The Unabhängiges Komitee für Sozialentwicklung und selbstorganisierte Demokratie e. V. (UKSSD e. V. ) was created in 2012 in response to the popular movement in which the Syrian people demanded more liberties and a democratic system of government. UKSSD evolved from various student groups that were active at their respective universities and towns within Syria. As the situation in the country worsened and the level of violence increased, the peaceful community work of the student organizations was rendered impossible; UKSSD decided to move its activities to northern Syria. On 15 December 2012, a student conference in Qamishlo established the new UKSSD. Since then, UKSSD teams work in various different sectors such as education, / http://www.ukssd.de/category/education/ / child protection and youth development (CPYD)/ http://www.ukssd.de/category/cpyd/ / , women protection and empowerment (WPE), / http://www.ukssd.de/category/wpe/ /internally displaced persons (IDPs),/ http://www.ukssd.de/category/idps-nfis/ / general support, peace building and violence prevention, social and political awareness. Since 2013, UKSSD’s work also encompasses health / http://www.ukssd.de/category/health/ / awareness and non-food items (NFIs) / http://www.ukssd.de/category/idps-nfis/ / . In 2014, this was further expanded to include bio-agricultural / http://www.ukssd.de/category/food-agriculture/ /policies.
UKSSD is an independent assembly consisting of both Syrian and international students who work together to support students and civilians in conflict areas in the Middle East. The UKSSD is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization; thus, UKSSD is not affiliated with the government or with any other political parties. Any student can become a member of UKSSD regardless of background and nationality. UKSSD is currently focusing on the on-going conflict in Syria; it aims to create a place within Syria where students and civilians can continue to interact with the community and work towards a peaceful and democratic Syrian society for the future.
3. UKSSD Objectives and Goals
The mission of UKSSD is to help both local students and civilians in need and IDPs within Syria. UKSSD volunteer teams in Syria run projects, activities and civic campaigns on a regular basis to attain this goal and prevent violence and achieve stability to improve the lives of many Syrians.
1. To provide and improve education, to design child protection and youth development programs in conflict areas within Syria and to protect students from violence
2. To protect and empower women and to provide them with a leading role in society by creating fair opportunities for all women
3. To protect IDPs and secure humanitarian aid for them, to advice IDPs and provide them with assistance to facilitate the integration process into the host community
4. To attain a peaceful and tolerant civil society through awareness campaigns and peacebuilding projects in order to achieve peaceful co-existence among all Syrian community members and groups
5. To protect the environment and promote bio-agriculture by agricultural awareness campaigns about water, natural seeds and how to create bio fertilizers in order to achieve a level of food security in conflict areas
6. To promote health awareness in conflict areas by campaigns on health and hygiene to prevent the spread of contagious diseases amongst local communities.
4. UKSSD Sectors
UKSSD has three years of experience of working in conflict areas within Syria; due to the escalation of the conflict and continuously raising levels of violence UKSSD developed a sectorial approach for its work:
1. Education / http://www.ukssd.de/category/education/ /
UKSSD centres within Syria provide courses for local students and children from indigenous families in need and IDPs because most regular schools closed after the level of violence increased. The process of getting children back to school is challenging because most families lack essentials and many children have been orphaned due to the on-going conflict. Therefore, UKSSD volunteers identify children deprived of education and offer those children free courses. In addition, UKSSD teams also offer courses on university level and foreign language courses in a number of languages such as Turkish and English. These courses are offered because the majority of Syrian students can no longer study at their own university due to the increased level of violence. By offering such a wide range of courses for an equally wide range of students, UKSSD hopes to prevent feelings of depression or isolation caused by the absence of a normal social environment.
2. Child Protection and Youth Development (CPYD) / http://www.ukssd.de/category/cpyd/ /
UKSSD volunteers within Syria monitor the living standard of children in villages and refugee camps and investigate violence committed against children. Moreover, they reach out to homeless children who are in an even greater danger of becoming subject to violence due to the absence of their parents. UKSSD teams will guide these children and enrol them in child education programs provided by the UKSSD centers. UKSSD also regularly visits families to provide them with information on child protection and child behaviour. UKSSD volunteers pay specific attention to children and students who suffer from isolation or depression by organizing extra activities targeted at this group in the community centres.
3. Women Protection and Empowerment (WPE) / http://www.ukssd.de/category/wpe/ /
Women play an essential role in political, economical and social processes but their role has always been marginalized in the past due to the existing political system and some specific Syrian social traditions. However, a new Syrian generation consisting of youth and student activists working in the community has stood up against the existing situation, this generation does not accept political leadership which denies women a leading role and they are seeking to change some of the existing social traditions to enable women to play a leading role in political groups or civic organizations and society as a whole. To support this movement, UKSSD offers capacity building workshops on a regular basis for women and female activists in order to point out their rights to them. Those workshops are prepared and taught by university students and female activists who possess extensive knowledge and experience in this field and who are aware of the existing challenges in this area. UKSSD also offers (voluntary) jobs within the organization such as leading one of the volunteer teams or developing activities for the UKSSD centers to provide female activists with a practical training in leadership in organizations.
4. Protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Distribution of Non-Food Items (NFIs) / http://www.ukssd.de/category/idps-nfis/ /
The protection of and assistance to IDPs is one of the main tasks that the UKSSD teams within Syria focus on. Many Syrian families were not able to flee to Turkey so they stayed in cities in northern Syria. Recently, a large number of refugees has come from Sinjar (Iraq) due to ISIS attacks; these refugees have settled in Hasaka, a province in northern Syria. UKSSD teams pay visits to refugee camps to assess the needs of the refugees and to monitor the standard of living within the camps. The teams also visit refugees and IDPs who have settled in houses in the suburbs of the city. Apart from offering some basic needs (for example clean drinking water or milk); UKSSD teams provide refugees and IDPs with information. UKSSD distributes flyers and brochures on co-existence and tolerance and on legal issues and helps these families to integrate in the community. UKSSD also promotes education by offering the children courses in the UKSSD centers.
5. Health and health awareness campaigns / http://www.ukssd.de/category/health/ /
The on-going conflict in Syria has led to poverty and deteriorating living circumstances, a consequence of this is the spread of many diseases coupled with the risk of epidemics. UKSSD teams run health campaigns within Syria and distribute brochures and booklets to all people to raise awareness with regard to health and hygiene. UKSSD aims to prevent or limit the further spread of diseases with these measures. UKSSD also offers health workshops conducted by local specialists in this field to offer the community a detailed description about the diseases and ways to reduce the risk of getting infected. Also, UKSSD offer IDPs assistance in finding local clinics and doctors to make sure all people have access to basic medical care.
6. Civil Peace and Awareness, Peacebuilding and Prevention of Violence / http://www.ukssd.de/category/civil-governance/ /
UKSSD centers focus intensively on raising civil awareness by means of campaigns, workshops seminars and public events with the aim of preventing violence between various groups or individuals within the Syrian society. The effort of peacebuilding is so important because in order to have economic, political and security stability in any society there has to be social stability and civil awareness, this holds true especially for conflict areas. Each of the UKSSD centers designs its activities taking into account the current situation in the city where it is situated, sometimes activities change due to security issues on the ground. One of the biggest awareness campaigns is Peace One Day, an annual event on the 21st of September. Peace One Day / http://www.ukssd.de/category/civil-governance/peace-one-day-syria/ /consists of a one-week program full of campaigns, seminars, workshops, raising awareness by the distribution of brochures and flyers, poetry evenings, sports, a peace walk and a final social gathering where all political leaders, civil organizations and the local community are invited. This leads to a gradual increase of social stability by providing different groups and individuals with an opportunity to engage in peaceful dialogue.
7. Bio-Agriculture and Food Security / http://www.ukssd.de/category/food-agriculture/ /
Because of the on-going conflict in Syria which started in 2011, a majority of the farmers has been deprived of water, fertilizers and seeds. Hasaka province comprises 29% of the total cultivated land in Syria, it is the main producer of cotton, wheat and vegetables; however, agricultural production is severely diminished due to the on-going conflict. Besides from creating an immediate problem for the local community the diminished production level poses a real threat to food security in Syria as a whole. Hasaka province has over 525 sources of water; however, many farmers still face a water shortage due to electricity cuts, lack of generators and inflation in the price of petrol. UKSSD has formed several small teams consisting of agricultural design whose task it is to raise agricultural awareness by specific activities in which farmers learn methods of bio-agriculture. The covered topics include the saving of natural seeds for the next year, the creation of bio-fertilizers, the use of a specific irrigation system to save water and the creation of alternative energy sources. The UKSSD teams also organize seminars and workshops on the danger of using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the long-term negative effect of those GMOs on the soil and on human health which poses a threat to food security. UKSSD has introduced small-scale bio-agricultural projects in the provinces of Hasaka and Aleppo, by running these projects UKSSD successfully attracted the attention of local farmers.
5. UKSSD Centers and Teams
Syria: UKSSD works in four cities in northern Syria in the provinces of Hasaka and Aleppo. These four cities are Kobani (Ain Al-Arab), Qamishlo (Al-Qamishlo), Tirbespi (Al-Kahtaniyah), and Amuda. UKSSD has community centers in those cities except in Kobani as the center got destroyed during the recent ISIS attack in September 2014. The UKSSD team in Kobani seeks to rebuild the UKSSD center in the city and is currently in the process of finding financial support to achieve this.
Turkey: UKSSD is currently working on its official registration in Turkey and seeking support to open a physical office in Gaziantep.
Germany: UKSSD headquarters is based in Leipzig, Germany. UKSSD is officially registered in Germany as a non-profiting non-governmental organization under register number (5613).
6. Monitoring and Evaluation
UKSSD teams in Syria have basic knowledge on working with monitoring and evaluating tools for the projects and activities; new tools are introduced to the teams within Syria on a regular basis. A specific monitor and evaluation team with oversight on all organized projects and activities is currently set up.
7. UKSSD Security Plan and Risk Management
UKSSD has a security plan to prevent violence committed by military or political groups against its teams within Syria. A specific policy guides security of the projects and border-crossings with Turkey. UKSSD is currently looking for partnerships with Turkish organizations and international organizations based in Turkey, which can support improving this specific policy.