Syria at War

Syria at War

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31 Jan 2017
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This report focuses on socioeconomic ramifications of the conflict in Syria five years on; it examines the European Union’s humanitarian cooperation with Syria and region, the flow of refugees and migrants to Syria’s neighbours and Europe, and the impact of the unilateral economic measures on the Syrian people. It also identifies guiding principles and key critical steps for post-conflict Syria.

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  • Foreword

    On 28 January 2016, ESCWA and the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews signed a letter of understanding on joint scholarly activity, which aims at promoting a deeper understanding of the Syrian crisis and how to build a politically inclusive Syria that gives all of citizens the opportunity to pursue a life free from poverty and fear.

  • Acknowledgments

    This report constitutes a joint effort by ESCWA and the University of St Andrews. Abdallah Al-Dardari (Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCWA) and Raymond Hinnebusch (Director of the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews) oversaw its preparation.

  • Introduction

    Five years of conflict have changed the face of the Syrian Arab Republic. The numbers are eloquent. An estimated 2.3 million people, 11.5 per cent of the country’s population, have been killed or wounded, thousands more are under arrest or unaccounted for, 6.5 million are internally displaced and 6.1 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Gross domestic product (GDP), which in 2010 stood at $60.2 billion, is now at $27.2 billion (2010 prices), representing a contraction of 55 per cent. Total losses incurred in five years of conflict are estimated at $259.6 billion. Destruction of housing and infrastructure is estimated at around $90 billion. The total area under cultivation has fallen by 40 per cent and one third of the population inside Syria does not have food security. No economic sector has been spared and the impact of sanctions has been considerable. More than 80 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line (28 per cent in 2010). Millions are deprived of the essential necessities of life: 13.5 million are in need of human assistance and 12.1 million lack adequate access to water, sanitation and waste disposal. Around half of Syria’s hospitals have sustained serious damage. According to one estimate, life expectancy dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2014. Thousands of schools have ceased to operate and an estimated 2.7 million school-age children are out of school inside and outside Syria, with the rate of primary enrolment down from nearly 100 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent today.

  • Syria today: Where are we now?

    By 2011, Syria had arguably made great strides, at least quantitatively, in terms of social development. With the same level of income per capita as in Egypt, Syria had nearly half the rate of poverty. It had made greater progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) than most other Arab countries, with notable success in critical areas such as food security, infant mortality and access to education, particularly for girls.

  • The international perspective: What can we do?

    The former United Nations envoy to Syria, Mr. Kofi Annan, launched the first international initiative for a political solution to the conflict in June 2012. It was followed by the Geneva II Conference on Syria in 2014 and more talks in 2016. In the meantime, an international coalition of Western countries and the Russian Federation launched separate military air campaigns in the country, each with different goals. A political solution will ultimately depend, at least in part, on those external powers. A flicker of hope came with a ceasefire declared at the end of February 2016, based on Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and negotiated by the International Syria Support Group, in which regional and world powers have a presence. That paved the way for a new round of peace talks in Geneva in March 2016, but the political questions discussed there are beyond the scope of this paper. In this section, we will carry out socioeconomic analysis and examine policy options for the European Union (EU) and, in broader terms, the wider international community.

  • The way forward in Syria

    A partial ceasefire went into effect in Syria on 27 February 2016, opening the way to negotiations between the Government and opposition groups and the hope of an agreement to resolve the conflict. We are already in a position to identify the guiding principles and key steps that should follow such an agreement in order to end the suffering of the Syrian people and ensure that it does not reoccur.

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