Even though the 18-month long civil war in Syria shows no signs of abating, many are wondering what will occur should the Assad regime collapse. Under this premise, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in partnership with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), recently brought together 45 opposition representatives from Syria to discuss and define unified goals for a democratic transition in a post-Assad order. In early September they published the report, The Day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria, which surmises concrete policy recommendations for a successful transition.
The report focuses on six policy areas to advance a democratic transition in Syria, placing a special focus on security sector reform (SSR), stating it as an imperative factor to establish legitimacy and order in a post-Assad Syria. Outlining principal short-term and long-term recommendations, the report offers a 24-month timeline of objectives, emphasizing the importance of governance to ensure that the control of security forces are in the hands of the Syrian people and their representatives.
Stating that Syria is currently dominated by overlapping internal security agencies, operating with absolute impunity and disregard for human rights, the report explains how current security forces have little autonomy and are seen as an extension of the ruling party. The report anticipates that after the fall of the Assad regime, the transitional government will face urgent security challenges, including civil disturbance, revenge attacks, and the growth of unregulated private militias. The recommendations in the report aim to address these challenges, outlining the key reforms that must take place in the security sector.
The report sets out the following objectives for SSR in Syria: (1) provide a security environment for the Syrian people, so that citizens can freely exercise their political, economic, social and cultural freedoms; (2) establish civil-military relations based on democratic principles; (3) open service in the security sector to all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnic background or affiliation, (4) detach the security sector completely from politics; and (5) provide professional training and development to the security sector.
The report expresses a dedication to enacting an overarching transition to democratic civilian control of the Syrian security sector, exemplified by inclusive participation, transparency, accountability, local ownership and respect for human rights.