Canada’s Development Assistance in Syria

Until recently, Syria was like many other middle-income countries. It was relatively stable with a robust economy and popular cultural and heritage sites. It had a well-educated population and relatively strong national administrative and service delivery systems.

That picture started to change in 2011, when the current violent and widespread conflict began in Syria. The conflict has caused extensive infrastructure damage, a collapsed economy, loss of livelihoods nationwide, a social fabric torn to shreds, and hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries. It has also led to the displacement of millions of people (more than half of all Syrians are displaced), making Syria the largest displacement crisis in the world today.

More than 13 million people inside Syria are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance; over six million of these have been internally displaced by conflict. The particularly violent and fluid nature of the conflict has dramatically affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance, rendering many communities inaccessible. These communities, lacking access to humanitarian assistance and livelihoods, are left struggling to meet their daily basic needs. Over five million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries (notably Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey), placing immense strains on these countries.

These events have had a significant impact on the long-term development progress achieved by Syrians. By the end of 2014, Syria ranked 173 out of 183 countries on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, down from 113 out of 189 in 2010 before the conflict. And by the end of 2013, an estimated three in four Syrians were living in poverty, with 54 percent living in extreme poverty.

A disproportionate number of those affected by the conflict in Syria are children and youth who have lost everything—their homes, schools, friends and often members of their families. These children and youth risk becoming a lost generation unless their rights are upheld. Some six million women and girls living in Syria also face an increased risk of violence and vulnerability to abuse and sexual exploitation because of the conflict.

Given the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the dramatic regression in the long-term development prospects facing the Syrian population—not to mention the need to prepare for the eventual reconstruction and recovery effort once hostilities cease and conditions permit—Canada is working closely with the international community to deliver crucial assistance that addresses the immediate, medium- and longer-term needs of the Syrian people.

Thematic focus

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s new strategy to address the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria, including further increases over the next three years to Canada’s security, stabilization, and humanitarian and development assistance. Complementing Canada’s humanitarian assistance, Canada’s bilateral development assistance will help to retain and build skills, systems and community cohesion inside Syria by enhancing livelihoods— particularly for women and youth—and by supporting the delivery of basic services (e.g. education, water, health). These efforts will help to strengthen the resilience of individuals, communities and systems to withstand the crisis and be well-positioned to contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction and recovery.

Anticipated results

  • Households and communities have more opportunities to earn an income and provide for their families.
  • Households and communities have better access to basic services to help them cope with the effects of the conflict.

Achievements in bilateral development assistance programming


Achievements 2015-2016

  • More than 8,000 individuals received community-based psychosocial support to help cope with the effects of the conflict.
  • 1,038 livestock farmers were supplied with veterinary kits to improve their livelihoods.
  • Eight new early learning centres became operational, employing 113 teachers and providing access to education for over 1,500 vulnerable children.