Having the necessary documents, opening a bank account, knowing the channels for project funding – the prerequisites of civil society organisations’ work are lacking in crisis areas like Syria.Overcoming the obstacles and finding ways for co-operation are of interest not only to civil society actors but also businesses and donors. Kepa, Finland-Syria Friendship Association and FinME Consulting organised on Monday 24th November an event on rebuilding Syria. ***”The potential donors say that a registration is needed. But it’s clearly not possible to register an NGO with the Assad regime”, says Syrian activist Sandra Bitar. Now people are volunteering to maintain the very basic functions of the society, hospitals and schools.If the services vacuum is left empty, ISIS and other radical groups will be the ones left to take care of it.”The local civil society actors need help, for example, on how to write proposals. One channel for this could be online workshops”, Bitar says.From CSOs’ perspective it is crucial to provide education for people on the grassroot level to rebuild the human capital that has fled together with educated citizens.However, for the post-war society-building supporting the education of current diaspora is also important – and something in which Finland could take a more active role.***Also businesses are eager to find funding for rebuilding Syria. Reconstructing cities and infrastructure is a massive project.”We have the data and technical solutions for reconstruction, and for example EduCluster Finland can provide models for education. What is needed now is funds”, says Finland-based Syrian civil engineer Wafa Ameli.In 2014, Finland’s development assistance for Syria is 12 million euros. This is four times more than in 2013 and indicates the severeness of the crisis. The amount covers both regional aid as well as Syria’s reconstruction. In addition, Finnish government directs humanitarian aid – 11 million euros in 2014 – mainly through UN agencies in neighboring countries Lebanon, Jordan and Northern Iraq.”Finland doesn’t have the capacity to work inside Syria alone, but of course we are open to project proposals of CSOs and other actors if they are feasible and possible to implement”, says Jussi Nummelin, the officer responsible for Syrian transition and reconstruction in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.Many small actors and the ones looking for fast moves don’t have access to government’s funding.***However, Finnish CSOs are looking for ways how to operate in the country. Finn Church Aid is currently present in the north of Jordan in three refugee camps, teaching youth professional skills and giving psycho-social support.”Now we are thinking, what we can do inside Syria. The starting point is a mapping – to hear the views of local civil society and to understand what is needed. This can be useful to other organisations, who want to work in Syria, as well”, Tanja Korkalainen from Finn Church Aid says.A lot of expertise and potential exists in the Finnish-Syrian community, ready for utilization.”All of us here, we want to work together”, says Bassam Algayal from FinME Consulting. ”Our goal is to build Syria for all Syrians.”
”Syria will be rebuilt on co-operation”
Both funds and human capital are needed to rebuild the Syrian society. Civil society organisations,
businesses and funding government’s dialogue can provide a starting point for a more effective work.
Teksti: Outi Puukko