March 15, 2017 – Refugees International (RI) released a new report today, “Aid Inside Syria: Time to Go Small in a Bigger Way,” which advocates for better support to small but effective Syrian aid groups getting much needed assistance to civilians in the war-torn country. The RI report finds that a number of the Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are based in Turkey and provide humanitarian aid inside Syria have reached a high level of organizational and operational capacity that was previously absent. Many of these local Syrian groups have access to vulnerable people and communities that the United Nations and international NGOs cannot reach.

After struggling for years for recognition and support from the international aid system, there is now wide acknowledgement of the essential role these Syrian groups play in helping people survive inside Syria, including in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. A Refugees International team traveled to the border of Turkey and Syria in February to examine the role of Syrian aid groups in the humanitarian response. The idea of supporting local groups to provide humanitarian assistance as much as possible is not a new one. Humanitarians have been talking about it, some donors have committed to it, and local groups have been demonstrating it for over a decade

The time is right for the United States and other major donors to the humanitarian response inside Syria to re-think how they support local Syrian groups and to invest in making the system as local as possible. This does not have to require huge increases in funding, personnel, and organizations. Rather, smart contributions that make the most of local groups’ abilities have the potential to improve many Syrians’ lives.

An Arabic version of the report will be available shortly.

Among the recommendations in the RI report:

  • As part of its commitment to contribute on a trial basis to at least three pooled Syrian aid funds in 2017, the U.S. government should make the Turkey Humanitarian Fund (HF) its next pilot for pooled fund support.
  • The U.S. government should make ongoing contributions to the Turkey Humanitarian Fund as support for the work of Syrian NGOs inside Syria.
  • The U.S. government should create and implement a plan to begin directly funding eligible Syrian groups on a pilot basis, with an eye toward providing regular support to these grounds as Syrian implementing partners.
  • UN agencies and INGOs partnering with Syrian groups should invest in longer term “second level” capacity-building and mentoring for their partners with the goal of pushing Syrian organizations’ capacity beyond the ability to interact with specific donors.

Read the full report her​e.