The catastrophic situation in Syria since 2011 has made the country one of the world’s largest recipients of humanitarian assistance, and the vast majority of these multi-billion-dollar aid flows to regime-held areas is facilitated by the United Nations. A new investigative report by the Syrian Legal Development Program (SLDP) and the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks (OPEN) has examined how private companies involved in human rights abuses benefit from the U.N.’s procurements in the country. This unprecedented report, focused on the U.N.’s top 100 private suppliers, is the first systematic investigation of the U.N.’s procurement operations in Syria.
The report reveals that in 2019 and 2020, 46.6% of U.N. procurement funding in Syria went to suppliers deemed to pose a very high or high risk of association with regime's human rights abuses, and that 23% of U.N.'s procurements were sourced from individuals sanctioned by the U.S., U.K. and E.U. for their roles in supporting the Syrian regime’s human rights violations and war crimes.
Please join us as our distinguished panel of experts discusses the report and its findings, and proposes potential solutions and reforms for the U.N.’s aid operations in Syria.
Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
Senior Researcher, Syrian Legal Development Program (SLDP)
Columbia Law School and former Senior Syria Researcher, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Syria Program Manager, OPEN; Non-Resident Scholar, MEI
Charles Lister, moderator
Senior Fellow and Director, Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism Programs, MEI
Detailed Speakers Biographies
Natasha is a senior fellow with the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Natasha has over 15 years of experience as an analyst, researcher, and practitioner in complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict-affected areas with a specialty in the Middle East. Most recently, she has worked on the Syrian conflict with the Shaikh Group, GIZ, Mayday Rescue, Center for Civilians in Conflict and the U.S. government’s Refugee Affairs Division. Her work has focused on conflict resolution, governance, displacement, environmental issues, resilience and civilian protection.
Eyad is a senior researcher specializing in Syria. He joined the Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) at SLDP as an investigations officer researching and monitoring the Syrian business scene for human rights violations and promoting accountability. Before joining SLDP, he worked as a politics journalist for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper between 2017-2020. During his time in school, Eyad volunteered with Syrian communities in Istanbul, focusing on education and supported Syria through SOAS Syria Society and organized events including seminars, talks, exhibitions and protests in support of human rights.
Sara Kayyali is the Syria researcher in the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, investigating human rights and international humanitarian law violations in Syria. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, she was the legal analyst at the Syrian Legal Development Program, where she provided research and capacity-building support on human rights and humanitarian legal issues arising out of the Syrian conflict. Kayyali previously worked with civil society on regional and international advocacy and policymaking around key issues in the Arab region as the Policy and Advocacy program specialist at the Open Society Foundations – Arab Regional Office.
Shaar is a Political Economist. His earlier work focussed on macroeconomics, aid economics, sanctions, energy, and actor mapping in Syria and New Zealand. He is the Syria Program Manager at the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. Prior to that, he was the Research Director of the Operations and Policy Center, a Senior Analyst at the New Zealand Treasury, and a Senior Lecturer on Middle East Politics.
Charles Lister is a senior fellow and the Director of the Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute. His work focuses primarily on all-things Syria and on issues of terrorism and insurgency across the Levant. Prior to joining MEI, Lister was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Qatar and a Senior Consultant to the multinationally-backed Syria Track II Dialogue Initiative, in which he managed nearly three years of intensive face-to-face engagement with the leaderships of over 100 Syrian armed opposition groups.
With thanks to Citizens for a Secure and Safe America (C4SSA) for its help in making this event possible.
Photo by Louai Beshara via Getty Images