Forced migration and internal displacement is still the heaviest toll of Syria’s security deterioration. The main political actors continue to struggle with resolving the causes of migration, including absence of security, empowerment, interaction, and safe spaces.
There are a host of challenges including the inability to provide basic services for IDPs and the lack of political coordination between local and international actors to maintain policies and procedures that lead to “dignified and voluntary return”. The local security actors, in turn, have no supporting strategies whether due to threats and challenges or the negative role they play within recovery and development prospects.
Stability is associated with the effectiveness of “local security” structures, which are deeply affected – structurally and functionally – by several governance models and performance, this association significantly affects refugees and IDPs return. This paper investigates indicators of a safe environment as a necessary condition for stability, return of refugees and IDPs and the prevention of further conflicts. This research attempted to raise questions and insights related to existing security structures, the Assad regime and its allies’ in-depth attitude towards such an environment, and finally, broad visions of a safe environment in the Syrian context.
This paper can be regarded as a thematic summary of an in-depth and comprehensive research initiated by Omran Center in the beginning of 2020. The research aimed at exploring several facets of the issue, first facet deals with refugees’ and IDPs’ prospect of return and related security issues. Second facet is related to the concept of relationship between civil society and security structures, as this relationship defines the legal and organizational parameter of a stable and secure environment. The third facet focuses on security indicators that affect people’s daily life, such as explosions, abductions, assassinations, etc. To examine the regime’s approach and attitudes towards national interest, the research was based on two focus groups located in areas the regime gained after 2018.
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The majority of literature discussing civil-military relationship highlight that armed forces must follow a democratic civilian leadership. To achieve such a relationship, a state must undergo a complicated process to meet the necessary requirements, including a comprehensive legislative reform, a change in the entire security sector, the inclusion of transitional justice, establishing democratic institutions, and instilling democratic values. Civil-military relations are the most sensitive and vital aspect of the democratic transformation process, as failure to address the complex relationship may result in a relapse to the pre-democratic authoritarian status. An essential component to establishing democratic transportation, civil-military relations is a key element affecting internally displaces persons (IDPs) and refugee return, as well as their engagement in political, social, and economical life.
The necessity to secure a safe environment for dignified and voluntary return is intertwined with promoting civil-military relations. Such an environment does not currently exist across Syria’s geography, as various actors struggle to attain more power. The absence of a future plan that entails a “new political era,” and the “cautious freeze” on the ground, has resulted in a multitude of governance models backed by the various international and regional powers. This paper seeks to delve into civil-military relations throughout Syria’s geography, which consists of numerous governance models, to assess the impact of those relations on a refugee and IDP return. The ultimate research question addressed; to what extent do civil-military relations affect refugee and IDP decision to return?
Although the study sheds light on civil-military relations in all areas of control, there is a particular focus on regime-held areas. Regime-controlled areas provide identifiable features concerning civil-military relations, as the regime has control over the state in legal and institutional terms. Additionally, the regime’s security approach will have the most impact on civil-military relations in the future, affecting more than 12 million displaced Syrians decision to return. The paper also sheds some light on such parameters in areas outside regime control as fragile stability in others zones also hinders the formation of a safe environment conducive of a voluntary and safe return.
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