Syria in Brief - UNESCO Response
The Syrian conflict started in March 2011, and has generated the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in recent years.
The situation in the country and the conditions for refugees in neighbouring countries continues to deteriorate.
Almost 12.2 million Syrians now need assistance, and 7.6 million of them are displaced inside their own country and half of the IDPs are children struggling to survive and cope with the crisis. .
In addition, more than 4 million have fled to neighbouring countries, a third of them school-aged children and youth between 5 and 17 years old.
An estimated 5.6 million Syrian children and youth inside Syria and in neighbouring countries are in need of education.
In addition, the country’s cultural heritage is continuously exposed to threats of destruction, looting and illicit traffic. Important sites and monuments have been destroyed or substantially damaged.
UNESCO has been active in responding to this crisis, particularly by assisting Syrian refugees and host communities in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, and safeguarding Syria’s cultural heritage.
UNESCO’s response addresses humanitarian needs and longer-term development assistance, creating complementarity and synergy among these areas. The response is integrated into nationally-led response processes and is fully aligned with the Syria Strategic Response Plan 2015 (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2015-2016 (3RP).
In the field of education, UNESCO’s response is focusing on youth education and empowerment, providing educational opportunities and enhancing quality of teaching and learning both in formal and non-formal settings for young people affected by the crisis in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Priority areas for UNESCO action inside Syria are teacher training in technical and vocational education, accelerated learning programmes, extra-curricular activities, and psycho-social support
Education and particularly post primary education remains the gap area when it comes to humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. Capitalizing on the achievements made so far and further consolidating its efforts, UNESCO has scaled up its response by addressing learning gaps of youth in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. In February 2015 UNESCO launched “Bridging Learning Gaps for youth”, a programme that will enable access to secondary and higher education, improve its quality, and build resilient education systems for the affected youth, between ages of 15 to 30, both within Syria and in the region.
In the field of culture, UNESCO focuses on safeguarding Syria’s rich cultural heritage. Since the onset of the crisis, the Director-General has been strongly advocating in this respect by calling on all parties to the conflict and the Syrian authorities to respect and protect cultural heritage.
Also, neighbouring countries, INTERPOL and institutional partners have been alerted and mobilized to counter the illicit traffic of movable cultural heritage and UNESCO organized a high-level meeting on the Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage in August 2013. The participants endorsed UNESCO’s Action Plan for emergency safeguarding measures and post-recovery actions.
In the framework of this Action Plan, UNESCO has launched a three-year “Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage project”, aimed at mitigating the destruction and loss of cultural heritage, preparing post-conflict priority actions, as well as the medium and long term actions, as a means to restore normalcy and social cohesion in Syria. As part of the project UNESCO established the International Observatory of Syrian Cultural Heritage that monitors and assesses the situation of cultural heritage in Syria.
Through its efforts, UNESCO encouraged the United Nations Security Council to adopt the Resolution 2199 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legally-binding measures to counter illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural objects from Iraq and Syria.
Furthermore, series of training activities on the fight against the illicit traffic of Syrian cultural objects and on state-of-art conservation and restoration tools of built heritage have been organized in Syria and neighboring countries (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). UNESCO and UNITAR (the UN Institute for Training and Research) signed an agreement to protect cultural and natural heritage sites with the latest geo-spatial technologies.
In addition, UNESCO has been conducting an awareness-raising campaign via social media to draw the general public's attention to the threats to Syrian cultural heritage along with a global Unite4Heritage campaign launched in March 2015. The purpose of the vastly popular campaign is to counter propaganda of hatred, intolerance and violence with messages of unity, tolerance and solidarity and to build support for the protection of heritage, where it is threatened by sectarianism and extreme violence. The campaign also generated media interest with over 500 articles in the international press.