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4.5 Building Markets – Syria – UNDP Compendium

CHAPTER 4 Engaging with Business Markets

4.5 Building Markets – Syria


To facilitate the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance inside Syria by increasing the pool of Syrian civil society organisations (CSOs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that can access partnership and contracting opportunities.

Project Description

Building Markets encourages economic growth and job creation in crisis- affected countries by bringing visibility to local businesses, increasing their competitiveness, and connecting them to new opportunities. The organisation adapts its model to CSOs where there is a demand and gap in the market.

Syrian CSOs and SMEs possess unique access, relationships and expertise. However, their ability to compete for, and win, humanitarian contracts, is extremely limited due to capacity constraints and unrealistic donor expectations and requirements. This hinders the delivery of lifesaving assistance and creates a dependence on foreign aid.

In 2014, OCHA commissioned Building Markets to carry out research in Southern Turkey that would pinpoint opportunities to expand the number of Syrian organisations eligible for funding. In 2016, Building Markets launched a programme directly implementing its recommendations. This includes addressing information asymmetries by profiling Syrian SMEs and CSOs, the design of a tailored training and mentorship programme, and building an online digital platform to allow SMEs, CSOs and international entities to connect, partner, and do business more effectively.


Building Markets’ model represents a process innovation. The organisation has been measuring the impact of spending on host economies since 2004 when it conducted groundbreaking research on the local economic impact of ten United Nations peacekeeping operations. The findings of that study showed that the presence of the UN not only restored peace and security but spending on local procurement and staff wages directly stimulated the local economy. However, it also demonstrated that there was considerable room to enhance the positive economic impact of missions, in particular, through greater local procurement.

As a result, Building Markets launched its first Marketplace programme in Afghanistan in 2006. This model has been scaled across six countries and has shown that enabling local SMEs to participate in the supply chains of buyers can revitalise domestic industries, improve local business capacity, create jobs, reduce poverty and attract investment. Buyers include aid agencies, international NGOs, the local private sector and government, and multi-national corporations.

To date, Building Markets has supported more than 23,000 local SMEs, assisted them in winning over USD 1.3 billion in contracts, and helped create more than 69,000 jobs.

Good Practice Principles


To facilitate local spending and investment, Building Markets makes it as easy as possible, while not sacrificing value for money, for international and local organisations to do business together. This includes leveraging local talent, standardising verification and assessment approaches, and facilitating relationship building, all of which reduces costs and increases the quality and sustainability of services and outcomes.

Collaborative Resilience-Based Action

In addition to its focus on increasing local capacity, Building Markets actively works to build and strengthen ecosystems that support local businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations well beyond the existence of a programme. This includes creating and organising relevant networks such as mentors, advisors, buyers, and investors that provide a forum for exchanging ideas, foster relationships and ensure success.

Sustainable Benefits

Expanding partnerships and funding to local entities – both directly and indirectly – accelerates the international community’s ability to meet its strategic objectives. This generates economic opportunities and increases the capacity and performance of a network of local partners who can play a part in short and long-term recovery and development efforts.

Locally Led

More broadly, ensuring that development efforts are locally led is at the heart of the Building Markets mission. This programme will work with 600 local CSOs and SMEs to boost their competitiveness, success in implementing contracts, and ability to expand. In addition, Building Markets is partnering with Syrian experts to lead relevant aspects of its work.

Contribution to Social Cohesion

By expanding opportunities for local organisations, businesses, and individuals, markets and communities are strengthened, and more and more citizens become stakeholders in peace.


Corporations, investors, the UN, NGOs, civil society organisations and local businesses.

Contact Person

Name: Kavya Raman, Project Director


Related Websites

Partners for this project

Building MarketsBuilding Markets