Call for Panels - Syrian Remittances: Navigating Forced Displacement, Sanctions and Humanitarian Needs

Syrian Remittances: Navigating Forced Displacement, Sanctions and Humanitarian Needs

Submitted by Erica Moret, Joseph Daher, Tolga Bolukbasi, Benjamin Shraven and Ola El Taliawi
In theme Political Economy and Politics of Humanitarianism

The role of remittances in the political economies of the Middle East has traditionally been an important subject for scholars interested in the challenges of development in resource poor countries, “absence” of broad-based political mobilization, as well as unconventional mechanisms for sustaining social welfare since the adoption of neoliberal reforms in the late 1980s. The scholarship on the subject predominantly tends to focus on quantifying the volume of remittances, in relation to the GDP with few empirical attempts to comparatively survey the motives for remitting, or the impact on recipient households. With the exception of the case of Lebanon, the literature has not focused on the experiences of those countries affected by violent conflict. Post the Arab uprisings, however, the reality of remittances has shifted in important ways across the region. While the overall volume of remittances flowing into labor exporting economies has exponentially increased, new massive waves of forced displacement have also created new remittance-dependent countries, like Syria where inflows are by some estimates as high as US 8.5 billion or 30.6% of the GDP in 2017. In the latter contexts, remittances are not just vitally important for building community resilience and sustaining local livelihoods but can also, as demonstrated by research in post conflict countries in Africa and Asia, be later leveraged for recovery and post-conflict reconstruction purposes. This panel presents an empirically grounded analysis of the political economy of remittances in Syria. The papers inquire into the structuring effects of successive US and EU sanctions, national banking regulations, the Lebanese financial crisis and macro-economic dynamics following COVID, on the remittance channels available to Syrian migrants. Further, the papers will present contextual analyses of Syrian remittances from migrants based in Germany, Jordan and Turkey, by examining demographic and socio-economic characteristics of senders, as well as the impacts of both migration and labor market regulations on remittance flows. Findings from these papers also shed lights on the incentives shaping choice of money transfer mechanisms by migrants. The panel will also engage with remittances from the household recipient side, looking at how the variety of legal- regulatory frameworks in Syria (de jure and de facto) have affected flows, and channels, while also exploring their distributive impact and gendered access. Finally, the panel will conclude with a macro-level comparative look at Syrian remittances dynamics across the three cases to identify shared hurdles, and incentives that most prominently shape the decision of migrants to remit money home, including their selection of formal versus informal channels, as well as the overall socio-economic impact of these flows at the household level. By examining remittances from the perspectives of the global political economy, the sending and the recipient sides, the papers in this panel contribute to the scholarship on the transformation of political economies following the Arab Spring, as well as larger debates on the socio-economic impacts of sanctions, in addition to the empirical studies of migration, and war economies.

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