Paths to coexistence in Mesopotamia and the Middle East

The "Save the Tigris campaign" launched 5 years ago has demonstrated the vital importance of civil society in the establishment of historically relevant relationships and regional alliances between Iraqis, Syrians and Turks/Kurds, which are not only possible but also of great strategical importance. In recent years, Iraqi advocacy skills have increased and the population itself is beginning to organise and support campaigns on rights and peacebuilding.

This is the background to UPP’s development of a twin-track regional strategy: the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees and IDPs; and in parallel, efforts to reinforce local civil society so that they can continue and replicate the humanitarian work  - to be the focal point for the creation of new small-scale methods for up-scaling.

This is the premise for the three-year programme “Paths to coexistence in the Middle East”, with support from  the International Assistance Foundation (FAI), with three main areas of work: management of community divisions exasperated by Daesh, with campaigns for social cohesion; involvement of the population in protection of their cultural and environmental heritage; peace building and non-violent conflict mediation.

The goal is to go beyond the fundamentalist beliefs encouraged by Daesh, by building trust between communities by developing a shared sense of pride in their cultural and environmental heritage, by encouraging peaceful coexistence and a common sense of ownership of the land.

To this end, a series of initiatives and campaigns will be launched to promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence in 8 Iraqi cities, 1 Syrian city and 1 Turkish city, on the banks of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates, to be known as Social Pacts for Peaceful coexistence.

To encourage the exchange of best practice and overcome divisions caused by war and fundamentalism, civil society in each city will encourage citizen participation with the “We love (city name)” campaign,  followed by the launch of a national “We love Iraq” Forum campaign  and a regional “We love Mesopotamia” Forum.

The project also includes a three-year training course for more than 1,000 social workers -  a third of whom will be under the age of 30 and a third of whom will be women - with a focus on methodologies and tools for social cohesion and regional meetings to encourage the exchange best practice and know-how.

The "Save the Tigris campaign" will reinforce a shared sense of identity and belonging in terms of the cultural and environmental heritage of Mesopotamia for Iraqis, Syrians and Turks, by taking concrete action to save the Tigris ecosystem.

There will also be a Regional Forum on Water Rights in Iraq with around 500 participants from the region with 3 working groups in Iraq and 1 in Turkey, working to guarantee protection and access to Iraq’s UNESCO heritage sites in their respective areas, as well as the reformulation of site management plans to allow the population to contribute to the protection and management of their sites.

Civil Peace Initiatives will be coordinated in order to encourage coexistence between local communities and Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, and between local communities and Iraqi returnees to to their home towns previously occupied by Daesh.

A 1-year mission of International Peace Corps Teams in Beirut and Amman, joined for shorter periods by International Volunteers based in Iraq and Local Peace Teams formed in at least 4 cities in the Ninive Governorate, will help local associations strengthen local civil society and thereby contribute to overcoming prejudice with the promotion of coexistence.

This Peacebuilding project will include 300 workers and 10,000 civil society activists from 10 Iraqi cities, Syria and Turkey; around 3,000 people will direct beneficiaries of the Save the Tigris campaign; at least 50,000 signatures on the “We love (…)” action plan and at least 30,000 people reached by awareness-raising campaigns promoted by Peace groups.

The impact of these peacebuilding initiatives will be evaluated with a view to upscaling the whole project through international advocacy campaigns.


Project Name: Paths to coexistence in Mesopotamia and the Middle East

Project Type: Peacebuilding, social cohesion and support for civil society

Beneficiaries: IDP communities with a special focus on women and youth, local civil society organisations

Length: January 2017 - January 2020

Project areas: Hit, Ramadi, Tikrit, Najaf, Nassiria, Amara, Babil (Iraq), Qameshlo (Siria), Hasankeyf (Turchia), Beirut (Lebanon) e Amman (Jordan).

Local partners: ICSSI, Iraqi Social Forum, Save the Tigris Campaing, Doz, Save Hasankeyf, Information Centre

Donor: Fondation Assistance Internationale (FAI)