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Homs syria 1 UNHCR / Bassam Diab
Destruction in Homs, Syria

RSC Public Seminar Series, Hilary term

PERSPECTIVES ON THE SYRIAN CONFLICT

Series convened by Dr Leïla Vignal

This seminar series focuses on the unfolding conflict and human catastrophe in Syria.

The Syrian conflict started in 2011 as a popular and pacific uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Asad. It mutated into an armed conflict between numerous opposition armed groups and the Asad regime. External actors have since started to intervene, either directly in support of the Damascus regime, or indirectly in support of some of the very diverse armed groups of the opposition. From 2014, the group Islamic State, originating from Iraq, opportunistically exploited the situation when it expanded across the border into Syria.

Since Russia stepped directly onto the military scene in 2015, the conflict has entered a new phase, characterised by the central role played by external powers in propping up the Asad regime, and the side-lining of all peace talks and other political processes. The retaking of the opposition-held eastern areas of Aleppo in December 2016, following massive campaigns of bombing and shelling, is in this regard a clear turning point - although it is far from signalling the end of the conflict.

The Syrian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict. Estimates vary as to the number of civilian deaths directly linked to the conflict, but they could reach more than 300,000. Poverty affects four in five Syrians. In 2017, Syria holds two world records: it is the country with the most Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and more refugees come from Syria than any other country (5 million registered with the UNHCR, possibly over 6 million in total).

This seminar series aims at shedding light on different aspects of the Syrian conflict in order to provide a better understanding of it. It also discusses the consequences of the situation in Syria for the international community, for humanitarian organisations, but also for the legal infrastructures put in place since the Second World War with regard to international humanitarian laws, human rights, and refugee protection.

 The seminar series is supported by the Maison Française d’Oxford. Maison Francaise d'Oxford

About the speaker

Jennifer M Welsh is Professor and Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute and a Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She was previously a Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford, and co-director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. In 2013, she was appointed by the UN Secretary General to serve as his Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.

Professor Welsh is a former Jean Monnet Fellow of the European University Institute, and was a Cadieux Research Fellow in the Policy Planning Staff of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. She has taught international relations at the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the Central European University (Prague).

Professor Welsh is the author, co-author, and editor of several books and articles on international relations, the evolution of the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’ in international society, the UN Security Council, and Canadian foreign policy. She was the Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Massey College (University of Toronto) in 2005, and a 2006 recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship and a Trudeau Fellowship. Since 2014, she has directed a five-year ERC-funded project on the ‘Individualization of War’.

Professor Welsh sits on the editorial boards of the journals Global Responsibility to Protect and Ethics and International Affairs, as well as the editorial board for the Cambridge University Press BISA series in International Relations. She has also served as a consultant to the Government of Canada on international policy, and acts as a frequent commentator in Canadian media on foreign policy and international relations. She has a BA from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), and a Masters and Doctorate from the University of Oxford (where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar). 

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