Reports & Papers

This short paper discusses the restitution of property as the cornerstone of any post-conflict agreement in Syria. While this will be a complex exercise, argues the author, adherence to the UN’s Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro) Principles is set to be critical.
This 43-page report form a series of guidelines providing a comprehensive technical standard operating procedure for shelter repair and rehabilitation programmes in Syria.
As relative stability returns to many parts of Syria after ten years of armed conflict, several cities are beginning to restore urban life through planning interventions and reconstruction projects. However, unbalanced urban growth, partly due to the presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs), presents significant challenges for major cities. Yet, the odds of the returning decision are reduced due to several challenges such as lack of infrastructure, inadequate public services, housing shortage, and social barriers. This paper outlines how Syria can develop more liveable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable places in the post-conflict phase. It projects four scenarios, each with varying numbers and characteristics of returning refugees and IDPs. Next, it compares the returnees' potential residential patterns and urban concentration to Zipf's Law, a normalised distribution of ‘ideal’ city sizes. The paper proposes polycentric development approach for the best chance at balancing development, sustainability, and mass returns in the recovery phase. It is concluded that the effectiveness of post-conflict administration of spatial development will affect the Syrian exiles' behaviour, both the number of those who decide to return and the spatial choice for those who actually return.
In the spring of 2019, the Syrian civil war has entered its eight year. Although the heaviest fighting has taken place elsewhere, Damascus is heavily affected by the ongoing conflict. First, large parts of the eastern and southern fringe of the city are heavily damaged or destroyed. Second, the inflow of internally displaced persons is large, which has resulted in a very tense housing market in the undamaged districts. Third, the war-time political economy has changed the role of public and private actors in spatial planning and housing provision. This paper shows how the geography- and political economy of warfare has impacted upon residential patterns and housing practices in Damascus during the civil war. The empirical results are based on satellite imagery, policy documents and a survey among spatial planning experts and students. The results indicate that the formal response to the housing crisis consists of a reinforcement of the existing authoritarian neo-liberal planning model. This model has resulted in the construction of unaffordable luxurious showcase projects at symbolic locations. The informal response to the housing crisis is more pronounced. Alternative housing strategies, such as to self-construction, family housing, squatting and sub-letting have increased in popularity, as the formal response does not deliver immediate relief for war-affected households. The use of alternative housing strategies is concentrated in the existing informal settlements. This suggests that the civil war exacerbates housing poverty, but as well contributes to rising levels of socio-economic segregation.
Syria’s civil war has been marked by brutal chemical and air attacks on civilians, widespread human rights violations, and urbicidal attacks—those intended to destroy both the built environment of urban centers and their distinctive ideological and cultural features. As open conflict in Syria draws to a halting close, human rights activists must pay urgent attention to the methods of reconstruction and property restitution contemplated and initiated in the postwar period, given the widespread destruction of Syria’s cities and the expropriation of civilian property.