The 4.2 million 1 IDP’s in NW Syria are very much like you and me. Most people 2 owned their own house or apartment in their hometown, they worked hard, and their children went to school.
Hopes for all their children to graduate from high school at 16 or 18. The academic ones heading for college and a career as a young professional, many others to learn a trade or find a job, a house a partner for life. Coffee after school, holidays on the beaches of Ras al-Basit or al-Badrusiyeh, or in the mountains.
People went on holiday.
Children who had not started primary school when the conflict started, should now be in high school, but most high schools are empty, or damaged and deserted. No-one recognises the graduation certificates they print.
Young men and women aged between 15-24, are the Youth of Northwest Syria. They have lived through catastrophic times since their early childhood. With the expectations of young people in a rapidly developing nation: functioning state services, free state schooling, leading to work or university, for most in the service sector. The expected safe houses, running water and electricity are now a distant memory.
Over 1.5 million people now live in tents.
This paper presents the learning and early steps that NGO’s have taken over the last 10 years to develop ways to support these young people even with limited funds dedicated to youth. We accept that we have spent many years learning how to make “small and beautiful” programmes, that reach tens or hundreds of youths. 10 years ago, they were children, now they are Youth. They deserve our special attention and an approach that acknowledges the loss of a normal childhood, or we will lose them.
The observations in this report are collected from the conversations the membership of SNA are having every day with the young men and women still living at home and as IDP’s, all the families who remain in NW Syria. What they hope for the future and ideas of how the world can help an early recovery even before peace is agreed and reconstruction can start.
Quotes are from a series of focus group discussions with youth inside NW Syria over the last few weeks, youth used the word “we” to describe the youth in their neighbourhood. In the rest of the publication “we” are the membership of SNA, specifically the staff and management who contributed their observations and thoughts.
Section 1 focusses on the need to reduce dependency and build resilience through livelihood programming aiming at starting early recovery. Section 2 focuses on the transition for youth from education to training, with recommendations on how to proceed and how to grow to scale, providing support to the millions of youth unable to access secondary and high school. Section 3 discussed the protection concerns around youth. Section 4 shares some of the stories of our staff, their journeys and their motivations. Everyone in NW Syria has a unique story, including our staff, we understand that most youth had different dreams before the conflict started, but these were changed by experience and now each of our staff has a unique story, all are exceptional. We summarise how the conflict has changed their lives and the way their lives are now contributing to the future of Syria.
Section 4 is a consideration of progress and opportunities to manifest the Grand Bargain, here in NW Syria, building on the Interagency steering groups 2020 meeting and action plan.
The last section, the summary, is our call to action, which has already been shared with you. We request that youth are put at the centre of our work, that they are enabled to take an active role in the consultations about how best to move from short-term humanitarian relief to resilience building and early recovery at the scale the country now needs.