The challenges and dead ends of delivering aid in government-held areas in Syria


Ahmed is currently the hospital director of the MSF reconstructive surgery hospital in Amman. He is also a former member of a humanitarian organization operating in government-held areas in Syria.


Agnès Levallois is an expert on Middle East issues, particularly on Syria. She is vice-president of the think tank iReMMO (Institut de recherche et d’études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient).
She is also a lecturer at SciencesPo Paris.



Joseph Daher teaches at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and is an affiliate professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, where he co-coordinates the "Syrian Trajectories" research project. He is the author of "Syria after the Uprisings, The Political Economy of State Resilience" (2019) and "Hezbollah, the Political Economy of Lebanon's Party of God". He is also the author of numerous reports and articles in relations to Syria's economy, including the research collection entitled "Structured Chaos: how nonprofits in conflict settings became an economic sector".

This event took place on Wednesday 6 December 2023 at 6.30pm, at MSF headquarters, 34 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris. The replay is available here.


Crash and iReMMO were pleased to invite you to a round table discussion on the challenges, constraints, and limits of humanitarian aid in Syrian government zones.

Since the start of the war in 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières has been providing aid in Syria only in areas outside government control. Despite our numerous attempts, the authorities always refused our offers of work until the earthquake that struck the north of the country in February 2023. As part of a strategy to normalize diplomatic relations, the government accepted two major donations from the organization to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) between February and April 2023. These donations and the ensuing negotiations, which were carried out with the aim of reaching an agreement on MSF's registration in Syria, gave rise to lively discussions within the organization: to what extent can we hope to negotiate an autonomous working space with a government which is responsible for mass atrocities, and which is described by researchers and human rights activists as exercising total control over international aid resources? Is humanitarian aid on the government side still condemned to "finance the Baathist repressive apparatus, [...] punish opponents and reward supporters" of the regime, in the words of Human Rights Watch in 2019?

To answer these questions, we had the pleasure of welcoming Agnès Levallois, vice-president of iReMMO, consultant specializing in the Middle East and lecturer at Sciences Po Paris; Joseph Daher, professor at the European University Institute in Florence where he coordinates the ‘Syrian Trajectories' research project (online); Ahmed Youssef, now director of the MSF hospital in Amman and former member of a humanitarian organization operating in government-held areas in Syria (online); and Zahra Albarazi, Director of Programmes at the Syria Legal Development Programme (online). The meeting was moderated by Michaël Neuman, director of studies at Crash, Médecins Sans Frontières.

In partnership with iReMMO - Institut de recherche et d'études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient

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To cite this content :
Ahmed Youssef, Agnès Levallois, Joseph Daher, “The challenges and dead ends of delivering aid in government-held areas in Syria”, 6 décembre 2023, URL :

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