"- I need a trash can close to my desk. - Sure, submit an application, and we'll add it to next year's budget. #That's_what_the_donor_wants"
The thrust of the new campaign, #That's_what_the_donor_wants, on Syrian social media outlets can be surmised from the above sarcastic posting. The campaign, and the event that was created posthumously, reflects a growing unease among Syrian commentators as well as civil society workers with the relationship between international donors and development agencies and their Syrian counterparts and beneficiaries. Hints of corruption, mismanagement, confused priorities and hierarchical inflexibility appear in many of the postings in the viral campaign.
"- How much is your salary? - I'm a volunteer so I don't have a salary. But I get a compensation of $2000 per month from the donor. #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
"- I should start English classes. #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
One of the most repeated themes is the feeling that international organisations frown on all expressions of religiosity. Many believe that to be perceived as religious will have detrimental effects on any projects one may wish to acquire funding for - where projects are evaluated on personal perceptions and prejudices rather than their own merits.
"- Hajj, there's a donor at the door. - Hurry up, remove this prayer rug, and hand me my shorts and t-shirt, and if they ask you, you tell them this is a prayer room for all different religions, and switch the Quran channel to Rotana Music. - But... why all this? - #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
This disconnect between the "donor" and the local population is also an often invoked critique.
"He grants an hour of his precious time, at his 5 star hotel at Gaziantep, where he gets his travel per diem and an extra insurance for security; and the first thing he tells you: It's impossible to afford more than $2/per hour for the teacher's salary. #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
Several posts also dealt with the pressure by international organisations to focus on specific issues, as well as the shifting priorities and short-term strategies of these organisations.
"-Listen, no more of that relief work. We're switching to development now. That's the latest fashion. - Who told you that? - #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
But the "donors" culture that permeated Syrian society in the past 5 years and that is being critiqued here is wider than international NGOs. "Donors" are also the ones fuelling the continuation of the war and supporting the different militias in return for their loyalties.
"- A civil society organisation became a militia. #That's_what_the_donor_wants."
This culture is bringing a dramatic change to the lives of Syrian and to their perceptions of the options they are offered to fund their projects, either money fuelling a rise in Islamism and extremism, or money that is disconnected from their reality and their needs.
"At the end of the day we have two options: - either become Sheikhs, and organise Islamic activities, - or become pimps and organise projects to empower this, and raise awareness of that. #That's_what_the_donor_wants."