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Leveraging the Syrian Diaspora

The Syrian diaspora became successful abroad on a number of levels but has always been connected to Syrians inside Syria; this relationship, however, is evolving as a result of the ongoing conflict. From mainly economic and cultural contributions to the homeland, there is now a pressing need for the diaspora to find ways to increase its contribution on the humanitarian, social, political, economic, and intellectual levels as Syria witnesses a degradation of institutions and a rise in extremism that threaten its national identity and state integrity. Mobilisation by the diaspora becomes more urgent when concerns about stability and security risk trumping human rights. It requires different strategies and a higher level of coordination and cooperation among Syria’s divergent diasporic communities than what they had been engaged in before the current crisis.  
ARI posits that the success of the Syrian community in the diaspora endows it with skills, expertise, and resources that would allow it to play an important role in leveraging the Syrian crisis. The project, running from 2016-2017, seeks to bring together the experiences of the major Arab diasporas, Palestinian and Lebanese, to bear on those of the Syrian diaspora. As in the case of Palestine and Lebanon, the Syrian diaspora can contribute positively to Syrians within and outside the homeland politically, economically, and culturally.  
Through the project, ARI will bring together key representatives from those three communities to share experiences and engage in debate in order to establish a diasporic network of experts that can form the infrastructure of a support group for Syria. The interactions of the three major diasporic Arab communities will shed light on the contribution that the Syrian diaspora can make in the current crisis, leading to the production of recommendations for the policy community worldwide as well as for members of the Syrian diaspora in order to identify concrete ways of leveraging the diaspora’s expertise and resources to aid in alleviating the crisis. 
The project’s main activity is a high-level conference that will be a key platform targeting the policy community, major diaspora figures, and the international media to issue a call to action about the role of the Syrian diaspora. In addition, a series of policy papers will be produced that focus on the economic, political, intellectual, and cultural contributions of Arab diasporas, the state of the Syrian diaspora and its contribution, and the role of regional/international actors.
Bassma Kodmani, ARI Executive Director, and Hana Jaber, Senior Fellow, lead this project assisted by Nafissa El Souri, ARI Programme and Research Assistant.
Project sponsor: Ford Foundation