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Friday 18 November 2016

Call on UK councils to support the Local Council of Aleppo City

In her work on Syria, Jo Cox was particularly struck by how civil society has carried on in the most appalling conditions. A key example of that is the local councils that have been set up in opposition areas.

Read about Syria’s local councils in the last issue of Syria Notes published before Jo’s death.

This week Russian forces have resumed attacks on besieged civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo. 275,000 people remain trapped in east Aleppo according to Stephen O’Brien of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

A third of those are children according to UNICEF.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is trying to negotiate an end to the siege of Aleppo. As part of his proposal he calls for the recognition of the Local Council of Aleppo’s administration in eastern Aleppo.

Aleppo’s Local Council was founded in March 2013 to meet the needs of the area of Aleppo free of regime control. Members are elected through the general commission which includes representatives of borough councils and independent members. The term is one year.

The Local Council of Aleppo City provides water/waste management services, electricity supply services, rubbish collection, street cleaning, road maintenance, educational supplies and stationery, humanitarian aid, air raid shelters, and a burial service.

Before the siege, the council already faced all the difficulties of life under bombardment as well as the lack of a fixed budget, lack of heavy equipment, and lack of trained personnel. Even under siege, with shortages of food and fuel, the council continues to do all it can to maintain life and hope for Aleppo’s future.

Staffan de Mistura made clear in his recent interview with The Guardian that a military victory by the Assad regime will not bring peace but instead more instability and terrorism. Civil society initiatives like Aleppo Local Council are trying to build an alternative both to Assad’s failed state and to the terror state of ISIS, and we need to support them.

Local authorities in the UK can do their part to support Staffan de Mistura’s peace efforts, and to show support for besieged civilians in Aleppo including tens of thousands of children, by supporting Aleppo Local Council’s democratic project.

Metz, France, has a Charter of Friendship with the Local Council of Aleppo City. Now is the time for similar statements of support from UK local authorities.

The Charter of Friendship between the City of Metz, France, and the City of Aleppo, Syria, says:
“Lorraine and Metz experienced several conflicts in their turbulent history and suffered the humanitarian consequences: denial of rights, displacement of populations. It is with this history that the City of Metz decided to initiate a Charter of Friendship with The Civil Committee of the City of Aleppo, in Syria, at war today, but looking to reconstruction tomorrow.

“The aim of this Charter is to demonstrate our common desire to strengthen ties between the City of Aleppo and the City of Metz. It is not limited in time. It includes all citizens and structures present in a city and lays the foundation stone of a lasting friendship between our two councils.”

Please call on your local councillors to similarly extend friendship and support to the besieged people of Aleppo.

You can write to your local councillors via www.writetothem.com