State of the Syria crisis response: Assessing Humanitarian and Development Challenges

Report
from Voluntas Advisory
Published on 16 Apr 2018

Executive summary

Since the Syrian uprising and armed conflict began in 2011, more than 11 million people have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring states, namely Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
This has put an incredible strain on the host societies in these neighbouring countries. In order to assist, the international community has allocated more than USD $13 billion1 to Regional Refugee and Resilience Plans, over 300 organizations have implemented projects, and countless of people have been mobilized to assist both refugees and host communities.

In order to obtain a comprehensive review of the response, Voluntas Advisory surveyed practitioners from international organizations, NGOs, government authorities, private and institutional donors, the private sector and academia, covering the breadth of the refugee and host community response. This reached workers on the ground in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to key decision makers.
The survey was conducted from 22 July 2016 – 23 August 2016, a first report was published in November 2016. This is the second annual survey conducted.

Overall, the survey found visible improvements regarding the practical challenges for vulnerable groups, as well as the strategies used by responders. But significant changes to the response are yet to be witnessed and international community efforts to address gaps in the response, most noticeably the Grand Bargain Commitments, have yet to change the realities on the ground.

For refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities, conditions in neighboring countries is perceived to have improved in most aspects. For most of the key challenges faced by vulnerable groups such as access to food, employment and security, the severity of those challenges is perceived to have declined compared to last year. There is, however, a noticeable exception in Turkey where most challenges have increased in severity, which is likely related to the EU-Turkey deal, as well as the political turmoil in the country following the attempted coup and subsequent crackdown on NGOs including those responding to Syrian refugees.

The improvements in the situation do not appear to be directly related to better performance in the response. Across the board, the perception of the performance of the actors’ response has declined.
In particular, perceptions of the national NGOs and authorities’ performances have deteriorated. The latter may relate to the fact that forced deportations have been witnessed in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. The greatest challenge to the Syria response is the lack of inclusion of affected people in decision-making. The Grand Bargain Commitments seeks to address this particular issue, but the impact on the ground appears to be limited.

Improvements on this and the Grand Bargain Commitments in general is, however, not likely to significantly change the perceptions of the performance. This is due to the fact that perceptions of the response performance is mainly driven by whether respondents think that aid, in general, is managed well. Furthermore, it is influenced by meaningfulness indicators. As such, the more the respondents feel that the work his/her organization resonates with their own personal values, the more positive the respondent views the re response performance.

Despite the efforts to improve responses through the Grand Bargain and also the work to develop the Refugee Compact and Migration Compact, practitioners are not optimistic that the situation on the ground and the response will improve in the future. Indeed 48 % of respondents believe the situation for vulnerable groups will be worse next year. Similarly 46 % and 43 % anticipated that the national and international response will be worse respectively, while only 12 % thought it would improve. Consequently, the international community needs to ready themselves for a continued increase in displacement including refugees trying to reach their borders, as 89% of practitioners believe that the influx of refugees to third countries will increase. With Europe being increasingly difficult to reach for Syrian refugees, the continued movement of Syrian refugees will put further strains on countries in and around the region