V Brussels Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”: AVSI launches an appeal

Date 29.03.2021

On the tenth anniversary of the war in Syria, starting from our knowledge of the needs of the people with whom we have been working for years in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, AVSI launches an appeal calling for a drastic change of pace: let's leave behind the lifesaving approach, of pure emergency, to opt for early recovery, the reconstruction of essential infrastructures and social cohesion with long-term projects

1. Background and circumstances

The humanitarian situation in Syria is constantly deteriorating, the statistics are clear: 11.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance (including 4.8 million children), 6.1 million are internally displaced, and more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line (HRP 2020 data). The chronic instability makes it increasingly difficult to see ways out, which by now the exhausted population almost no longer dares to ask.

Even at the regional level, the situation is dramatic.

The Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR 2020) report states that 89% of Syrian refugee families in Lebanon live below the poverty line (similar data in Iraq and Jordan).

It is necessary to act quickly to avoid war between the poor, more at risk than ever, considering the warning signs.

2. From lifesaving to early recovery: a necessary change of pace

In light of the picture described in a nutshell, we are launching a new appeal: we must make a drastic change of pace.

We must move from a lifesaving humanitarian action to an early recovery one. Projects must be financed by major donors (UN and European Union in the first place) which, with a long-term vision, work for the next 2-3 years on a reconstruction plan of essential infrastructures, schools and hospitals, and a restart strategy.

A key element is the challenge of Voluntary Return to Syria: 38,223 in 2020 (UNHCR data), and will increase in the coming months.

How to facilitate return and provide assistance to returnees? It is necessary to identify subjects suitable for the preparedness and accompaniment process and to set intervention priorities.

3. The subjects

A lot of NGOs (the Italian ones too) working currently in Syria have important projects for Syrians in Lebanon and border countries too. By virtue of their regional presence, knowledge and experience on the ground they have the “tools” and the stature to position themselves as implementing partner with UNHCR to carry out projects of Assisted Voluntary Return, to accompany these people and give them the opportunity to return to their homeland, start again and actively participate in the rebirth of their country.

4. Priorities

Essential conditions must be guaranteed for Syrians to return home, help restart the Syrian economy, and relieve the host countries of their presence (increasingly expressing a sense of saturation) : the basis services in Syria, rebuilt houses, schools, hospitals and roads, on the one hand, but also a renewed form of social cohesion. That is, the Syrians must be able to find a community, not new forms of marginalization, nor accommodation in suburbs dormitories.

The change of pace we are asking for is this: while taking simultaneous and timely action and studying the ways of re-entry, the material conditions and social cohesion must be created for a dignified life in Syria whereas Syrians sheltered abroad are supported with projects of livelihood, education and job training.

We need a comprehensive and integrated action: countries, international organizations, the EU must allocate funds to precisely finance this type of activity.

Time has run out. Action must be taken now.

The expert organizations are already there, operating on the ground. It is necessary to exploit the lessons learned so far and let the Syrians, as protagonists, be accompanied to enter without hesitation into a new phase of reconstruction and restart.

Post Scriptum

There was also a positive change: the Syrian government is open- in the areas under its control - to humanitarian action, which allows visits on the ground with prior authorization, shared decision-making in the choice of beneficiaries, previously pre-selected, a dialogue with technical ministries, governorates or municipalities. The protection and PSS subjects are no longer taboo. The need to keep this dialogue open with MOFA, SARC and Syrian Trust and with the competent ministries is confirmed.