A new major initiative is underway in North and East Syria to further support decentralization and direct participatory democracy, and to ensure the inclusion of all civil society groups and ethnic and religious groups.

One of the central tenets of the Social Contract of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is the establishment of a decentralized and directly democratic system of government. In order to establish a truly democratic system, it is essential to include all facets of society in the establishment and support of such a system. The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in North and East Syria held its founding conference October 17 and 18, 2021, to support such an initiative.

According to Nour Ujeil, a member of the constituent body of the conference, the aim of the conference is to “build a common ground that brings together civil society organizations and institutions to strengthen and consolidate their role in society.” The constituent body of the conference consists of 17 organizations as of October 2021, and the conference overall was attended by 200 representatives of various civil society organizations and associations from across northern and eastern Syria. A board of directors for the Coalition was elected during the conference, with 15 members being elected. The percentage of men and women on the board of directors will be equal, according to Ujeil. 

The Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi Kobane, addressed the conference in a televised statement as well. He stated that the SDF, in coordination with the other institutions of the AANES, would actively work to support civil society organizations and collaborate with them to develop the region. He emphasized the importance of civil society organizations “in the process of democratic change, in addition to supporting and developing society.”

SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi addressing the conference.

Commander Mazloum further stressed his hope that the formation of the coalition could lead to greater relations with and support from the international community, both in terms of the continued struggle against terrorism and the development of a “broader democracy” for the regional administration.

Due to high levels of ethnic and religious diversity in North and East Syria, a centralized regime will be challenged in bringing equal and democratic rule to the region. If one group, whether religious, ethnic, political, or otherwise, attempts to dominate the others, it will inevitably lead to authoritarianism and unrest among the people. That is the AANES continues to make strides in the area of inclusion. The inclusion of local civil society groups that come from all walks of life, as well as all ethnic and religious groups, minority or majority, are a crucial part of ensuring the development of a healthy, democratic society.