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Syrian Civil Society: A closing door report

This report seeks to give a truer view of Syrian civil society, giving a voice to people who have often been mentioned only as a footnote to atrocities, as aid workers killed in a shelling, or vilified as terrorists in the narratives of the government and its allies. Since March 2011, Syria has experienced one of the bloodiest and cruellest conflicts of recent times. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands more injured.  But while these grim figures have been repeated in the western media frequently, less often told is the story of the Syrians who did everything in their power to counter this.  Against the backdrop of conflict arose an active Syrian civil society – Syrians on the ground who, more often than not, had no previous experience in this sector. Syrians who came from a society whose government allowed no space for civil society to grow: and yet it did. But as civil society’s space is being squeezed worldwide, to grasp the potential for Syrian civil society we must act now. The door is already closing and it will slam shut, returning the country to the pre-2011 hostile environment where civil society groups faced being shut down and their members and volunteers risked being arrested or imprisoned if they were perceived to challenge the state. This report is an appeal and a challenge. Will the international community support the Syrians who recognise the difficulty of the task they face?

Peace, illicit drugs and the SDGs - a development gap

The SDGs barely reach the places where peacebuilding is most urgent. Here, the illicit drug economy plays a complex, overlooked role in survival. 

Tackling violence, building peace: global strategy 2016

Violence and conflict affects almost one fifth of the world’s population or 1.5 billion people. The daily fear, uncertainty and suffering borne by people living through violent conflicts in countries such as Syria, Iraq and South Sudan is immeasurable and unimaginable. The war in Syria, has contributed to the highest number of displaced people since World War II; nearly five million having fled its bombs and bullets. Meanwhile, the catastrophe continues for people trapped in besieged villages across Syria and Iraq. Other countries like Colombia are striving to end protracted conflicts and push peace over the line. Today, one in every 122 people is now a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, and the cost of world military spending is said to be nearly 250 times more than is spent on peace building. Christian Aid has adopted ‘Tackling Violence, Building Peace,’ as a strategic priority to address these critical trends and because we know that human development cannot be achieved without tackling violence. Seventy years after Christian Aid’s establishment, the root causes and levels of violence in poor communities where we work persists, often at higher levels and irrespective of whether those communities are ‘at war’ or not. Most of the world’s poorest people live outside of any form of protection and remain vulnerable to war and conflict, violent criminal organisations, gender-based violence, police abuse, forced labour and violent theft of land and other assets on a daily basis. People who do not have a safe place to call home, reliable access to food and an income because of violence, cannot plan for the future. Communities living through daily violence cannot thrive. And children who are forced to leave school because of violence are denied a chance at their hopes and dreams. Women and girls are also increasingly subject to physical and sexual violence, a harrowing result of gender inequality. Conflict is complex and even when peace comes, it does not always signal an end to violence. It can mark a shift from militarised conflict to widespread social conflict. For example, in Central America more people die violently today due to crime than during the civil wars of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua combined. Our new strategy underpins our commitment to tackle violence and to promote just and lasting peace and security where we work. The strategy is deeply informed by our work in countries across the globe and reflects the aspirations and vision of our local partners. Peace is both an end in itself and a prerequisite for development. ‘Tackling Violence, Building Peace’ is our pledge to work tirelessly and collectively towards a safer future that secures justice and human rights for all.