The United Nations Association of Canada’s Vancouver branch was most pleased to welcome Dr. Hani Faris to be our keynote speaker at our Annual General Meeting last week. Dr. Hani Faris, an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Political Science at UBC, spoke on the topic of Syria and gave a cogent analysis discussing both historical aspects and the current civil war.
Dr. Faris began his speech by paying heed to the long history of Syria, noting that Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. He also mentioned the highly complex nature of modern Syrian society and dissuaded the audience from focusing on stereotypes.
In specific reference to the civil war, Dr. Faris discussed the role played by the Arab uprisings, but also made an important juxtaposition with power politics and strategic interests of world powers in the region. Original calls within Syria for civil democratic change were radicalized as arms poured into the country. UN efforts to come up with a solution have been consistently hampered by power politics: the Geneva Protocol of June 2012 was rejected at the UN Security Council, and Kofi Annan resigned his position as UN emissary to Syria in protest against further militarization of the conflict. Negotiations continue, but remain on shaky ground.
In conclusion, Dr. Faris encouraged the audience to focus on the human cost of this situation. On the day of his speech, news outlets were reporting that Lebanon had welcomed its 1 millionth Syrian refugee. Refugees have also been pouring into other neighbouring countries and there are estimates of 4-6 million internally displaced people still within Syria. Until both sides decide that a military solution is not the response, peace remains elusive.
In the meantime, it is falls to the UN and non-governmental organizations to ease the suffering of people on the ground. And it is up to us to maintain pressure on our governments to support work towards a peaceful solution.
Photo: UNAC-Vancouver Vice-President George Somerwill hosted the Q & A portion of the evening with Dr. Hani Faris.
Special thanks to Farleigh Dickinson University for hosting the UNAC-Vancouver’s Annual General Meeting.