The past a few years, the years of war, have turned Syria into a fertile soil for the formation of organizations and volunteering teams. Despite the presence of international organizations, active in offering aid and support for Syrian citizens, a number of unlicensed teams and organizations succeeded in penetrating this sector.
In the city of As-Suwayda, in southern Syria, two types of organizations exist on the ground; the first are the licensed entities which have branches in the different Syrian areas, such as the “Red Crescent” and the UN related-organizations, in addition to local initiatives, which worked to structure their staffs in time, as to become known as organizations or associations. This type offers relief aid, psychological support, child protection and educational and vocational training courses.
The proliferation of the unlicensed organizations can be attributed to a number of reasons, on top of which is the lack of trust in the licensed organizations, in the shadow of the politicization of the civil file and utilizing it to serve political goals or to have the ability to reach the targeted groups, in addition to the obsession or the fear of accountability, in case aid has been provided to those, who the government of the Syrian regime “do not approve”.
However, the sector has also created a space for exploiters and opportunists, who managed to accumulate money utilizing the concept of civil organizations.
An Organizations Boom
The city of As-Suwayda has witnessed a boom in the field of civil society organizations, the most prominent of which are the following: “Jozour Building the Syrian Civil Society,” “Twlip to Support Woman and Kid,” “Thuraya for Development,” “Ougarit Group,” “National Construction Movement,” and “Bytee Ana Bytk,” (My Home is Your Home) Organization.
One of the employees in the licensed “European Institute for Cooperation and Development” organization, who refused to reveal her name, told Enab Baladi that the organization prepares weekly and monthly reports, including the accurate number of the beneficiaries, the expenses of the provided services with regular invoices from registered shops, to attest for all the materials it buys under its activities. The invoices are signed by a purchase committee and a reception committee, and a supervisor.
The same volunteer woman has also worked for one of the unlicensed civil teams in the area, which cannot offer similar official invoices or documents, because its employees cannot introduce themselves as workers in the relief filed and cannot provide documents from shops that carry their signatures, for this might place them under a direct security threat.
This gap was exploited by a number of people, who presented themselves as directors of either teams or associations in As-Suwayda, and that they are delegates from the executive board to receive the funding money, due to the lacking license, even though these associations do not have any form of action on the ground.
Despite the increasing percentage of such names, which are rising into fame in the governorate, the society cannot feel a concrete or a positive movement towards change at different levels, according to the woman volunteer.
Security Caveats Distract Transparency
Inas, a woman activist in the field of civil action, points a finger of blame and shames the workshops that the volunteering teams in As-Suwayda are organizing, for they do not provide a monetary compensation or a transportation fee, despite the fact that the teams are actually receiving financial support to cover these specific dimensions.
She points out that most of the participants do not actually care for the little compensation which they might receive; they rather concentrate on the value they might achieve through the training course and the benefits.
Rami, a former volunteer, who refused to reveal his family name, told Enab Baladi, that he used to work for a project for many years and without payment, before he managed to discover that the project’s officials were receiving financial compensation or a volunteering allowance.
Basl Mohammad, a supervisor of one of the volunteering teams, said that these unlicensed groups and organizations are working in an area that is under the control of the Syrian regime, so they cannot reveal their sources of funding, the value of funding, the operational mechanism or even send official bills or documents within the work reports, fearing accountability or persecution.