Alliance magazine article reporting on outcomes of the philanthropy for Syrian civil society meeting that the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement jointly organized with IFIT in Barcelona convened in January 2015.
What can philanthropy do for Syria?
Mark Freeman, Cale Salih, Barbara Ibrahim and Hilary Pennington
February 17, 2015
The war in Syria is now in its fourth year. It has cost over 200,000 lives, put 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country (USAID) and displaced 10 million, more than 3 million of whom have fled abroad as refugees. All of this has earned Syria a number of unappealing superlatives: ‘the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era’ (UNHCR); the creator of the ‘worst refugee crisis since the second world war’ (The Economist); and the world’s ‘worst crisis for children’ (UN). With a few notable exceptions, however, western philanthropists have not engaged in Syria.
The reasons given are many. Because few donors were involved in the country before the conflict began, the country’s vibrant civil society is largely unknown and therefore funders lack knowledge or confidence about potential grantees and ways of operating there. Apart from counterterrorism concerns to do with westerners’ joining Islamist factions (such as the Islamic State (IS) in Syria), the civil war so far has few obvious consequences for Europe or North America, where the largest social justice philanthropies are based. Security is a huge problem within Syria, and even more so for those linked to foreign entities. And international sanctions complicate even the most basic of bank transfers or importation of goods….