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Local Associations Linked to Asma al-Assad Participate in Brussels Conference for Funding

The regime preemptively coordinates with participating associations slated for the Brussels conference, according to Syria TV.
Local Associations Linked to Asma al-Assad Participate in Brussels Conference for Funding

Since 2017, at each EU donor conference on supporting Syria’s future in Brussels, Belgium, civil society organizations from both loyalist and opposition factions have been urging for financial assistance to address pressing humanitarian concerns and effectively cater to the populace’s needs. However, it’s noteworthy that many of the charities operating within Damascus and Lattakia fall under the auspices of Asma al-Assad’s “Syria Trust for Development.” While domestically these organizations align closely with the Syrian regime’s policies, internationally, when their representatives participate in global forums, they assert their independence from the regime. They claim to be autonomous civil society entities striving to realize their vision in harmony with the United Nations’ objectives and the objectives of its funding partners, distancing themselves from the regime’s agenda.

Local organizations coordinate with the regime 

In April, the eighth edition of the Brussels donors’ conference convened, drawing the participation of local organizations spanning various Syrian regions. Notably, the gathering of foreign ministers from donor nations is slated for May 27, with the conspicuous absence of an invitation extended to the Syrian regime.

During the eighth Brussels conference, certain domestic associations from Syria delivered fervent speeches decrying the regime, including pointed criticisms aimed at the Arab Socialist Baath Party’s role in Syria. This vocal opposition was reportedly orchestrated with the intent of securing financial backing, as per sources cited by Syria TV.

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Insiders working within civil affairs relayed that the regime preemptively coordinates with participating associations slated for the Brussels conference, urging them to advocate its perspective on Western sanctions and their purported obstruction of developmental initiatives and early recovery projects.

Furthermore, these sources assert that while associations within regime-controlled territories seek funding akin to counterparts operating in other regions, a portion of these funds allocated to such associations ultimately funnel into the coffers of the “Syria Trust for Development,” which exercises considerable control and oversight.

Previously, funding was dispersed to both licensed and unlicensed associations upon submission and approval of early recovery projects. However, the distribution of funds later became restricted solely to associations licensed by the regime. Consequently, funding channels shifted through intermediaries like United Nations bodies operating in Damascus or via the Syrian Business Center.

For associations to access funding, they must be duly licensed and possess requisite documentation, internal and financial regulations, and maintain sufficient balances in designated bank accounts. Transfer of funds typically occurs through established conduits such as the now-defunct Business Center or through reputable organizations like Oxfam.

It’s emphasized by sources that the regime employs these organizations as indirect conduits to secure funding from the Brussels conference. This diversionary tactic often results in the misallocation of funds towards endeavors unrelated to their intended developmental purposes, detracting from critical sectors such as education and healthcare, which are sometimes addressed by local community initiatives.

The trickle of funding reaching these associations, post-allocation to the Syria Trust for Development, is often siphoned into the pockets of association officials. The residual amount is then allocated to local projects, albeit for brief durations, amidst assertions by associations of insufficient funding necessitating downsizing of project scopes.

In March, Asma Assad convened with representatives from humanitarian and charitable NGOs, urging coordinated efforts to achieve comprehensive outcomes and cater to the widest spectrum of those in need. Nonetheless, experts on the Syrian conflict and aid workers have previously cautioned against Assad’s corrupt practices, which jeopardize essential livelihood assistance for millions of Syrians.

Damascus and its environs host over 400 charities, alongside numerous associations scattered across regime-controlled territories, sourcing their funding from various avenues including businessmen, expatriates, and international or UN organizations.

Last March, Asma Assad engaged with representatives from charities, humanitarian associations, civil society organizations, as well as delegates from chambers of industry and commerce, aiming to synchronize charitable endeavors. This initiative followed the establishment of the “National Platform for Non-Governmental Organizations” (Tasharuk) in 2023, designed to coordinate community efforts under the auspices of Asma al-Assad and the Syria Trust for Development.

The Tasharuk platform endeavors to centralize funding for relief and humanitarian work through the Unified Financial Fund for Charities. This focal point featured prominently in discussions during charity conferences convened to elect their respective boards of directors in 2023.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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