International Alert is pleased to launch Create Syria, an open call for Syrian artists in exile in Lebanon, including theatre directors, actors, photographers and filmmakers, to pitch any idea that draws on the arts – performance, visual, literary or otherwise – to support dialogue and resilience between refugees and communities across Lebanon.
As the crisis in Syria moves steadily towards its fifth year, the conflict appears to become ever more protracted and entrenched. The prospects for those living in exile in the region are becoming bleaker. Indeed, the UN’s regional response plan for refugees is dealing with the largest movement of displaced people since the Second World War. In Lebanon, the refugee crisis continues to put pressure on the country and its people, so the need to support both refugees and host community relations is pressing.
By working closely with the British Council and the independent cultural organisation Ettijahat in Lebanon, Alert has developed an innovative way of supporting the engagement of Syrians in exile with their Lebanese hosts. The project will allow artists to collaborate with their peers and provide a means to combat the challenges of the prevailing refugee crisis and the increasing frustration it brings. At the heart of this work is dialogue through art. At the same time, it aims to enhance the ability of artists and artists’ networks to exchange ideas, connect and share skills. Through their arts initiatives, there will be increased access to culture for communities, as well as stronger connections between artists who continue to find themselves displaced from their own communities by the ongoing war.
Since 2014, Alert has been working on a new arts-based peacebuilding approach to our programming. Alert's Programme Development Adviser Charlotte Onslow has been working to lead the development of a conceptual framework for this approach. Alert's and others' experiences from around the world, tells us that art can be helpful for peacebuilding in multiple ways – it can be empowering, give self-worth, be joyful in time of violence and despair, challenge stereotypes, and generate compassion and empathy for others. Art can also help put the human experience at the centre of our work.
Our arts-based peacebuilding programming harnesses the arts, such as theatre, photography, music and film, along with a broad range of other peacebuilding methods to build capacity and resilience, challenge and renegotiate power, and facilitate and catalyse dialogue between opposing groups and across generations. Create Syria will see the creation of 10 arts projects that seek to do just this with communities in Lebanon.
The artists taking part in the project will be shortlisted in December and early next year we will begin to see the fruits of their work. We look forward to sharing some of these creative works with you in 2016. You can find out more about the call for artists here and find out more about the project here.