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3.4 Youth-led Social Cohesion, Reconciliation and Peace Building in Syria – UNDP Compendium

Chapter 3 Promoting Social Cohesion

3.4 Youth-led Social Cohesion, Reconciliation and Peace Building in Syria


To reinforce the social fabric to rebuild trust and the respect of others as foundations for enhanced social cohesion, including addressing the implications of the inter-generational gap and helping to define the role of youth in promoting social cohesion in rebuilding the social fabric.

Project Description

Building on programmatic observations, partner requests, assessment missions, and partner engagements in multiple locations in Syria, UNDP Syria has designed an integrated social cohesion approach which includes: 1) youth-led initiatives that are helping rebuild the social structure 2) a participative approach for early recovery and 3) a focus on developing local partners’ capacities for promoting a culture of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of the Other (the IDPs-host communities’ relationship). The integrated approach aims to build on and support ongoing achievements in livelihoods, service/infrastructure rehabilitation, and inter-communal engagement.

UNDP Syria’s Social Cohesion Projects are implemented in areas hosting a large number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and in locations where the nature of inter-communal and inter-religious relations offer a favourable environment such as Homs, Hasakeh and Rural Damascus. The integrated approach mobilises existing partnerships and supports the development of physical and social spaces for interaction such as clubs, parks, markets, grassroots committees; the approach also contributes to the capacity building of community-level actors by ensuring the inclusion of affected and vulnerable communities such as IDPs, women-headed households, youth, and persons with disabilities.

Through dialogue, problem-solving, and joint decision-making at the local level, the activities support collaborative processes and partnerships aimed at rebuilding frayed social capital in pre-identified communities impacted by the crisis. Through a conflict-prevention and conflict-analysis lens, a variety of activities that are of interest to participants, such as Food for Peace, music, drama, and Sport for Peace, promote the active participation of various groups in the process. UNDP capitalises on the role of women and the elderly to promote harmony at the local level and empower youth to play a pivotal role in social mobilisation for peace. NGOs and local Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) are the main partners in the implementation of such inter- and intra-communal activities.

Though the project touches many stakeholders, the main focus is on youth: addressing the social impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable youth; developing youth capacities in promoting a culture of tolerance, understanding and acceptance and engaging youth, youth organisations, and young entrepreneurs in activities that start rebuilding the social structure.


The interventions are primarily a process innovation in that they take an integrated approach to build on and support other programme areas, engage the most vulnerable groups to lead initiatives, and use area- based evidence to capture real needs in communities and identify the most appropriate implementation modality that fosters inclusiveness, ownership, and sustainability.

UNDP Syria has gained a clearer understanding of the context and needs by engaging at the local level with a variety of stakeholders to capture real needs and to co-design initiatives with beneficiaries. Through a participatory process with partners at multiple locations it has built relationships that make it easier to maintain a nuanced understanding of conflict, to get feedback on effectiveness of interventions and to adapt to changes.

The design required context-sensitive adaptation based on an excellent understanding of local actors and longer-term planning of social cohesion activities to ensure participation at the highest rates from different partners at the local level. This allowed for better operational processes and the achievement of desired results. The quality of partnership models and trust-based relations that were established with local associations, NGOs and CBOs, think tanks, and faith-based organisations have been of critical importance.

Good Practice Principles

Cost Effectiveness

The programme builds on existing initiatives and networks to avoid duplication or weakening of functioning systems and mechanisms and to ensure cost effectiveness. Participation of concerned actors and stakeholders is the backbone of a successful recovery path and the project recognises the need to engage with all concerned actors for effective and sustainable solutions. So far in Syria, the focus has been on local-level institutions (technical departments in governorates, municipalities, NGOs, CBOs, and faith-based organisations) to carry out recovery/development processes aiming to ensure stability and security.

Sustainable Benefits

The social cohesion projects increase the capacity and effectiveness of societal actors, strengthen and expand networks, and contribute to the development of the informal processes required for reconciliation and social cohesion at scale across the country.

Locally Led

The project engages with local, youth-led projects and youth entrepreneurs; it also builds partnerships with local NGOs and CBOs to develop the capacities of the participants and volunteers.

Collaborative Resilience-Based Action

Social cohesion projects enhance the resilience of the youth affected communities and IDPs.

Contribution to Social Cohesion

Rebuilding social cohesion is the main focus of the projects.


UNDP Syria, national and local partners (NGOs, CBOs, faith- based organisations), youth-led initiatives, and young entrepreneurs.

Contact Person

Name: Hala Rizk


Related Websites

Partners for this project

UNDP SyriaUnited Nations Development Program