Consultant - Alternatives to Displacement Sites in NE Syria - Remote and NE Syria

Programs Anywhere, United States



Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within.

The displaced population in northeast (NES) Syria faces major challenges that, in no small part, is due to a lack of credible shelter options. Without meaningful alternatives available, IDP camps, in which an array of humanitarian services is provided, have become a major pull factor for vulnerable populations in NES.

Of particular concern are the 18,000 IDPs currently residing in Collective Centers (CCs) spread across Hasakah, Raqqa, Tabqa, Tal Tamr, Darbasiye, Deir ez-Zor, and other locations. There are also 116,000 individuals living in informal settlements in Raqqa, Menbij, Hasakah, Deir ez-Zor, and elsewhere. Conditions in these locations are poor given significant overcrowding, poor infrastructure conditions, and lack of basic services. Moreover, the majority of the buildings hosting CCs are inadequate shelters for IDPs as they are poorly equipped and are  closed down schools and other public buildings, which further hinders access to education and other services for the local population.

Purpose / Project Description:

Credible options and alternatives to CCs and informal settlements remain elusive. Shelter partners have explored identifying and rehabilitating alternative shelters, but there remains an array of challenges to this approach, including limited availability of public or private housing options, donor restrictions on the level of construction support permitted, limited duration of potential rent-free periods for tenants, reinforcement of MOUs with private owners, other housing, land and property (HLP) rights considerations, and limited livelihood opportunities for IDPs amid deteriorating broader economic conditions.

If credible alternatives can be established, there will also be practical challenges to ensuring movement of IDPs from CCs and informal settlements to alternatives will occur in a safe, voluntary, and dignified manner.

Without feasible alternatives, local authorities have undertaken efforts to empty CCs and informal settlements. In some cases, this has entailed relocating households to camps that are either at or beyond capacity. Humanitarian partners are already by-and-large unable to support infrastructure gaps for new camp expansions. Likewise, camp services will likely face gaps and reductions in services as well if new arrivals continue. In other cases, local authorities have evicted IDPs from CCs when they are not considered to be sufficiently vulnerable.

Considering these challenges and risks, and the consequences for failure to find alternatives, the NES Forum is launching a consultancy to explore sustainable and practical alternatives for the CC and informal settlement populations in northeast Syria.

Consultant Objectives:

Detail the challenges faced by the populations living in Collective Centers and Informal Settlement in Northeast Syria and highlight the consequences for inaction. This will require:
  1. Desk Review of any literature or available materials on Collective Center populations in NES, displacements and events that led to the arrival of these populations, and challenges these populations face.
  2. Engagement with operational partners and coordinators working on and in CCs and informal settlements in areas across NES with focus on Hasakah, Raqqa, Tabqa, and Deir ez-Zor;
  3. Reviewing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing data and literature on CCs and informal settlements conducted by NES NGOs and information management partners.
  4. Articulating likely outcomes if the current approach toward CCs and Informal Settlements continues.
Formulate pragmatic possible options for alternatives to CCs and Informal Settlements. This will entail:
  1. Synthesizing a contextual understanding of NES and technical understandings of shelter options that have been used in other contexts to develop alternatives that may be feasible in NES.
  2. Identifying key services and multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance across sectors that likely need to be deployed to support IDPs that may relocate from CCs and Informal Settlements.
  3. Identify and detail challenges and opportunities with each option.
Provide Recommendations
  1. Propose interventions, including necessary shelter, livelihood, and other needed activities that would enable viable alternatives for CCs and Informal Settlements in NES.
  2. Identify challenges and opportunities that are likely to emerge regarding alternatives to CCs and Informal Settlements. These could entail:
    • Protection risks and other harm that could result from attempting to enact proposed alternative.
    • Challenges with local authorities and host communities.
    • Challenges navigating donor red-lines and restrictions.
  3. Propose mitigation strategies for navigating identified challenges.


The consultant would be expected to finalize the terms of this consultancy remotely 70%, with 30% (minimum) spent inside of northeast Syria.

Consultant Activities:

The Consultant will:

  • See objectives above.
  • Report back on a biweekly basis to the consultancy steering committee
  • Review draft report as per the above outlined objectives and present it to NES Forum Steering Committee
  • Presentation of final report and recommendations to humanitarian and donor communities, as well as to local authorities in NES

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will deliver:

  1. An Interim report to outline progress made and direction taken mid-way through the Consultancy period
  2. A final report including:
    • Overview of CC and Informal Settlements situation in NES – Context Setting Overview (5-6 pages)
    • Proposed alternatives for CCs and Informal Settlements (8-10 pages)
    • Recommendations (5-6 pages)
  3. Summary of the same report in 2-4 pages
  4. Presentation of findings to the NES Inter-Sector Working Group, the NES Forum and its Steering Committee, Operational NGO Leadership, UN Representatives, Donor Community and Local Authorities
    • Presentation that can be used by the NES Forum for future presentations

Timeframe / Schedule: 

3-4 months (hard deadline beginning of May 2023)

The Consultant will report to:

A committee composed of the NES Forum Director, NES Forum Inter-Sector Working Group Coordinator, the Shelter/NFI Coordinator, and the Sites and Settlements Coordinator will work closely with the consultant, review outputs, and support provision of inputs needed by Consultant.

The Consultant will work closely with:

NES Forum Secretariat, NES CCCM and other relevant Sectoral Coordinators

Required Experience & Skills:

  • 5-10 years of experience in relevant technical field (required)
  • In-depth familiarity with the humanitarian operating context of Northeast Syria
  • Strong experience and expertise in humanitarian or development assistance generally, and in particular with humanitarian shelter programming
  • Strong understanding of Durable Solutions to displacement and legal protection frameworks for displaced individuals
  • Strong grasp of foreign policy and international geo-political dynamics 
  • Knowledge of Arabic is preferred

Application Process

Applications should include:

  • Expression of interest addressing experience and qualifications against the ToR
  • Detailed resume / CV
  • References (include in the same attachment with your expression of interest)
  • Detailed breakdown of budget including all relevant costs including but not limited to travel and transportation, staffing including hourly rates, per diem, etc. (include in same attachment with your expression of interest)

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. 

We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.

Equal Employment Opportunity
We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics
Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our stakeholders and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.