What’s the Magic Word? Humanitarian access and local organisations in Syria

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HPG, Humanitarian Policy Group,ODI, Overseas Development Institute

The conflict in Syria is nearing the end of its sixth year, and prospects for a political transition, let alone peace, remain elusive. Access – or more accurately the lack of it – for humanitarian agencies to provide assistance and protection to people in need has been a defining issue since the conflict began. Much of the debate on access has focused on the ‘formal’ system (the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), international NGOs). At the same time, however, the conflict has brought to the fore the role of local organisations, diaspora groups, local councils and others. They have also been understudied: there is a dearth of information on how ‘local’ actors – diaspora groups, local activists, grassroots movements, faith-based groups, philanthropists – negotiate and obtain access to people in need, and what compromises they might have to make along the way. This project seeks to address this evidence gap by looking at access from the perspective of actors not part of the ‘formal’ system.

This HPG Working Paper on the crisis in Syria is part of a two-year research project entitled ‘Holding the keys – Who Gets Access in Times of Conflict?

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