Roles and responsibilities

A wide diversity of stakeholders are involved in various ways in the Syria refugee response in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Many have roles and responsibilities that are relevant to the issue of statelessness and / or access to civil registration and documentation. The table below highlights some of the most significant stakeholders in the region and provides a brief description of their role. Further details of organisations engaged in relevant activities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq – including national NGOs – can be found in each of the country sections. The level of understanding of statelessness and of engagement in relevant activities varies between stakeholders, but may also differ from one country to the next, and may also change over time.


UN Agencies


The host state is responsible, under international law, for protecting the basic human rights of refugees on its territory. It is also responsible for civil registration and vital statistics, including fulfilling the right to be registered immediately after birth for every child born in the country. The following are some of the key state actors:

  • Civil status department
    Records vital events such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces; and issues related documents and certificates.

  • Mokhtars (local mayors)
    Play a key part in the chain process of birth registration, which often starts with approaching this local-level official. For instance, in Lebanon, a birth notification obtained from a hospital or certified midwife must be presented by the parents to the local Mokhtar, who issues a certificate which then needs to be processed by the Personal Status Department.
  • Shari’a Courts
    Preside over a wide range of legal affairs, including family and personal status law. Conduct marriage ceremonies and issue certificates which form the basis for official marriage registration.

  • Ministry of Interior
    Processes residence permits and issues related ID cards, including for refugees.

  • Health service providers
    Hospitals and health clinics are responsible for issuing a birth attestation for babies born within their facilities; where the birth takes place outside a healthcare facility, the attending officia mid-wife is responsible for issuing the attestation. This document plays a key part in the birth registration process in most host states.

  • Syrian Embassies and Consulates in the host states
    Responsible for the renewal of Syrian identity documents (e.g. passports, identity cards) for Syrian nationals abroad. Also responsible for recording in the Syrian civil registry a birth or marriage that takes place abroad, based on the birth or marriage certificate issued by the host country. IMPORTANT: In the case of refugees, approaching the Syrian Embassy or Consulate may not be advised, for protection reasons.

Several UN agencies are present in all of the countries of the Syria regional refugee response, where they work with and alongside the host states in providing adequate support and protection to refugees from Syria.  Their activities, and those of other actors in the refugee response, are coordinated under the 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan.

A number of large INGOs provide assistance to refugees from Syria across multiple countries in the region. They work on various things, i.e. legal aid, cash assistance for documentation etc. and their activities may vary between countries. Where specific activities are mentioned, these should be understood as illustrative examples only, as engagement is continuously evolving.

  • Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
    Present in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Through its Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) programme, NRC provides legal aid in completing birth registration procedures in Lebanon and Jordan. NRC has also conducted national outreach programmes and public awareness campaigns on civil registration. It has produced reports on refugees’ access to birth and marriage registration in Lebanon and an assessment of the challenges to civil registration system for refugees in Jordan.

  • Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
    Present in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In Jordan, the Danish Refugee Council has run a project offering cash-assistance to families whose only obstacle to obtaining documentation is monetary.

  • Oxfam
    Present in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. In Lebanon, Oxfam supported refugee–led initiatives to identify what the communities felt were some of the most difficult challenges they faced in their host countries, identified access to documents as a major issue.

  • Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF)
    Present in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. Provides medical care, including maternity care. Birth attestations may be issued by MSF mid-wives.

  • Terre Des Hommes
    Present in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Provides emergency relief, financial support, basic necessities and child protection.

Refugee community

Coordination mechanisms

The refugee community is

  • Refugee Focal Points
    Many communities or groups appoint a focal point responsible for being the main point of contact with civil society organizations and other stakeholders. They will often be at the forefront of sharing the concerns of their communities, and can play a role in public awareness campaigns that are targeting their communities. Often, different focal points are responsible for different themes, such as a gender or a children’s focal point.

  • Syrian religious leaders
    Among the refugees, there may be Sheikhs or Imams who have also fled Syria. They may continue to perform their duties in exile – in particular conducting religious marriage ceremonies. They can play an essential role in spreading information about official marriage registration procedures that families must undertake after the religious ceremony. At times, their role may pose certain challenges. One difficulty is that they not be aware that the systems in host countries are not as flexible with regards to delays in officialising marriages as that in Syria. Additionally, in Syria, everyone would know their Sheikh but now in displacement there is the challenge that in some of the camps and urban areas, anyone can claim to be a “Sheikh” and start conducting marriage ceremonies.

  • Refugee-Led initiatives
    Many refugee-led initiatives across the region work to address different issues and challenges facing their groups. In Lebanon, for example refugee-led initiatives identified what the communities felt were some of the most difficult challenges they faced in their host countries – where in fact they identified access to documents as a major issue. There are also many youth-led initiatives where teenagers and young adults create different programmes and projects that also seek to address some of the challenges facing their peers.

There are numerous coordination mechanisms within the regional refugee response. These include:

  • 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan
    This plan forms the foundation for the coordinated, region-wide response of more than 200 partners, including United Nations agencies, NGOs and other international and national actors, to provide assistance and capacities to over 4.8 million Syrian refugees as well as host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The 2016-2017 Regional Strategic Overview recognizes that increasing access to civil status documentation is also a key element of the protection response. This is deemed “critical in addressing the risks of statelessness arising from conflict, displacement, family separation and the loss or destruction of documents”.

  • No Lost Generation
    The No Lost Generation (NLG) initiative was launched as an initiative between UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, World Vision, Mercy Corps and works on various issues challenging displaced children in the region. Access to birth registration is among the issues that this initiative seeks to promote.

  • In-country coordination mechanisms
    Within each host country, engagement on particular issues is also coordinated through different processes and networks. These include Protection Clusters and Working Groups, for instance the Child Protection Cluster which exists in different countries, but also others such as the Statelessness Working Group in Lebanon.

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