The crises in Syria and Iraq have disrupted the lives of millions: Conflict and the destruction of basic infrastructure have forced families, women, and children to flee their homes. Many have found refuge in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The majority are unlikely to return in the short term, as conditions for returning in safety and dignity are not in place after many years of conflict.
While displaced persons are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their lives, their host communities face challenges of their own. Access to education, job opportunities, and basic services is often limited which can easily lead to social tensions between refugees and host communities.
Funded by three European donors, Qudra 2 is an expression of European support for, and solidarity with affected communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. It was created to provide immediate relief and strengthen the resilience of individuals, communities, and governments affected by the crises in Syria and Iraq.
Under its education and protection component, the Qudra 2 programme provides relief and support for adults and children to help them cope with traumatic experiences and improve education, engagement, and protection opportunities.
In Iraq, it is focused on providing mental health and psychosocial support to returnees, IDPs, Syrian refugees and host communities. In Jordan, it works to improve school transport systems and facility management, as well as offering extracurricular activities to children and youth. In Lebanon, Qudra 2 supports the Ministry of Social Affairs to provide protection services to local communities across the country through Social Development Centres. It also supports the ministry to strengthen the protection system through training, policy development and developing new partnerships to improve access to equitable response and prevention for girls, boys and women at risk and survivors of violence, exploitation, and abuse.
The programme’s approach is successful. For example, adults and children participating in psychological support sessions or other protection activities in Lebanon report that the support has improved their well-being.
“I learned how to manage my anger – my life changed a lot”
Mahmoud went to the SDC to ask what activities he could register for. He talked to a helpful social worker and his mom, then quickly signed up for classes. These classes changed his life, giving him new skills and allowing him to make friends with other children.
Qudra 2 provides protection services which everyone can access, regardless of their status or connections. This allows refugees and members of the host community to learn how to express their feelings and communicate their needs, giving them the power to take control of their lives. Qudra 2’s Compass Social Cohesion shows that children like Mahmoud and adults can learn to better understand and manage their emotions. Qudra 2’s support helps them develop their communication and dialogue skills which they can use in their everyday lives, particularly with their family. Equitable access and a welcoming reception also strengthen trust in local institutions.
Under its employment component, the Qudra 2 programme seeks to provide women and young people in particular with the skills needed to find a job. It provides training, seeks to increase job opportunities for jobseekers, and promotes micro-businesses.
In Iraq, Qudra 2 partners with public entities and private companies to increase access to economic opportunities and create income-generating opportunities for the most vulnerable by providing skills development and start-up support. Qudra 2 also supports agricultural development and farmers associations to develop services for local farmers and build social cohesion.
In Jordan, Qudra 2 works to help youth and adults to acquire skills and gain access to job opportunities. Syrian refugees and the most vulnerable members of Jordan’s host communities are supported in obtaining certification as skilled workers or craftsperson. Work-Based Learning initiatives at the semi-skilled level help trainees gain practical skills through work experience and training in private companies. The work-based learning model has become a new standard for all vocational training in Jordan.
“The training is a golden opportunity for women – we are capable of doing this work”
Amneh attended the vocational centre in Yajouz to take a plumbing training course and earned a certification as a plumber. Before this, she had never seen another woman in this profession. She started the “Skilled Hands Cooperation for Empowerment” with other female plumbers to promote their work, raise their incomes, and provide high-quality services. Amneh is committed to sharing her knowledge to other aspiring plumbers.
Having a job can provide individuals with a sense of purpose and self-fulfilment. According to Qudra 2’s research, people who were employed or self-employed generally had more positive perceptions of social cohesion, understood as participation, trust, interactions, and a sense of belonging. Working towards shared goals helps to overcome stereotypes: 50 per cent of trainees in Jordan reported making friends with people from different backgrounds to themselves during the training.
Under its support for local communities, the programme strengthens the capacities of local governments and civil society organisations to provide better access to basic services, such as health, social services, water and electricity, public spaces, and education.
In Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey, Qudra 2 works with local governments to provide services to both displaced persons and host communities. In Iraq, Qudra 2 seeks to improve the living conditions of communities through “Quick Impact Projects” which are investments in infrastructure that have an immediate benefit for the community, such as connecting communities to the water supply.
In Jordan, Qudra 2 invests in the service delivery capacity of municipalities through community support projects, for example, setting up a community library. In Turkey, the programme supports municipalities hosting large numbers of refugees to develop and implement community support projects that strengthen municipal services, focusing on social assistance, public spaces such as parks, and social cohesion.
“The Consultancy Department at the Erbil hospital was a huge accomplishment”
Qudra 2 supported the rehabilitation of the Consultancy Department at Erbil Maternity Hospital, providing much-needed healthcare services to the public of Erbil. The rehabilitation included spaces for consulting, a laboratory, a pharmacy and more, giving poorer individuals access to health services they would otherwise be unable to receive. The hospital is open to all, ensuring everyone can benefit from its services.
Real and perceived competition for public services can contribute to social tensions. By increasing the electricity supply to Sinjar District in Iraq or supporting soup kitchens for the most vulnerable in Seyhan Municipality, Turkey, Qudra 2 eases the pressure on local services and helps to mitigate these tensions.
Including host communities and displaced persons in decision-making further helps to transform conflicts. In Jordan, “Municipality Support Committees” introduced by Qudra 2 allow civil society and community members to work with municipalities to monitor the implementation progress of Community Support Projects, thereby building trust. Local civil society groups have a unique perspective on the needs of local people. In Iraq, for example, Qudra 2 supported Halabja Disabled Persons to create a more inclusive park in the local community.
Under its cross-cutting information and dialogue component, the programme supports journalists and media partners to champion ethical journalism and report accurately about the refugee crisis. This is important because media and social media can amplify tensions to the point where they escalate out of control.
Qudra 2, along with its partners, engages with media and journalists on all platforms to promote the dissemination of accurate content via social media, video production, radio and television shows and workshops with journalists. The programme’s work has been highly successful, with videos and articles reaching over 8 million people, while providing young journalists with a platform to share stories of their communities.
“The loaf of bread shouldn’t be targeted by racism.”
Young journalist Cendrella Azar reflects on the impact of economic crises on the perception of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Women and men, Jordanian and Syrian journalists have come together to receive training and produce videos. This collaboration fosters mutual exchange and greater understanding among the participants, while also increasing their awareness of the importance of neutrality when covering refugees and other vulnerable communities.
Furthermore, the resulting materials have had a positive impact on the audience, as evidenced by the comments, shares, and private messages received by the media asking for more information and assistance. Consequently, the journalists involved in the workshops are likely to continue to report, contributing to the creation of a balanced media sphere and sharing stories from the region.
Qudra 2 strives to not only learn from its partners and beneficiaries but also to collect data and insights that are tailored to the local context. This wealth of knowledge and expertise from all regions was invaluable to the Resilience Dialogues. At the conclusion of the programme, a publication compiling key findings, lessons learned, and recommendations from the entire region will be released.