Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/Preservation and Development - MAM
Preservation and Development - MAM
Project implmented by the Government of Syria
Damascus, November 2010
Project co-financed by EuropeAid
In Syria now, it is a time of division, violence and suffering. When we were there in November 2010 and in August 2011, we recorded many stories of cooperation and development. Nowadays, only sad and violent stories are narrated about this wonderful country. What then shall we do with these stories we collected in Syria in what now seems to be a different "age" altogether? Well, we decided to re-edit the videos we had made, include them in the Handbook we are developing and share them through the Internet. These videos will help us remember what Syria was before the civil war. And we hope that these stories will help restore trust amongst communities in Syria, and build, amongst those who love this country, the motivation to do whatever they can to restore peace and cooperation.
The Village Business Incubator project was one component of a vast cooperation program between EU and Syria aimed at expanding mutual trade, but included also social development, policy modernization and the protection of the cultural heritage. In 2012 the EU has suspended the cooperation with the Syrian Government; but the projects with Syrian civil society are continuing.
Decentralization is the process of redistributing authority and functions from a big institution to many smaller institutions that are closer to where people live and also more open to people's needs and rights. Decentralization is often seen as a means to foster people's participation in decision making. In political decentralization, the principle of subsidiarity is applied, i.e. the principle of matters being "handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority capable of addressing that matter effectively".
The treaty of the European Union is, in fact, based on the principle of "subsidiarity"; and in International Cooperation, the European Union promotes decentralization as a means of increasing the overall quality and effectiveness of public governance, promoting participation in decision-making and protecting cultural diversities.
In November 2010, we traveled to Damascus to meet the team that was implementing a decentralisation programme of the Government of Syria across the cities of Damascus, Tartous, Aleppo, Homs and Palmyra. Called "Municipality Administration Modernization" or MAM in short, this cooperation programme was funded by the European Union. We visited the old city of Damascus with some of the team members to observe and understand the activities they were carrying out. We talked to them about the challenges they faced and the successes they had achieved; we asked them about the changes they had observed since the programme began and the way forward in this partnership.
In Damascus, the European experts shared with Syrian municipal authorities their experiences in managing local architectural heritage as a means for cultural preservation and economic development. Through this project, the owners of old buildings in the historic city centre of Damascus were given loans for rehabilitating their homes.
'It is expensive to renovate old buildings, so the owners prefer to sell and leave rather than rehabilitate their homes. We do not want our city to become a museum, so we are giving soft loans to many owners and supporting them with technical and financial advise. Besides this, we are building awareness amongst owners on the advantages of rehabilitation and availing of benefits and services being offered for this purpose”.
Phase 1 of the Syrian government's decentralisation programme had been a great success. Phase 2 had just started when political unrest began in Syria. The European Union withdrew its funding and the project was consequently suspended.
Advocates of decentralization maintain that decentralization helps prevent conflicts because it reduces inequities between regions, unless of course local politicians mobilize minorities and extremist groups towards conflicts with other regions or national governments. The Syrian government has maintained that decentralization can promote peace if it encourages statewide parties to integrate regional demands and limit the power of regional parties. Regional parties instead demanded full autonomy or even independence. Without a democratic communication climate and within a regional atmosphere of mistrust amongst communities, ethnic groups and nations, the decentralization process that started in Syria as a positive sum game of reciprocal subsidiarity became a sad power game of conflict and violence where all players now stand to lose. Except of course the arm dealers, the advocates of ethnic and religious clashes ... and the coffin makers.
On YouTube ⇒ MAM - playlist
Additional Information about the project
Aimed at improving the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of local governance structures and processes and make them more participatory at the local levels, the Municipality Administration Management (MAM) programme of cooperation between the European Commission and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic is one of the best practices among development and decentralisation projects funded through European tax payer money.
With the objective of stimulating local development through support to tourism, solid waste management, traffic control, citizen information windows, the phase I of MAM has been implemented in 14 towns and cities in Syria including Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Palmyra, Tartous. Grants that were allocated for Phase 2 of MAM have now been suspended due to the current political and security situation in Syria. The implementing partners of this project were the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment of Syria, Governorate of Damascus, and the cities of Aleppo, Homs, Tartous, Hama and other towns, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Investment Bank.
In Damascus, this project focused on sustainable urban development through the rehabilitation, maintenance and renewal of the Old City. The activities included the conservation and development of the heritage of the old city by improving the urban spaces, signage, creating tourist itineraries with the aim of offering residents and visitors the opportunity to avail modern services within an authentic traditional environment.
The local government in Aleppo received strategic support for urban development in order to develop a strategy for improving the living conditions in informal settlements and facilitating citizens’ initiatives. The local government has also received support for the Old City administration through promotion of economic activity in traditional crafts (textiles) and implementing the conservation and development plan in certain areas. Legislative contributions were elaborated and the development status of Syrian towns and cities was analysed to help promote a sustainable urban development policy
In cooperation with the German cooperation agency, the Governorate of Damascus set up a consultation service for owners of buildings/ builders within the Old City wherein low-interest loans and related incentives have been provided to owners of old buildings for restoration and rehabilitation. To this end, pilot projects have been initiated in public private partnerships, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The public space of the old city, its management and visibility, has improved through this project.
The initiative has been supported by awareness and capacity building of Syrian experts in Europe. As part of the national debate on sustainable urban development policy, a conference of 110 city mayors was held to discuss and agree on a draft white paper on “Sustainable Urban Development in Syria”. Recommendations to the Syrian Government based on this are expected to lead to the formulation of a sustainable urban development policy.
The EUGAD team went to the Old city and talked to the staff of the German cooperation agency, the Damascus municipality employees and the owners of old buildings.
“We do not want our city to become a museum because it is expensive to renovate old buildings and owners therefore prefer to sell and leave rather than rehabilitate. We are giving soft loans supported by technical and financial consultancy. Besides this, we are conducting a lot of awareness building activities to inform owners of the advantage of renovating and services being offered for the same”, says an employee of the German cooperation agency.
⇒ Palmyra, Italian Archaeological Mission
⇒ Preservation and Development - Citadel - Damascus
⇒ Heritage and Community ⇒ playlist
⇒ Responsible Development - Varanasi ⇒ playlist
⇒ Youth & Heritage - Sweida - ⇒ playlist
⇒ Muisca Indigenous Heritage ⇒ playlist