Roundtable with Rouba Mhaissen


5 November 2019

Roundtable with Rouba Mhaissen
Photo: Teuta Kukleci

​How can we more fully recognize the contributions of ordinary Syrian women in community organization, in providing support to fellow citizens, in building bridges between geographic locations, and in upholding their households? And how can such initiatives be further strengthened, through networking, capacity-development and external assistance?

These were the key questions asked at a roundtable hosted in honor of Rouba Mhaissen, by the Rafto Foundation, the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution (NOREF) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), on November 5, 2019 in Oslo. Mhaissen is the founder and director of Sawa for Development and Aid (SDAID), and the 2019 Rafto Prize laureate.

​The roundtable brought together actors from academia, civil society and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help Mhaissen develop her vision for building a women community mediators network among Syrians (both in Syria and the region), strengthening existing women capacities to deal with a range of transition challenges.

The roundtable started with a brief introduction by Rouba Mhaissen, outlining her vision. The presentation was, in part, built on research conducted by SDAID (such as the 2019 ‘Unpacking Return: Syrian Refugees Conditions and Concerns’ report). The discussion that followed covered a series of themes, including:

- How to build on the expanding responsibility that many women take on in war when the fighting comes to a close;

- How, and to what extent, local level mediators should be connected with mediation at other levels and in other contexts (including political negotiations about settlement at the national level);

- The risk of political pressure being exerted by actors at various levels, and how to ensure that the roles of local mediators are not misunderstood, as well as various means of protection;

- Similar initiatives in other conflict and post-conflict situations (Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia a.o.);

- The landscape of existing women networks in mediation, peacebuilding and development

The roundtable brought up a number of insights, built on relevant experiences from elsewhere. The Rafto Foundation offers organizational support, for a period of two to three years, to an undertaking prioritized by the laureate, which in the case of the 2019 prize will be focusing on Mhaissen’s vision of a women community mediators network.

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