Baytna Syria: 8 Months after Re-launch of the Project
SYRIAN CIVIL SOCIETY: CONFERENCES & GATHERINGS

Baytna Syria: 8 Months after Re-launch of the Project

It has been 8 months since we have relaunched Baytna Syria. The re-launch event was last January and was attended by Syrian and foreign dignitaries and more importantly by more than a hundred Syrian civil society actors. Under the general headline of supporting the nascent Syrian civil society, we laid out our core mandates:
To be a HUB for Syrian civil society events;
To provide KNOWLEDGE through a strong, well defined and comprehensive capacity building program
To provide GRANTS to worthy projects fitting our mandate so that practice can prove theory.
We also promised you to further institutionalize and become a fully independent Syrian run and Syrian owned organization before the end of the year. But where are we on all those promises?
Starting with the institutionalization of Baytna Syria, we are proud to announce that we are now a fully independent Syrian NGO registered in Turkey and Belgium.
We have appointed a new Board of Directors that we proudly present to you:

Yassin Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer and political dissident. He writes on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world.
Riad Drar is a researcher on Islamic Studies. He is an activist in the Committee for Civil Society Survival in Syria.
Afra Jalabi is the Vice-Chair of the executive body of a nongovernmental organization – The Day After Project 
Bassma Kodmani is a Syrian academic and former spokesperson of the Syrian National Council. She is the Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative.

SYRIAN CIVIL SOCIETY: CONFERENCES & GATHERINGS

Since the official launch of Baytna Syria in January 2015, Baytna Syria has held many successful events and workshops such as trainings, seminars, brainstorming sessions, and open dialogues among Syrian Civil Society and other actors (SIG, SOC, INGOs, Donors…).

The events register outcomes 21 training workshops, 14 public events, and 13 meetings in social, cultural, and political engagement.
One of the recent featured events that was hosted at Baytna Syria, is Bukra Ahla "Syria: Tomorrow is better"; a Syrian organized and led conference. It all started with a small group of Syrian individuals who believe in the role of Syrian Civil Society in conflict transformation, peacemaking & building, & democratic transition in the current situation and in the future.

The Day After was nominated to facilitate the conference which was agreed upon unanimously. Dawlaty played a role too in reaching out to supporters & donors.
From 10 to 12 August, the event welcomed around 60 SCSOs representatives, INGOs focal points, and was run by 6 Syrian facilitators. It represents an open dialogue among the Syrian CSOs to support their effective roles in the current political and developmental processes and helps in providing solutions and alternatives to any eventual political process.

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To get a better feel of Bukra Ahla, we conducted a brief Q&A interview with Mayss Al-Zoubi from Tamkeen and Amr Shannan from The Day After:
Tell me briefly about the core objective of "Syria: Tomorrow is better"
The core objective was to bring a representative group of Syrian CSOs to meet and discuss current challenges and define their roles in this complex context and how they can play their role at best in Development and Politics.

What were the main subjects brainstormed among CSOs and what are the main outcomes?
Defining Strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are facing the Syrian CSOs, as well as defining the role of CSOs in building state, in Development, and in Politics.

Do you think that CSOs played their role successfully and their unified message was received with potential action from the INGOs community?
The Syrian CSOs were more than amazing; they were dedicated; they shared their experiences and helped with getting the outcomes we were seeking.
The CSOs decided that this is just a first meeting in a series of meetings where we will learn more how we can define our roles better in this complex situation, and how we can contribute better. In addition, they took ownership of this meeting, and decided to self-organize upcoming meetings. Many individuals volunteered to be members of committees.
As for the INGOs: they participated in the Q&A session on the second day. Syrian CSOs were very open and communicated to INGOs and representatives of states present their concerns and vision on how their strategies should be laid and how important it is to consult with the Syrian CSOs and to develop long term partnerships and move away from the donor/implementer model.

What are the challenges that you faced during the conference with such a huge number of CSOs gathered for the 1st time to mingle, brainstorm, and achieve the conference outputs & objectives?
The challenges were prior to the conference in organizing, following up, and communications. Afterwards, once participants all gathered in the room, everything went smooth. The attendees discussed, argued and brainstormed in both mind and heart, and they shared their ambitious intentions on how we can really serve our people and our country at best!

Do you think the conference meets the expectations of both CSOs & International NGOs communities?
Yes we did! We met the expectations in general because, I believe, we set realistic expectations. We managed to form two committees: a committee on developmental affairs and a committee on political affairs and agreed on a follow up mechanism.

From that point, what is the way forward from the organizers’ perspective?
For the organizing committee, both the facilitators and the TDA team, one of the key success indicators highlighted while we were discussing our own expectations is that CSOs expressed the need for an upcoming follow-up meeting.
Therefore we are already planning an upcoming meeting in the coming three months, where we will go deeper in discussing our roles in both development and politics. This meeting will be 100% Syrian funded and Syrian owned and led.