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Development Project: Assistance for Syrian Refugees
Syria is a country that has been ravaged by war. The residents have lost their livelihood and many people have fled due to the unfortunate state of the country. For prosperity or some mere sense of peacefulness to return, significant changes must occur. By establishing a central development plan, USAID and other participants can aid returning citizens in regaining a life surrounded by peaceful conditions. As part of this plan, resettlement and compensation must occur. Equally important, retraining, economic integration, and transportation assistance will be needed. Without these vital steps, an area that has experienced the devastation caused by civil war will continue to be a land that not only creates strife for its residents, but globally.
Keywords: Syria, Civil War, Central Development Plan
Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” This process is not reflected through civil wars that have ravaged different countries around the world. With interior battles and people fighting their own neighbors, a lot of devastation has occurred. For Syrians, the illustration of war is all too real. The desolation that has occurred has a result of interior battling will require a lot of development and rehabilitation. These processes will only be successful if peaceful treaties can be reached to stop the battles that have led to such tragedy. The changes that must occur are vast and will have to encompass the entire country’s population. Through these changes, a central plan is needed to address resettlement and compensation, as well as retraining, economic integration, and transportation assistance.
During the brutal Syrian civil war (2011-present), greater than 300,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million wounded to date, leading to a refugee crisis which has been without parallel, as those who survived that conflict have increasingly sought to flee from that besieged nation and begin their lives elsewhere. This has prompted a refugee crisis which has been unprecedented in world history, and one which has placed considerable stress upon ‘host’ nations, especially in Europe, to take in those displaced by this war. However, in recent months, this seven year-long conflict has received ample international attention of a sort which has stressed the likelihood that the war may be soon coming to an end. As announced by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and endorsed Steffan de Mistyra, United Nations ‘Special Envoy’ to Syria, the conflict – which witnessed the inclusion not just of Assad’s forces and the ‘rebels,’ but the Islamic State, U.S., Israel, and Russia, as well – may have been “won” by Assad, especially following “critical military gains made by government forces” throughout 2017 (Al-Doumy, 2017, p. 1). In particular, as of September 2017, after the Syrian capital of Aleppo was captured by Assad’s government regime, ad only the “Idlib province” was still under the control of the opposition, meaning that such control – and a final ‘victory’ for the Syrian state – may be close at hand (Al-Doumy, p. 1).
Current ‘facts on the ground,’ though they are dour, represent a critical point of controversy among international aid agencies. In particular, the United Nations has reported that despite “reduced violence” in Syria throughout 2017, the warring parties in that nation have continued to perpetrate “unthinkable crimes” against the Syrian civilian population, including – per the UN report – the Syrian government’s use of “chemical weapons” against civilians (UN, 2017, p. 1). A report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (2017), has mounted strident criticism against the Syrian state, particularly for its use of “sarin [gas]” as part of an aerial bombardment in northern Hama and southern Idlib, in April 2017, which led to the deaths of over eighty civilians (UNHCR, 2017, p. 1). This campaign –notable for the brutal tactics employed by the Assad government – specifically targeted “medical facilities” in this ‘rebel’-held area, leading to a “severe weakening” in these areas’ ability to provide assistance to the victims, a point which the report stressed led to a “consequent increase” in the number of civilian casualties this unconscionable government attack caused (UNHCR, p. 1).
The United Nations report also criticized the Assad regime for using “weaponized chlorine,” in Hamah and Damascus, which when combined with the use of sarin, represent multiple and flagrant violations of both “international humanitarian law and the Convention on Chemical Weapons,” which was signed by Syria in 2013 (UNHCR, 2017, p. 1). That said, the Assad government is not the only group to blame in this ongoing disaster. The report also points to “international coalition airstrikes,” as by the United States and Israel, to repel Islamic State (ISIL) forces from this country, which have led to an “increasingly alarming number of [civilian] casualties,” and internally displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians (UNHCR, p. 1). The U.S., in particular, is criticized for its failure to “take all feasible precautions to protect civilians” in its incursion (p. 1). The prolonged and brutal nature of this conflict, when combined with the recency of such war crimes, have resulted in the United Nations seeking a “political solution” which would result in an end to “grave violations of human rights and the laws of war” (p. 1).
However, it appears that the international community – especially among the nations of Europe, which have taken in an unprecedented number of Syrian refugees – is now taking reports of the pending ‘end’ of the Syrian conflict at face value. In Germany, which took in more than a half-million Syrian refugees, its interior ministry has begun to discuss (and vote upon) proposals to begin “forcibly repatriating Syrian refugees once their asylum status lapses,” as early as June 2018 (Traub, 2017, p. 1). Given the relatively “muted” international response to the scathing UNHCR report (2017), is apparent that international authorities (especially nations which have taken in Syrian refugees), are willing to overlook the crimes and abuses of the Assad regime, and ultimately, to “accept,” while heinous, “the devil they know” (Al-Doumy, 2017, p. 1).
In Germany and other nations which have been hard-hit by the Syrian Refugee Crisis, especially as has manifest in “political pressure,” while the UNHCR guidelines which stipulate the changes required for “safe return” and repatriation may “not occur for a generation,” these nations are increasingly looking to treat the “end of hostilities” as sufficient standard upon which to justify mass repatriation (Traub, p. 1).
Given the ongoing military presence of the United States in this nation, America’s responsibility to this region may be great. In advance of mass repatriation of Syrian refugees, especially from Europe, it is necessary to craft a development proposal upon which such American assistance to ‘returning’ Syrian civilians may be formed. Such goals, however, must be in ‘alignment’ with the goals of the U.S. State Department, as well as with the current White House, and will be implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an relief organization which is typically tasked with disaster relief efforts. In essence, any plan taken by the United States must be sufficient in scope to prevent further humanitarian disaster in Syria, but is likely to not carry military mandate, nor will it be conducted for a period of longer than two years, given the low ‘appetite’ of the American people to engage in prolonged relief efforts. However, as has been considered, there is an eminent need for the implementation of this program; The United States has played a pivotal role in this conflict, and while it has not perpetrated the same flagrant human rights abuses as the Assad government, it is critical for the U.S. – through USAID – to adhere to two core ‘tenets’ of its international aid mission, in Syria, by (1) Providing “life-saving humanitarian assistance to save lives and alleviate suffering,” and (2) Accelerating a “rapid [and] and durable recovery by supporting livelihoods, markets and the provision of basic services” (USAID, 2017, p. 1).
To this end, the following section will present a core ‘treatment’ of a future project, to be implemented in Syria, as contingent upon a likely German decision (anticipated for June 2018) to mandate the repatriation of their 600,000 Syrian refugees.
The following section will present the core aspects of this development plan.
Central Development Plan
The central purpose of this development plan is to provide assistance to Syrians who will return to Syria after the crisis, likely as soon as June 2018, when Germany is anticipated to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Syrians to this nation, contingent upon the anticipated end to eight years of hostilities. The core vector for such development will be dedicated rehabilitation centers, which will be established in conjunction with (and under the protection of) the U.S. military base in northern Syria (Davison, 2017. In addition, such aid presence will also be established within (or close to) centers of population, where repatriated refugees will likely return. The following sections will consider the goals which will be sought at these rehabilitation centers, which will primarily focus upon providing post-return assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are anticipated to be repatriated. The intended methodology which will be employed at these rehabilitation centers is of a curative nature, by which individuals who have been repatriated to Syria will be better-prepared to reengage in their lives in a safe and productive manner, following their return. Guidelines established by relief agencies UNHCR and USAID will be used to inform this development plan
Sub-Purpose 1: Resettlement and Compensation
A primary goal which must be achieved is of resettlement. Though resettlement plans are often undertaken in conjunction with refugee assistance (as in a ‘third party’ country which provides asylum), the UNHCR stipulations regarding such resettlement in the context of repatriation are relevant to this consideration. In particular, one UNHCR report (2016) argues that such measures are often established under a ‘banner’ of international solidarity, through which ‘destination’ countries are party to negotiations through which the “parameters” of resettlement programs are established, as through “multi-year agreements,” the likelihood of which will be improved through establishing long-term aid relationships with such nations (UNHCR, 2016, p. 197). Though these rehabilitation centers will be tasked with the resettlement of repatriated Syrian refugees, it will nonetheless be necessary for the U.S. to establish an aid relationship with Syria, through which such resettlement may be facilitated, both through the establishment of ‘short-term’ housing – as in ‘disaster’ trailers – but negotiations with that government, which will likely wish to improve its international reputation through aid to repatriates, will form the basis for the resettlement of repatriated Syrians throughout this nation.
Under the USAID guidelines for resettlement (2017a), further considerations which must inform this policy are addressed. USAID policy in this regard pertains particularly to “compulsory displacement and resettlement,” a signifier which ably represents the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by that country’s civil war (USAID, 2017a, p. 2). As contextualized to the efforts undertaken in any nation where USAID is present, especially those where there is a severe need for ‘refugee’ housing, this document stipulates that is critical to ensure that resettlement goals will “avoid, minimize, and mitigate” risks of “impoverishment of affected legitimate landholders,” (USAID, p. 2). The devastation wrought by the Syrian Civil War, especially in urban areas and former centers of population where most refugees originated, has been vast. As a result, this rehabilitation policy will be undertaken with the assumption that most of those whom it serves have suffered either “total physical displacement,” as through complete loss of land, shelter, or “other assets,” or “partial…displacement,” as when ‘landholders’ retain their land and assets, but have been removed from the use of such resources due to circumstances out of their control (USAID, p. 3).
Given the extraordinary number of repatriated Syrians likely to move through the rehabilitation center, it will be necessary to employ a policy which emphasizes resettlement, in tandem with those by policy by which rote “compensation” is provided, and to pair such compensation – as to “improve livelihoods and living standards” – with robust development assistance in the context of a robust resettlement plan (USAID, 2017a, p. 6). As the majority of repatriated Syrians moving through this facility will require permanent resettlement, it will be necessary to produce a resettlement action plan (RAP), per the USAID guidelines for refugees. Because former centers of Syrian population have witnessed such extraordinary destruction, such a plan will be predicated upon the construction of a dedicated resettlement site, which for purposes of convenience, will be located in rural communities near the rehabilitation center.
The RAP to be implemented will serve to ensure the following:
(1) All “affected legitimate landholders” – that is, those Syrians who have been forcibly repatriated, yet whose homes are likely still in ruins – are resettled in a manner which serves to protect the “social and cultural identity” as well as “cohesion” of their communities (USAID, 2017a, p. 11). In addition, it will also be necessary to provide
(2) Receiving communities, those rural areas (which have emerged relatively ‘unscathed’ from the Civil War) with opportunities for “informed and meaningful engagement” in order to “avoid, minimize, or mitigate” potential disputes which may arise” (USAID, 2017a, p. 11).
Finally, (3) this RAP must be predicated upon all repatriated Syrians having access to a body of “affordable, accessible, and independent” grievance procedures, to be employed in the event that resettlement disputes arise (p. 11).
In addition, the “fair calculation” of compensation measures must also be incorporated into an effective RAP (USAID, 2017a, p. 14). These would include compensation provided to those who have been displaced (and in this instance, repatriated), in order to facilitate their livelihood, as a factor of the following measures: Individual compensation would be based upon the value of lost (1) Land, as well as “naturally-occurring resources associated with the land,” (2) Structures on land, such as houses, (3) Legal or professional costs, as well as (4) Loss of earnings, and (5) Intangible losses, as those which hold a particular “cultural or spiritual value” (USAID, 2017a, p. 14). Moreover, such compensation would also be provided to Syrians so repatriated in order to offset the cost of “moving and finding alternative housing,” provided that such new housing is not provided as part of resettlement (p. 14).
Sub-Purpose 1: Indicators and Outcomes.
The establishment of a robust program of housing and resettlement represents the core of this rehabilitation program. As the majority of repatriated Syrians entering this program are likely to have had their homes destroyed during this prolonged period of Civil War, it will be necessary to mount a major course of economic assistance to each individual, to meet their eminent need for shelter. As a result, this rehabilitation center will establish a robust and comprehensive auditing process, in order to address key indicators among these repatriated Syrians, including their need for shelter, but also reflecting the key losses which these individuals suffered.
Though all repatriated individuals will be provided with ‘temporary’ shelter – as in an ‘in-country’ facility with disaster accommodations – they will be resettled into (predominantly rural, and local) communities near the shelter in as expedient a manner as possible. Their losses will be compensated in accordance with demonstrable need, meaning that key outcomes pertain to the ability of all individuals who come through this rehabilitation facility to find resettlement in accordance with the RAP, with respect to their expedient delivery to ‘receiving communities.’ Finally, any legal and economic grievances which arise will be settled by authorities at the rehabilitation facility.
Sub-Purpose 2: Retraining and Economic Integration
Though resettlement and compensation arrangements provided to this vast population of repatriated Syrians will comprise the majority of the rehabilitative ‘burden’ undertaken by this center, it will also seek to aid this population with their employment and reintegration into the Syrian economy. However, the likelihood of such aid policies being effective is somewhat ‘muddied,’ by the serious economic shock that has been wrought by the Syrian Civil War. As presented by Crisp (1996), regarding the UNHCR’s repatriation operations in Mozambique in the 1990s, many individuals so repatriated will express “apprehension over socio-economic conditions” in their areas of return, a sentiment which “underlined the need for [establishing] emergency infrastructures” in places of “actual returnee settlement” (Crisp, 1996, p. 8). However, this report includes little precise information regarding how such ‘infrastructures’ were to be established.
To this end, it is likely that the establishment of some ‘economic infrastructure’ to benefit the vast number of repatriated Syrians anticipated to use this resettlement service would require outsized assistance to Syria, which might result in considerable political antipathy for this plan, by U.S. citizens likely to view such measures as far greater than ‘aid,’ or as falling under the direct responsibility of the Syrian government.
An alternative plan by which the economic ‘integration’ of these individuals may be effectuated is through coordinating efforts with the Syrian government, as modeled after measures implemented in other nations. As presented by Beusse (2009), for the European Commission, effective repatriation programs often include “loan programs,” through which returnees are aided in their achieving meaningful “livelihood, self-employment opportunities,” and opportunities for “entrepreneurial development,” and can often be mounted in conjunction with direct educational support (Beusse, 2009, p. 44). Such education is often also primarily economic in nature, and can include support in “financial literacy, financial planning and management, savings…remittance schemes,” as well as in regard to investment opportunity and business counseling, under a broader “mentoring” framework (Beusse, p. 44). These same methods are emphasized under the USAID model, which denotes critical methods of “knowledge and skills training” to be provided to repatriates, to include (1) Short-term technical training, (2) Long-term academic education (or assistance in obtaining such education), (3) Entrepreneurial training, to include “peer learning,” and (4) Assistance in accessing to “distance learning,” from which marketable skills can be gained (USAID, 2010, p. 8).
Retraining is often unnecessary for populations who are being repatriated, as many members of this Syrian population may present with marketable skills and job histories, and merely lack for employment. To this end, in conjunction with local Syrian businesses – and with its government – this rehabilitation center will also attempt to “[assist] with job placement” for qualified job candidates, as well as assist with providing “seed money” to help repatriated Syrians to start businesses (USAID, 2005, p. 17).
Sub-Purpose 2: Indicators and Outcomes.
Leading indicators of the success of this program will depend on the qualifications of each applicant. In particular, it will be necessary to conduct interviews and audits of the individuals who enter the rehabilitation center, in order to determine their level of skill, and the degree to which they might appreciate inclusion into the locally-provided educational and training programs. In the event that such individuals have a high level of skill, they will be ‘routed’ to Syrian job placement programs, or will be provided with direct grants to aid in their establishment of an independent business. Key outcomes upon which the success of this program will be predicated include the level of interest by the repatriated individuals in these education programs, especially those which concern issues of skills development. Such interest will be used to inform the establishment of educational programs in the rehabilitation center (as to ensure the efficient use of resources), but if there is a low level of interest, this might be interpreted as a failure of the center to ‘craft’ tenable options for all those engaged with this program, and an audit of policies and training deliverables will be implemented, to ensure that such lack of interest is not based on poor ‘fit.’
Sub-Purpose 3: Transportation Assistance
In conjunction with the second sub-purpose, it will also be highly beneficial to the wellbeing of these repatriated individuals to provide them with transportation assistance grants, in order to reach their final ‘resettlement’ destination, or to facilitate their ‘re-entry’ into Syrian society, especially if they have achieved employment but cannot reach their new place of employment. In conjunction with other aid project guidelines, this policy will be provided alongside a range of other ‘grant’ programs, to include the resettlement and economic integration plans, but will be provided in a ‘direct’ manner, as alongside “food…health assistance,” and other key requirements (UNHCR, 2016a, p. 15). Transportation aid will also be provided if any repatriated individual at the rehabilitation center requires access to intensive healthcare of a sort (such as surgical or long-term inpatient medical care) which cannot be provided ‘on-site.’
Sub-Purpose 3:Indicators and Outcomes.
Such assistance will be provided in the form of ‘block’ grants to be disbursed on a monthly basis, which will be based upon need and ‘tacked’ to both the price of transportation and availability thereof. Following an estimation of key indicators of transportation cost, such payments will be provided to each qualified repatriated individual based on their day-to-day need.
There is no question that this development and ‘rehabilitation’-focused project will require a considerable sum of money, both from American authorities, and from Syria itself. However, as this work has considered, Syria now occupies a ‘precarious’ place within the global sphere, as reflective of its government’s reprehensible actions during the Civil War. Though the Assad government was willing to mount terrible attacks against its civilian population, Syria’s ‘re-gaining’ of international reputation – if it is not to include a war crimes tribunal – may well result from their actions, moving forward, with respect to their own people. As Germany and other nations have shown themselves likely to forcibly repatriate their huge populations of Syrian refugees, and the U.S. (and other nations) are likely to remain in Syria in a military capacity for years to come, it follows that the rehabilitation of these repatriates would follow a ‘tandem’ model effectuated by USAID and Syrian government collaboration. Such ‘collaboration’ will primarily be monetary in nature, and include the sharing of the considerable costs of resettlement, job placement, re-training, and grants for aid and transportation provided to this vast ‘returning’ population. However, in the event that this plan leads to the revitalization of Syria, these two nations will have taken a strong step toward reducing the long-term impact of Syria’s past crimes against its people. Even if there is no true ‘reckoning’ for the horrific crimes which the Assad regime perpetrated against its people, it may come ‘together,’ with USAID, to provide returning citizens a better life.
ANNEX A: CHART OF RECENT HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
ANNEX: B REFFERENCE MAP OF SYRIA, TURKEY AND NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
(SOURCE: USAID MAP OF SYRIA AND NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES FACTSHEET #5 2017)
ANNEX C: REFERENCE MAP OF SYRIAN REFUGEES (2014)
ANNEX D: WORLD DATA BANK SYRIAS GDP
ANNEX E: EMPLOYMENT INDICATORS GRAPH
ANNEX F: LOGICAL FRAMEWORK CHART
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