UNDP Syria Launches On-Line Platform to Expand Legal Awareness among Vulnerable Syrians

Posted June 16, 2022

In line with the protection strategy of the 2022-2023 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), UNDP is advancing efforts to increase legal awareness among vulnerable Syrians, especially around issues of civil documentation and housing, land, and property (HLP). According to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, challenges around access to civil documentation were reported in 76 percent of assessed communities (compared to 61 percent in 2020) and spread across all governorates. Sixty-one percent of assessed communities reported HLP concerns (compared to 50 percent in 2020).

Lack/loss of civil documentation impacts all population groups with specific vulnerabilities for women and children. It limits the ability of widowed or divorced women to inherit property, get custody of children, legally remarry, or register children born through subsequent relationships. Registration provides official recognition of a child's existence, identity, and nationality. Unregistered children may face difficulties in accessing basic services and rights, including health and education. It compounds a series of existing protection risks and vulnerabilities in terms of freedom of movement and HLP issues including security of tenure and increased risk of statelessness, and limits even the ability to access humanitarian assistance.

Despite these significant needs, only a limited number of partners currently deliver legal assistance services in much of the country. As a result, there is a large gap in legal awareness among vulnerable communities, with access to legal advice and counseling being vastly insufficient. Marginalized groups like IDPs, refugee returnees, and women are the most affected.

To help close this gap, UNDP Syria recently launched an online platform aimed at expanding access to up-to-date legal information for Syrians both inside and outside the country, with a focus on civil documentation and HLP issues. The platform – which can be accessed across the whole of Syria - provides information on relevant national legislation and rights, allows beneficiaries to connect with legal professionals contracted by UNDP to solicit more tailored information on specific cases, and provides referral services to other partners in the Protection Sector.

The platform also provides a space for legal practitioners to share knowledge and information on key legal challenges related to the impact of the crisis on the rights of crisis-affected Syrians. In line with the Protection Sector’s 2022-2023 strategy and the humanitarian coordinators’ protection advocacy plan, which places special emphasis on enhancing the sustainability of interventions and on developing relevant, local capacities to enhance protection, the platform counts on the legal expertise of a network of in-country Syrian lawyers registered with the Syrian Bar Association. The lawyers supporting the platform receive human rights training from UNDP. Such efforts help address the existing gap in human resources affecting the justice sector.

Risk Management and the Centrality of Protection

Given the complex crisis context in which the service is delivered, UNDP Syria has ensured the highest levels of data protection and privacy for users of the online platform, including the ability to access services without the need to provide self-identifying information. All data entered in the system is anonymized and accessible uniquely to UNDP, and only after consent has been obtained. The beneficiary data is stored in secured, UNDP-owned servers. In addition, UNDP carries out continuous monitoring and quality assurance of the assistance provided by lawyers participating in the platform, who also receive periodic training on human rights and protection.