By Ahmad Othman
RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – Prior the middle of 2022, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) prepared to collect feedback and introduce revisions to the draft of the Social Contract by presenting and discussing it with various segments of society, institutions, as well as security and military entities in order to collect feedback and make necessary adjustments.
The Social Contract, which acts as Northeast Syria’s constitution, is a set of theoretical and practical foundations, laws, and organizational rules which are established to determine the relationship between the administration and the people, and to clarify the rights and duties of individuals and officials within society.
Through several stages and mini-committees to discuss the draft of the Social Contract in its seven administrative regions, the AANES presented the new Social Contract that would be ratified after taking feedback and making revisions.
Upon completion by the mini-committee, the draft Social Contract was presented to the expanded committee, comprising around 160 members, for their approval before being submitted to the General Council of the AANES for final endorsement.
The draft defines the system and form of governance in the AANES and the basic points and principles plus legal provisions through which the regions of Northeast Syria will be run.
On July 15, 2021, a mini-committee of 30 members was formed to prepare a draft for the Social Contract, which will be considered as a Constitution regulating the political, economic and social work of the AANES.
After the completion of the mini-committee’s work, the sessions of the expanded committee started.
The expanded committee responsible for restructuring the Social Contract is composed of 30 members representing the AANES, in addition to 30 members representing political parties in northern and eastern Syria.
Women’s unions and organizations are represented by 20 members, civil society organizations including unions and humanitarian organizations are represented by 30 members, 10 members represent youth institutions, and the remaining members consist of independent individuals in the region.
What is the Social Contract?
In the middle of 2021, the AANES announced its intention to revise the existing Social Contract as a proactive measure in preparation for local elections in the areas it governs.
The Social Contract, as defined by the AANES, refers to a set of theoretical and practical principles, laws, and regulatory rules that are established to define the relationship between the governing authority and the people. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals and officials within the society.
Initially, the AANES drafted the first Social Contract when it was established in Hasakah, Kobani, and Afrin in 2014. Later, it was modified into the Charter of the Autonomous Administration in 2018 upon the declaration of AANES.
Additionally, the AANES brought together the autonomous and the civil administrations in several areas including Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij, Kobani, Tel Abyad, Sirrin, Hasakah, and Afrin.
The need for its amendment arises amidst criticism directed at the contract that was implemented in 2014, as it overlooked several fundamental human rights principles, such as the prohibition of arbitrary detention, the right to prompt judicial review, and the right to legal counsel during criminal proceedings. Additionally, there are several essential observations within the preamble of the “Charter.”
Human rights activists argue that revising the Social Contract has become a necessity, particularly after the expulsion of the Islamic State (ISIS) from vast areas. The expanded geography and ethnic diversity necessitate the establishment of a Constitution that safeguards the protection of their rights.
The new Social Contract will establish the structure and form of the administration and will include an electoral commission responsible for overseeing the forthcoming elections.
It consists of 99 articles organized into four main sections, starting with the preamble that explains the reasons behind formulating a specific Social Contract. The draft also addresses the system of governance in the region, laws, institutions and their authority, separation of powers, and granting local communities the ability to manage their regions through federal governance.
What is the need for a new contract?
Regarding the need for amending the Social Contract, Amina Ossi, Deputy Co-chair of the AANES Executive Council, earlier told North Press that the AANES was established under extremely sensitive circumstances which require considering what was written as the basis and try to uproot the faults of experience during the past years.
Yasser Suleiman, Deputy Co-chair of the AANES General Council, said the Social Contract is a radical and real turning point and a door to be opened for all Syrians for writing a unified constitution that preserves the unity and sovereignty of the Syrian territory.
The Social Contract includes the introduction and the basic principles, the rights, the freedom, and the system of the social justice.
The Social Contract paves the way for the coming elections which will include the whole aspects of the AANES, Suleiman added.
Human rights activists perceive a critical need for the Social Contract in order to expand social participation in the AANES and achieve effective governance.
By amending the Social Contract, the AANES seeks to lay the fundamental groundwork for conducting local elections throughout the entirety of the northeastern Syria, as stated in previous statements by officials of the AANES.
According to previous statements by Farid Atti, Co-chair of the AANES General Council, the new Social Contract will define the structure, form, and authority of the AANES and its affiliated institutions.
He added that the approval of the new contract will either be through the General Council or through a popular referendum in which the population in northeastern Syria participates.
The goal of the Social Contract is to create a decentralized administrative system in the northern and eastern areas of Syria. However, the Syrian government views it as a “separatist” constitution, despite the AANES insistence on the project’s national responsibility.