Building the capacity of emerging governance structures in Syria

Building the capacity of emerging governance structures in Syria
Helping local communities build their capacity for governance, and policy makers understand how to support emerging governance structures

As increasingly violent civil unrest took hold of Syria in 2011, the UK Government was looking into ways to support the development of governance structures both within areas controlled by opposition forces and contested areas to help restore some level of stability. However, supporting governance in a conflict environment with multiple players at loggerheads cannot be entered into lightly. The UK Government needed a pilot project that could help identify potential processes for supporting governance that would, importantly, do no harm, but would also create a platform for some form of legitimate representation within communities under siege from the regime.

As such, we were asked in 2012 to work with a local partner who had strong connections to opposition forces in Qaboun, on the outskirts of Damascus. We trained local field officers to develop and implement three different models of support to governance with their communities. The first was to create a new service delivery function, the Office for Documentation and Records, for recording births, deaths, marriages, property transactions and other civil status issues. The second was a council secretariat that could build a local council within Qaboun, and the third was offering capacity development support to an existing unit called the Rescue Committee.

Towards the end of the project, there were promising signs that the interventions had gained traction within the community and could become useful platforms for the development of the local council in Qaboun. Resistance to working with externally-backed figures was gradually replaced with a willingness to cooperate to implement the initiatives. More importantly, however, the pilot helped us provide the UK Government with recommendations on how to build legitimacy, exercise accountability and scale up support across other areas of need, ultimately aiming to help people who had been affected by the civil unrest.