On the occasion of its participation in the international conference "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" held in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday 5 April 2017, and particularly the technical workshops on Tuesday 4 April 2017 titled “Assessing the Needs, towards Post-Agreement Planning,” ESCWA disseminated today the following paper:
Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region
National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme (NAFS)
Six blood-drenched years have passed since the start of the Syrian crisis, which is proving to be one of the severest humanitarian crises facing the international community since the end of the Second World War, if not the severest. So far, the international community has been unable to find a political solution to stop the bloodshed and to limit its repercussions for the region and the world.
Around 470,000 people have lost their lives, equivalent to over 3.5 per cent of the remaining population in Syria after more than a quarter of its people were forced to seek refuge across the world, and over 6.3 million Syrians have been internally displaced. The gravity of the crisis has become the greatest challenge to global peace, because of regional and international military transformations and interventions and the rise of terrorist movements in Syria and the rest of the world.
Studies conducted by experts under the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme show the wide-scale destruction in the country. As at the end of 2016, the damage to physical capital has been estimated at approximately $100 billion, in addition to losses in the opportunity cost of GDP growth placed at over $228 billion. Had the crisis not erupted, GDP was expected to grow by over 28 per cent over the past six years. Instead, GDP has lost over 57 per cent of its value since 2010, leading to an unprecedented increase in the number of Syrians living below the poverty line to 80-85 per cent compared with 13 per cent in 2007.
The enormity of the destruction is most evident in the housing sector, representing 30 per cent of total destruction, with over 50 per cent of residences damaged and still at risk given the continuing war. Industry, a key vital sector in Syria, has suffered 18 per cent of the total destruction, negatively affecting employment and growth and causing trade imbalances.
The agricultural sector has suffered 9 per cent of total destruction to physical capital, in addition to facing significant challenges during the crisis. Before 2011, Syria was committed to high levels of food security and the sector had kept large segments of its workforce above the minimum poverty threshold. Syria was also the fourth global producer of olives and exporter of olive oil. Today, unfortunately, data show huge losses in wooded areas from war or from felling for heat, because of a lack of heating fuel caused by damage to the oil and gas sector totalling 9 per cent of total destruction, or by the loss of means and equipment to import or subsidize petroleum products because of economic sanctions.
Another key sector significantly affecting daily life is water and electricity, with a 9 per cent share of total destruction. The electricity sector has been considerably damaged following the destruction of its infrastructure and given the lack of means and resources to conduct maintenance work and import spare parts for its smooth operation. Syria, which used to generate over 8,500 megawatt hours, some of which it exported to neighbouring countries, can no longer produce 15 per cent of its basic electricity needs.
The following figure details the scale of destruction and losses by sector caused by the raging conflict.
Experts from the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme state that rebuilding the destruction as at 2016 requires double the cost of damage to physical capital totalling over $200 billion, given a 50 per cent drop in investment in Syria because of a lack of security, infrastructure damage and a deterioration in human capital from conflict and displacement, and a flourishing economy of violence, among other things.
At the social level, the protracted conflict has resulted in horrific social effects. With regard to education, for example, over 3 million Syrian children are currently denied access to schooling, either because they are required to work, with many suffering exploitation at the hands of employers, or because of a lack of education opportunities in Syria or in refugee host countries, despite great efforts by specialized international and humanitarian institutions in this field. Studies indicate that a lack of education and the spread of illiteracy are major factors contributing to increased poverty and the absence of opportunities, thus creating an enabling environment for extremism and social disintegration.
In January 2017, the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme launched its first document entitled “Strategic framework for policy options: post-conflict Syria”, a concerted research and analytic effort by over 1,600 Syrian experts from various specializations, brought together by an ESCWA initiative. They set aside their political differences to assemble under one roof and forge a way forward for their country. The document is the fruit of thousands of working hours and dozens of meetings and workshops attended by an elite group of Syrian intellectuals, experts and technicians who submitted hundreds of research papers that have enriched this scientific work with their thoughts, proposals and options at the policy level.
Today, in parallel with the Brussels Conference, the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme is placing in the international community’s hands this document that embodies the results of those efforts. It can be summarized as follows:
1. Syrian territorial integrity
To ensure the sustainability of the Syrian rebuilding process, the country’s territorial integrity must be taken into account with all its ethnic, racial and national components, under a system of government selected by the Syrian people through a representative political process that includes all Syrians. This process shall protect central government institutions, empower them and build upon them.
Any rebuilding process that does not take into account the roots of and reasons behind the crisis – economic, social and governmental – is unsustainable and will face challenges that might reignite conflict in the future.
2. Syrians in Syria and neighbouring countries
Statistics indicate over 8 million internally displaced Syrians and more than 6 million refugees in neighbouring countries. The international community, when planning the rebuilding process, must take into account this large number of people and its effects on Syria and neighbouring countries, and must work without delay on developing projects and programmes to empower Syrians within Syria, allowing them to remain and providing them with decent livelihood opportunities, in addition to other programmes supporting refugees in host countries and the diaspora by empowering them, building their capacity and preparing them for a safe and dignified return to their homes, cities and villages.
3. Rebuilding opportunities
Rebuilding the destruction caused by the Syrian conflict is an opportunity for development and integration between Syria, its neighbours and other countries in the region. Consequently, it is vital to develop inclusive policies and development plans that transform the rebuilding process into a new phase aiding the creation of an environment conducive to stability and sustainable development for the region as a whole.
For more information:
Nabil Abu-Dargham (head of ECIU) +961-70-99 31 44; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Mirane Abi-Zaki: email@example.com
Ms. Rania Harb: firstname.lastname@example.org
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