Convening the Second Alternative Development Forum on Syria

Syrian Center for Policy ResearchVienna:
The Syrian Center for Policy Research, in collaboration with the University of Vienna, organised the “Alternative Development Forum on Syria II”, held physically in Vienna and virtually via Zoom on March 17th and 18th, 2024.
This year, the forum focused on building societal foundations to transcend conflict and presented recent research on solidarity, identity politics, human security and others. The research outputs were a tool to discuss inclusive and Syria-led development as a perspective to work towards a just future.
The forum initiated a dialogue and public discussion based on evidence to help the Syrian community overcome the conflict. It was attended by researchers, academics, professionals in knowledge production, and representatives from Syrian civil society organisations.
In that forum, the team presented the research outputs of the research project Know War 2, which had been conducted in cooperation between the University of Vienna and the Syrian Center for Policy Research and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. There were also various research contributions from participants.
The forum included 6-panel discussions that addressed issues such as social solidarity in Syria, Identity Politics in Syria, overlapping development Nodes and Transformative Policies, the issue of measuring humanitarian security and building societal foundations to overcome the conflict in Syria.

The concept note of the Forum:
For 13 years, the ongoing Syrian conflict showed the failure of violence-based strategies imposed by local, regional and international warring actors. Through institutionalising political tyranny, fragmenting societal relations, and investing in conflict economies, even the minimum of bearable living conditions for the Syrian population could not be achieved. 
The strategies of political actors during the last few years showed their persistence to cause severe harm and damage to people, institutions, and nature as human insecurities, inequalities, grave violations, and deprivation are on the rise. At the same time, there is an absence of any strategy to overcome the conflict in a just and sustainable manner. Yet, few proposals emerged that called for normalising oppressive forces and conflict elites. 
In recent years, other factors and events that complicated the scene in Syria and the region, such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, global economic stagflation after COVID-19, Arab normalisation with Israel, “Abraham Accords”, the Earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria in February 2023, and most recently the Gaza’s catastrophe. These factors are mounting pressure on people and hindering the transformation towards peace and justice. 

Given these enormous challenges, the Forum assures the importance of the independent, participatory, and critical knowledge production associated with the expanding role of society to form the pathways and processes that fulfil people’s aspirations and interests. This form of knowledge production supported establishing public spaces for Syrians to design their alternative future and expand the social congruences as the first step to overcoming the foundation of the conflict. 
This Forum capitalised on the first development forum held in December 2022. The participants of the first forum (60+) discussed several themes and policies that need to be developed, including emancipatory citizenship and political transformation, social and solidarity economy, integrated development strategies, and research methodologies within the Syrian conflict. 
To accumulate on this process, this year, the forum focused on building societal foundations to transcend conflict and present recent research on concepts such as solidarity, identity politics, human security, trust and cooperation. The research outputs were a tool to discuss inclusive and Syria-led development as a perspective to work towards a just future.

The Development Forum 2024 accumulates on the previous efforts of the Syrian civil society. It aimed to develop societal paths and evidence-based alternatives aligned with societal priorities. These alternatives can influence a broader national dialogue to overcome the conflict. This forum fosters a continuous process to expand the research and dialogue efforts to pursue the desired goals.
The overall objective of the forum was to conduct an evidence-based public dialogue as a path to reclaim the role of Syrian society to transcend the conflict.

Specific goals
1- Develop a public space for Syrians to think and work out evidence-based alternatives for the future. 
2- Develop options for resisting submission to hegemonic forces.
3- Expand societal congruences among Syrians.

Priorities of the dialogue
Based on preparatory workshops, the following themes have been discussed in the forum:

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