The Syrian legal development Programme has launched a new Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU). The Unit’s work is aimed at ensuring that human rights remain at the forefront of the conversation around reconstruction in Syria.
Although the conflict in Syria has not abated, the international community and actors within Syria have already begun investing in reconstruction in Syria. The move toward reconstruction while the conflict continues raises many human rights concerns. The start of reconstruction efforts contributes to a perception that the conflict is ending, turning the international community’s attention away from the gross violations of human rights that continue throughout Syria. Moreover, it is likely that Syria’s war criminals and human rights violators will profit from reconstruction efforts, as many in the international community will turn to the Syrian government, the largest perpetrator of war crimes in the conflict, for collaboration on reconstruction. Reconstruction is also likely to impact the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons over their properties in Syria. Human rights concerns also include the Syrian government’s use of reconstruction as a tool for demographic engineering and discrimination based on Syrians’ political opinions.
The Syrian Legal Development Programme’s Human Rights and Business Unit aims to mitigate these harms by ensuring various stakeholders in reconstruction in Syria have the information they need to understand what role they play in the human rights impact of reconstruction in Syria. SLDP will do this by engaging with international policymakers, businesses interested in reconstruction, and by counseling and training Syrian human rights, humanitarian, and media NGOs on business and human rights law and advocacy. SLDP will launch the unit with a panel on business and human rights in Syria’s reconstruction in London in May.
Other activities include workshops for Syrian NGOs, where they can engage with international business and human rights experts and discuss advocacy strategies. SLDP will also host workshops for businesses interested in participating in reconstruction, where representatives from businesses may engage with Syrian NGOs and business and human rights experts to discuss ways businesses’ human rights impact can be mitigated. SLDP will also monitor investments into reconstruction in Syria and document human rights issues as they arise.
In early April, SLDP Executive Director, Ibrahim Olabi, and HRBU Program Head, Noor Hamadeh, met with the Swiss foreign ministry to discuss the reconstruction situation in Syria and considerations for formulating a policy on reconstruction in Syria.
The Unit kicked off on April 1st 2018 after Olabi and Swiss foreign ministry officials Claudia Marti and Gregorio Bernasconi, completed and signed the contract to support the project.