Who is funding it? What are the objectives? How much are they looking to fund?
It’s a very clear cut, very transparent grant. Basically it’s two groups of organisations — One is an American foundation and one is an organisation that has a mandate to try to assist a large number of refugees in the region, both in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. The two organisations are trying to make that happen with the aid group working with the Lebanese government and the Syrian group working with international forces.
It is very clear and has been public since the day they announced the grant — the idea is to try to provide a sort of an international bridge connecting some refugees to this sort of international aid organisation that can support them and then also to some of the Syrian refugee aid organisations who are now trying to sort of support them without the assistance of this external organisation.
Why do you think the USA has funded it?
One of the things the USA did that was a great thing was it brought together US and European NGOs to work together. So it was not quite the case that you needed to get a grant from a foreign government to work in the Middle East, but rather you needed to get funding from a USA-affiliated NGO. It was a great thing because it allowed you to sort of work in the region as closely as you could with the other NGOs.
The USA also provided us with some training. We now have a really good team of people working there. But also it was important that these organizations not be seen to be involved in the political activities of their governments. And in the case of Lebanon, it’s the only country in the region where they have a government that is so corrupt and the economy is so terrible, so it would be difficult for NGOs to work there.
In the USA, there’s a lot of pressure on the NGOs to sort of toe the line. And we don’t want to do that. So the USA funding is not about having an American stamp. It’s about the NGOs being able to take a big risk in getting involved.
When did this start?
Well, right before Obama came into office. It started in 2011.
There are so many stories of people that went out and said they’d like to work in Syria, but they don’t have the money to do it. Do you think it will be a long term change?
Yes I think so. What will happen is that people see the opportunities and they will
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