Syria has a long and proud tradition of charity based work. The country has a large number of charity organisations working with different marginalised groups in the country. Within the last 6-7 years a new trend has been noticeable. A new type of organisations are being established, namely development oriented organisations or as we know them, NGOs. These organisations focus more on long-term impacts and empowerment of people. In other words, where as the charities would give women and men a fish to eat, the NGOs are giving people a fishing pole and teaching them how to fish. Finally, there is also a growing number of advocacy NGOs mostly within the environmental area i.e organisations focusing on the rights of the people fishing.
During these 3 years we will be setting up the actual platform including membership criteria, organisational structures and applying for legal registration with the government. Additionally, the platform will be offering several services identified by the members themselves. First and foremost, we will concentrate on establishing networks for the organisations to participate in. A network can be focusing on specific developmental issues such as women’s rights, environment, etc. This all depends on the interest of the members. The NGOs can then come together to discuss how to address these issues and learn from each other. Civil society in Syria is very scattered and diverse. Often they are not aware of the work or even existence of other organisations working within the same field or in similar areas. During our many meetings with organisations last year including the national dialogue this came out very clearly and already several ties between organisations have been established in informal ways. Establishing networks for the NGOs to get together will be very beneficial to the members of the platform.
As mentioned this is only the first step on a long road. It is well known that in Syria nothing happens overnight and just like Rome was not build in one day neither will this platform be. The next 3 years will be interested and exciting. I have one year left in the country and will not be able to follow the project all the way. However, this is the life of a development worker and hopefully the platform website will be up and running within this year and I will be able to follow the process online from wherever my next job will take me.