Introduction: Roundtable on reconstruction efforts in Syria

Recent political and military events in Syria suggest that al-Assad’s government is regaining control over large swath of the country. The Syrian government is now in a much stronger position, with the support of Russia and Iran, especially after they retook Aleppo in 2016 and advanced in provinces like Deir Az Zor, inflicting heavy losses on ISIS. With this new military advances, Syrian officials indicated at different occasions that reconstruction is the next step in the country’s political agenda. For example, on August 17, 2017, Syrian government relaunched (for the first time since 2011) the Damascus International Exhibition, an international trade fair in its 59th edition. During the opening the General Director of the Exhibition Fares al-Kartally told AFP that the event “signal[s] the start of reconstruction.” Indeed, the Syrian government has already initiated reconstruction plans at the local level in several areas returned to the government control, such as Basateen al-Razi in southwest Damascus, using legislative decree (66/2012) as the legal and financial foundation for reconstruction.

In this roundtable, I interview three experts on Syria to discuss the challenges for a reconstruction process that will ensure an inclusive transition to benefit all Syrian citizens.

In the first interview titled “Crony capitalism and federalism in Syria’s reconstruction,” Joseph Daher addresses the challenges that crony capitalism poses to future reconstruction efforts in Syria. He discusses examples of Decree 66-realted reconstruction projects and shows that these examples consolidate and even reinforce the patrimonial nature of the Syrian state.

In the second interview titled “The possible roles of foreign powers in Syria’s reconstruction efforts,” Eugenio Dacrema argues that the European Union and China are the major international donors that can contribute significantly to the reconstruction of Syria. He focuses on the conditions and obstacles for the involvement of different international and regional donors in rebuilding the country.

In the third interview titled “The main challenges for future reconstruction efforts Syria,” Rabie Nasser outlines four main challenges for the reconstruction efforts in Syria. He discusses the ways in which political oppression and conflict economy will affect the future of Syrian society including the new generation of Syrian children who grow up as internally displaced or refugees.