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Analysing South-South Humanitarian Responses to Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ASSHURED (Analysing South-South Humanitarian Responses to Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

Since 2012, over 6 million people have fled Syria in what UNHCR has called ‘the most dramatic humanitarian crisis that we have ever faced’. Humanitarian agencies and donor states from the global North have implemented aid programmes that have been complemented, and at times challenged, by responses developed by actors from the global South, including the host states of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and a range of ‘non-traditional’ donors like the Gulf states and the Arab League. However, commentators have argued that civil society groups are the most significant actors supporting refugees in the region, with Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish citizens providing food and shelter to refugees; local faith-based organizations delivering aid and providing spiritual support; and protracted Palestinian refugees offering support to ‘new’ refugees seeking sanctuary.

In spite of the significance of these and other Southern-led responses, major knowledge gaps remain regarding the motivations, nature and implications of Southern-led responses to displacement. It is particularly important and timely to critically explore such Southern-led responses in light of UN and Northern states’ expanding interest in actively supporting Southern state and non-state humanitarian initiatives for a range of financial and political reasons.

This project draws on research with refugees from Syria and their diverse aid providers in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to critically examine why, how and with what effect actors from the South have responded to displacement from Syria. By centralising refugees’ own experiences and perspectives of these Southern-led initiatives, the project aims to make a key contribution to knowledge in the fields of Development and Humanitarian Studies and humanitarian policy and practice. Based on a critical theoretical framework inspired by post-colonial and feminist approaches, the research contributes to theories of humanitarianism and debates regarding donor-recipient relations and refugees’ agency in displacement situations. The project aims to inform the development of policies and programmes to most appropriately address the needs and rights of conflict-affected people and has far-reaching implications for refugees and local communities, academics, policy-makers and practitioners alike.
All essential operational policies, procedures and tools are now in place (and where appropriate translated into Arabic), including Data Protection Policies, Ethics Approval, Risk Assessments and Data Collection Tools and are regularly reviewed and updated according to environmental, political and/or legislative changes.
Data collection tools have been finalised and have been piloted during a series of ‘elite’ INGO and ‘local’ interviews in the UK, EU and Lebanon.
The project has been registered by the University’s Data Protection Officer, and Ethics Permission granted by the UCL Research Ethics Committee.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the PI undertook field-visits in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to select appropriate field-sites.
In 2017, the PI recruited a full time Research Associate.
The PI has established local research teams in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. During field-visits, she has also conducted participant observation and interviews.
The RA has completed 82 semi-structured interviews and fieldwork in Lebanon
3 local researchers in Jordan, 2 in Lebanon, and 1 in Turkey are in place; interviews to recruit researchers in Turkey have been scheduled.
The PI has provided inductions and training for local researchers re research tools and data protection, ethics and risk assessment policies and continues to provide the local research teams with regular supervisory support and reviews of their research deliverables.
Locally-based researchers have completed:
5 Social Mapping exercises;
28 interviews with refugees;
67 interviews with community members;
10 interviews with state representatives or NGOs providing support to refugees.
The PI and RA have attended and convened events in the UK, Europe, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and the USA and have written several sole and co-authored chapters and journal articles either already published or scheduled for publication in 2020.
A Project and Communications Coordinator (in post for 2 yrs) has drafted Terms of Assignment for locally based researchers, a Data Protection Policy and procedures, and coordinates team meetings, research trips and expense reimbursements. She has established and manages the project website, which has 34 posts, including abridged versions of chapters from The Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations, co-edited by the PI.
The website (www.southernresponses.org) has had +8,000 individual visitors and 18,242 views; @southernresp Twitter account has 950 followers; the Facebook page has 335 followers.
Despite the multifaceted significance of Southern-led responses to displacement from Syria there are major gaps in knowledge and understanding regarding the motivations, nature and implications of Southern-led responses to conflict-induced.

The project has made good progress towards its main aims to identify diverse models of Southern-led responses, examine (un)official motivations, nature and implications of Southern-led responses, examine refugees' experiences and perceptions of Southern-led responses, explore diverse Southern and Northern actors' perceptions of Southern-led responses, trace the implications of Southern-led initiatives for humanitarian theory and practice and, ultimately, to understand the plurality of humanitarian models developed by actors from the global South; to recognise the agency of displaced populations as humanitarian actors; and to develop a new conceptualisation of humanitarian history, theory and practice. All of these objectives advance current state of the art in this field.

Through 187 interviews with Southern states, civil society members (including faith groups), local community members and refugees the project has gathered data on the motivations, nature and implications of Southern-led responses to displacement from Syria. 53 semi-structured interviews with refugees from Syria has helped centralize the perspectives of refugees regarding Southern-led initiatives. Participant observation, social mapping and walking interviews are contributing data to the project, helping critically explore donor=recipient relations and refugee agency within displacement situations.

The PI, RA and other guest contributors write blog posts for the project website that address the project's main themes. The PI and RA have already drawn on project field data to write blogs, articles, and chapters. Publications are announced and disseminated through the project website and twitter account. These publications contribute and challenge current and dominant theories of humanitarian studies, policy and practice. Centralizing the experiences and interpretations of refugees themselves supports the project’s aim to inform the development of new policies and programmes to most appropriately address the needs and rights of conflict-affected people.
The project will continue to gather and analyse data and to draw on its research findings to address the major gaps in knowledge and understanding regarding the motivations, nature and implications of Southern-led responses to conflict-induced displacement.
An afternoon stroll through the camp market in Baddawi, N. Lebanon (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh
Wall of Kindness in Beirut's Hamra neighbourhood. 'Home' page image (c) L. Harsh
Tending flowers on the threshold to home, Baddawi, N. Lebanon (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh
Statue celebrating Arab-Cuban connections in Cuba. Main 'home' page image. (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh