Note: This is one of several blogs on my semester long externship. I’m currently doing a Semester in Practice with Conflict Dynamics International, where I’m working on a peacemaking initiative on Syria. Check out my past blogs to get the scoop.
One of the perks of my Semester in Practice program is international travel. To be honest, I just left Beirut and am now writing to you from my hotel room in Paris. So, bonjour! Right now I’m on the tail end of a 10-day trip to Beirut and Paris to meet with members of the Syrian opposition as well as those aligned with the Syrian government. Lebanon’s proximity to Syria means there is a lot of cross-border travel; currently, the UN estimates that there are around 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In addition to the serious refugee flow, the Syrian war has spilled over into Lebanon in many other ways. In Beirut, for example, there has been a marked increase in insecurity, which has led to less tourist traffic. Perhaps for the best, our meeting schedule was so packed, I hardly left our hotel, except to attend off-site meetings and eat delicious Lebanese food (like my delicious Lebanese breakfast!).
We’ve heard an array of narratives so far, from activists, members of civil society, businessmen, and former government officials. All agree that the Syrians are tired of fighting and want to seek viable ways to end the war. The challenge is in how to make this operable. It seems that many have a vision of what a post-conflict Syria could look like, but few have a clear idea of how to escape the current stalemate and begin a meaningful dialogue process. This I suppose is on everyone’s mind – Syrians, US/Russian diplomats, UN officials, etc. – and illustrates just how much work there is to do.