Awardee Spotlight December 2023

Our Secure Future highlights the Center for Civil Society and Democracy, a 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace and Security Award.

Award Winner: Center for Civil Society and Democracy 

Rajaa Altalli, Co-Founder and Co-Director 

In 2023, the Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace and Security presented the Center for Civil Society and Democracy (CCSD) with the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace, and Security Award for their tremendous work promoting peace and security in Syria. Through dialogue and conflict resolution; mobilization and advocacy; capacity building; and research, CCSD works to ensure sustainable development; promote peace and justice; push for good governance; and support women’s political participation.  

Syria’s 12 years of conflict have left an estimated 6.9 million people internally displaced, 5.4 million living as refugees abroad, and killed more than 600,000 people. To make the situation even more dire, in February 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a 7.5 magnitude earthquake aftershock struck parts of Turkey and Syria making it one of the worst natural disasters this century. As of May 2023, the death toll has risen to 60,000 with relief efforts in Syria being hampered due to the years of conflict. The estimated damage in Syria alone is over $5 billion. The combination of both conflict and the earthquake has created a humanitarian catastrophe and continues to destabilize Syria and the region.  

Earthquake Recovery  

As one of the Distinguished Partners for Women, Peace, and Security Award recipients, CCSD used its funds to pay for staff working to support survivors of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey as well as providing land and materials. As Rajaa noted, the award was a “moral push for the team…the consequence of the earthquake is hitting the teams hard.” Many of the people feel forgotten by the rest of the world.   

With rent soaring in Turkey, there was difficulty finding space for survivors to rebuild. The funding, in part, helped a woman-led local NGO in Northwest Syria, Suriana, rent land and create a camp for 100 families who have not been able to relocate. The funding allowed them to immediately start the project and set up the camp including support for a sewage system, water, etc. As other organizations saw the camp being set up, they were able to provide even more support for her.  

In the aftermath of the earthquake, there was an increase in gender-based violence violations. Through Suriana, CCSD was able to bring women who were impacted by the earthquake together to do awareness raising on GBV and educating them on how to report violations and open cases.  

Center for Civil Society and Democracy

Women’s Participation 

Flexible, unrestricted funding also helps continue the critical work they are doing on supporting women to engage in the political process. CCSD has been at the forefront of ensuring women’s voices are included in the Syrian peace process. In 2015 CCSD launched 25 women’s peace circles which would identify problems in their communities and come up with solutions. In Idlib, for example, the peace circle played an important role in calling for the ceasefire Zabadani and Idlib. This has now spun off into its own I am She Network. Since 2016, Rajaa Altalli is a member of the Women’s Advisory Board to the UN special envoy to ensure women are included in the ongoing negotiations.  

Their Women for the Future of Syria continues to host the space for collaboration where women are working on Track I, Track II and Track III diplomacy coordinate. While the peace process has largely been stalled in Syria, the women continue to mobilize an advocate. Most recently in 2023, during the Space for Collaboration Conference, a group of Syrian women wrote a statement with key recommendations on Syrian displacement and refugee issues and detention and forced disappearance. They also wrote a memo to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights laying out what the Terms of Reference should be for the dedicated Institution to uncover the fate of missing individuals in Syria.  

Finally, they presented during UNGA and CSW on the Syrian Women Initiative for a Sustainable Peace and Inclusive Security that lays out recommendations for ensuring women’s inclusion and creating a more effective peace process. The recommendations include ensuring, among other things, supporting women's inclusion of at least 30% in all political meetings, committees, consultations, and decision-making groups as well as calling for Arab States leading the Arab Initiative to conduct regular meetings with the Women Advisory Board (WAB) and consult with a broader range of Syrian women to inform their deliberations. 

CCSD continues to shed light on the ongoing impact of the war and earthquake on people in Syria and Turkey. CCSD envisions a different Syria: one that is stable and peaceful and where gender equality is reached.  The Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace, and Security and Our Secure Future are honored to support their critical work.