The Hague, 21 June 2022: – Syrian civil society representatives identified challenges and opportunities to unify the efforts of Syrian networks working on the issue of missing persons in the Syrian context, at a virtual event hosted by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) this week.
Speakers highlighted the importance of forging and strengthening partnerships among civil society actors working on this issue; they emphasized the need to strengthen collective action and identified opportunities for civil society to influence policymaking. Recommendations to promote inclusiveness and diversity within collectives were also proposed.
ICMP presented a Mapping Tool and a Resource Library platform, which support information exchange and capacity sharing among civil society actors.
“The best that society can offer to the families of victims, the missing, the detainees and survivors is to unite and combine efforts so that they all work towards uncovering the fate of the missing and securing access to justice for survivors,” said Zeina Chamas, Deputy Head of ICMP’s Syria/MENA program. “ICMP will always seek to provide the necessary technical support to all concerned parties in order to determine the fate of all missing persons and achieve justice for them and their families.”
Estimates cited by the United Nations in 2021 indicate that more than 130,000 persons are missing as a result of the current conflict in Syria. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes that occurred prior to the conflict, and Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes. Syria’s civil society actors have an essential role to play in making sure that the issue remains a priority on the international agenda.
“Uniting the efforts of Syrian civil society has become a necessity, not only to influence decisions but to bring relief to families who have suffered for decades,” said one participant in today’s discussion. Another pointed out that “Networks are necessary in the Syrian context to promote ideas that crystallize into social norms.”
ICMP maintains a centralized, secure data repository that contains information on almost 20,000 persons who have disappeared as a result of the Syrian conflict. ICMP encourages families of missing persons to report them via the Online Inquiry Center (OIC). Civil society actors are also invited to refer families who wish to report a missing relative to do so through the OIC.
Today’s discussion was part of ICMP’s broader effort to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict. It follows a policy process discussion summarized in an October 2020 ICMP report. ICMP facilitates the work of a Syrian Policy Coordination Group that is working to develop recommendations and a general policy framework on missing persons in Syria.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.