Jack Berkefeld is a student-journalist in his 5th year of study at UTS. After a year on exchange in Argentina he dreams of being a Spanish-language reporter in Latin America. Having spent most of his life in Sydney he feels equipped to provide fellow Sydneysiders with a nuanced perspective on the goings on in our great city and country at large.
Syria’s development has been squandered on its civil war with half of its workers involved in activities relating to violence, according to new research.
Zaki Mehchy, co-founder of the independent Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR), believes social cohesion and economic development in his country have been undermined by all sides of the conflict in the pursuit of power.
Mr Mehchy told audience members at a recent event at University of Sydney that Syrian life was centred around violence.
“After we had the armed conflict the dynamics within the country changed, we are talking about institutional dynamics, economic, social dynamics, the violence became the core of all activities in Syria," Mr Mehchy said.
"For example, in terms of economics, we don’t have regular economy anymore. We have a violence-related economy and even one indicator mentioned that 50% of working people, of workers in Syria, are working in activities related to violence,” he said.
According to the center´s research this has contributed, among other factors, to an economic loss of $254.7 billion (USD) by 2015, 12.7 times Syria’s projected GDP for that year.
Mr. Mehchy said regional military powers had exploited institutions such as education systems as part of a broader effort to maintain their grip on power by fostering division.
“Due to the fragmentation and the de facto authority in different regions, each authority attempts to have its own curriculum its own education system and this curriculum is basically or is based on hating the others. This creates a large crack in the Syrian society and of course it will have also future impact on the social cohesion in the country,” he said.
The talk was part of a larger speaking tour organised by Associate Research Fellow Dr. Dara Conduit from the Middle East Studies Forum (MESF) with funding from the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) to better educate Australians and their leaders on the civil war.
“I think it’s incredibly important with the Syrian conflict becoming ever more complex by the day, that we let the data speak for itself. Things are getting so polarised that you know, sitting back and actually looking at what’s going on from a technical perspective is excellent for Australians to understand,” Dr Conduit said.
Mr. Mehchy also met with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and other government organisations.
According to Al-Jazeera , Syria’s territory is divided between government forces, rebel forces such as the Free Syria Army (FSA),Turkish forces, Kurdish forces, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other smaller groups.
The conflict began in 2011 and has entered its eighth year.