Syria Relief at UK Party Conferences

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By Charles Lawley, Head of Advocacy & Public Relations at Syria Relief

I am currently writing this during a brief respite between two fringe events at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. This is the third and final week of Syria Relief’s Party Conference season, having attended Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth and Labour in Brighton. Party conference seasons involves early morning and late nights, but what is a non-political organisation like Syria Relief doing at a political party conference?

Party conferences are basically giant, internal debates that political parties have to discuss their policies, their identities and their vision for the country and the wider world. In turbulent domestic political times, like now, the atmosphere and the nature of the debate can be quite tense, and the focus of the topic is narrow. I have been working in public affairs for NGOs for a few years now, and in my experience, discussion of foreign affairs at all parties is relatively less than domestic issues. A notable exception is the Labour Party who regularly have multiple events on Palestine every year. However, most other overseas issues struggle to get a look in.

This is why it is vital for organisations like Syria Relief to attend these conferences, our media isn’t talking about Syria, our politicians aren’t talking about Syria and, because of this, the British people are forgetting about Syria. As we revealed last month 1 in 4 British people aren’t aware that the Syrian conflict is still ongoing. Party conferences gives us a high concentration of access to MPs and journalists to influence what they talk about.

We have already had great conversations with MPs who have given commitments to keep Syria on the agenda and work with Syria Relief to promote the needs of the Syrian people and how we can meet them. We are talking a lot about the impact that airstrikes on schools are having on Syria’s children and what the UK government can do to help. We’ve given the report to the likes of Jeremy Corbyn MP, the Leader of the Opposition, Alok Sharma MP, the Secretary of State for International Development and heads of some of the global NGOs who are in attendance also.

We are telling the most influential people in the UK that Syrians are still suffering, Syrians are still dying and Syrians still need our help.


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