Syrian Engagement Project
The Syrian Engagement Project is a joint project of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Institute of Near Eastern Studies of the University of Vienna. It was initiated in 2013 in response to limited organized efforts to develop Track II dialogue among stakeholders in the current conflict in Syria. The Project seeks to take advantage of Vienna's historical disposition as a neutral environment for engaging in dialogue on international issues of contention to foster the exchange of disparate perspectives on and to explore novel approaches to reconciliation and peace-building in Syria.
The Project has initiated a conference series that has brought together various stakeholders and concerned groups in Austria and abroad for initial discussions and the identification of future work streams. An early outcome of this process has been the proposal to turn the experience of the Syrian Engagement project into an adaptable model for factional engagement in other expatriate communities, thereby exercising reconciliation in advance of any future political peace agreements.
The Syrian Engagement Project is currently looking to expand participation in this process and invites institutions interested in sponsoring or participating in the Project to contact the organizers (details below).
From 6-7 February 2014, over 100 participants from over a dozen countries gathered in the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien (Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria) for a unique conference: The Syrian Conflict: Promotion of Reconciliation and its Implications for International Security. The conference was jointly hosted by the Institute for Near Eastern Studies of the University of Vienna, the Terrorism Research Initiative, and the Centre for Terrorism and Security Studies of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. (Conference report below)
On 2 May 2014, the Institute for Near Eastern Studies of the University of Vienna and the Terrorism Research Initiative hosted the conference: Religious Extremism in Syria: A New Launching Pad for Global Terrorism? This was the second conference from the Syrian Engagement Project. The first conference (see above), was focused on providing participants with perspectives from various Syrian civil society and political factions on the conflict and promoting dialogue between individuals and groups. This second conference was designed to provide a smaller, more intimate environment for discussion of pertinent issues related to militant or extremist factions in Syria as well as discussions of wider regional and international implications. The conference provided a forum conducive for extensive speaker-audience interaction. (Conference report below)
Supporting the Syrian Engagement Project
In order to continue to enhance engagement mechanisms and further top-down and bottom-up peace-building, the Terrorism Research Initiative and Institute of Near Eastern Studies of the University of Vienna will, contingent on funding, provide support and platforms for dialogue for stakeholders in the Syrian conflict. There is already a high level of interest from various Syrian factions in continuing with the conference series and other related events to promote understanding and reconciliation. These events are designed to gather stakeholders for honest exchanges. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to maintain momentum within the communities of interest and to nurture the seeds of reconciliation that have been planted.
The Syrian Engagement Project is currently searching for institutions interested in sponsoring the Project or specific conferences in 2014. An additional two conferences are foreseen in 2014, contingent on funding. Potential sponsors of Track II efforts and policy-focused events are especially encouraged to contact the Syrian Engagement Project.
Points of Contact:
President, Terrorism Research Initiative
Institute of Near Eastern Studies, University of Vienna