini told them on Wednesday. "Let me add one additional element: we would like you to be part of the decision-making. This is why we will push and continue to push for you to be part of the peace talks, for you to be part of those that will shape the future and the present of Syria," she added.
An underlying theme of all the discussions was the need for justice and accountability. It is not a case, perhaps, that more than 52% of respondents to an online consultation that chose the topics of the panels indicated "justice and social cohesion" as the most important element to be discussed.
"I know that too many of your friends, colleagues, relatives are in jail for the only reason of having sought justice. I know that too many are still missing. We all know that reconciliation needs justice and you can count on us to work on accountability. This is again a European experience, we know that reconciliation and peace needs justice," the High Representative told the civil society representatives.
On top of the two days of dialogue, the new UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and the High Representative met a delegation of Syrian women from the Women Advisory Board and a dinner with Syrian women was organised by the European Union and UN Women on Wednesday night.
"If it was just for women, peace in Syria would have been achieved long ago," Mogherini said at the dinner.