The reconstruction plans of the al-Assad regime largely ignore the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. The regime’s reconstruction strategy does not address the most pressing needs of over 10 million Syrian IDPs and refugees. Instead it caters mostly to the economic interests of the regime itself and its allies.
Current Syrian legislation obstructs the return of IDPs and refugees, and legalizes the deprivation of rights of residents of informal settlements. A series of tailor-made laws have made it legal to deprive inhabitants of informal settlements of their rights. This includes the restriction of housing, land and property rights through Decree 66, Law No. 10, the restriction of basic rights under the counterterrorism law, and the legal bases for public-private co-investments. These laws also serve the interests of regime cronies and regime-loyal forces. The process of demographic engineering in former opposition-held territories, which has already begun, driven by campaigns of forced displacement and the evictions of original residents, is being cemented by these laws. They considerably discourage and obstruct refugees from returning to Syria. Funding reconstruction under the umbrella of the Syrian state threatens to reinforce this policy.
Under the current circumstances, reconstruction would further strengthen the dictatorship and its nepotism, as well as fuel new conflicts. Current housing, land and property rights are a key driving factor for future con icts in Syria, and are expected to considerably increase the existing and massive social inequalities in Syrian society that were major motivating factors at the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011.
Instead of providing reconstruction assistance to the country, the allies of the Syrian regime are plundering the country’s natural resources. Iran and Russia in particular are hardly contributing towards a base for future reconstruction. Rather they are plundering the country’s few resources. One example is the Russian-Syrian agreement on the use of phosphate resources, which assures a Russian company 70 percent of all the phosphate extracted while the Syrian government will get only 30 percent. Such agreements jeopardize the prospect of economic stabilization in Syria, as potential tax and foreign exchange earnings are compromised.
Reconstruction fails as a means of political pressure on the Syrian regime. So far, the al-Assad regime has attempted in vain to force European states to fund Syria’s reconstruction by using the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Europe as a “bait”. At the same time, Western states have not been very successful in making financial pledges for reconstruction conditional, attempting to use them as a foreign policy tool to aid political change in Syria. This is due to the fact that the military victories of
the al-Assad regime and its allies have reduced what little pressure there was on the Syrian regime to commit to reforms or a political transition. Its current reconstruction strategy illustrates how the promise of reconstruction funds cannot be used to pressure for substantial change within the Syrian regime.
No reconstruction without peace. Experiences from other con icts show that reconstruction only makes sense a er armed conflicts have ended – that is, when all hostilities have ceased and a peace agreement is signed. Syria still has a long way to go in this respect, as no notable progress has been made with the Geneva peace process. Before committing to any reconstruction aid, there must be a political solution to the con ict in Syria.
Reconstruction aid must be tailored to the needs of those affected and involve Syrian civil society. If reconstruction is to lay the foundation for the return of IDPs and refugees to their home country, their needs must be assessed and their participation in the reconstruction process ensured. In addition to material needs and assuring legal rights regarding housing, land and property rights are maintained, other obstacles to return must also be eliminated, such as, for example, establishing effective protection against potential state persecution. This is why Syrian civil society and the diaspora should be involved in reconstruction planning by Germany or the European Union at an early stage.
Dr. Joseph Daher – Reconstructing Syria: How the al-Assad regime is capitalizing on destruction
Jihad Yazigi – Reconstruction or Plunder? How Russia and Iran are dividing Syrian Resources
Dr. Salam Said – Reconstruction as a foreign policy tool
Alhakam Shaar- Reconstruction, but for whom? Embracing the role of Aleppo’s displaced
Dispossessed and deprived:
Three case studies of Syrians affected by the Syrian land and property rights
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