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The 9th Annual General Meeting of The White Helmets (Syria Civil Defence)

This gathering aimed to address diverse aspects concerning the institution, its role, tasks, development, control mechanisms, and governance.

The General Assembly of the White Helmets (Syria Civil Defence) convened its ninth annual meeting from December 10 to 13 in Türkiye, Adana. This came after two postponements due to the devastation of the February 6th earthquake and the October military escalation by regime forces and Russia, the most intense military escalation in four years in northwestern Syria. This gathering aimed to address diverse aspects concerning the institution, its role, tasks, development, control mechanisms, and governance. The agenda also included a review of annual reports, assessments of the previous year's activities, plans for the upcoming year, and significant amendments aimed at boosting effectiveness and efficiency.

Attendance and Representation

The meeting saw the attendance of 138 White Helmets volunteers from committees, and administrative offices. Among them, 93 were members of the General Assembly. In addition, representatives from humanitarian organizations, international donor entities, and several distinguished guests were also in attendance.

Proceedings of the Meeting

The discussions during the meeting centered on several critical aspects, with a primary focus on the challenging and pivotal period in the lives of Syrians following the devastating earthquake on February 6. The talks also addressed external challenges and achievements, particularly the expansion of foreign offices and the establishment of additional bureaus. Additionally, there was in-depth deliberation on regulatory measures, governance practices, and audit mechanisms across the various entities affiliated with the institution.

The meeting encompassed an assessment of the previous year's activities, a thorough discussion of the plan for the upcoming year, and the presentation of annual reports from the institution's departments. Reports from external offices and those from the Deputy General Director for Humanitarian, External, and Support Affairs were also reviewed. The agenda included discussions on compliance and an external audit report.

Moreover, the meeting involved the re-election of committees, such as those for Elections and Membership, Hero Fund, and Appeals Committee. Several items were presented for voting and approval.

Administrative and Organization Achievements Highlighted During the Meeting

The organization placed special emphasis on organizational and administrative development, as well as the improvement of service quality. The following are the key achievements that were highlighted:

  • Enhancement of risk management, control, and governance.
  • Complete automation of Syria Civil Defence operations through a system designed and executed with in-house expertise.
  • Advancement of storage systems and equipment preservation.
  • Development of a warehouse management system with a direct technological management mechanism, enhancing the transparency and efficiency of asset delivery operations.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive resource consumption regulation policy across all operational costs, particularly in the management of the institution's fleet.
  • Advancement of financial auditing systems and managerial methodologies, emphasizing flexibility.
  • Launch of a development and innovation program.
  • Establishment of the Strategic Development and Institutional Excellence Department, playing a clear role in shaping the institution's policy and defining its objectives.
  • Formation of new external offices as part of our expanded external reach.
  • Execution of over fifty service projects, including the rehabilitation of damaged structures, public facilities, and road infrastructure.

Honoring Our Partners

In acknowledgment of the substantial efforts made by our partners and donors to support the foundation, a special tribute was extended during the meeting. Chemonics was recognized for its decade-long partnership, standing alongside us at every crucial juncture in our mission to save lives, support communities, and bolster resilience. The Syria Campaign was also acknowledged for its pivotal role in defending the rights and lives of Syrians, addressing the plight of detainees and the missing, holding fundraising campaigns, and providing vital support in countering disinformation campaigns.

Additionally, we paid tribute to the late James Le Mesurier, acknowledging his invaluable contributions as the director of "Rescue Mayday." This organization served as a crucial link between donor countries and the White Helmets, facilitating the management of funds for the training of volunteers and the procurement of essential equipment used in our field operations for search and rescue.

Key Outcomes of the Meeting

The meeting yielded several significant outcomes, with the most noteworthy being the approval of amendments to the internal regulations regarding the election of representatives to the General Assembly. These amendments were crafted to align with administrative changes and guarantee that external offices are represented. Additionally, a decision was reached to reduce the number of Board of Directors members from 11 to 7, including the Council President and their deputy, with a requirement that the council includes no fewer than 2 women.

Furthermore, consensus was achieved within the General Assembly to introduce a new article to the bylaws, granting the administration the authority to establish a supervisory council consisting of independent members from outside the organization.

These substantial amendments are aimed at fostering transparency and governance, ensuring internal accountability, inclusivity, diversity, and robust representation. The objective is to meet the highest global standards in governance and management.

The General Assembly

The General Assembly of The White Helmets (Syria Civil Defence) is the highest legislative body within the institution, responsible for issuing decisions. It comprises representatives elected by the members of the institution, who attend annual meetings as representatives of the entire voting membership. All members of the Board of Directors are elected from representatives of the General Assembely at the national level without any restrictions.

Since the signing of the founding charter in 2014, the Syria Civil Defence has convened annual meetings to discuss and update internal regulations, conduct elections for Board of Directors and committee memberships, review activities implemented in the previous year, and examine financial reports and audit findings.

The ninth annual meeting of the General Meeting of the Syria Civil Defence was a pivotal event reflecting the ongoing effort to focus the institution's efforts and strategize on effective resource utilization. The goal is to take into account emerging opportunities, respond efficiently, and manage time, energy, and resources with greater efficiency and effectiveness. This approach is aimed at addressing complex challenges, adapting to change, and responding effectively to the evolving humanitarian landscape.