Despite the current war in Syria, civil society is still alive. Syrian society hasn’t stopped producing groups that seek to crystalize themselves into civic organizations under emerging standards, but all share the principles of democracy and international treaties. Nevertheless, those institutions haven’t always been active under the Assad regime (father and son), on the contrary, they have been rigorously pursued and most of their founders and members were taken to prisons and tortured, which is against International Declaration of Human Rights Article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” This oppression generated a kind of societal explosion in March 2011, during which different groups formed civic organizations that seek to protect citizens and their rights, to reorganize society and rebuild it again according to the needs of the people. However, these emerging organizations need development and reworking in different fields, such as capacity building and establishing mechanisms for decision-making and implementation.
In response to these needs, The Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSDS) conducted a five-day workshop in Gaziantep, Turkey. It focused on the development of civil society organizations in adherence with the Organizational Development program run by CCSDS. This training discussed and addressed the needs of the organizations that participated in the workshop from inside Syria. Topics ranged from capacity building for managers through running some tests to measure their abilities, taking into consideration local communities; their traditions and customs, their cultural concepts, religious backgrounds and the diverse ethnicities there. Mr. Bilal, the project coordinator noted “as Syrians, we were all affected by Albaath culture. Even the ruling method by the state has restrained people’s minds in similar principles”. He also emphasized that “we need to be more open towards the other, who has a different opinion. We should save our capacities and to be up to the event through doing double efforts in order to gain more experiences. And we have to benefit from the miseries of this war in rebuilding society on good bases. This training was part of the program of organizational development which seeks mainly to get out of the culture of inclusive governance, rooted in the collective awareness of people into a democratic model that believes in the principles of citizenship and the rule of law as a real solution for the current war.”
There was also a workshop conducted by the managers to share their experiences through presenting training materials and how this could go in a circulation of exchanging experiences and materials as well. As Mr. Shiar mentioned, “The most important thing was the behavior training for managers.” He added, “I had the chance to learn how to interact with the audience and to come up with the solution that best suits his mentality”. Program manager Nariman Hamo clarified that “the program seeks to empower civil society organizations and enable them to run their business and play bigger role in good governance, especially that the regime has limited the state and society and institutions through the sole party. It’s been important to work on rebuilding society and establishing a state of good institutions in order to guarantee diversity and form a complete body of different components”. The participants emphasized that it is necessary to continue with these kinds of workshops that help reviving civil society in Syria, which has been under an awful war by radical, exclusionary and extremist parties as a product of a security and totalitarian regime that has kept shelling civil areas through the last three years.