We believe that a strong, vibrant and resilient civil society is key to the development of all healthy, inclusive, democratic and productive societies and thus crucial to the future of Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Civil society – citizens working together for the common good – engages citizens, and especially young people, with their community, holds the state and the market accountable, and supports and advocates for vulnerable groups.
The space for civil society is under threat. The political instability in the Levant, and the uprising turned into a devastating war in Syria have highlighted the instrumental role of civil society. Despite danger, threats, and constant change, civil society continues to alleviate the suffering of civilians, to provide basic services, and to build a more democratic future. After decades of suppression of civil society in Syria, a new wave of emerging Syrian civil society organisations has risen. They are struggling to address the enormous needs of their fellow citizens (whether displaced inside Syria or refugees in the region) while also building their capacity and governance structures to deal with the constant change and an uncertain future. In Lebanon, numerous and experienced civil society organisations are challenged by sectarianism, a weak state, economic hardship, security concerns and the influx of refugees. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and in and from Syria face similar challenges as local organisations, in addition to others due to their refugee status. Moreover, international and local restrictions on civil society make it harder and harder for civil society to play its important role.
These challenges require new and innovative solutions. The Asfari Foundation’s Civil Society Programme aims to support a new generation of involved, informed and active young people who want to nurture positive change from within their communities, and find solutions to the acute challenges they and their communities and countries face.
What we do
Our overall objective for the Civil Society Programme is to support the fostering of a strong and sustainable civil society that is able to play the role it is meant to: effectively bringing people together for the common good; to provide quality information to citizens and policy makers; to serve those in need; and to advocate for change. We will focus on civil society in, or of, Syria and Lebanon (including organisation of or serving Syrians and Palestinians in Lebanon). To do this, we will:
- Support organisations and initiatives that contribute to the vibrancy, professionalism, effectiveness and governance of the civil society sector as a whole.
- Support civil society organisations that work on one or more of the themes of citizenship, governance and the development of independent quality media.
We will do this by:
- Providing flexible grants and accompanying individual and organisational capacity-building support to organisations and initiatives.
- Providing grants to support research into challenging questions that addresses systemic change or issues.
- Providing grants to seed or test new ideas or approaches by organisations that we believe are particularly innovative, have strong potential to help young people and are related to the thematic areas above.
- Providing grants for, or initiating processes that bring together current and past partners and alumni for shared learning, exchange and joint initiatives.
We will continue to support and develop the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut, which promotes all of the above aims. We will support the Institute to develop as a regional centre with expertise in and providing support to civil society, through research, convening and education.
Further information on the Foundation’s current Civil Society Programme partners can be found to the right of this page. Organisations interested in applying for a grant should click here for details on how to apply for a grant.