Want to help Syrian refugees? Start working with the EU's Madad Fund

The first board meeting of the EU regional trust fund in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Also called the Madad Fund, it was launched less than a year ago to mobilize support for refugees and host communities in Syria's neighboring countries. How can organizations access such funding? Photo by: Jennifer Jacquemart / European Union

In the past few weeks, shocking images of hundreds of Syrian asylum-seekers seeking safe haven in Europe have put a face to what the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has described as the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” But back in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt — five countries where 98 percent of the Syrian refugees live in congested camps under increasingly dire living conditions — global attention on the scale of the human tragedy is dwindling.

As the conflict enters its fifth year, donor fatigue is slowly creeping in: As of September 2015, about two-thirds of U.N. coordinated appeals dedicated to the Syrian crisis remain unfunded. The needs, however, are huge: 4.1 million Syrians — or nearly a fifth of the country’s prewar population — have now sought shelter abroad. And the numbers are climbing.

This isn’t to say that donors have not demonstrated a commendable amount of solidarity with Syrian refugees. Despite an uncoordinated, lurching stance toward those reaching their borders, the European Union and its member states have already disbursed some 3.9 billion euros ($4.4 billion) worth of relief to Syria and its neighboring countries.

But the Syrian refugee crisis is here to stay. And as that realization dawns on the international community, more sustainable options are now being sought for the Syrians who have found refuge in their nation’s immediate neighborhood.

An illustrative example of the shift from temporary emergency aid to a more comprehensive assistance strategy covering both humanitarian and developmental aspects is the EU regional trust fund in response to the Syrian crisis — also known as the Madad Fund. Established in December 2014, this new trust fund pools resources from EU institutions, European member states and other donors to defuse the destabilizing effects of the Syrian refugee crisis by sponsoring a range of resilience and early recovery activities in the region.

With an initial funding of 40 million euros, the Madad Fund has recently launched a first package of programs focused on improving the education and livelihood prospects of 400,000 Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan — especially children and young people.

Who's giving to the Syrian people?

The international community has been providing financial assistance to displaced Syrians since the country’s civil war broke out in 2011. Devex takes a look at which countries have contributed the most this year, and at where their funds have been going.

Additional tranches of funding can however be expected in the near future, as further contributions continue to feed into the instrument. Earlier this month, the EU announced its intention to “significantly” ramp up its financial support to the trust fund before the end of the year.

So how does one access funding under this flexible mechanism? Whether you are a major development agency or a grass-roots nonprofit, here are four important things you need to keep in mind when soliciting donations from the Madad fund.

1. Grasp the opportunity — but do your homework.

Unlike most EU funding instruments, the Madad Fund boasts grant application procedures that are much more fluid and streamlined.

For one, there is no call for proposals. Applications can be sent anytime, and the full spectrum of aid actors — from U.N. agencies and big nongovernmental organizations to national development agencies and local groups — are invited to submit a proposal, with no preset funding ceiling for each category of partners.

Although a specific format might be introduced in the coming months, current grant applications to the Madad Fund need only to follow the standard EU format. Potential candidates are also not required to register in PADOR, the EU’s online database for grant applicants — a process that can be particularly time-consuming for smaller organizations with limited capacity or are working with the EU for the first time.

Added flexibility, however, doesn’t entail decreased scrutiny. Upon receipt, your proposal will be carefully evaluated against a detailed set of operational criteria, so be sure that your suggested action meets some fundamental principles — the most important of which are relevance, complementarity and impact.

2. Many heads are better than one: Team up.

While submitting a project proposal on your own is not excluded, the Madad Fund is keen to foster coherence and efficiency by limiting the number of funded actions. This means that becoming part of a joint regional proposal — either as a co-beneficiary or a subgrantee — can maximize your chances of getting your project funded.

3. See the bigger picture: Think long term.

The time frame for actions financed under the Madad Fund is only limited by the fund’s current lifetime, which has been initially set at five years from December 2014. As a result, long-term planning is not only possible, but also strongly encouraged — especially in light of the resilience focus of the actions to be supported. In fact, the EU has indicated that project duration should ideally be between 24 and 54 months.

4. Keep tabs on the fund’s evolving priorities.

In its strategic orientation document, the Madad Fund indicated its intention to focus its first year of operations on enhancing education opportunities for Syrian children, youth and adults currently living in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

But with the U.N.’s regional refugee and resilience plan as a guide, the EU regional trust fund is expected to successively adopt new priorities over the next four years — some of which could include health, WASH, food security or shelter.

The dates and priorities of future rounds of funding have yet to be set, so be sure to keep an eye out for any upcoming meeting of the trust fund’s operational board. The European Commission also organizes regular information sessions during which partner organizations can ask questions and share concerns.

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About the author

  • Devos manola

    Manola De Vos

    Manola De Vos is an Engagement Lead for Devex’s Analytics team in Manila. She leads and designs customized research and analysis for some of the world’s most well-respected organizations, providing the solutions and data they need to grow their partner base, work more efficiently, and drive lasting results. Prior to joining Devex, Manola worked in conflict analysis and political affairs for the United Nations, International Crisis Group and the EU.