UN says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks to the press at United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

UN says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

  • Guterres expressed hope that the constitutional committee “will be a very important step" towards reaching a political solution
  • It has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria, an important step toward hopefully ending the more than eight-year conflict.
The UN chief told a news conference that UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen “is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference, and we hope that this will be very soon concluded.”
Guterres expressed hope that formation of the constitutional committee “will be a very important step in creating the conditions for a political solution for this tragic conflict.”
At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. This was a key step toward elections and a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, which has killed over 400,000 people.
There was early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. But it has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women, mainly because of objections from the Syrian government.
Pedersen, the UN envoy, told the Security Council in late August that the package to resolve outstanding names and terms of reference and rules of procedure was “nearly finalized, and the outstanding differences are, in my assessment, comparatively minor.”
He said he was “quietly hopeful” an agreement would be announced before world leaders gather next week for their annual meeting at the General Assembly.
An agreement on a blueprint for peace in Syria that was approved in Geneva on June 30, 2012 by representatives of the UN, Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five veto-wielding Security Council members — the US, Russia, China, France and Britain — remains the basis for ending the conflict.
It calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers, moving on to the drafting of a new constitution and ending with elections. The Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement in a resolution in December 2015 that set a timetable for talks and a cease-fire that was never met.


London-based Lebanese non-profit at forefront of Beirut fundraising

Updated 15 August 2020

London-based Lebanese non-profit at forefront of Beirut fundraising

  • Following the Aug. 4 blast that rocked the capital, Lebanese citizens and residents — both in and outside of the country — immediately mobilized to help after it was evident that the government was not doing so
  • With an initial goal of raising £20,000 for disaster relief in medical and nutritional aid, the group has since raised more than £6 million

LONDON: As soon as the haunting images of the immense orange cloud filling Beirut’s late-afternoon sky and the terrifying videos of the explosion began circulating, UK-based non-profit Impact Lebanon took the initiative.

With an initial goal of raising £20,000 for disaster relief in medical and nutritional aid, the group has since raised more than £6 million — with a target of £7.5 million now set — after enormous worldwide support for what officials describe as a humanitarian disaster.

“We’re raising the funds, primarily from the diaspora and the international community in order to help support the work of the local NGOs on the ground,” Impact Lebanon co-founder Diana Abbas told Arab News.

Following the Aug. 4 blast that rocked the capital, Lebanese citizens and residents — both in and outside of the country — immediately mobilized to help after it was evident that the government was not doing so.

“We’re doing a vetting process to figure out which NGOs that we need to send money to, and the vetting process involves checking all local NGOs registered, making sure they’re non-sectarian and apolitical,” Abbas said, adding that among these NGOs are the Lebanese Red Cross, Arc En Ciel and Beit El Baraka.

The blast, largely blamed on government negligence that left 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate stored in a portside warehouse in Beirut for six years, has left at least 180 dead and thousands more injured. More than 300,000 people have lost their homes, while 2,096 restaurants were destroyed.

The London-based organization was first born out of the Lebanese October Revolution of last year. Unprecedented, nationwide mass protests denounced the corruption and sectarianism that has plagued the country for decades, plunging it into an economic and financial crisis that has seen its official currency, the Lebanese pound, lose more than 80 percent of its value in eight months.

“We set up Impact Lebanon because there are a lot of Lebanese people in the diaspora who are still very connected to their homes and want to do something to help and contribute, especially that our friends and our families are there but also it’s our country ultimately and I think that we all want to see Lebanon be the Lebanon that we aspire to,” Abbas said.

“It’s important from the diaspora to donate because we’re away from a lot of the stresses that people on the ground are feeling. That distance allows us to brainstorm, come up with new initiatives, spend our time dedicated to working on these initiatives.”

The group’s fundraising campaign has notched up several A-list celebrities, including singers Rihanna and Ariana Grande, who have promoted Impact Lebanon’s initiative on their social media platforms.

“We have a lot of gratitude toward the support that has been shown across the world in terms of awareness-raising but also in terms of sharing the fundraiser and in terms of donating to Lebanon,” the co-founder said.

“Please pay attention to what the people want and what the people are suffering from and what the people can use support in and basically guide your involvement in that way.”