A study has been conducted to identify key methods of analysis, necessary data collection, monitoring and frameworks to address the economic assessment of urban issues for reconstruction in post-conflict Syria.
The study firstly concerned the urban realities that prevailed prior to the conflict and their significant transformations during it. Syrian cities were largely affected in recent decades by the acceleration of rural-urban migration. The weakness of regional and urban planning led to the development of large informal areas around the main cities and to the rapid growth of medium and large cities. The conflict served to accelerate this extensive rural-urban migration even further, severely damaging assets and mentalities in the process. The research identified some of the principal economic strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and constraints of Syrian cities in their present situation, as well as key issues for ensuring their resilience during and after the conflict. It also identified five key economic research themes for the future:
- Analysis of the war economy at the country level;
- Comparative analysis of the economic and social situation of cities during the conflict, in order to define best practices and opportunities;
- Detailed analysis of the socio-political-economic environment of cities and planning for recovery and reconstruction;
- Syrian cities in post-conflict regional planning;
- Public management of recovery and reconstruction.
The research also focused on ways to assess and identify the structure of the war economy in Syria, using a collection of price data for different types of products and for labour at a certain point in the conflict (August 2016). An original method of analysing the war economy was developed based on price differentials. The resulting analysis of the flow of goods and the trade interaction between cities was shown to match observations made on the ground. Thus Turkish products flow from the “opposition”-controlled area in the North to all other regions, and Turkey has seen its exports to Syria increasing to their pre-conflict levels. Oil produced in IS-controlled (Islamic State) and SDF-controlled (Syrian Democratic Forces) zones crosses barriers to be refined into fuel oil, mostly in “opposition”-controlled zones. Additionally, a comparison of the cost of labour indicates how aid and other financial flows differ significantly between cities, even within the same control zone. Other research also points to the rapid development of narcotics production in Syria during the conflict, to such an extent as to conceivably make the conflict self-sustainable.
The research conducted to date can help in identifying key practical issues for the stabilization of Syria and the resilience of its cities.