The Constitutional Committee: Between Stagnation and Regional and International Power conflicts


With the escalation of events in Syria and the stagnation of the political process, and after five years of the Geneva negotiations between Syrian parties, which yielded no significant results, international and regional groups began multi-directional moves to push the political process forward.

On September 23, 2019, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the formation of the Constitutional Committee after nearly two years of attempts to break the deadlock and convince the Syrian regime to come to the negotiating table, without success. This move was supported by Russia and Iran, indirectly signaling the failure of the United Nations and the international community’s efforts to advance the negotiation framework followed since 2014 in Geneva, which was no longer capable of implementing UN resolutions, including the Geneva Communiqué and Resolution 2254, particularly the establishment of a transitional governing body, considered the most significant achievement intended by the Syrian political process.

In difficult circumstances, and with failure in the file of detainees and missing persons, estimated by human rights organisations to mount to thousands, and with ongoing forced displacement, Despite the regime’s continued repressive policies in the areas it regained control over, the most significant change has been the diminishing role of the opposition and the regime in negotiations in favour of the agendas of the influential countries, particularly the Astana guarantors, who played a central role in promoting the constitutional committee option. This committee lacked all the elements of success, from the absence of a defined timeline, ambiguous procedural rules, the method for drafting the constitution, the role of the regime’s leader in it, to the secret understandings that took place in Astana, which the regime has shown no serious intent to respect, as it held parliamentary and presidential elections concurrently, with unwavering support from Russia and Iran. Furthermore, some of the committee members resigned before it even began, convinced, like most Syrians, that drafting a new constitution was never the main gateway to a solution in Syria. The entire process seemed to satisfy the desire of UN envoy Mr. Staffan de Mistura, whose term was nearing its end with little to show for it, wanting to accomplish something, even if it became the primary focus of the international community and regional powers, who manipulate and manage the process according to their interests and gains.

It is truly unfortunate that the international and regional communities have driven the so-called political solution to a point where the Geneva 1 resolution, which called for a fully empowered transitional governing body, was reduced to a dispute over the venue for discussing a constitution—a matter that is, by nature, sovereign and should not be subject to external interference, except through free and fair parliamentary elections. Following the eighth round of discussions in June 2022 in Geneva, no significant results were achieved. The UN envoy Geir Pedersen, who over 19 months failed to return the parties to negotiations, couldn’t persuade the stubborn regime during his visit to Damascus, which announced its refusal to return to the negotiation table unless the Russian delegation was present. Russia, in turn, claimed logistical difficulties prevented its delegation from reaching Geneva, which had taken a stance on the Russia-Ukraine war.

Due to the stagnation and diminished focus on the Syrian issue within the international community, as well as the reduced role of Syrian actors in favor of influential countries, some Arab states opened communication channels with the regime to restore relations, as seen by the regime’s invitation to the emergency Islamic summit of the Arab League in Riyadh on November 11, 2023. Despite the constitutional committee’s declared failure, there have been several Arab state-led initiatives to build relationships with the regime to counter Iran’s substantial role in the region, particularly in Syria, to reduce its influence and restore stability. Saudi Arabia has a significant stake in this scenario. An Arab initiative proposed alternative locations, including Muscat, suggested by the Egyptian Foreign Minister in his meeting with his Syrian counterpart. However, Oman declined to host the meetings on its soil. Later, Iran proposed holding them in Baghdad with American approval and facilitation, but the proposal was rejected. Nairobi in Kenya was suggested as it hosts a UN office, but the regime also refused that. Negotiations stalled once again. According to informed sources, the chances of convening remain slim despite support from the US, UK, France, and Germany, according to a statement released on March 15, 2024, the anniversary of the Syrian uprising. 

The Syrian regime announced its refusal to attend the meeting because it was held in Geneva, which Moscow opposed. Given this, the Syrian Women’s Political Movement rejects holding negotiations outside Geneva and UN headquarters and stresses the importance of keeping the Syrian issue within UN oversight and out of the hands of other countries that do not align with the Syrian people’s interests, thereby hollowing out the political process of its meaning. 

The Syrian Women’s Political Movement demands that women be represented in any process concerning Syria’s future by at least 30%, aiming for gender parity. The movement appreciates the role of Mr. Geir Pedersen and his predecessor Mr. Staffan de Mistura in emphasizing the importance of women’s participation in the constitutional committee, despite a large number of women who have been marginalized due to displacement, refuge, and the inability to access decision-making venues. This does not reflect the sacrifices women made during the revolution.

Given all these variables and challenges that suggest the difficulty, or perhaps the impossibility, of holding the committee or progressing in the political process, there are emerging scenarios and alternative tracks indicating the abandonment of the negotiation path and the ineffectiveness of the UN’s ability to push for the implementation of the UN resolution for various reasons. This includes the polarization between Russia, the regime’s backer, and the US, the main opposition supporter, as well as the lack of a safe environment for constitutional transition.

The UN envoy Geir Pedersen might declare an indefinite halt to the committee’s work, undermining the constitutional process. This has prompted the relevant parties to consider and launch new paths. The most likely scenario may involve internal reconciliations with alternative figures between the Assad regime and the opposition, influenced by powerful countries, and the commencement of relationships and understandings with economic visions backed by Russia and not opposed by Iran.

In light of this, the Syrian Women’s Political Movement asserts that continued obstruction of the political process and the interference of militarily influential countries in Syrian territories undermine the role of the UN, deepen human and economic suffering, and leave the Syrian issue hostage to international power balances and regional conflicts.


The Political Committee of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.