International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East – Co-Chairs’ Conclusions (Paris, 08.09.15)

1. The Conference, which brought together 56 countries and 11 international and regional organizations, discussed the efforts needed to support the members of the communities who are targeted by Daesh and other terrorist organisations for ethnic or religious reasons, and the communities that are threatened as such in Iraq and Syria.

General political positions

2. The participants emphasized that for the region and for mankind, the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the Middle East represented priceless heritage, which the international community had a duty to protect. They expressed their determination to take immediate action to preserve that diversity and protect the members of those threatened communities, which are particularly vulnerable.
3. Given the scale of the violence that is destroying the region, the participants expressed their determination to redouble their efforts to restore peace and support all refugees and displaced persons, as well as the countries and communities that receive them, whose contributions were praised.

4. They agreed that a key goal of the international community and the countries concerned is to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons who so wish to their homes, by creating a conducive environment for their return. The efforts made by the coalition against Daesh in this regard were praised.

5. Three round-table groups discussed recommendations in the humanitarian, judicial and political fields. An action plan, annexed to these Conclusions, outlines the principles and actions discussed during the Conference. This Paris Action Plan will serve as a road map guiding the responses to the dramatic situation that is unfolding in the region.
Humanitarian aspect

6. The participants expressed their determination to increase support to the affected populations, in order to enable them to live in dignity, while preserving their identity, and to the hosting communities and countries. They affirmed that it was urgently necessary to create the conducive environment needed for the voluntary, lasting and safe return of the refugees and displaced persons.

7. The action plan includes the following measures to address this:
• Support national authorities, local governments, and communities hosting refugees and displaced populations through development programs to alleviate their burden and increase their capacities;
• Better information on population movements and security risks, and stronger measures to re-establish family links between separated family members.
• Improved access to health and education (including in the language of the populations concerned).
• Treatment of victims of violence, especially sexual violence, with psychological and socio-medical support.
• Mine clearance and restoration of public infrastructure and services, including hospitals and schools, to facilitate the return of the communities.
• Implementation of social and economic development programmes in the regions to which people are returning.
• Greater support for the most vulnerable people, especially women and children.
• A constant focus on the return of property belonging to the displaced populations.

8. The participants highlighted the obligation for all parties to respect international humanitarian law and the need to promote such respect among armed forces on the ground, including through improved training initiatives.

9. The participants agreed to increase their humanitarian aid efforts, including their support for countries in the region and for host communities. They called for increased contributions, especially to the UNDP trust fund, which is intended to facilitate the immediate stabilization of areas freed from Daesh, and to the EU Madad Fund for

Syria.

10. The participants reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the most affected states in the region - Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq -, that are hosting refugees and displaced populations and helping them, as well as the efforts of civil society, regional institutions and host communities in those countries.

11. The participants reaffirmed their determination to support the action of the United Nations in Iraq, which is focused in particular on the reconstruction of infrastructure and the return of displaced persons, when security conditions permit. The action of the Coalition Stabilization Working Group was also praised.

Legal aspect

12. The participants condemned in the strongest terms the heinous crimes committed, especially by Daesh and its affiliated groups, against civilian populations from all ethnic, religious or other backgrounds. They expressed particular concern regarding the violence committed on ethnic, religious, or sectarian grounds. The atrocities committed in Iraq and Syria, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, or even genocide in the case of certain communities, are a source of concern for the entire international community and must not go unpunished.

13. They stressed the need to develop and utilize early warning signals to prevent violations of human rights and protect people at risk before atrocities occur, as provided in the Secretary-Generals Human Rights up Front initiative.

14. The participants expressed their determination to increase their efforts to ensure accountability and punishment. The perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice, whether at national or international level.

15. The participants emphasized the need to increase support for the documenting of crimes and the collection of witness statements, including on human trafficking, by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, and other United Nations mechanisms, as well as for local and regional documenting initiatives.

16. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has an important role to play, especially in judging crimes committed by Daesh and other terrorist organisations. The United Nations Security Council was encouraged to explore referring these crimes to the International Criminal Court. States that have not already done so were encouraged to accept the jurisdiction of the Court so that it can judge these crimes.

17. National actions proposed to help combat impunity include:

  • Criminalizing these acts in national law and ensuring the prosecution of their perpetrators by the competent courts.
  • Setting up specialized international crime units within national courts.
  • Strengthening legal cooperation on these crimes, for example by setting up networks of points of contact and joint investigation teams.
  • Increasing the security of the witnesses concerned.

18. The participants emphasized the importance of establishing the rule of law and an impartial justice system guaranteeing fundamental rights in the countries concerned, as well as supporting transitional justice and societal reconciliation. They expressed their willingness to support efforts made in this regard.

Political aspect

19. The participants emphasized that, beyond legitimate military action against Daesh, the resolution of the crisis needed to be political and based on inclusiveness and integration of all components of society, irrespective of ethnic or religious backgrounds, under the rule of law and respect of human rights that represent the cornerstone to protecting and guaranteeing the rights of all individuals, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, without discrimination.

20. The participants emphasized the importance of a full and effective implementation, by all States, of the relevant UNSC resolutions on fighting terrorism and preventing radicalization. The United Nations Secretary General will present a “Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism” to the General Assembly in November. The support of Member States will be critical.

21. States that have not yet done so were encouraged to ratify the instruments that protect human rights, including those that combat human trafficking. Projects will be developed to train people to respect human rights in the fight against terrorism.

22. The participants reaffirmed their full commitment to the sovereignty and unity of Iraq, in the framework of its federal institutions. They expressed their full support for the action of the Iraqi Government to promote reconciliation, strengthen the rule of law and ensure that all Iraqi citizens are represented in an inclusive political process, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin.

23. The participants reiterated their wish to preserve the unity and sovereignty of Syria. They emphasized that the only way to reach a lasting solution to the crisis in Syria is through a serious political transition, based on the Geneva Communiqué, 30 June 2012, responding to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enabling them to decide their own future entirely independently and democratically, including through the establishment of an inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers, formed on the basis of mutual agreement, to ensure continuity of the state’s institutions. They reiterated their support for the efforts of the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria in this regard.

24. The measures mentioned in the action plan include: developing education on diversity and tolerance, especially school textbooks; promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue; promoting relevant prominent initiatives and efforts by moderate religious institutions and leaders; supporting efforts to better integrate and empower young people; developing administrative and parliamentary cooperation to strengthen the rule of law; and preserving civil status and land registers. Austria announced that it will host a high level conference on interreligious dialogue in June 2016.

25. The participants expressed their wish to increase their support for UNESCO action to safeguard cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq. They agreed to implement practical initiatives to record, preserve, restore, enhance and teach about heritage, whether archaeological, architectural, movable, written or intangible, such as: developing maps and inventories of endangered or destroyed sites; restoring monuments and manuscripts; recording intangible heritage; and strengthening international surveillance mechanisms.

26. The participants reaffirmed their support for the role played by the United Nations in the region to support political processes, coordinate and facilitate international humanitarian assistance, help refugees and displaced persons, and protect cultural heritage. They welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a group of respected leaders to help advance the Conference’s objectives.

27. The participants expressed their determination to take concrete action to pursue the goals of the Conference, protect the threatened communities in the Middle East and preserve the diversity of the region. They are invited to draw on the Paris Action Plan, which is annexed to these Conclusions, to carry out concrete actions ahead of the follow-up conference, announced for 2016 by the Spanish Government.

Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of the French Republic
Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

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