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Transdisciplinary Compositions Contemporary Challenges Check this out. Portfolio Night Check this out. See all events. Oil and cereals are shipped from the east to densely populated western parts of the country, while electricity produced in opposition areas is distributed to regime areas. Financial transfers are conducted across borders and various goods are traded between the different regions.

Manufactured goods, mostly produced in regime areas, continue to be distributed across the rest of the country. Examples of barter deals between regime and opposition areas also abound. This mutual dependence has played out in surprising ways.

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In early , for instance, ISIS took control of a gas plant that was under construction by the Russian company Stroytransgaz. Works continued under ISIS control, and the plant now delivers gas to the Syrian grid, which supplies both government and opposition areas. George Haswani, a Christian businessman and owner of a local engineering subcontractor of Stroytransgaz, is believed to have acted as a middleman between ISIS and the government, which led the US government to sanction him. Several other examples exist of similar deals between parts of the country controlled by the PYD and ISIS, which have the bulk of the resources, and opposition- and regime-controlled areas, where resources are lacking.

When the war ends, this interdependence will remain. The state employs hundreds of thousands of people, and provides schooling and health services to millions more. The Kurds, for instance, still rely on the Damascus government for the registration of civil records. Meanwhile, the internal displacement of Syrians will also encourage a continued sense of nationhood. In the coastal region, for instance, the better-off among those displaced from areas such as Aleppo and Idlib are now buying properties and opening businesses.

In the province of Tartous, for instance, the number of new individual companies doubled last year from in to 1, Increasingly, this population sees its future on the coast, and is contributing to gradual demographic change, with a growing Sunni population.

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These people maintain family, social, and business ties with their regions of origin, contributing to the strong bonds between the various parts of Syria. Likewise, communities of poorer displaced people who have moved to urban centres, often under government control, to escape the violence of outlying areas, maintain strong links to their home regions, which are often opposition ruled. Decades of a centrally planned economy, the development of national institutions, a single school curriculum, and pervasive regime propaganda have left their mark on Syrian society.

The wars against Israel, and the years of economic and political isolation and sanctions, have also contributed to national unity. This must also be set against the fear of the unknown. Even after all of the destruction of the last five years, the example of the violent disintegration of Iraq frightens everyone.

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Many Syrians, across both the opposition and the regime, share the perception that any move towards decentralisation would mean the eventual partition of the country. This being said, the reality of five years of conflict has made clear, at least to some on the opposition side, that major reform of the system of governance is unavoidable. The National Coalition NC , which includes most non-armed opposition groups, is proposing administrative decentralisation, i. Some groups in the coalition have suggested that this process could go further, including by granting special political rights to the Kurds, though this would fall short of the Kurdish demand for a federal Syrian state.

It committed to ending all forms of discrimination against the Kurds, though it did not enter into the specifics of the future political map of Syria. It is also limited by its dependency on Ankara, which strongly opposes any move that would encourage Kurdish separatism within Turkey. On the part of the regime, there is complete opposition to the idea of decentralisation and no willingness to compromise on the issue. The regime is dominated by the minority Alawite community, and as a result its nationalist credentials are a key source of legitimacy, giving it even less room for manoeuvre on this issue than the opposition.

The Syrian state offers the Alawite community in particular the best protection for its interests, both economic and political. In May , Russia prepared a draft text for a constitution that acknowledged the need for decentralisation. Much broader powers would be granted to the regions. In addition, the Syrian prime minister would have several deputies representing the various religious and ethnic minorities.

A broad agreement in favour of the most radical form of decentralisation, federalism, exists among all Kurdish groups, including the KNC and the PYD. Though they are political rivals, both groups concur in their demand for greatly extended powers that would allow them to run most of their day-to-day affairs. No Kurdish political group calls for any form of partition, however, and all claim that they want to remain within the Syrian state framework.

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This is to some extent a reflection of the regional context; any move towards independence would be rejected by almost all countries in the region that have large Kurdish communities, including Iran and Turkey. The last five years of war in Syria have sent its regions off in different directions, with their own forms of governance, laws, and even languages, suggesting that decentralisation may represent one of the few realistic means to chart a way forward, despite strong opposition from the government.

Decentralisation would take as its starting point the facts that have been established on the ground, while maintaining the integrity of the Syrian state and satisfying enough of the interested parties. However, a major problem in the debate over decentralisation has been the poor understanding of what it would entail and the key issues at stake:.

Syria is currently divided into 14 governorates, each of which has a capital city, and into smaller districts and sub-districts. Syria remains, however, a highly centralised state with limited devolution of powers to the regions and districts. It will be crucial to decide the basis on which decentralisation takes place.

The regions inhabited by Kurds do not correspond to the current administrative division — should more power be given to the governorates, the districts, or the sub-districts? Another key question is what terms should determine the transfer of fiscal income from the state to the regions. Northeast Syria has relatively large oil reserves and grows wheat, cotton and barley in large volumes.

Deciding who these reserves belong to — all Syrians or only those who live locally — how they will be developed, and how their revenue will be shared, is at the core of the debate on decentralisation.

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This applies not just to Kurdish regions, but to other parts of the country with natural resources such as Deir-ez-Zor, the other major centre of oil production. The allocation of government jobs will be a fundamental issue in a country where the state absorbs around a third of the workforce entering the labour market every year. State investment in infrastructure, health, and education facilities, and business projects is also key. These issues will come increasingly to the fore in the context of any future post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

There will be debate over who should control the purse strings, and whether the funds should be handled by a strong central government in Damascus.

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If so, the contractors, suppliers, and other members of the business elite that will benefit most will be those based close to the centre of power. A rare exception is the position of president, from which Christians are banned — as confirmed in the constitution approved under Bashar al-Assad in However, when it comes to ethnicity, there is formal discrimination against non-Arabs. Because of the size of the Kurdish community and their geographic concentration, and hence their perceived threat to national unity, Kurds have been particularly discriminated against.

In the wake of the uprising, other minorities have brought forward claims for recognition, including Assyrian Christians, Turkmens, Circassians, and Armenians. Syrians need to acknowledge that the debate over the fears of minorities is justified. Where do the rights of communities apply and where do those of individuals take precedence? How to preserve the freedom and rights of individuals amid the growing role of ethnic and sectarian communities in Syria and build a state in which people are appointed on the basis of merit, not their community, is a question that has yet to be answered. The draft Russian constitution proposes a similar bicameral system, whereby a Regional Council would represent regions and the government would have sectarian and ethnic representation. Syrians, and with them their international partners, will have to confront some hard questions as they chart a way forward.

It is clear, however, that there is no going back to the highly centralised state that existed before This fact has significant implications for efforts to curtail the conflict. For European states and institutions, particularly those most active in international diplomacy on Syria — the seven European members of the International Syria Support Group: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the EU — a recognition of the irreversibility of decentralisation should have important implications for their approach to conflict resolution.

International efforts to date have been focused on pursuing a centrally negotiated power-sharing agreement between representatives of the government and the opposition.

This approach must be adjusted to take into account the multiple competing power bases that exist in Syria, and the diffusion of power away from Damascus. European actors need to recognise this reality and push a decentralisation agenda as one of the conditions for negotiations going forward. This will inevitably need to involve the Kurds as one of the key parties on the ground.