Is Marota City the Type of Reconstruction Syrians Need?
Marota City is a new construction project that was launched by the Syrian government in Damascus in 2012. This project is presented as part of a more modern, aspirational ‘master plan’ for urban development to move away from the traditional patterns of informality in housing that had developed over generations. This paper elaborates on the issue of Housing, Land and Property rights (HLP) in the conflict and post conflict periods in Syria, particularly concerning reconstruction and informal settlements. As reconstruction policies tend to ignore informal ownership systems and are based on proving ownership through documentary evidence only, millions of people are losing their rights to a just, sustainable and inclusive reconstruction process.
Marota City is designed for a small elite of wealthy people who are not the obvious focus of reconstruction. However, this focus is what the government, along with the private sector, are promoting, by pushing the architectural firms to focus on the exterior without developing new housing options that fit the changing and urgent demands of the majority of Syrians living in the area. As an example of what is being advanced as a post-conflict reconstruction agenda, Marota City illustrates how this reconstruction needs to be rethought – urgently – in order for people to obtain housing, for the economy to rebound, and for communities to begin developing again. In the absence of a political resolution, it is important for the international community to find tools and mechanisms that assist displaced populations to secure their HLP rights. This includes practices that will assist displaced Syrians in proving ownership of their homes and property, regardless of their current location, and in ways that are transparent and secure.
This paper was presented by Edwar Hanna at the 5th Lemkin Reunion.
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