Financial support enumerates an important pillar for the work of NGO's in Syria. Despite the fact that the works of these associations support important human and social issues, the government financial support for them (administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) is not readily available given that the funds they receive are meager or simply non-existent.

From this point, it is essential to ask the question: can one truly continue volunteer work in cases with this amount of importance without any form of financial support?

The Syrian Women Observatory (SWO), after five years of volunteer work during which it  refused all forms of financing and advertising, disclosed information about the financial crisis it has suffered from. This crisis forced SWO to open its doors to commercial advertising under the condition that it remain in line with the viewpoints of the observatory.

So what can financial support do to change the standards of volunteer work?
Bassam Al-Kadi, journalist and director of the Syrian Women Observatory, pointed out that volunteer work is primarily based on work for the benefit of specific issues without any material gains and that this has been and will remain a basic principle for the work of SWO. In addition Kadi said: "What has been happening recently is that the costs of labor, starting from renting the SWO office to the endless expenses of keeping in continual contact with the victims of violence, has become a bigger feat than our individual capabilities can afford. All of this ultimately led to us abandoning one of our basic principles, namely, the refusal of publishing paid advertisements."

Conditions of Advertising
Although SWO opened its doors to commercial advertising, at the same time it enforced conditions upon the advertisements; the most important of which that they not contradict the issues adopted by SWO over the past five years. Al-Kadi stated, "The advertisements that are now available for SWO are conditional in that they not conflict with their obligations; meaning that the use of slander towards women and children or any discriminatory message supporting violence not be included in the ad. In addition, that it also not include any religious or political message."

A Positive Step
In the words of Al-Kadi, what drove the SWO administration to accept the idea of commercial advertising was nothing more than a positive step so to say. He added, "The financial crisis of SWO has become epidemic. What we hope from this advertising, is to cover the basic costs of our work. And at the same time we hope to maintain that all of the employees of the observatory will not receive compensation for their work, as it will remain on a voluntary basis."

Official Organizations without Support
There are numerous organizations that are officially authorized, but do not receive any government support, or if so in very small amounts. Of these are associations that provide assistance for humanitarian causes which deserve support from the community, such as disabled persons.

May Abu Ghazal president of SAMA, the association for the assistance of disabled women and the mothers of disabled children, pointed out that SAMA is a developmental association not a charity. Consequently, the association does not provide physical assistance because the funds it receives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor are few, despite that the assistance they could be providing does not exceed twenty-five thousand Syrian Pounds annually.

Abu Ghazal added: "We receive funding for the association through contributions and donations that come to us during the month of Ramadan, as well as by contributions from members of the association. This year, we still have yet to receive funding from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. What is strange is that the government increases the funding for financially secure associations and decreases support for the needier ones."

Other Forms of Funding
Some organizations depend on establishing workshops as a way to obtain funding and to cover the costs of their workload. The association for the care of prisoners and their families in Aleppo provides services to the prisoners inside the Central Prison of Aleppo through workshops, while the association also provides assistance to over 250 families whose support fluctuates according to their financial situation and the number of children in the family. Ali Al-Sayegh, president of the association for the care of prisoners and their families in Aleppo, said: "We supply materials to the prisoners at cost value, and when their work is completed these services are reflected upon not only the prison itself but the families of the prisoners as well. Since government funding is only theoretical and not really significant, we wanted to establish the workshops to help nearly 270 prisoners who in return make monthly salaries for their work. In addition, we provide financial benefits to the families of the prisoners from up to about 8000 S.P. per month. Sometimes we get these financial benefits through donations from industrialists and traders, as well as through concerts that are held in a private center for the children of prisoners." There is no doubt that civil work in Syria is in need of much more. Particularly since financial support is the foundation for further work on complicated issues. Regretfully, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is limited towards assisting associations and has managed to fortify itself further financially; meanwhile organizations to this day continue the search for other avenues of funding for the advancement of society and to provide humanitarian services to the community.

Atab Hasn, (Volunteer Work- Does financial support conflict with principles?)

Translated by: Sheila Weaver

source in Arabic...

SWO (19/3/2010)