Finland's development cooperation in the Syrian crisis

Finland’s development cooperation in Syria and in its neighbouring countries promotes a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict and strengthens the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.

A scarf-headed woman in a refugee camp in Jordan.

In 2020, Finland contributed to the creation of aid employment for 2,347 women at the UN Women’s Oasis empowerment centre in Jordan. Similar centres have been set up in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps and in various locations in Jordan. They offer services to Syrian refugees and Jordanian women who are in a vulnerable position. Photo: UN Women

The Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, is one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Of people in Syria, 90 per cent depend on external assistance. Because of the war, several millions are either internally displaced or have left the country, and the neighbouring countries’ capacity to accommodate Syrian refugees is stretched to the limit. The conflict has increased instability in the Middle East and the consequences spill over into the security situation in Europe.

Finland’s Strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in the Syrian crisis should be adapted to reflect the changing demands, but this is difficult because of constant changes in the conflict.  The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of climate change also show in developments in Syria.

At the moment, Finland and Syria do not have diplomatic relations. In Syria, Finland follows the common policies of the EU and emphazises that both Finland and the EU should monitor the situation and adapt their work to the prevailing situation at any given time.

Finland wants to participate in formulating solutions that can contribute to ending the war and to alleviating the suffering caused by the war. The objectives of Finland’s comprehensive activities in Syria are described in the Country Programme for development cooperation. In 2021–2024, Finland will concentrate on strengthening the inclusiveness of the peace processes, accountability, and the application of the nexus approach in responding to the crisis.  In addition, Finland promotes gender equality, the rights of people who belong to the most vulnerable groups, as well as innovations and new solutions to humanitarian and other challenges.

Finland's Strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in the Syrian crisis (PDF, 496 KB)

Finland’s development cooperation in Syria in 2021–2024

In its development cooperation in Syria and its neighbouring regions, Finland will focus on peacebuilding and on strengthening the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.  Finland aims to allocate approximately EUR 30 million in 2021–2024 to actions supporting response to the Syrian crisis.   In addition, Finland will direct needs-based humanitarian assistance, which will be channelled via UN organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and Finnish civil society organisations engaged in humanitarian assistance. In 2020, Finland’s humanitarian assistance to Syria amounted to EUR 11.7 million.

Finland's planned development cooperation appropriations in the Syrian conflict 2021-2024. 4.3 million euros for gender equality, 10 million euros for rights of children and persons with disabilities, 15.7 million euros for peace building. Totalling 30 million euros.

During the previous programming period in 2017–2020, Finland’s support has focused especially on promoting the political process in Syria and work against impunity, supporting the most vulnerable groups of people, and helping refugees in the neighbouring countries of Syria.

Finland’s development cooperation supporting the peace process

Finnish development cooperation supports the participation of women and minority groups in the Syrian peace process and political development.

Expected outcome: Syria has capacity for inclusive, peaceful and democratic development

  • Cooperation between the parties to the peace process is strengthened
  • Women are able to participate in the peace process and Syria’s reconstruction
  • Syrian people’s own solutions are at the heart of the peace process

Ongoing programmes and projects

  • Support to mediation and peace work by UN Women and the Berghof Foundation In 2021, Finland will channel approximately EUR 1.3 million to mediation work related to the Syrian crisis.

Finland’s development cooperation promoting gender equality

In its development cooperation to strengthen equality, Finland focuses on improving the position and rights of women and girls in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, who are affected by the Syrian crisis

Expected outcome: Rights of women and girls are realised

  • Women have access to sexual and reproductive health services
  • There is less gender-based violence
  • Women have improved opportunities to earn a living or become self-employed

Ongoing programmes and projects

  • UN Women’s Eid bi Eid project in Jordan to empower women in refugee and host communities
  • UN Women 1325 regional programme

In 2021, Finland's development cooperation allocated to supporting the realisation of women's and girls’ rights in Syria’s neighbouring countries will be approximately EUR 1.8 million. In addition, Finland channels humanitarian funding, for example, to supporting the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Syria, which focuses on providing sexual and reproductive health services.

Finland’s development cooperation to improve the rights of children and persons with disabilities

Finland promotes children's access to education and to social support, develops services aimed at persons with disabilities, and contributes widely to disability inclusion in society.

Expected outcome: The rights of children and persons with disabilities are realised

  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict have better opportunities to education
  • Families in the most vulnerable situation have improved access to social welfare services
  • Support and income opportunities are made available for persons with disabilities

Ongoing programmes and projects

  • UNICEF No Lost Generation Lebanon
  • UNICEF No Lost Generation Syria
  • UNDP Supporting communities’ resilience through disability inclusion

In 2021, Finland's support aimed at improving the rights of children and persons with disabilities affected by the Syrian crisis will be approximately EUR 5 million.

Highlights of the Results Report 2022 

The conflict in Syria continued and the humanitarian and economic situation in the country deteriorated further. The poor security situation forced the refugee population to remain in neighbouring countries.

Finland supported the peace process by funding the Women’s Advisory Board (WAB) through UN Women. WAB provides high-level advice to the UN Syria Envoy. Finland also funded low-profile mediation and peacebuilding through the Berghof Foundation. It supported the UN IIIM, which continued to collect and analyse evidence concerning those responsible for the most serious international crimes in the conflict.

Finland supported gender equality and women’s rights in Jordan, through cooperation with UN Women.  Finland’s support increased access to integrated services, improved refugee and resilience responses, and enhanced women’s leadership capacity and livelihood opportunities. 

In Syria, with Finland’s support, UNICEF improved four schools with respect to gender requirements , provided prefabricated classrooms, furnished schools for 6,700 children and distributed school supplies to 8,100 children. Finland's contribution provided informal education for 8,900 out-of-school children, educational support for 162,000 children living in difficult conditions, and cash assistance and case management for 2,400 children with severe disabilities. Meanwhile, Finland’s support for the UNDP has addressed the needs of Syria’s disabled.

In Lebanon, Finland’s support for UNICEF provided 2,800 children and young people with access to various forms of education. In addition, 1,200 caregivers for children in need of specialised services were supported, and 800 vulnerable children received social assistance.

Finland’s partners of cooperation in Syria

Finland directs its support to the effects of the Syrian crisis mainly to multilateral organisations, such as the joint funding mechanisms administered by UN organisations.

Several Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) are carrying out projects in Syria and its neighbouring countries in collaboration with local organisations.

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