The Role of Urban Resilience Strategies in the Economic Recovery of Post-Conflict Aleppo: Enhancing Livelihoods of the Host, Returnee, and Displaced Communities

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Submission Summary
Aleppo or “Halab,” is one of the world’s oldest inhabited urban areas; historically, it has been known for its multicultural community, as well as its extensive urban economic, social, cultural, and institutional capital (UN-HABITAT, 2014). Over the past ten years, the literature on Aleppo has predominantly focused on its severely damaged eastern half; which was previously under the control of the opposition. Little attention, however, has been paid to the other half of the city, the western half, which has acted as a haven for different groups of residents, both old and new. Aleppo’s current population is made up of three different groups: the remainees, who stayed in their homes during the war, the returnees, who returned to their homes after migration or displacement, and the internally displaced people (IDPs) who were forced to flee their homes. Aleppo’s residents have witnessed a significant deterioration in their livelihoods; the decline has been exacerbated by the massive destruction of the city’s main sectors, infrastructure, and services, secondly, by unprecedented international financial sanctions, and thirdly by the significant devaluation of the Syrian pound. The growing number of job-seekers, due to the massive influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the continual resident return movements from 2017 onward, have created an enormous demand on employment opportunities. These problems raise the following questions: how can economic recovery be started in post-conflict Aleppo, which actors should be involved, and by which strategies can recovery take place. Post-conflict economies are generally characterized by unsound financial systems, high rates of unemployment, and inadequate infrastructure to meet increased demands. Even when the international community takes part in financing and implementing recovery plans, national actors must take the lead. The sporadic attempts of Aleppo’s residents to adapt to sudden changes by reviving their livelihoods through informal mechanisms of survival demonstrate great innovation, adaptation, and resilience. However, such informal economies if not addressed, may exacerbate social inequality and negatively impact economic recovery. Through that lens, this paper seeks to investigate means of enhancing Aleppo’s post-conflict economy from an urbanist’s perspective. It argues that urban resilience strategies could bolster economic recovery and sustain livelihoods. This can be achieved by rebuilding infrastructure and providing needed facilities as well as introducing appropriate and inclusive economic activities; which will, in return, help create opportunities for employment in intensive public works projects and provide support for local Aleppine enterprises. The paper will address urban deficiencies in Aleppo as perceived by three community groups (remainees, returnees and IDPs). It calls upon local and international actors and practitioners to work constructively together to focus on and support the priorities that Aleppine residents identify in order to set the foundation for recovery plans to help secure a better future for all inhabitants of this ancient city.
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4: Resilience and adaptability. Al-Waha: promoting glocal solutions
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Research Fellow
Hamad Bin Khalifa University

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