Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/Youth & Heritage
Youth and Heritage
Project implemented by COSV, Italy in partnership with Al-Makan Art Association and Syrian organisation for sustainable development
Sweida, Syria, October 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 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.
We want to remove the obstacles to development. We advocate "modernization". So we advocate for "change". However many experiences have taught us that changes are not always improvements. When change is too fast, sometimes it breaks the social unity of local populations. In such cases, after a quick economic growth, societies fall back into recession and misery. So in order to promote a socially sustainable development, we need to invest also in the preservation of the traditional cultural values of societies that we want to change for the better.
In 2010, we traveled to Sweida to meet a group of Syrian youth who were participating in a cooperation project on rediscovering and reviving local heritage. This project was funded by the European Union through its annual donation support for cultural projects and was implemented by a partnership of COSV, an Italian organisation, and two Syrian organisations, the Al-Makan Art Associationand the Syrian Organisation for Sustainable Development
As Swaida is a city located in a famous ancient wine-producing region of southwestern Syria, close to the country's border with Jordan. Most families in Sweida are Druze, one of Syria's smallest minority communities, constituting around 3% of Syria's population and mostly living in the rocky mountains of Jabal Al Arab. The Druze community is spread across Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. Druze culture is very rich, but it is particularly vulnerable to the kind of nationalism that would like borders to be raised along religious and ethnic lines.
In this project, the youth in Sweida and Palmyra worked together to discover their heritage, both tangible (like architectural assets) and intangible (like songs, stories, customs, etc.). The youth conducted research on what constituted the cultural values upon which their communities had been founded and they learned how to communicate these values in contemporary language. They used visual arts, theatre, internet, and social gatherings and they moved to different communities with the two project buses they had equipped for animating social events. In this way, they raised the awareness among local communities of how their heritage was a resource for development and not only a relic of the past.
On YouTube ⇒ Youth & Heritage - playlist
⇒ Palmyra, Italian Archaeological Mission
⇒ Preservation and Development - Citadel - Damascus
⇒ Heritage and Community ⇒ playlist
⇒ Responsible Development - Varanasi (8) - ⇒ playlist
⇒ Preservation and Development - MAM - Damascus (8) - ⇒ playlist