During the prolonged despotism of the Ba’athist regime, few Syrian CSOs were able to emerge. Since the outbreak of war in 2011, a surge in the number of civil organizations has taken place, most of them active in a variety of fields.
As part of a long-term initiative to publicize and support civil society working in Syria, IMPACT (formerly Citizens for Syria) conducted a research investigation across Syria and in neighboring countries, to illustrate the activities of the Syrian civil movement. In this report, we present the results of the pilot survey of Syrian civil society, its organizations, fields of activity, and the areas they operate in.
The survey encompassed more than 900 civil entities, 802 of which we studied using a stringent methodology for data collection, classification, and review. The research, the first of its kind, indicated that humanitarian relief, media, and civil organizations formed the majority of organizations, followed by human resource development, health, research, and then others specializing in social services, human rights, culture, and arts.
Our research clarified the distinction in specialties between organizations working inside and outside Syria. For example, most research organizations operate from outside Syria’s borders.
There were also clear differences in operations between the various Syrian governates. Educational organizations were the most prominent in Aleppo, whereas in Hassaka it was the political organizations and civil centers. The final product of this project is purely data-based. In future stages, the data will be supported by detailed critical research on the credibility and maturity and of Syrian organizations. Our output will be periodically updated to develop an interactive database of the civil society organizations, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive understanding of the Syrian civil society to allow plans to be put in place to develop it, as well as to facilitate cooperation and exchange of experiences between organizations.
Out of the approximately 900 civil actors and organizations across Syria, this pilot project mapped 802.
Civil society in Syria generally focuses on three fields of work: Relief, Media, and Civil and Advocacy. Organizations tend to not focus on just one issue, however, frequently spreading across different areas of work.
Al Hasaka is home to the largest number of active CSOs, with more than 158 organizations in operation in this governorate. Out of this, 44% of actors are Advocacy & Civil Organizations. This is a significant portion of all Advocacy & Civil Organizations in Syria, making up 46% of the entire count.
Raqqa and Deir Ezzor
Due to the unstable security situation, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are home to very few CSOs and are marginalized from the overall network.
The governorate of Al Qunaitra has the fewest active CSOs. Just ten active CSOs were identified that consider Al Qunaitra their main working place, which represents only 1% of all Syrian actors.
The Aleppo governorate comes second in the total amount of active Syrian civil society organizations, with around 109 identified (14% of all CSOs). Around 29 organizations that deal with emergency and relief (17% of the overall) were identified in Aleppo, which is the highest percentage in the country.
Aleppo is also one of the most active cities when it comes to media, over 28 Media related Syrian civil society organizations (18% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations) were spotted in Aleppo, which is also the highest percentage.
In the Dera’a governorate, 21 Syrian civil society organizations were identified (3% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations), but even though the percentage is low, these organizations are considered the most specialized among Syrian civil society organizations They deal mostly with Child Protection, Advocacy, Emergency, and Relief.
In Tartous, 17 Syrian civil society organizations were identified (2% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations). Five developmental civil society organizations are located in Tartous (8% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations), also there are special thematic fields in Tartous that were not seen in other governorates such as Cinema and environment.
Damascus, the Capital of Syria, is rich with Syrian civil society organizations, 68 Syrian civil society organizations (8% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations) were spotted in Damascus.
The Damascus Rural region has witnessed active Syrian civil society organizations due to the unstable security situation and besiegement, Syrian civil society organizations (7% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations) were spotted in the area. There were 12 Syrian civil society organizations identified focusing on Relief and working in Rural Damascus (18% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations that work with emergency & relief).
Also, Lattakia Governorate has witnessed an abundance of civil activism due to the security situation, 15 Syrian civil society organizations were identified in Lattakia, (2% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations). 9 Syrian civil society organizations working on relief (5% of the overall relief Syrian civil society organizations) were counted in Lattakia.
In Al Swaydaa, 10 Syrian civil society organizations were identified (1% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations), mostly civil society organizations.
In Homs, 20 Syrian civil society organizations could be identified (2% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations). 55% of all civil society organizations in Homs deal with relief.
Idleb is considered rich with civil society activism, 39 Syrian civil society organizations were counted in Idleb (5% of the overall Syrian civil society organizations), and most of them deal with media and relief.
Syria’s neighboring countries (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey) are rich with Syrian civil society organizations. Our mapping has identified around 147 Syrian Civil Society organizations based in neighboring countries. Most of them are Advocacy & Civil, and Relief & Emergency organizations. CSOs in neighboring countries mostly focus on research (74%).
A clear trend is apparent in the field of education, where 45% of all CSOs working in this sphere are based in neighboring countries.