Future urban development scenarios for post-conflict Syria. How will returning refugees shape the future?

Batoul Ibrahim*, Barend Wind, Karel Maier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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As relative stability returns to many parts of Syria after ten years of armed conflict, several cities are beginning to restore urban life through planning interventions and reconstruction projects. However, unbalanced urban growth, partly due to the presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs), presents significant challenges for major cities. Yet, the odds of the returning decision are reduced due to several challenges such as lack of infrastructure, inadequate public services, housing shortage, and social barriers. This paper outlines how Syria can develop more liveable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable places in the post-conflict phase. It projects four scenarios, each with varying numbers and characteristics of returning refugees and IDPs. Next, it compares the returnees' potential residential patterns and urban concentration to Zipf's Law, a normalised distribution of ‘ideal’ city sizes. The paper proposes polycentric development approach for the best chance at balancing development, sustainability, and mass returns in the recovery phase. It is concluded that the effectiveness of post-conflict administration of spatial development will affect the Syrian exiles' behaviour, both the number of those who decide to return and the spatial choice for those who actually return.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102499
Number of pages12
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022


  • Polycentric development
  • Post-conflict
  • Scenarios
  • Syria
  • Zipf's law

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