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Nextep Discusses the Reality of Civil Society Organizations’ Work in Northeastern Syria

(Qamishli, 13 November 2021) In the process of its project “We Talk”, which consists of a series of dialogue sessions on different societal issues, Nextep organization conducted a focused dialogue session entitled “The Reality of Civil Society Organizations’ Work in North and East Syria” at the organization headquarter.

The session was attended by 13 representatives of civil society organizations and of different local community groups, in order to discuss various aspects inter alia: the reality of civil society organizations’ work, the extent to which the local community trust in their work, and the suitability of their projects with the region’s needs, in addition to the confusion that occurs between civil and humanitarian work and its impact on the work of civil society organizations.

The participants evaluated the reality of civil society organizations’ work in terms of their underperformance and weak role in some areas, and their distance from urgent community issues, while another group of the participants considered the negative role of the laws regulating the work of civil society organizations and the nature of the relationship between them and the authorities responsible for their work from AANES’s institutions, and their exclusive role of monitoring the work of organizations without actual participation, in addition to the absence of actual laws regulating the work of the organizations. Some other participants considered companies’ mediation between donors and organizations as a reason for the inability of these organizations to properly clarify the needs of the area to donors.

The opinions varied about the extent of the local community’s belief in civil society organizations’ work and the cooperation between them. Some considered that there is a mistrust of civil society organizations, and some of them suffer from the lack of transparency, reliance on nepotism in hiring and not adopting the competency standards, as well as the failure of some organizations to work in accordance with the goals on which they were established. Some other attendees, however, said that there was satisfaction with the work of civil society organizations in terms of their implementation of some projects that left a positive impact on the community, albeit limited and proceeding at a slow pace.

As for the suitability of the projects of these organizations with the needs of the region, the consensus of opinion was that the projects of civil society organizations are restricted to specific areas, and their activities have similarities despite the many issues that they can work on and contribute to address. The participants saw that the established projects meet the donor’s conditions, not the region’s needs.

There was unanimity that the local community confuses civil and humanitarian work, it misunderstands the context, objectives, and nature of civil society organizations’ work and considers them as relief organizations. Another group believed that this issue of confusion rests upon everyone and that civil society organizations should conduct extensive educational sessions about the work of organizations and their objectives.

The session concluded with a set of proposals and recommendations, inter alia: strengthening collective work and cooperation between civil society organizations in order to implement projects that meet the region needs, and move away from the duplicative activities and projects and implement new plans instead. in addition to reducing the gap between society and organizations through activities that would educate local communities and enhance their trust and belief in the civil society organizations work. Finally, adopt the principle of equality and diversity in employment, and focus more on marginalized segments of society.