From the beginning of the Syrian uprising, governments and NGOs have sent humanitarian and other civilian aid to Syrians to alleviate their suffering, support their social and civic institutions and advance their goals for political change. As the violence has become more deeply sectarian, however, foreign aid donors face the risk that their support might exacerbate communal suspicions or privilege one faction in a multidimensional conflict. Some governments and private citizens are deliberately targeting aid to empower a particular religious or communal group; others may be doing so inadvertently. Conversely, there are organizations and government institutions that are seeking to target their aid in ways that can help overcome sectarian hostilities and put Syria on a surer path to post-conflict political reconciliation. How might the work of assistance providers affect the ability of Syrians to repair their social fabric when the war ends? What can donor governments do to ensure that their aid contributes to conflict resolution?
On September 23, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings will host a panel discussion exploring the politicization of non-lethal aid to Syria. Brookings Fellow William McCants, director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, will examine the role that Gulf charities are playing in fostering sectarian tensions in Syria and then moderate a panel on the sectarian dimension of non-lethal assistance for Syria coming outside the Gulf. The panel will include Abed Ayoub, president of Islamic Relief USA, Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and Maria Stephan, strategic planner of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the U.S. Department of State.
After the program, the panelists will take audience questions.