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Sample Dissertation Paper on The Role of Civil Society Organizations Promoting Community Participation in Syria


1.1.          Background to the Research

Syria is currently considered one of the world’s failed states since its governance and other structures do not work. A step toward understanding Syria’s present situation is examining the events that led to the problem. It is almost eight years since Syria followed the footsteps of countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that were witnessing revolutions at the time. Inspired by the uprisings, citizens of Syria took to the streets protesting against the Assad regime’s decades-long denial of their primary or fundamental rights. Kahf (2014) argues that the revolution has been minimally fruitful as Syrians have reclaimed with a vengeance the public sphere that for long was out of bounds to ordinary citizens. Additionally, as a result of the revolution, citizens can impose their presence both on squares and stress and have regained control of their lives as well. Abbas (2012) argues that the uprising plunged the country in endless war. Indeed, the citizens are paying a heavy price for the freedom: thousands have lost their lives, sent into detention, and forced into exile. The situation has not been helped by international organs such as the UN Security Council that have failed to pass even a watered-down resolution for a political transition excluding punitive measures and military interventions (Abbas, 2012). With the minimal involvement of such international organs, Syrians have been left to rely on support from within and a few sympathizers and allies such as Russia and China. As such, many citizens have been adversely affected by the lack of access to food, housing, water, and medication, which has forced Syrians’ immigration into neighboring countries such as Turkey and Lebanon. The huge immigrant population to Turkey is becoming a concern to the country, which is trying to come up with ways of ending the conflicts in Syria. According to Khalaf (2015), the endless wars and conflicts in the mentioned nation have also resulted in humanitarian crises, the manipulation of public services, as well as the disintegration of political authority. These issues have created a void that has only been filled by actors such as civil society organizations. Nonetheless, these bodies do not operate freely, given strict supervision by the government. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been in the spotlight over the years for arresting and detaining leaders of famous civil society organizations operating in Syria, which explains the decision of some of these bodies to operate from outside Syria’s borders.

Since the Syrian revolution started in 2011, civil society organizations have been at the forefront in helping the suffering citizens in various ways. Khalaf (2015) defines civil society organizations as the "space in-between" that has allowed the interaction between political, economic, and private spheres. However, the efforts of these bodies have been hampered by Syrian government's restrictions based on the argument that they work against the government and fund citizens to protest against the government and political structures (Sawah,2012). It is based on this argument that this study seeks to explore the role of civil society organizations in promoting community participation or engagement in war-torn Syria.

1.2.          Aims and Objectives of Research

The main objective of this research is to explore the role played by civil society organizations in promoting community participation or engagement in the ongoing events, including protests in war-torn Syria since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Other objectives of this study are:

·       To explore the activities undertaken by civil society organizations to promote women’s participation in Syria.

·       To examine the efforts of civil society bodies in promoting the participation of disabled persons in Syria’s current events amidst the endless wars in the nation.

·       To determine the role of civil society agencies in promoting the involvement of communities amidst the continuous wars in Syria.

·       To examine the challenges faced by civil society bodies in their fulfilling role of promoting community, disabled persons, and women participation in war-torn Syria.

1.3.          Research Questions

This research will be guided by a general question, which is:

·       What is the role played by civil society organizations in promoting community participation or engagement in Syria?

The study will also be guided by specific questions, which are:

·       What activities are undertaken by civil society to promote women’s participation in Syria?

·       What are some of the efforts of civil society organizations in encouraging the participation of disabled persons to end the endless wars and conflicts in Syria?

·       What is the role of civil society organizations in promoting the involvement of communities in addressing the continuous wars and conflicts in Syria?

·       What are some of the challenges faced by civil organizations in their role of promoting community, disabled persons, and women participation in Syria?

1.4.          Rationale

Syrians continue to face dangerous and inhumane conditions triggered by the endless conflicts that were sparked by the uprising that started in March 2011. The uprising was triggered by the need to follow the footsteps of the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia, who succeeded in removing dictators from power. Unfortunately, the war has not achieved the expected outcomes. From 2011 to today, hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens have lost their lives and property, and several others have been detained or forced into exile. Nonetheless, many civil society organizations and activists have since come up and played and tried to avert the crises facing the citizens since March 2011. Initially, these bodies convened spontaneously to organize acts of civil disobedience and demonstrations. However, they have since formed numerous groups and networks across Syria to campaign for equality, respect for human rights, justice, and democracy. Moreover, they have been actively involved in the provision and distribution of relief aid, medical, and educational services, as well as other key services to Syrian citizens in dire need. Nevertheless, these entities have faced opposition and restrictions from the Syrian government alongside other challenges that make their operations within the country difficult. Additionally, they are not empowered due to the misunderstanding of their roles in the nation.  Consequently, this study seeks to explore the role of civil society organizations in promoting community participation in Syria. This research is intended to be an addition to academic knowledge about civil societies and their scope and challenges. Moreover, the research will be of importance to policymakers as it aims at determining key areas where policy reforms can be used to promote the role of women, disabled persons, and the community as a whole in governance and political matters in the nation.

1.5.          Research Context

The civil society concept is broad, and it changes with political situations and from one country to another. Thus, the definition and role of civil society in the different from that of Syria. Political players usually support civil society bodies only when they benefit from the organizations politically. However, in most cases, individuals in political power or positions resist and restrict the ideologies and efforts of these organizations to champion for the rights of ordinary citizens. These bodies are largely responsible for the democracies and respect for the rule of law and human rights witnessed around the world today. This research will focus on civil society organizations in Syria and the role they play in promoting community participation of engagement in a region known as Eastern Ghouta in Syria. The research will explore the role these entities play to encourage the involvement of women, disabled persons, and communities in championing for a better Syria.


2.1. Introduction

This chapter reviews scholarly literature focusing on the role of civil society organizations in promoting community participation in Syria, particularly in protests and championing for a better country. The review of literature is in line with the objectives of the study; thus, it has three categories. The first one explores the history and description of civil society in Syria. On the other hand, the second part focuses on civil society role in media and communication and promotion of human rights. The last section examines civil society role in community participation through service provision.

2.2. History and Description of Civil Society in Syria

In the past decade, Syria has experienced conflict that has resulted in humanitarian crises, manipulation of public services, and disintegration of political authority (Khalaf, 2015, p. 37). These issues have created a void that has been filled by actors such as civil society organizations (CSOs). With the help of these organizations, Syrians have attempted to organize a revolution such as those witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia. The bodies offer support both gradual and radical social change in Syria. Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has a reputation of being unfriendly to CSOs while accusing them of sabotaging government operations (Khalaf, 2015, p. 38). However, the CSOs are concerned about Syrians, and their activities within and outside Syria is supported in every way possible.

Different definitions of civil society exist. According to Kieti (2014, p. 13), civil society can be defined as any organization that is exclusive of family members and political parties. Informal rural associations also form part of civil society. Kieti (2014) acknowledges that the roles played by civil society bodies have evolved over the years, and they have significantly increased.  Kieti (2014) also argues that civil society organizations are important actors driven majorly by the need to provide and defend value mechanisms rather than profit-making mechanisms. Thus, the definition of the term “civil society organization” may vary depending on the nature of the entity as well as the interpretations of various experts in the sector.

Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis (2014) explore the history of civil societies in Syria. They state that the tradition of voluntary and non-governmental association in the nation began with the Ottoman Empire (p. 6). Based on this foundation, several associations came up in the first half of the twentieth century, most of which were charitable institutions such as orphanages. These organizations provided essential services to poor people as well a social and cultural association that sought promote specific populations as youths, women, and writers. Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis (2014) state that Syria passed new legislation to oversee the operations of associations in 1958 (Law no 93). The pre-existing associations were required to renew their legal status through registration under the new law. Unfortunately, most of these bodies did not register under the new law because it was considered unfavorable when it came to governing civil society organizations in the region. Essentially, the new legislation created dissent as it subjected the associations to supervision and approval by various security services and personnel. The Syrian penal code also criminalized the associations’ cooperation with international organizations or their receipt of funds from abroad without the approval of security apparatus; the approval that would often be denied (Alvarez-Ossorio, 2012). In the late 1990s, Syria had around 600 associations that were registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (Khalaf, Ramadan, & Stolleis, 2014, p. 7). However, the government did not provide any information about the number of registered associations to the general public. Amidst the challenges facing the formation of civil society organizations or associations in the late 20th century, many organizations championing for human rights issues emerged (Khalaf, Ramadan, & Stolleis, 2014, p. 7). Nevertheless, it was reported that the security personnel arrested the members of these organizations and persecuted them. An example of an organization whose members were arrested and persecuted was the Commission for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, which was established in 1989 (Khalaf, Ramadan, & Stolleis, 2014, p. 7). Such oppression was meant to deter these organization from taking toot in the country.

Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis (2014) affirm that the operations and working environment of civil societies and other organizations advocating the respect of human rights became unfriendly when Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000. Civil societies and other non-governmental organizations in Syria were restricted to carrying out charitable work at the time (Aboueldahab, 2018). Little effort was made by Syria's First Lady to solve the conundrum surrounding CSO operations. She tried to follow the footsteps of Jordan's Queen Noor to revive civil society (Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis, 2014, p. 8).  She arranged and oversaw the setting up of a network of bodies aimed at promoting progress in various fields, including culture, rural development, as well as the provision of essential services to young and disabled persons and orphans. Organizations operating under the patronage of Asma al-Assad were spared from the strict control by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, mainly when it came to obtaining permission for every contact with foreigners (Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis, 2014, p. 8).

A report by Citizens for Syria also explores the history of Civil Society in Syria. According to this report, civil society started to appear in Syria towards the end of the nineteenth century. The work of civil society and its expansion in Syria was enforced by the Syrian Associations Bill (bill number 47 issued in 1953). Nevertheless, the role of the bill receded following the Baath Party’s rise to power in 1963. The party came up with policies such as the declaration of a state of emergency and allowed the interference of State Security in civil society, which made it difficult for the registration of new organizations. The report by Citizens for Syria (p. 4) notes that except the civil movement in 2004 that lasted less than three months, Syria did not have active civil society until the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011. This gap can be attributed to the strong opposition from the government and political class. However, after the start of the uprising, several civil society groups emerged (Abbas, 2011, p. 9). Initially, Syrian CSOs were very fluid and had no clear structure or agenda (Sawah, 2012). Yet, after the uprising, the civil groups developed rapidly with clear agendas and turned into civil societies and organizations. The uprising set a stage for humanitarian crises that were not only a problem for Syrians but also for neighboring countries and the world at large. These problems resulted in the involvement of civil society that did everything possible to ensure that the same was addressed.

2.3. Civil Society Role in Media and Communication and Promotion of Human Rights

According to Cooper (2018, p. 4), civil society refers to a wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations with a presence in public life and helps to express the interests and values of their members or others based on political, cultural, ethical, religious, scientific, or philanthropic considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) thus include bodies such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, labor unions, charitable organizations, indigenous groups, professional associations, faith-based organizations, and foundations.

Desse (2012) characterizes CSOs using five criteria, namely organizations, private, non-profit distributing, self-governing, and voluntary (p. 7). Being classified as organizations gives CSOs some regularity or structure. Their legal or formal registration is not important. What is important is that CSOs are involved in some activities through membership, regular meetings, or their organizational frame. The classification of CSOs as private implies that they are separate from the state from an institutional perspective, even though some are recipients of support from the state (Desse, 2012, p. 7). The grouping of CSOs as not for profit implies that they are not formed for commercial purposes and are not involved in the distribution of profit to specific people, including a set or directors or shareholders. If CSOs falling under this categorization make some profit, they are charged with reinvesting or using the money to fulfill their mission of helping the community as per regulations and policies put in place by governments. The self-governing characterization signifies that CSOs are independent of government and firms (Bernauer and Betzold, 2012, p. 3). As such, these bodies control of their affairs. Voluntary characterization means that nobody can be forced to become a member of CSOs and that membership is a free choice.

Civil society organizations are important actors driven majorly by the need to provide and defend value mechanisms rather than profit-making mechanisms (Neubert, 2014, p. 5). Thus, the definition of the term “civil society organization” may vary depending on the nature of the entity as well as the interpretations of various experts in the sector. In most nations, especially in Africa, civil societies were first established in the colonial times when colonialists had imposed several oppressive and regressive rules. In the pre-colonial times in many African countries, the civil societies did not have significant impacts as they were largely new ideologies. The influence of these societies in many African republics was felt after the countries gained independence and drafted constitutions outlining how things were to be done (Neubert, 2014, p. 6). In Africa, the role of CSOs in promoting community participation is evident in Nigeria. Williamson and Rodd (2016, p. 19) posit that the role of CSOs in promoting community participation in Nigeria is evident in their involvement advocacy, which refers to a set of targeted actions that are usually directed at decision-makers to support a specific policy. Through the mentioned concept, CSOs impact on the policy cycle from agenda-setting, formulation, and adoption to implementation and evaluation. In Nigeria, CSOs engage the state and play an advocacy role as they usually demand the nation to change existing state services or introduce new programs that benefit the public (Williamson and Rodd, 2016, p. 19). One of the biggest challenges in Nigeria is an ever-increasing HIV prevalence. In this regard, service delivery CSOs mainly engage the state by organizing one-on-one meetings with government authorities as far as laws, policies, and funding decisions are concerned. Once legislations are passed or policies formulated, CSOs engage the community to ensure that they are effectively implemented.

Civil society organizations are largely involved in the promotion of community participation through their involvement in a number of fields. One of the fields in which CSOs are actively involved in media and communication. CSOs are actively involved in media activism (Jacobs, 2011, p. 2). Media activism is believed to be one of the most dangerous ventures for most CSOs in many countries around the world. During the Libyan Revolution in 2011, a number of CSOs were formed with different mandates and later involved in media activism. This was the situation in several other countries such as Egypt and Syria that have witnessed revolutions. In Libya, however, media activism was largely opposed by the then government headed by Muammar Gaddafi (Meltz, 2016). Through media activism, CSOs in Libya managed to rally the public from men to women and children to take part in protests (Perroux, 2015, p. 5these bodies used media to convey key information to the public. Social media activism also grew in Libya during the Libyan Revolution with CSOs creating numerous Facebook pages, blogs, and media pages. The circulation of content on various media platforms, particularly social media platforms, gave the community, women, and others power and confidence to take part in protests against Gaddafi's dictatorship. Media platforms are usually used by CSOs to share messages about what should be done to end an existing problem that is perpetuated by the state or government (Jacobs, 2011, p. 3). In most cases, CSOs use media platforms to inspire members of the public to change the situations in various countries, such as was the case in Libya (Perroux, 2015, p. 6). Media activism also provides chances for civic education and larger connected learning, both of which put the community in a better position when it comes to pushing for change.

The role of CSOs in media and communication through media activism brings community members yearning for change together after which they plan actions, share techniques, and transmit photographs of their work and efforts in pushing for change (Spurk, 2007, p. 23). Kontny (2017) contends that through media activism, CSOs influence the community members, women, and disabled persons to enter new communities while connecting them to other individuals who have similar thinking. When people with similar ideologies come together, they are likely to search for ways of ensuring that their ideologies are implemented to reverse the existing adverse situation. In the case of Libya, CSOs' efforts to address the country's troubles during the revolution was not solely dependent on the access of various media platforms but also by the structures out in place by the CSOs to support themselves (Perroux, 2015, p. 6). The main focus of CSOs is usually to trigger community, women, and disabled persons to participate through a cultural emphasis. Simply put, CSOs usually find ways of expressing their stories of situations through producing and circulating their media.  In many republics, the role of media activism undertaken by CSOs has helped community members to rethink their practices and analyze what they are doing or can do to influence and participate in the push for change. Kontny (2017) also believes that media activism is a bent toward helping the community, women, and disabled people to realize what they need to do so that their voices can be heard. As a result of the influence of media activism, the community, women, and disabled persons can be actively involved in social movements and volunteering activities aimed at addressing specific challenges faced by the community.

In addition to advocacy and media activism, CSOs are actively involved in the promotion of human rights and social justice, development, and housing, as well as environmental conservation efforts thus influencing public or community participation. One of the ways CSOs are involved in these fields is by respecting and promoting human rights and social justice (Allan, 2017, p. 59). According to Allan (2017), CSOs achieve the mentioned through the adoption of activities that promote human rights. These practices and activities include promoting and respecting the right work with dignity and the right to have a decent job and development and equity for every person, notwithstanding the sex or gender (p. 60). The mentioned activities are fundamental to the empowerment and participation of women as it forms the basis through which women develop in terms of their strength and capability. According to Kieti (2014), in Kenya, through the role of CSOs in promoting human rights and social justice, women, disabled persons, and other community members voice their opinions and secure their rights using holistic approaches. Some of these holistic approaches include championing for government accountability and ensuring that the government carries out its mandate of protecting, respecting, and fulfilling the rights of every individual (Rekosh and Khadar, 2018, p. 5). In Kenya, just like other nations, these rights are usually described or stipulated in the rule of law.

2.4. Civil Society Role in Community Participation through Service Provision

The term participation is used in different contexts hence a significant variation in its definition from one context to another. Civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world promote human rights (Kieti, 2014, p. 14). These entities are also known for their role of engaging or involving the public or community in championing for human rights. The involvement of the pubic or community members in such contexts is what is referred to as participation. Thus, participation can be defined as the involvement of community members in specific issues or affairs at every level, from local to regional to the national level (Burns and Heywood, 2004, p 2). Participation is usually triggered by people’s need to solve problems or challenges they face. Additionally, it is the process by which members of a community mobilize the community’s resources, initiate, and take responsibility for the community’s development and activities and share in decision-making when it comes to the implementation of every program aimed at improving the livelihoods of community members.

Through participation, community members may, at times, develop perspectives such as self-reliance, critical awareness, and problem-solving skills (Rifkin and Kangere, 2002, p. 41). According to Rifkin and Kangere (2002), there are three major types of participation: passive, active, and involvement. In passive participation, individuals involved are mere spectators. On the other hand, in active participation, people carry out some tasks, although they are not involved in the final decision-making about what is to be done. In this case, the decision-making role is left to people who are not part or members of the community (Rifkin and Kangere, 2002, p. 41). A shortcoming in this type of participation is that members of the community hardly develop a sense of self-reliance. In involvement, community members take part in all aspects of a program or activities undertaken (Rifkin and Kangere, 2002, p. 39). Through involvement, community members are allowed to participate in improving their own livelihoods willingly. Additionally, the community members take part in every stage from thinking, planning, acting, and evaluating. An advantage of involvement type of participation is that community members are empowered or allowed to make informed decisions in matters that affect their day-to-day life (Rifkin and Kangere, 2002, p. 42). Involvement is the most recommended type of participation as it contributes to the attainment of set objectives or expectations as far as participation in various activities is concerned.

Rifkin and Kangere (2002, p. 44) argue that participation can take either a top-down or bottom-up approach. The former is whereby decisions are made by leaders or experts in the community. In the case of community participation, a top-down approach could entail CSO making decisions regarding what community members can do and what they cannot. Although community members give their opinion on what they believe is the problem, CSOs ultimately make decisions, through their leaders, on what should be done going forward. In the bottom-up approach, community members are hugely involved in the decision-making process (Mak et al., 2017, p. 1695). Community members determine their beliefs and rely on these when making decisions.

Participation of community members important to them and the community. However, this participation can be affected by various factors. Some of them include relevance and accountability, education status or level of community members, community infrastructure, economic factors, social and cultural factors, political stability, leadership, availability of resources, motivation, and whether there is a sense of ownership (Carpentier, 2011, p. 13). However, in many community contexts, the participation of women and disabled persons is hampered by political instability and strict government regulation and policies in regard to participation.

CSOs influence community participation through their role in service provision to community members. Some of the perspectives of service delivery in which CSOs are involved are social services, education, and research (Mundy, 2008, p. 32). These organizations have improved the livelihoods of people in various countries facing challenges such as conflict and natural disasters. In terms of social services, Mundy (2008) opines that CSOs are usually actively involved in the provision of care for children, youth services, family care, and women services. The role of CSOs in social services, education, and research is also evident in developed countries such as the United States (p.34). Irish et al. (2009, p. 11) argue that the U.S. government supports between 40 and 50 percent of CSO revenues in the fields of health, social services, and education and research. The U.S. government provides almost 49 percent of CSO revenues used in the health field, about 47 percent of revenues used in the social services field, and about 42 percent of revenues used in the field of education and research (Irish et al., 2009, p. 11). Included in these fields are activities such as child and family care, poverty relief, elder care, emergency food and shelter, disaster relief, daycare for children, and others. Civil societies' act of providing emergency food and shelter, and disaster relief must involve community members (Irish et al., 2009, p. 11). The benefits of these services to the community triggers increased involvement in pushing and campaigning for such services (Irish et al., 2009, p. 11). CSOs also provide care to families and children, thus driving the community into believing that the governments or leaders in place can do better in this regard.

In terms of education and research, CSOs are largely involved in the supervision and support of multiple schools, training workshops, and studies (Irish et al., 2009, p. 11). CSOs also receive assistance from the government through loans and loan guarantees that help learners to pay for their education. Supporting the education sector motivates learners who become involved in community development matters and the overall betterment of community (Irish et al., 2009, p. 21). Concerning education and research, CSOs engage education and research experts who are concerned with the provision of education to the community in a bid to improve their livelihoods or prepare community members for future careers and avert poverty (Mundy et al., 2010, p. 487). The role of CSOs in education and research also enhances the knowledge and awareness of community members about what is going on around them and the need to stop or reverse the same (Mundy, 2008). Mundy (2008) argues that these researches and the provision of education enable community members in various countries around the world, especially those facing challenges such as war, to become part of social movements pushing for the change of regimes.

The role of CSOs in the provision of social services, education, and research has also helped to better the livelihoods of community members of various countries. Research shows that many countries in Africa face the challenge of poverty and endless conflicts that have worsened the living conditions for people in these countries (Oyeshola, 2007, p. 553). However, through social services, education, and research, CSOs in these countries have improved people’s livelihoods, as evidenced in Kenya, where many children’s livelihoods have improved thanks to acquiring knowledge and skills in school and applying them in real life thanks to the support from CSOs. As a result, citizens of many African countries have seen the need to push for regime changes and the need to avert poverty and end ongoing conflicts that continue to claim the lives of many people (Nordtveit, 2005, p. 347). The efforts to end conflicts and poverty across Africa can be attributed to the fundamental role of CSOs in the provision of social services and active involvement in education and research. In addition to areas of social service, education, and research, CSOs’ service provision is also highlighted in how they facilitate advocacy at the grassroots level. They also plan participatory activities and programs as a means of encouraging participation.

2.5. Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework shows the relationship between independent variables (various roles of civil society organizations) and the dependent ones (participation of community, disabled persons, and women in Syria)



The figure above shows the roles of civil society in promoting the participation of community, disabled persons, and women in Syria.

Civil and advocacy organization

CSOs in Syria play a major part in promoting community participation in Syria’s problems such as protesting against the current regime through involvement in civil and advocacy organization. The organizations focus on the most immediate causes of the community, disabled persons, and women such as civil rights, human rights and liberties, religion, politics, and independence of race.

Media and communication

In the field of media and communication, CSOs are largely involved in media activism, which they use to influence the participation of women, disabled persons, and communities in Syria’s ongoing events by allowing them access to vital information such as what they need to do to get the current regime out of power.

Social services, education, and research, the betterment of livelihoods: CSOs provide several forms of social services such as care for children, youth and services, and family care. With the absence of government in a number of regions in Syria, citizens have no access to housing. Thus, CSOs have stepped in to construct houses, provide basic services, and provide empowerment for women. Regarding education and research, CSOs are involved in the supervision and support of multiple schools, training workshops, and studies, and these influence the participation of disabled persons, women, and the entire community in Syria's matters of conflict. Regarding betterment of livelihoods, CSOs provide a number of services and programs aimed at improving the livelihood sector, thus influencing the participation of the disabled, women, and the community.

Respect and promotion of human rights, social justice, development and housing, and environment: In respect and promotion of human rights and social justices, CSOs focus on adopting activities and practices that promote human rights. They champion for people's right to work with dignity, the right to have a decent job, as well as the right to development and equity for all people regardless of gender or sex. Through these roles, they empower the disabled, women, and the community influencing their participation in activities aimed at changing the situation in Syria. The CSOs also take part in the construction of infrastructure and housing as well as environmental conservation efforts, thus influencing participation on the part of the disabled, women, and community.


3.1. Research Site

This research will be undertaken in Eastern Ghouta, which is one of the conflict areas or war zones in Syria. The selected research site will be the headquarters or one of the areas where CSOs offer their services with the objective of promoting community participation.

3.2. Target Population

This research targets Syrian citizens living in Eastern Ghouta and seeks to determine the perceptions of the citizens regarding the role of CSOs in the ongoing conflicts in Syria. The research also targets CSOs in Syria that work with the disabled, women, and communities to address some of the challenges caused by the war as well as influence their participation in current events such as protests in Syria. Some of the organizations targeted by this research include Citizens for Syria, Al-Ber and the Social Services Association, Al-Bir Organization for Relief, Al-Fajr Charity Center, Basma Charity, and Bunat for Development, among others.

3.3. Sampling Techniques

For this study, purposive sampling design will be used. One of the reasons for the use of the mentioned approach is its interest in a number of CSOs that carry out activities or operations aimed at helping Syrian citizens. The method is also appropriate because of the study’s interest in many organizations that carry out campaigns and collaborate with community members and international entities to address some of the challenges caused by the ongoing war. After the identification and selection of the organizations, the respondents, who will mostly comprise of community members (men and women), will also be selected using the purposive sampling technique. The interest in people with the ability or capacity to respond effectively to questions that will be posed necessitates the use of the mentioned approach. The paper will focus on individuals who have benefited from CSOs in one way or another and whose participation in the ongoing events in Syria has been influenced by the CSOs.

3.4. Data Sources

This research will use two sources of data; primary and secondary. When it comes to primary data sources, the researchers will administer questionnaires to the community members and representatives from the sampled CSOs who will be tasked with responding to the questions on behalf of their organizations. The questionnaire will contain both open-ended and closed-ended questions. The open-ended questions will be used to collect varied views or opinions of respondents on the raised issues. On the other hand, the close-ended questions will allow respondents to select the best option from the provided ones. Concerning secondary data, the researchers will explore research articles, books reports from CSOs, as well as internet resources, although this will be guided by the research questions.

3.5. Data Collection

The questionnaires will be mailed to respondents and be issued to them face-to-face. The researchers will seek appointments and schedule a convenient time with each of the sampled respondents. In addition to the administration of questionnaires, the researchers will conduct interviews with the participants with the aim of obtaining information or data that will have not been obtained through the questionnaire.  The questionnaire to be administered will be divided into four sections in line with the research questions: sections A, B, C, and D. Section A will seek to obtain information on the activities undertaken by CSOs to promote the participation of women in Syria's ongoing events. On the contrary, Section B will obtain information on the efforts of CSOs in promoting the participation of disabled persons in Syria current events. Section C will solicit data on the role of CSOs in promoting the involvement of communities in Syria's events. Section D will explore the challenges faced by CSOs in their role to promote community, disabled persons, and women participation in Syria's post-uprising events such as protests for democracy and good governance. For each of the four sections, open-ended questions will be included to obtain detailed information from the respondents. The open-ended questions will establish a good rapport or relationship between the researchers and the respondents and allow the latter to the expound the meanings of concepts or items that may need to be expounded.

3.6. Data Analysis

The grounded theory method will be used to translate and understand the collected data. This approach will allow the researchers to analyze data from specific respondent and use conclusions made from each of the cases in a general manner to arrive at research findings and support hypotheses. Three steps will be followed in the use of a grounded theory in the analysis of data collected. First, the researchers will be required to write memos as they will be getting acquainted with the collected data from past studies or literature. Second, the raw data obtained from respondents will be coded through the use of hypothetical names of the interviewees. The researchers will assign names such as Interviewee 1, Interviewee 2, up to the last interviewee.  The third step will be categorizing the codes and grouping them together. Following the categorization of codes, the researchers will have to reduce the number of categories and the number of codes that will not be grouped. because having many categories could cause problems for researchers.

3.7. Positionality

As a person interested in the current situation in Syria, I understand the involvement of civil society organizations in addressing some of the challenges Syrian citizens face as a result of the endless conflicts in the country. However, I do not comprehend the exact roles of CSOs in the nation and whether these roles are triggering the participation of the disabled, women, and the community in the events happening in Syria. I want to learn more about what roles are played by these organizations and how they help to promote participation on the part of the disabled, women, and community in Syria.

3.8. Ethical Issues

The research will adhere to ethical standards and requirements. The respondents will be required to sign forms that will seek to meet human subject requirements during research. The form will include information on the confidentiality of every data that will be obtained from respondents, that the participation of respondents in the study is voluntary and that they are free to withdraw from the research when they want to do so, and that the research team will not intend to inflict harm on participants.

3.9. Timescale

The questionnaires and interviews will be conducted with no more than 15 participants. Thus, it is expected that administration and filling in the questionnaires will take no longer than one hour, and the interviews will also take no longer than one hour as well.





4.1. Introduction

This chapter focuses on the data collected during research and will be based on one major prospect, which is the role of civil society organization in promoting community, disabled persons, and women’s participation in Syria. Key information provided by participants is explored. First is what CSOs are and why they are important. Second is the difference between civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The third is participants' understanding of the concept "community participation," and the role played by CSOs promoting community participation in Syria. Fourth is activities undertaken by CSOs in the promotion of participation of disabled persons amidst the endless wars in Syria. The fifth is the role of CSOs in promoting the involvement of the community, disabled persons, and women. Sixth is some of the challenges faced by CSOs in their role of promoting community, disabled persons, and women participation in Syria. Seventh is other roles of CSOs participants are aware of in the Syrian and global context.

4.2. What Civil Society Organizations Are and Why They Are Important?

Interviewee 1 stated that “CSOs are establishments created by people working to promote civil society issues. They include non-governmental organizations, charities, and foundations. We need them because they allow individuals to help people achieve peace, stability, social solidarity, and spread cultures of all kinds (religious, national, political, and intellectual). They also promote and consolidate the values, principles, and standards of tolerance, love, cooperation, peaceful coexistence, respect and acceptance of others, transparency, and deal with all members of society, and avoid abuse and hatred.”

Interviewee 2 stated that “CSOs are organizations that work to meet the community needs and support other governmental institutions to meet the people’s needs.”

Interviewee 3 indicated that “CSOs are institutions that help and support the community in general; in Eastern Ghouta they had a major role in supporting the community, especially when governmental institutions failed to play their part. The organizations focused on spreading awareness in the community and developing their capacities and reducing the people’s suffering.”

Interviewee 4 argued that “CSOs are organizations that exist to help alleviate people’s suffering.”

According to interviewee 5, “CSOs are popular non-governmental organizations and were created out of a specific need. They have popular representation from a specific group that is in line with their interests, such as women, people with special needs, and the elderly, among others. All those groups are needed to cooperate with the community in solving its problems and securing its needs.”

Interviewee 6 described CSOs as “internal civilian organizations or bodies that are emerge because of the inadequacy of the state in certain instances.”

Interviewee 7 stated that “CSOs are organizations or institute founded to support people in all aspects of political, social, and economic sectors.”

4.3. Difference between CSOs and NGOs

Interviewee 1 stated that “non-governmental organizations have objectives that serve the public interest. They neither answer to governments nor belong to any party or religion. On the other hand, civil society organizations are numerous institutions that include NGOs.”

Interviewee 2 argued that “NGOs are part of CSOs and that they perform almost similar responsibilities.”

Interviewee 3 indicated that “CSOs are diverse and they include the NGOs”


Interviewee 4 stated that “civil society organizations manage internal resources. As for NGOs, they are external actors, and their activities are conducted externally based on specific objectives (non-grassroots).”

According to Interviewee 5, “civil society organizations support members of a local community. On the other hand, non-governmental organizations serve the interests of external individuals or governments and they may have internal and external activities.”

Interviewee 6 stated that “civil society organizations are grass roots and follow the state policy whereas non-governmental organizations are organizations with external support and objectives.”

Interviewee 7 stated that “CSOs includes many institutes including NGOs.”

4.4. The Concept of “Community Participation” and the Role Played by CSOs Promoting Community Participation in Syria

Interviewee 1 defined “community participation” as the contribution and communication of institutions with the external community or the surrounding environment, and that includes family, schools, NGOs, private and public companies, businessmen, traders and notables. He further argued that community participation is involving the strata of society in determining their requirements and priorities.

According to Interviewee 2, “community engagement involves the community and manages it by selecting the most important projects for the area such as rehabilitating a school or supporting the education.”

Interviewee 3 stated that involving people in the decision-making process in their community through theory and practical trainings was the best thing CSOs did in Ghouta.

Interviewee 4 defined “community participation” as the engagement of society in meeting its needs.

Interviewee 5 stated that his understanding of the concept of “community participation” is that it involves community taking part in the establishment of associations and organizations that serve the community’s interests.

Interviewee 6 defined the mentioned term as engaging people in making decisions regarding their community. He further stated that in promoting community participation in Syria, CSOs had a role in educating people and giving courses in this regard.

Interviewee 7 stated that community participation entails involving people of all genders, old and young people, in community development and listening to their ideas and suggestions in the general issues in the community. In promoting community participation in Syria, CSOs played a big role in shedding light on the community engagement and on awareness sessions and some development agencies and organizations used to focus more on the development and governance such as community engagement, transparency, and accountability.

4.5. Activities Undertaken by CSOs in Promoting Participation of Disabled Persons Amidst Endless Wars in Syria

The participants agreed that CSOs play key roles in promoting participation of disabled persons despite the endless wars in Syria.

In this regard, Interviewee 1 stated that some of the activities undertaken by CSOs include establishing centres for people with special needs that are fully equipped with medical care, food, salaries, and pyjamas for special or very special cases. Interviewee 1 also stated that some centres provide prosthetics and treatment to patients until they are eventually able to attach the limbs. The participant further agreed that there are institutions working to provide psychological support for disability cased and to provide suitable job opportunities for them.

Interviewee 2 stated that CSOs in Syria have established rehabilitation centres for disabled people and helped them to find jobs in addition to supporting their private businesses.

Interviewee 3 also highlighted some of the activities undertaken by CSOs in Syria to promote the participation of disabled persons in alleviating the situation caused endless wars in the country. The participant stated that some CSOs use special activities such as psychological support sessions and offering support for the disabled people and most vulnerable families.

Interviewee 4 stated that CSOs undertake activities such as conducting rehabilitative training courses as well as establishing specialized centres and psychological support centres in promoting participation of disabled persons.

Interviewee 5 highlighted some of the activities undertaken by CSOs in Syria to promote participation of disabled persons, including offering food baskets, financial aid, and assistance to them. The interviewee also mentioned that these organizations established psychosocial support programs.

Interviewee 6 asserted that CSOs in Syria have provided medical care through the provision of prosthetics and psychosocial support as well as physiotherapy sessions. They also offer special food for infants and the elderly and have initiated recreational activities for people with special needs.

According to Interviewee 7, CSOs promote the participation of disabled persons by supporting the injured and paralyzed people through the distribution of food baskets and psychosocial support sessions.

4.6. Role of CSOs in Promoting Involvement of Community in Syria

All the 7 participants affirmed that just like CSOs have helped promote the participation of disabled persons, they have helped to promote the participation or involvement of communities.

Interviewee 1 stated that CSOs have promoted involvement of community given their major role in meeting various community needs through activating the role of women in communities as well as raising awareness via seminars and training courses in a number of fields.

Interviewee 2 affirmed that CSOs’ role in Syria is to involve the community in general and support it to increase people’s engagement in their own community.

Interviewee 3 stated that some CSOs in Syria support and empower women in decision-making process, thus helping in the engagement of the community.

Interviewee 4 highlighted the role of CSOs in Syria in promoting the involvement of the community, which entails launching awareness campaigns for women and those with special needs by engaging them in sewing courses, hairdressing, and physiotherapy.

Interviewee 5 highlighted CSOs role in promoting the involvement of the community, which entails offering courses to eliminate illiteracy and vocational courses alongside sewing, nursing, and computer/IT courses.

Interviewee 6 stated that CSOs in Syria promote the involvement of the community by offering literacy programs for women and computer courses even though many women from Eastern Ghouta have degrees in various fields.

According to Interviewee 7, many CSOs and NGOs in Syria promote the involvement of community through gender departments that focus on issues affecting women and children in general.

4.7. Challenges Faced by CSOs in Promoting Community, Disabled Persons, and Women Participation in Syria

The participants agreed that CSOs face numerous challenges as they struggle to promote the participation of the community, disabled persons, and women in Syria. The challenges identified varied from one participant to another.

Interviewee 1 stated that the conditions of war are the biggest challenges for CSOs. The staff of the organizations is continuously shelled and live in dire conditions. Another challenge, according to this participant, is an insufficiency of resources for the CSOs.

Interviewee 2 affirmed that CSOs face various challenges, including the difficult life amidst the ongoing wars as well as the lack of key resources needed by these organizations.

Interviewee 3 also agreed that CSOs in Syria face a number of challenges, such as dealing with women who face difficulties in engaging the community and making decisions as well as the lack of necessary resources such as water and electricity.

Interviewee 4 listed the siege in Ghouta, the difficulty of movement, lack of safe places making it challenging to gather people and distribute resources, as well as the Syrian regime's unjust policies as some of the difficulties these organizations face.

Interviewee 5 highlighted the lack of support, weak coordination among organizations, lack of security, as well as instability due to shelling as some of the challenges.

Interviewee 6 highlighted the siege on various cities and areas in Syria as well as shelling.

Interviewee 7 stated that some of the problems faced by CSOs in Syria in promoting participation include the difficult conditions of war as the siege on areas such as Ghouta between 2013 and 2018 until the regime took it back and people being forced to leave their homes for regions such as Idleb and Aleppo.

4.8. Other Roles of Civil Society Organizations in Syrian and Global Contexts

The participants affirmed that CSOs in Syria have played other roles that have contributed to the development.

Interviewee 1 stated that in the Syrian context, the role of organizations was huge because of the absence of the state’s authority alongside the presence of a large gap in the community in aspects such as education and health.

Interviewee 2 affirmed that CSOs play other critical roles in the Syrian context, such as supporting education in the absence of government educational institutions. The participant also asserted that in the global context, CSOs are fill gaps left in the communities.

In regard to other roles of CSOs in the Syrian context, Interviewee 3 stated that CSOs play an essential role in supporting communities and teaching them about democratic processes such as development and governance.

Interviewee 4 believed that CSOs has played a huge role in Syria other than offering services that help to promote the participation of the community, disabled persons, and women.

Interviewee 5 mentioned that CSOs in Syria have had significant impacts at the political, medical, and educational levels. The interviewee also said that in the international context, CSOs have had a significant effect on the livelihoods of people and the international community as a whole.

Concerning other roles of CSOs in the Syrian and international contexts, Interviewee 6 stated that these organizations take care of communities' basic needs in all aspects whereas Interviewee 7 noted that the organizations play a significant role in meeting the needs of the community despite the challenges faced.




5.1. Introduction

In this chapter, a discussion and conclusion are presented to highlight the major findings of the role of civil society organizations promoting community participation in Syria. The discussion section is a cross-analysis that compares the outcomes of the findings of the study and literature explored in the Literature Review Chapter. The conclusion section also gives insight into the research topic and a brief description of the research limitations and recommendations to expand research on the topic.

5.2. Discussion

5.2.1. History and Description of Civil Society in Syria

The findings reveal that the interviewees had various perceptions of what civil society organizations are and their role in Syria. They all argued that CSOs have existed in Syria for several years and play roles that help to meet community needs.  The findings indicate that CSOs are organizations that are created to promote civil society issues and are important in achieving peace, stability, social solidarity, and spreading cultures of all kinds. It was also found that CSOs are organizations committed to promoting values, principles, and standards of tolerance, cooperation, love, transparency, and respect.  Moreover, the findings highlight the interviewees’ opinions about the difference between CSOs and NGOs. Most of the interviewees agreed that NGOs fall under CSOs, and thus, they play almost similar roles aimed at helping the community and its members including women and disabled persons. These findings are supported by researchers such as Kieti (2014), Khalaf (2015), Khalaf, Ramadan, and Stolleis (2014), and several others whose ideas are highlighted in the Literature Review Chapter.

5.2.2. Civil Society Role in Media and Communication and Promotion of Human Rights

The findings show that several interviewees agreed that CSOs, particularly those in Syria, play crucial roles in media and communication as well as promotion of human rights. Based on the analysis, CSOs in Syria rely on media and other communication avenues to convey messages that help to rally community members to fight for what is right and acceptable for them. The CSOs also focus on promoting rights of families, schools, private and public companies, businessmen, traders, and other notables.  The organizations also do everything possible to ensure that community members are involved in decision-making processes within the community. These findings are supported by a number of researchers such as Cooper (2018), Desse (2012), Neubert (2014), and several others whose views in this regard are highlighted in the Literature Review Chapter.

5.2.3. Civil Society Role in Community Participation Through Service Provision

The analysis of the findings reveals various aspects revolving around the role played by CSOs in Syria in promoting community participation through service provision. The findings reveal that CSOs in Syria provide a number of services such as supporting the injured and paralyzed people by distributing food baskets and psychosocial support sessions. Other services provided by the CSOs in Syria include provision of medical care and special food for infants and the elderly, initiating recreational activities for people with special needs, establishing psychosocial support programs, conducting rehabilitative training courses, establishing specialized centers, raising awareness via seminars, and several others. Through these services, community members, women, and the disabled have continuously been involved in the activities and operations that happen in Syria thus highlighting how crucial CSOs are.

5.2.4. Challenges Faced by CSOs in Promoting Participation in Syria

CSOs operating within Syria face multiple challenges that cripple their commitment to providing crucial services to community members. Based on the analysis of findings, some of the challenges include conditions of war, continuously shelling of staff, dire living conditions, inadequate resources, difficulties suffered by community members in engaging in community activities and decision-making, siege on areas such as Ghouta, difficulty of movement, lack of safe place making it challenging to gather people, unjust regime policies, lack of support and weak coordination among organizations, as well as the lack of security. Most of these challenges are yet to be addressed by the current regime in Syria hence the incapacity of the organizations to achieve their objectives as far as promoting community participation in Syria is concerned.

5.3. Conclusion

5.3.1. Research Conclusion

This research explores the role of CSOs promoting community participation in Syria. In this regard, it explores the history and description of civil society in Syria, civil society role in media and communication and promotion of human rights, civil society role in community participation through service provision, and the challenges faced by civil society organizations in promoting participation in Syria. Overall, based on the analysis, it can be concluded that CSOs in Syria have played a leading role in promoting participation of community, women, and disabled persons in Syria despite the strong opposition from the regime and the ongoing wars.

5.3.2. Research Implications

The findings from the analysis respond to the research question and help to achieve the research goals that are to explore the activities undertaken by civil society organizations to promote women’s participation in Syria, to explore the efforts of civil society bodies in promoting the participation of disabled persons in Syria’s current events amidst the endless wars, to examine the role of civil society organizations in promoting the involvement of communities amidst the continuous wars in Syria, and to examine the challenges faced by civil society bodies in their role of promoting community, disabled persons, and women participation in war-torn Syria. The findings have significant implications particularly for the Syrian community and the current regime. The implication is that CSOs play crucial roles in promoting participation of community members and should receive adequate support from all stakeholders. The support from stakeholders such as the Syrian government could be a major step towards ending the wars in Syria and addressing the challenges faced by Syrians.

5.3.3. Research Limitations

This study was affected by various limitations that to some extent influenced the outcomes. Some of the limitations of the research are as follows:

·       The data collected was limited to only 7 participants mainly in Ghouta meaning that the outcomes cannot be generalized to the overall population in Syria.

·       Some participants did not have a clear understanding of some of the concepts or questions posed.

·       The researchers decided who would be participating in the research process thus excluding others.

·       Late response from some participants delayed the completion of the research.

5.3.4. Future Research Recommendations

For future research, this research’s findings could as a basis for building future research. A number of gaps exist in this research and they should be filled by future research. Future research should focus on:

·       Obtaining information from more participants to ensure reliability and validity of outcomes.

·       Interviewing people who have benefited from the work of CSOs.

·       Challenges and opportunities brought about by CSOs.



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