By: Heditia Damanik
Presented in Joint Discussion between UGM and UKM in Yogyakarta May 6th 2014
Civil conflict has been happening in Syria since 2011. Until now, there is no any sollution yet to end it. Hundred thousands people died because of prolonged conflict. United Nations still can not doanything because of the debate in Security Council among it’s members. The other international organizations supposedly engage for the settlement including Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). This article aims to explore why OIC hasn’t done much to help dispute settlement the conflict, since we know that the record Syria is one of it’s member. In the other hand, I will elaborate what steps that OIC potentially going to do in next time for Syria.
In August 2012, OIC held the extraordinary conference in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It was different from another conference, that time OIC only discussed about one big issue, that wasconflict in Syria. Internal conflict among Bashar Al Asad regime with several opposition groups had caused much suffering to their people. Based on Syirian Observatory for Human Rights report, the using of chemical weapon has killed 150.000 Syirian people . The using of chemical weapon issue becomes hot issue in both side, status quo and opposite groups accused at each other about the one who did the cruel tragedy.
In that extraordinary conference, OIC finally decided to suspend the membership of Syria in the organization, though Iran againts the proposal of suspending in decision process. Yet, Syria responded it easily; Syria government told the suspension did not have any impact toward economic, political, and military in Syria. The reason seemed to be true because until today the conflict remains occur.
A few months later, OIC held high level conference in Cairo, Egypt. The members of OIC encouraged the Syria Government to have dialogue with opposite groups in order to look for the middle ground for settling and ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Syria has become the member since 1972. The encouragement was not only for the Syrian but also for the OIC, Malaysia enrouraged the OIC to be the mediator for that intra-conflict. Unfortunately, until today OIC hasn’t showed any significant result for the effort of being mediator.
There are several reasons that make OIC has a vital role in taking part of settling conflict in Syria. Firstly, to cope with regional instability in middle east where many of OIC members live, it is a matter of refugees, actually. Recently, many Syrians move to neighbor state as refugee, Turkey for instance. Turkey becomes the main destination to flee because another neighbor states of Syria like Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon also have domestic conflict.
Until the end of 2013, there were 220.000 Syrian refugees got into Turky for evacuation. Not only Syria but also Palestine refugees that lived in Syria before conflict occured. For handling the refugees, The Turkey Government estabilished 21 refugee camp in 10 provinces in Turkey . The Turkey Government also spendsbudget forIDR 22,5 trilion (USD 225 millions) on refugees. The government started to be overwhelmed in handling the refugees and asked another states to help the refugees. Many of refugees in a country potentlially interfere the internal stability because of the probability of criminal enhancement. It’s also possible if many of Syrians come into another neighbor states searching for security (political asylum).
Since many of OIC member states located on the middle East region, which is geographically bordered, so regional instability is something that undeniable from the Arab Spring phenomenon where the people are not satisfied by their government’s policy. In Syria, the riot started when people did a big strike to show their unsatisfaction of Asad Regime in March 2011. Yet the demonstration was ended by arresting of protesters and using military weapon. For noted, the condition in Syria could not be seperated from Arab spring phenomenon that was started in Tunisia in December 2010 and then the spirit spreaded to another arab states like Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
Secondly, by contributing in settlement process in Syria, it means OIC runs one of principle and objective in OIC Charter (Article 1) stated to promote and to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms including the rights of women, children, youth, elderly, and people with special needs as well as the preservation of islamic family values. Conflict in Syria has bothered human security and violated human rights of Syrian. So it needs to be handled soon, moreover OIC has a special commision that handle the human rights problem namely The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) that aims to support the member states to encourage and support human rights in independently actions based on charter, regulations of OIC and compatible with islamic values. So, if OIC success to bring conflicting actors to the table and bringing peace in Syria OIC, means that they success in holding principle that it has been established in 1969.
Briefly, OIC has quite important role for making peace and contribute to handle the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The Challenges of OKI in Settling Conflict in Syria
Based on the reasons above, OIC supposedly make harder effort to contribute in making peace in Syria. Actually, OIC has made first stepto encourage peace making in one of it’s member state. Yet, there are some challenges that should be faced including the internal mechanism of OIC itself. So, what the challanges?
To elaborate about the challanges, I will use some concept in international relations namely non-intervention and internationalizing of conflict.Non intervention is reverse side of intervention concept. Intervention in international relations science is defined where a state may interfereanother state’s policy. Meanwhile non intervention is the reverse when a state may not be interfered by another country. Usually this concept is adopted by many regional or international organizations including Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) and OIC.
Then, second concept is internationalizing of conflict. After cold war inter-states conflict reduced but the intra-state conflicts are incresing. The disintegartion of Soviet Union creates a new problem. One basis for a new order was the previous regime’s official nationalities policy, the emphasize on nationality as a key basis of political units and had supported ethnic cultures . As result, many conflicts occured because of ethnic or religion based like occurred in Yugoslavia. Yet, the intra-state conflict is internationalizing. It can be seen from several indicators like refugees and support from another state (weapon, money, moral supports, and intervention).
Furthermore, for understanding the challenges of OIC in settling Syria conflict, I see the first challenges is the principle of OIC itself that written in OIC charter. Like ASEAN, OIC also have non intervention principle. In the charter, OIC have principle to respect the right of self determination and non-interference in the domestic affairs and to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each member state.
In this case I see the clasical dilemma soverignty vs humanitarian. Its like questioning what should be prefaced, to respect the sovereignty of state or to save the people. This dilemma nowbecome the hot debate in international relations subject. Sovereignty is still highly appreciated by every states. State has their own right to manage their internal without interfered by another state. The concept of sovereignty was made first time in Westphalia Treaty that ended the 30 years war among the nations state in Europe (1618 – 1648). Meanwhile the concept of humanitarianism started to be struggled in 18th century through the effort of slavery abolishment in USA and Europe.
The OIC charter accomodates strengthening of human rights but in the other hand that effort is hindered by the non intervetion principle as main part of OIC charter. So, effort of OIC to resolve the Syria crisis become more difficult because OIC should respect the sovereignty of Syria.
Furthermore, the conflict in Syria get internationalized from many indicators like from refugees aspects. As I mentioned before that many Syrian had gone to their neighbor countries. But in the other hand, conflict in Syria is supported by other countries. The conflict between Asad Regime and Opposition groups has been supported by another countries. Many of supporter states are the member states of OIC itself. The Asad Government is supported by Iran. It may relate to Asad identity as a Syiah. It was clear enough when Iran delegation delivered their objections with the Syria suspention as OIC member in 2012. Iran hardly againts that decision.
Meanwhile, opposition groups including National Coalition of Syria that is composed by Syrian Free Army and the Anti-Asad protestors is being supported by Turkey. Turkey firmly support the National Coalition of Syria whose headquarter is in Istanbul. In a interview with media, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmed Davutoglu, proclaimed the National Coalition of Suriah to show the solidarity before Geneva Conference in January 2014 that discussed about Syria crisis . It was a moral support. Previously, the relation between Damaskus and Ankara was quite good but since Asad used violance to face the protest in March 2011, Turkey changed its good relations to the opposition group.
Saudi Arabia also acts the same. The state gives their support to Free Syria Army. Saudi Arabia was reported to give weapon support to the opposition group . There are some allegations about Saudi Arabia’s support to the opposition such as to dam the influence of Iran in Syria that incidentally Syiah. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is dominated by Sunni. There is probability of ideological battle.
By mapping the conflict, we can see the shape of conflict internationalized that happens in Syria. The situation makes conflict become more complex because there are many parties involve in the conflict. This situation in Syria itself becomes another challange that should be faced by OIC to settle the Syria crisis.
The Steps OIC May Take
Eventhough there are some challeges to contribute for making peace in Syria, OIC can still do some step to aim peace. First, OIC actively gives the humanitarian aid for the victims of conflict to less suffer. Last March, United Nations has entered Syria to deliver the humanitarian aids. I guess, OIC also can do the same thing. But before that, OIC should do humanitrian diplomacy. It’s an effort to deliver humanitarian assistance and protection. It won’t be easy because Syria seems to enclose themselves from foreign humanitarian action. Moreover, OIC has suspened the Syria membership, but I guess OIC can see the ASEAN effort to deliver assistance for disaster victims in Myanmar in 2008. ASEAN used the non intervention principle, so Myanmar trusted ASEAN for not interfering Myanmar’s internal problem.
There are four grand strategies of humanitarian diplomacy so called a bed for the night, back a decent winner, do no harm, and comprehensive peacebuilding. In my opinion, OIC as an organization should be neutral from politic in Syria but in the other hand, they should assess what Syria needs in order to not make conflict bigger. In grand strategy of humanitarian diplomacy, it comes to Do No Harm. It could be difficult because some of OIC members involve to this conflict. To apply this, OIC can cooperate with another vital organization like Arab League that also concerns with Syria’s conflict or with UN.Yet, humanitarian assistance won’t be enough if the conflict itself hasn’t been settled.
If OIC wants to encourage Syria (both government and opposition groups) to the peace agreement steps, it should stop the conflict internationalized firstly. As I mentioned before, some of OIC members support the conflict. OIC should persuade Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia etc to dialogue for middle ground and ask the states to reduce their interest in Syria conflict. OIC can ensure the states to not make Syria as the battle ground. Otherwise, those states supposedly encourage to make peace in Syria. Months ago, Turkey has invited Iran to talk about Syria crisis, but there was no the result yet. To stop conflict internationalized, OIC need to ensure the commitment of its member for peace in Syria.
Conflict in Syria is very complex and involved some countries in Middle East, so in order to make dispute settlement, OIC is not only encourage Syria to end it’s internal problem but OIC should embrace supporter states in Syria conflict to settle the humanitarian crisis together.
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