Reconstruction of Syria following internal fierce war provoked by regional and International powers with different interests, which have got nothing to do with interests of Syrian,s has become a task that needs a Strategic road-map for various aspects of reconstruction of infrastructure and human beings. This horrible war hasn’t only destroyed cities and the psychology of people, but also destroyed educational, culture and research facilities. Vital public service facilities like hospitals, health centers and other humanitarian facilities have also been rendered inoperable. Reconstruction is not only a matter of civil engineering processes, rather it is a matter of rebuilding social, cultural and economic life that has gone away from its normal course. It should also include the humanitarian aspect for reformulating the personality of Syrians who have been influenced by war and its aftermaths.
This study investigates two interrelated issues. First, the reconstruction of infrastructure and bringing public facilities back to life with their normal functionality. Second, the rehabilitation of Syrian character which has experienced a dirty war which has not been finished yet as its reasons are still existing. It also tries to introduce objective and subjective pre-conditions for the two aspects of reconstruction, and the regional and international conditions and requirements of this war.
Volume and type of destruction
The political conflict in Syrian, which started in the form of peaceful protests, broke out on the 15th of March 2011. It can be said that this conflict came in the context of a series of uprisings of the Arab Spring, and then turned into a fierce proxy war between regional and international forces. This fierce war was not a conventional war between armies fighting at open fronts, but a war that was launched by Assad’s Regime against disarmed civilians and at a later stage against armed rebels who wanted to defend civilians. These Rebels’ Groups opposed the authoritarian regime. These armed rebels found themselves among disarmed civilians, and this turned civilians into hostages of unequal fighting between a brutal formal army owned by the ruling Regime and armed factions that emerged from the ranks of citizens possessing light and medium weapons.
The war in Syria is one of the worst humanitarians and economic disasters, and has great repercussions on the rest of the world. Seven years of war have torn the country‘s social and economic fabric, and caused a considerable damage to the national economy as a whole, infrastructure and all aspects of life in Syria.
This war led to extensive destruction of houses and facilities of public and private, service or economic ones. Most of the infrastructure of the country was out of service, and turned into rubbles, and the destruction of the infrastructure has led to internal displacements and emigration. Water and sanitation networks are no longer functioning. Schools, mosques, health centers and hospitals have been destroyed in addition to the destruction of shops, workshops and small and big factories. Railway network were either destroyed or looted. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in an interview: “75% of the infrastructure in Syria was destroyed by what he described as terrorist attacks”
Through its institutions, the United Nations, has monitored the situation in Syria for more than 6 years of war. A report supported with maps and photos described the Syrian situation as of November 2017. According to UNHCR figures, the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries is 5.344 million refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt between 2011 and 20th of November 2017
According to the World Bank report, more than half a million Syrians lost their jobs every year between 2010 and 2015. Buildings and health facilities in Syria were seriously damaged. According to the above-mentioned report, 27% of the housing units in Syria and about half of the medical facilities were completely destroyed or partially damaged.
Therefore, a preliminary concept can be perceived about the scale of destruction which has been caused by the conflict in Syria, and this helps in determining the size of the burden of rebuilding the country and also helps in developing a plan with time framework through an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations and donor countries. It is sometimes considered as an inconceivable process. The reconstruction of Syria is not a process of restoration of a group of facilities and residential units. This perception urged Mrs. Christine Lagarde, Head of International Monitory Fund IMF to present shocking figures, the conflict left deep imprints on the economy of the country.
We can say that the armed conflict in Syria has caused massive damage to financial sources of the country. The estimated number of deaths caused by military conflict is between 400,000 and 470,000 deaths. Half of the 21000000 Syrians, according to 2010 statistics, has been forcibly displaced or forced to emigration. While estimated cumulative losses of the national income has mounted up to $ 226 billion, equivalent to four times the national income of the country in 2010.
The scale of destruction doesn’t only mean destruction of residential and economic service, but also the destruction of the Syrian society. 45% of Syrian children are not going to school as referred by UNICEF.
Syrian Minister of Education, Hzwan Al-Waz said: “8000 schools have been exposed to damage during seven-year war. One thousand schools need to be demolished and rebuilt in addition to the destruction of educational equipment and tools. Some schools have been turned into shelters for the internally displaced persons IDPs.
The ongoing war in Syria has made 60% of Syrians now living under poverty level. 78% of Syrians who were at working age were unemployed by 2015, of working. The conflict, which focused on the cities, has damaged, particularly in the healthcare sector, due to the deliberate targeting of medical facilities.
The World Bank report issued in 2017 focused on the economic and social effects of the conflict in Syria. The report focuses on four main domains during the period from 2011 to early 2017, damage to property, infrastructure, loss of life and freedom of individuals, the economic consequences and the damage of human development.
The cost of reconstruction and its requirements
Some experts think that the process of reconstruction in Syria is limited to the reconstruction of public, industrial, medical, educational facilities. This is an immature view of view of the reconstruction in Syria. There is no real reconstruction without reconstruction of the human resources, and responding to the needs of the large number of the vulnerable whose abilities have been destroyed by war. They have been unable to get access to livelihood and prior needs. Rebuilding systems and institutions is a priority. Therefore, the real costs of this process are put for discussion. During a meeting that was held by the UN Economic Committee in Beirut on the 8th of August, the United Nations said that the cost of reconstruction of the infrastructure in Syria will mount up to $ 400 billion.
These financial estimates of the cost of reconstruction are preliminary ones. These estimates may decline or increase in value and it is also subject to the programming process of reconstruction based on prioritization.
Before talking about reconstruction and its cost, there is a need to know what Syria will inherit in the post-war period. The country will find itself in front of a collapsed economy, a weak labor market, and disabled education system and the lack for qualified human resources.
It can be said that the return of gross domestic product GDP to pre-war level, it would take ten years starting from the year of reaching to a political solution that marks the start date of reconstruction. This true if the Syrian economy grows by 5%, but if the growth is only 3%, there will be a delay for another ten years.
We can ask the following question:
Is there a need to develop a strategy for the reconstruction of Syria and steer this country towards the path of growth and prosperity?
The answer to this question is determined by the need to maintain the process of reconstruction according to an international program dedicated to it. Such program is subject to international monitoring during the implementation of the reconstruction project. This requires preventing any waste of the funds allocated for reconstruction. To achieve such a goal, the international community should find the necessary means to replace the institutions of local government whose fabrics have been exposed to weakness and collapse. This is essential for achieving a state of trust between the donors and the construction project undertakers in a realistic manner.
One of the most important requirements of the reconstruction is to find ways of cooperation and interaction with international actors to reach the utmost level of participation, and this participation should be active and impartial for the advancement of various sectors in Syria. There is a need to set priorities of the reconstruction process because the country does not need to re-build financial sources, but also is in a dire need of human resources. Through years of war, Syrian human beings have suffered a great degradation because of emigration, displacement and disabilities.
It can be said that Syrian social components need to rebuild confidence among themselves. This will not happen if there is no new process of reproduction of the national institutions, which have been previously exposed a large corruption to induce citizens to demonstrate and protest, specifically regarding their sense of exclusion and marginalization.
There are realistic financial costs for reconstruction as some think, and these costs can be useless in building a new life, without waste of money in search of materially overpriced reconstruction. The cost of reconstruction of one city according to the modern system -without deceptive luxury, whether in towers or otherwise, amounts to only US$4 billion, and the cost of restoring all the country’s provinces can reach $ 56 billion.
Political Obstacles in the way of Reconstruction
It seems unrealistic to talk about the reconstruction of Syria without removing the political obstacles that prevent this process. Reconstruction of the country can’t be envisaged without a complete cessation of all military operations. Without a genuine political solution, the country will be transformed from war, strife and conflict to a new threshold of peace and social harmony. Therefore, talking about the reconstruction of Syria will remain a nonsense if the war is not stopped. If this happens, the Syrian state must develop a three-pronged economic plan. This plan includes restoring Syrian citizens, bringing the displaced back home with guarantees to safety and food security. There are two ways of financing this project: either funding investments by using natural sources, and this means that these sources are mortgaged with all their disadvantages with such as high leveraging and waste of resources, and the second through the incomes of projects, and this requires the enaction of laws mainly of ownership and collaboration between the public and private sectors.
The most important obstacle to the reconstruction of Syria is the political stalemate represented by the attempt of Assad’s Regime to evade the benefits of removing the causes of political and military conflict in the country. The regime is trying to deceive the World by pretending that the internal problem has ended through the victory over “terrorists”. And then Assad’s Regime can begin the process of rebuilding the country. But the regime knows perfectly well that the question of imposing a political solution in a way that allows him to reproduce itself is not a real opportunity. The regime and its allies try to impose a policy of fait accompli through confiscating the political solution that implies political transition, a new constitution and the legislative and presidential elections and replacing it with another solution that is designed in Astana.
It can be said that political obstacles exist in the face of any attempt to reconstruct Syria as the regime continues to ignore resolutions of international community, specifically Security Council Resolution 2254 that was adopted in 2015.
European countries as well as the United States of America have expressed their views of the file of the reconstruction of Syria. They linked this file to the need for real political change in Syria. One of the required measures is to expel all of the forces affiliated with Iran from Syrian territories. “If Syria does not guarantee the full withdrawal of Iran-backed forces, it will not get a single dollar from the United States for reconstruction,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In this case, the reconstruction of Syria will be no more than an economic and financial reward for a regime that has committed horrible crimes against its people and used destructive weapons. The West and donor countries will not be so naive to accept the reward for such destruction and violations. Therefore, if the reconstruction process is not linked to a political transition that implies a real change in the political system into a new system with real meaning based on respect for Human Rights, a new constitution for the country and democracy which means the transfer of power through free and fair elections. Otherwise, reconstruction will not have any role or in dealing with the results of the conflict in Syrian.
According to this vision, it is possible to conclude that Assad’s Regime does not consider reconstruction as a means of economic and social recovery, but an opportunity for self-enrichment, and a way of rewarding loyalists and punishing dissidents. For Assad’s Regime, it is essential for its efforts to perpetuate the social and demographic transformations that emerged as a result of six years of armed conflict.
This situation leads to the devise an integrated strategic vision for the reconstruction of Syria according to a program of work emanating from an international conference sponsored by the United Nations so that the process goes beyond the role of the Assad Regime. This is intended to reach local forces supported by the International Community, which can guide the reconstruction process in both construction and humanitarian rehabilitation, and to prevent Iran from benefiting from reconstruction funds by reducing its political influence after the expulsion of its militias from Syria.
One of the most important political obstacles to the reconstruction of Syria is that there should be a way to prevent spending on reconstruction in a way that can help in stabilizing Assad’s rule at the expense of all the social strata that have revolted against it. It should not help in restoring the regime’s ability to practice more repression. It is not clear if investors who are willing to reconstruct Syria, escape the participation of influential warlords.
Rehabilitation of Syrians
The conflict in Syria was not only a small-scale conflict with limited effects on the whole of Syrian society. As a result of this conflict, the country is suffering from a major humanitarian crisis, namely the number of dead, wounded and disabled. In addition to the psychological conditions that affected areas of direct conflict. Children are the most affected social slice as they found themselves away from schools and without any health care or decent living places. The report made by UNICEF in March states that between four and eight million children – more than 80 percent of children in Syria – have been affected by the conflict whether those who remained in the country or those who fled to neighboring countries. Organizations for children state that some 2 million Syrian children are refugees, and they badly need psychological support and treatment.
The reconstruction of Syrian human beings necessarily needs to change the objective and subjective conditions that led to the new life and psychological crises. Among these conditions, the most important of which is the existence of a secure social environment so as to end the security nightmare. This security nightmare was one of the reasons of the Revolution. Lack for adequate housing and job opportunities for decent living has been another reason for that revolution.
The existence of a national program that addresses all these crises that have afflicted the Syrian people necessarily requires the resurrection of medical, health and cultural institutions. Institutions of education, training, social and economic rehabilitation should all be brought to life again. All these issues should be noted through the conference on the reconstruction of Syria.
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