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Municipalities in Syria

The situation of municipalities in Syria is marked by the conflict that has now been raging for almost ten years. How badly war and displacement have affected municipalities varies widely from region to region.

In many places local governance no longer works and the municipal structures for delivering vital services have suffered devastation. Infrastructure has been destroyed in vast swathes of the country.

In the future one key task in Syria will be reconstructing municipalities that have been destroyed. This will include both infrastructure, and the reconstruction of municipal administrations and local governance structures.

The war has destroyed many Syrian cities. Here we see a street in the city of Homs. Photo: Flickr, H.usa
The war has destroyed many Syrian cities. Here we see a street in the city of Homs. Photo: Flickr, H.usa

Public administration in Syria is also based on local governance structures

View of Damascus before the war. Photo: Flickr, Ben Freeman, CC BY 2.0
View of Damascus before the war. Photo: Flickr, Ben Freeman, CC BY 2.0

According to the Syrian constitution local governance was and is determined by local municipal councils. In August 2011 the constitution was supplemented by Decree 107, which the Syrian government had enacted in response to the demonstrators' protests and demands for greater self-determination. The decree emphasises efforts to decentralise governance and grant relative self-determination to the elected representatives on local municipal councils. In the areas under government control, however, the Decree is not being implemented.

Municipalities are an important component of a peaceful society

One important component of a peaceful society as envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals is effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16). This is why the local level will also play a central role in a future reconstruction of Syria.

To help build peaceful and sustainable development, following a violent domestic conflict a country's public administration must be reconstructed such that it enables universal access to health, education, shelter, water and sanitation. Above all, it is important to build new trust in the actions of the state. Local governments will play a key role in this, because they are the interface between government and citizens.

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies in line with sustainable development, ensure access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

In the future, municipal know-how will be in demand.

Time will tell how a reconstruction of municipal structures in Syria might look. It will depend both on the political frameworks, and on how the conflict is brought to an end. What is already certain, however, is that well-trained personnel will be needed in Syrian municipalities in the future. As a result of war and displacement, the country has lost many knowledge bearers in the municipalities. By transferring their knowledge to Syrians in Germany, German municipalities are helping them to develop their skills for reconstructing municipal structures in Syria at some point in the future, and to become key partners in development work.

Published in 2010, the World Public Sector Report 'Reconstructing Public Administration after Conflict: Challenges, Practices and Lessons Learned' analyses what factors need to be taken into account in the reconstruction of public administration.

The authors draw on a wealth of scientific theories, and evaluate them. The big picture is supplemented by relevant case studies and positive examples from conflict hotspots in all five regions of the world since 1945. Based on their study the authors draw up general recommendations for the reconstruction of public administration.

Click here to download the Report.

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Country information and news about Syria