There are many groups and countries involved in Syria, who bring their own agendas to the context, making conflict dynamics extremely complex. In 2018, Peaceful Change initiative worked to bring together International NGOs, UN agencies and donors, working in Syria to start a conversation on the delivery of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding assistance and explore understanding around the interaction of aid with the conflict, which can have positive and/or negative effects.
Two meetings were convened for representatives from 7 Syrian NGOs, from both government and opposition controlled areas and 13 International NGOs and UN agencies. In the meetings, the Syrian context was analysed to support increasing awareness of what drives peace and what drives the conflict in Syria. This helped implementing agencies to apply a conflict sensitive approach, when delivering aid, in efforts to minimise negative effects and the risk of exacerbating the situation – and maximise positive effects by identifying opportunities, to build peace.
A one one-day exploratory War Economy Retreat was also convened for 7 Syrian NGOs, alongside a parallel retreat organised for 9 donors and 15 international implementing agencies. Some examples of how assistance interacts with the conflict were explored with a couple of examples outlined below.
The benefits of assistance are distributed unevenly and reinforce existing social, political or economic divisions or tensions
Or assistance can reduce tensions between groups when assistance is delivered across existing tensions or divisions in a collaborative manner
Economic market effects
Intervention may distort the local economy
Or the intervention could build supply chains across conflict lines
Some key insights from these meetings include:
It is not the norm for projects in Syria to explicitly take conflict sensitivity into consideration and the development of conflict sensitivity tools could enhance the effectiveness of aid
Embedding conflict sensitivity into a project cycle may create challenges due to the monitoring limitations in Syria
After 7 years of civil war, Syrians on different sides of the conflict are deeply mistrustful of each other and can be afraid to meet. Peaceful Change initiative worked to bridge this trust gap by convening a group of 12 young people from politically diverse areas at a dialogue forum outside Beirut, Lebanon. It provided the opportunity to build bridges and share perspectives, whilst developing a genuine respect for ‘the other’. Trust and confidence was slowly built.
Nadia is a 27 year old graduate in Civil Engineering from Aleppo. She said: ‘The different realities I heard during the dialogue forum helped me to break down the stereotypes I had formed about people during the war because I lacked access to information. I listened to how it was for other young people to exist during the war and it has been helpful for me to know about their lives.’
The dialogue forum also provided an opportunity for the young people to learn about peacebuilding and concepts such as human rights, conflict and violence. The facilitators led a guided discussion on economic and social violence (visible and invisible) that need to be addressed in order to bring conflict to an end.
Khalid is a 19 year old student from Homs, the third largest city in Syria, who implemented civil society activities in his locality. He said: ‘It was helpful to learn about peacebuilding concepts as they underpin my work as a civil society activist. I want to empower myself and understand actions that respect human rights and non-violence.’
Peaceful Change initiative have worked with civil society in Syria, working in both Opposition and Government-controlled areas of the country. Our work has included:
facilitating dialogue between Syrian Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian community leaders on coexistence in Hassakah Province
convening and building the capacity of a network of community leaders to prevent, manage and resolve local conflicts and maintain/expand civilian space. 470 human security and community safety initiatives were implemented, including through small grants
capacity building for civil society actors, focusing on transformational leadership for peace-building; cross-divide dialogue between youth
convening conflict-sensitive assistance capacity building and reflection process for international donor governments, international aid agencies and Syrian NGOs
We have worked with partners to introduce innovative technology-based solutions to support their work in conflict-affected areas. This has included the development and management of a Community Peacebuilding Training Portal with written and audio-visual material designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of a network of 60 track-three peacebuilders based in Syria and in refugee communities in Turkey and Jordan.
Leadership and governance video resources in support of peaceful change in Syria can be found in Arabic with English subtitles here
This brief highlights key lessons learned about the challenges that community-level peace resources face in effectively mitigating conflict in Syria, as well as communities’ aspirations for more inclusive peace processes.
PCi is providing support to community peace resources – those individuals and organisations involved in local initiatives to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. The first task of this work was to map such peace resources; this was done in March 2014. PCi captured learning from this research and outlined an agenda for supporting the development and strengthening of community-level resources for peace in Syria.
In this webinar, PCi’s Senior Advisers Lesley McCulloch and Anthony Foreman shared the key findings of a new PCi report on the challenges and opportunities of, and lessons learned from, mainstreaming conflict sensitivity in remote programming contexts. They discussed the evolution of the remote programming model employed in Syria and Libya, where PCi works to support and build the capacity of local leaders to manage conflict.
PCi’s Senior Peacebuilding Adviser Raj Bhari, with a colleague from International Alert, facilitated a working group on peacebuilding at the Syria Peace Process Support Partner Event on 20 June 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon. The European Union and Germany set up the Syria Peace Process Support Initiative to contribute to peacebuilding in Syria, based on the implementation of UNSCR 2254. The workshop session facilitated forward-thinking discussions on what the track-three peacebuilding agenda in Syria needs to encompass and the possibilities and entry points for track-three peacebuilding in the current Syrian context.