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London Donors Conference to Support Syria and the Region – A Positive Commitment Yet to Materialise

11 February 2016
On 4 February, a donors conference was held in London to support Syria. Credit: Laila Alodaat.

On 4 February 2016, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, and the United Nations co-hosted a conference in London to support Syria and the region. The conference, which was the fourth of its kind, was a step forward from the previous three donor’s conferences that took place in Kuwait in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in terms of presence and participation of Syrian civil society organisations.

The day before the official donors’ conference, on 3 February, a separate civil society conference was organised to “raise awareness of the situation in Syria, with an emphasis on making the voices of Syrians heard and putting a spotlight on the experiences of Syrian people affected by the conflict.”

The Importance of Syrian Civil Society Organisations’ Involvement

The civil society conference included both panels and breakout sessions and a number of Syrian organisations (including several partners of WILPF in the region) took part in the discussions.


In the opening session, Hivin Kako, the Executive Director of Bihar Relief Organisation and one of WILPF’s Crisis Response Programme partners, presented the challenges her organisation faces and highlighted the threats of using standard gender markers without consulting local communities and understanding the bigger picture. “Syrians need to be involved in designing programmes as well as implementing them so they are sustainable and applicable,” said Hivin Kako.

On the implementation of a gender approach, Marcell Shehwaro, the Executive Director of Kesh Malek said “this is extremely important but (international agencies) should not assume how it is done. Ask Syrians! They know their cause and how to deal with it, they might not know how to write a perfect log frame, but they master everything else.”

Breakout Session on Women, Peace and Security

WILPF Crisis Response Programme Manager Laila Alodaat was the Rapporteur for the breakout session on Women, Peace and Security and brought to the conference the outcome of a valuable discussion among Syrian and international NGOs who shared their views and experiences on how to substantially address women and gender within the Syrian conflict.

WILPF Crisis Response Programme Manager Laila Alodaat was the Rapporteur for the breakout session on Women, Peace and Security at the London conference. Hear Laila Alodaat speak 15:15 minutes into the video.

The breakout session brought critical and insightful views, including that women rights in Syria will not be realised without adequate protection of civilians who are systematically targeted and without prioritising the fight for human rights for all. On the modalities of funding, the participants highlighted the dire need for strengthening the financial and political support for woman-led organisations. These organisations feel neglected because they do not fit into traditional funding modules and the support have so far been very limited. They suggested creating new modalities that are long-term, flexible and contextualised to fit the realities on the ground.

The conference participants stressed the need to change the way international agencies are addressing gender, and the necessity of turning it from a box-ticking exercise into an over-arching issue across all sectors by acknowledging that women are not only passive beneficiaries but active agents and should take their role in setting plans and strategies.

Also stressed was the need for states to create real accountability measures for implementing projects and making funding contingent on substantially addressing gender issues along the entire cycle of planning and implementation. They raised the changing political priorities as an obstacle that is eventually instrumentalising women grassroots groups to fulfil political agendas, and emphasised that the local strategies should be appreciated not overlooked.

On political participation, the civil society organisations welcomed the involvement of women in the political processes but stressed that the work should continue to make participation effective, reach gains for women and change the way they are being addressed within the conflict.

Conference Outcomes

The donors conference raised over US$ 11 billion in pledges. WILPF welcomes this outcome but remains aware that it is unlikely that the civil society recommendations were taken into account at this stage as pledges were made only a few hours after the communique was passed. However, we hope that states fulfil a higher percentage than they did in past conferences, and call hosting and pledging states to take the recommendations of civil society into consideration when setting implementation strategies and plans.

WILPF also welcomes the co-hosts’ attempt to involve Syrian civil society in the conference and regard it as a positive step forward. That said, the substance of this presence and the global response to the calls of Syrian grassroots organisation is yet to materialise. Also, their participation could have been far more efficient if better logistical support had been provided, if the organisations had been given more time to draft their communique (45 minutes), if the organisations hadn’t been chosen randomly, and if more had been done to capitalsize on their presence in London.

Laila Alodaat
London, 9 February 2016

On 5 February 2016, one day after the London conference on Syria, we co-hosted an event in the British Parliament for civil society entitled “What next after the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference?” Read a summary of points raised at this event here.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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