National Vision and Plan

Dimension 4 of 17


We wanted to learn about aspirations of Syria and its people, its vision and goals. We listened to a wide range of local, regional, and international actors influential in the life of Syria. We received a wide range of responses, for example: 

"There are multiple visions. Many want it to remain a dictatorship. Some want secular rule. Others want religious. [Level] 4 [almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future] is also oddly true. There is a general agreement of the future among ordinary people.... [P]eople want freedom, dignity, peace, and prosperity. The people who actively work on national visions work at level 1 [visions vary widely and exist in different factions of the population]." (236592)

"Things aren't being actively planned. It's more survival mode for now." (233121)
"Even with the struggle between the 3 different groups, they all share the same national vision. Everyone dreams of a day without Assad." (233881)
"The dominant subgroup controls the vision. They dictate everything. The rest of the people are watching, but they can't do anything. This is normal." (233881)

"There does not seem to be an elite now. If they exist they are not in control. There are several groups all in control of their own region." (238631)

"The mainstream has an Islamic vision. Everyone else is marginalized." (231642)
"The Baath Party represents the mainstream." (230713)

"The future of Syria is not in the regime hands or the opposition hands. The conflict is regional and international. The internal parties are only instruments of international interests. Most of the people are marginalized. Half fled the country. Many are jailed or dead. There is no trust for anyone. Most people want to live in their own region in peace, and shared governance. They are coming to agree Syria should be federated." (231641)

"The population actually shares more international vision than national, not including the extremists." (235781)

"There are two groups, Syria/Iran/Russia trying to revive the idea of the Shia Crescent. The other is the political Islamist wing being supported by some of the regional countries, Saudi ArabiaQatar. There is no vision everyone agrees on. The conflict will continue for a long time. The majority of the people don't want either group. They want a stable country."(231641)

Which statements are accurate? Why does this matter in your choice of partners, the design of initiatives, and the implementation of those initiatives? Read more to find out. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more statements. 


ABOUT INCA DIMENSION #4:

NATIONAL VISION & PLAN


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Syria's National Vision and Plan is the 4th of 17 dimensions of Syrian society that influential local, regional, and international actors assessed and discussed through 3 rounds of interviews and feedback, beginning in January, 2016. Taken together, the 17 dimensions of the x-axis offer a comprehensive, holistic view of Syria and its people. Interview participants assessed the capacity of each dimension, represented by the y-axis; higher levels indicate greater capacity within that dimension for Syrians to respond effectively to existential global threats.

National Vision & Plan is important because, without a vision and plan, a country, its residents, and the government are adrift, and will only be capable of ad hoc reactions to the needs of the country and its citizens, or to changes in the regional or international political environment, or changes in the physical environment, like resource shortages or climate change. Cooperative action requires a goal (a vision) and a strategy (a plan) to get there.  Based on the 8-level hierarchy described in the question below, participants from 27 influential organizations assessed the Syria's national vision and plan at different levels at this time in history, ranging from 1 to 7. (At the bottom of this page, you can read statements interview participants gave to support their assessments.)


The Question

A country’s national vision describes a desired future condition of the country. Its national strategy is the plan or process it chooses to pursue its vision. Which of these levels of development is the dominant mode of this country? (If two seem equal, name the higher level.) In this country:

1.    To the extent that there are national visions, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

2.    The elite share a vision for the future of this country; the rest of the citizens are passive, excluded, or disagree

3.    The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, shares a vision for the future of this country; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

4.    Almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future.

5.    To the extent that there are strategies to move the country toward its national vision, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

6.    The elite are engaged in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward their vision of its future; the rest of citizenry is passive, excluded, or disagree.

7.    The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, participates in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward its vision; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

8.   Almost the entire population of the country participates in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward its vision.


READ CLOSELY, IMAGINE, LEARN

Read each statement below closely. Assume the person who wrote this is sincere; they believe every word. Imagine what life experience or background might lead a person to have this belief. Whether true or false, this person’s perception is a fact. To move forward on an initiative involving Syria's control of its borders, the reality of each perspective might need to be accounted for.

Consider these four different vision

"There are multiple visions. Many want it to remain a dictatorship. Some want secular rule. Others want religious. [Level] 4 [almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future] is also oddly true. There is a general agreement of the future among ordinary people.... [P]eople want freedom, dignity, peace, and prosperity. The people who actively work on national visions work at level 1 [visions vary widely and exist in different factions of the population]." (236592)

When you can imagine how other Prime Actors could hold each of these perceptions, you will be better positioned to partner, plan, and implement initiatives in Syria.


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WORK WITHIN SYRIA’S NATIONAL VISION & PLAN

The thick brown line represents a fragmentation of vision

The thick brown line represents the most conservative assessment of Syria's national vision and plan, scattered among different factions of the population.  Any organization wanting to invest in Syria, and looking for long-term alignment when negotiating contracts or other agreements should not assume any agreement on what a future Syria should look like, or how the country will get there.  


STRENGTHENING SYRIA'S NATIONAL VISION & PLAN ONE STEP AT A TIME

Aim just right: dialogue among elites

The green area of the chart, from levels 1 to 2, indicates where projects to strengthen Syria's national vision and plan will be most likely to succeed. Efforts to support dialogue among influential Syrian actors would likely produce positive results. So would efforts to support dialogue among Syrian, regional, and international actors influential in the life of Syria. This very project, Sovereignty First's shared information platform, is an example of this kind of effort at inclusive dialogue.  
 

If you aim too high: destructive overreach

Projects and agreements in the red area of the chart are overly ambitious and, at best, will be a waste of time. More likely, they will drive confusion and corruption into the country. 

National vision in post-invasion Iraqi society was similarly weak in the spring of 2003. The United States, however, failed to recognize the fragmentation of Iraqi national vision, and instead enacted many programs based on the faulty assumption that Iraqis shared a unified national vision, and that each faction of society had a strategy for realizing that vision (level 5).  As a result, inappropriate practices and projects drove confusion and corruption into Iraqi society with disastrous results.

The establishment of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) exemplifies American overestimation of the strength and unity of Iraq’s national vision. Assuming that Iraqis were united by the common vision of creating an inclusive, democratic society, but that strategies to achieve this vision varied across factions of society (level 5), the American-led coalition formed the IGC by appointing 25 Iraqis from 5 different ethnic and religious backgrounds (Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, Turkmen, Assyrian) in the hope that these representatives would be able to negotiate an overall strategy for achieving their shared vision for Iraq (a level 6 goal). As our INCA platform reveals, however, this assumption was misguided and led to program overreach. The council members lacked a shared national vision even among each other; furthermore, most of the council members appeared to lack a shared national vision even with the constituencies they claimed to represent. Rather than bring together representatives of the population to forge an elite consensus for moving Iraqi society forward, which was the intent behind the project, the IGC in fact spent most of its existence mired in gridlock and lacked the legitimacy required to actually govern the country.

Background Reading

For more information on INCA for Iraq, read our retroactive case study here: http://sovereigntyfirst.com/iraq/report


Round 3 Statements (Nov 2016 - Jul 2017)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationales for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at the level that they did for this dimension. 

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 7

1. To the extent that there are national visions, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

Response to Previous Round: "The comment regarding not everyone deciding the national vision could have been written by Adam Smith. There is obviously a need for specialization, but all sectors of society should have approval rights." (233911)
"There is no single vision. There may be 2 or 3. There is a need for leadership on the ground. The visions don't vary widely except in ISIL controlled areas. They do want a united country and peace with civil rule. There is no agreement." (232631)
"There are multiple visions. Many want it to remain a dictatorship. Some want secular rule. Others want religious. [Level] 4 [almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future] is also oddly true. There is a general agreement of the future among ordinary people.... [P]eople want freedom, dignity, peace, and prosperity. The people who actively work on national visions work at level 1 [visions vary widely and exist in different factions of the population]." (236592)
"They probably have goals, but not necessarily a vision." (238631)
"The international visions change constantly and are based on who they connect with on the ground." (232631)
"Things aren't being actively planned. It's more survival mode for now." (233121)
"Russia fought against the vision of Iran. Iran had essentially taken over." (231211)
"The regime and the opposition hold different visions. The regime threatens the west by saying, "Support us or we will spread terrorism throughout the world." The opposition says, "Don't support the regime or they will spread terrorism throughout the world.". (236592)

2. The elite share a vision for the future of this country; the rest of the citizens are passive, excluded, or disagree

"Even with the struggle between the 3 different groups, they all share the same national vision. Everyone dreams of a day without Assad." (233881)
"The dominant subgroup controls the vision. They dictate everything. The rest of the people are watching, but they can't do anything. This is normal." (233881)

3. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, shares a vision for the future of this country; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

"There is only one group. They act regardless of anyone else's wishes". (230784)
"The mainstream is the Baath regime." (230713)
"There does not seem to be an elite now. If they exist they are not in control. There are several groups all in control of their own region." (238631)
"The mainstream has an Islamic vision. Everyone else is marginalized." (231642)
"The Baath Party represents the mainstream." (230713)

4. Almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future.

"The future of Syria is not in the regime hands or the opposition hands. The conflict is regional and international. The internal parties are only instruments of international interests. Most of the people are marginalized. Half fled the country. Many are jailed or dead. There is no trust for anyone. Most people want to live in their own region in peace, and shared governance. They are coming to agree Syria should be federated." (231641)
"There are two national visions. The elite share one, the mainstream the other." (235781)
"The population actually shares more international vision than national, not including the extremists." (235781)

5. To the extent that there are strategies to move the country toward its national vision, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

"The comments from round 2 are valid, but may be more appropriate for level 5." (232272)
"There are two groups, Syria/Iran/Russia trying to revive the idea of the Shia Crescent. The other is the political Islamist wing being supported by some of the regional countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. There is no vision everyone agrees on. The conflict will continue for a long time. The majority of the people don't want either group. They want a stable country."(231641)

6. The elite are engaged in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward their vision of its future; the rest of citizenry is passive, excluded, or disagree.

"For a while, at least, a lot of the United States refugee Syrians seemed content with the Assad administration. They thought he mishandled the revolution, but loved him. They did think he paid greater favor to some than others. When government bombing started, their opinions turned against him." (233531)
"Maybe this is the reason why so many people with a national vision want to work with local communities to empower them to work with Local Councils and governments to make decisions for their future." (238341)

7. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, participates in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward its vision; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

"Specifically leaving out marginalized citizens." (233121)


Round 2 Statements (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at their stated level. 

The Range 

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 7

1. To the extent that there are national visions, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

"There is no proper national vision from any side. The government wants to murder everyone else. The vision of Assad is to murder. There have been attempts from outside to develop a national vision, but it is extremely fragmented." (223911)
"Not everybody should be asked to develop a national vision. It should be the job of a ruling elite." (223881)

2. The elite share a vision for the future of this country; the rest of the citizens are passive, excluded, or disagree.

"The country did not have any choice in electing the President. He was elected by the Syrian intelligence agency. Elections were for appearances only." (229051)
"The Baath Party is the ruling party. They do whatever Assad wants. They are similar to North Korea. It doesn't matter what opinion anyone has." (221211)
"One group has a vision of a democratic Syria, a multi-ethnic united Syria. Most Syrians agree." (223881)
"I don't know who they think is the mainstream or dominant subgroup. It is neither Assad nor the opposition. (222272)
"Who's the elite? There is no elite anymore in Syria. Only those who control by the gun." (221641)

3. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, shares a vision for the future of this country; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

No Statement 

4. Almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future.

No Statement 

5. To the extent that there are plans to move the country toward its national vision, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

No Statement 

6. The elite are engaged in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward their vision of its future; the rest of citizenry is passive, excluded, or disagree.

No Statement

7. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, participates in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward its vision; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

"Syria has a dominant group with influence on the ground, politically and militarily. They are partly represented by the Alawites. The moderate opposition and the Kurds make up the other major groups. None of the three can govern by themselves." (221641)


Round 1 Statements (Jan 2016 - May 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at the level they did for this dimension. 

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 7

1. To the extent that there are national visions, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

No Statement

2. The elite share a vision for the future of this country; the rest of the citizens are passive, excluded, or disagree.

No Statement 

3. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, shares a vision for the future of this country; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

No Statement 

4. Almost the entire population of the country shares a vision of its future.

No Statement 

5. To the extent that there are plans to move the country toward its national vision, they vary widely, and exist in separate factions of the population.

No Statement 

6. The elite are engaged in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward their vision of its future; the rest of citizenry is passive, excluded, or disagree.

No Statement

7. The mainstream, or dominant subgroup of the country, participates in forming and implementing a strategy to move the country toward its vision; marginalized citizens are passive, or disagree.

No Statement