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Syria crisis campaigning in 2013

Posted by Holly Taylor Campaign Project Officer, Luke Gibson Tax and Inequality Policy Adviser, Rachel George Digital Campaigns Manager

9th Jan 2014

Campaigning for peace talks

Why did we campaign on Syria? 

The conflict in Syria has horrified the world. It is crisis of staggering proportions, one that continues to require a massive international humanitarian response. Since the conflict began nearly three years ago more than five million people have been forced to flee the country and are living as refugees in neighbouring states. Half of these refugees are children, and many more are living in terribly dangerous conditions at home. 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced and survive in temporary accommodation in schools and other public buildings. More than 100,000 people have been killed. 

Currently, 9.3 million people - almost half the population of Syria - are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The scale of the destruction is almost impossible to fully comprehend, but stories from ordinary Syrians helps us understand the individuals at the heart of the conflict. We spoke to Reema,12, who was lucky to survive when her school was bombed. Her home had also been rendered inhabitable by the war. She wrote: "Now, destruction is everywhere. My school has turned into stones scattered here and there. All I want is to live in my country in freedom." 

As well as providing humanitarian aid to Syria, we knew the response needed to be larger than Oxfam could provide alone. We wanted the UK government to commit to sending aid, not armies, to Syria and we knew peace talks must be the goal of diplomats. 

What did we do? 

Alongside much behind the scenes advocacy work, we launched a petition demanding more aid and a peaceful solution to the conflict through diplomatic talks. At events across the country the British public showed their support for the Syrian people through both signing up and speaking out. 

In the summer, we took Syria campaigning to festivals, with our Love Syria art installation explaining the vagaries of the conflict and spurring thousands of festival goers to sign the petition (with the help of 170 amazing volunteers!).

In October, a team of volunteers handed the completed petition in to Hugh Robertson, Minister of State for the Foreign Office, in London. 

What happened? 

Since we launched the campaign for more aid and a peaceful solution to the conflict, the UK government has given over £500 million to those affected by the conflict, the most that it has ever given to a humanitarian crisis. 

A date has been set for peace talks - 22 January 2014 - and non-military voices will be included in these. This is an incredible achievement for peaceful advocacy. 

The government stopped sending any kinds of arms to Syria. These weapons could have been used in the conflict, so this cessation is very important. 

Finally, as a result of overwhelming public pressure, the government voted against military intervention in Syria in parliament. There's still more they can do (for example providing asylum to Syrian refugees) but these achievements must be celebrated. 

What is the impact? 

By voting against military intervention, Parliament has avoided making the situation much worse for ordinary Syrians. If action had been agreed, it would likely have exacerbated existing international tensions, and could have lead to regional destabilisation, damaging the prospects for peace. Furthermore, by refusing to be a part of an international military coalition, Britain forced others, including the United States, to pause and reconsider the situation. 

The amount of aid given has been vital to the survival of those affected by the conflict. Because of the generosity of the British public and government, Oxfam has been able to help more than half a million people. In refugee camps, such as Zaatari camp in Jordan, we've built clean water supplies, latrines and washing facilities and provided sanitation equipment, essential to stopping the spread of disease. Outside the camps, we've been providing Syrians with cash to help them afford safe housing and basic food for their families as the cost of both rises. 

Sadly, as 2014 begins the crisis continues, and we'll be continuing to campaign in the run up to the 3rd anniversary of the beginning of the war in March for successful peace talks and ongoing negotiation.

Blog post written by Holly Taylor

Campaign Project Officer

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Holly Taylor

Blog post written by Luke Gibson

Tax and Inequality Policy Adviser

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Blog post written by Rachel George

Digital Campaigns Manager

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