Humanitarian and Development Actors Unite to Build Resilience in Lebanon
“We are now in the fourth year of the Syria crisis and we can see that there is not only a host community fatigue [in Lebanon], but also a donor’s fatigue,” said Emily Jacquard, Director of Search for Common Ground’s Lebanon country office. “We are facing a decrease of funding. Now more than ever, local and international actors need to come together to share resources, knowledge and cross fertilise.”
Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is one of the main members of a social stability working group, ensuring that humanitarian assistance doesn’t increase the gap between host communities and Syrian refugees. “Lebanon is a country suffering the most from the impact of the Syrian crisis,” explained Ms Jacquard. “At the economic level it’s a strain on the communities in terms of electricity, waste management, water shortage.” Yet until early 2014 humanitarian aid mostly targeted Syrian refugees, creating resentment and frustration from the host communities.
Lebanon operates a no camp policy, meaning Syrian refugees live in host communities. SFCG works with donors towards social stability in these communities for both the refugees and the locals. The refugees “tended to settle in the most underprivileged areas, but now they are all over with no option of livelihood,” explained Ms Jacquard. “They are not allowed to work. Syrian refugees are scattered around host communities, renting garages or living in ITS, what we call Informal Tented Settlement.”
|At the time of writing, there are almost 1.2 million Syrian refugees registered as living in Lebanon, however, estimates suggest the real number is much larger. While Lebanon now ranks as hosting the second largest group of refugees, it has the highest refugee density; in 2012 Lebanon had a population of 4.4 million people. At the start of the crisis, Lebanon had maintained an open border policy with Syria, but in January 2015 restrictions came into force controlling the flow of refugees from Syria to Lebanon.|
Working with the Lebanese government SFCG were able to highlight the need for host communities to also be supported. “Now the development assistance mainly targets the host communities. And what SFCG is trying to do is to reconcile [humanitarian aid and development] and bring them together,” said Ms Jacquard. She believes a comprehensive approach is the best way to meet people’s basic needs, while also ensuring their dignity.
For example Syrian refugees are supported through cash transfer programmes. Instead of providing them with blankets, medicines or other things that they might not need, they receive cash through vouchers, so they can decide themselves what they require. This also has a positive impact on the Lebanese economy, as they carry out their purchases in local shops. However, it can also create jealousy as the locals see the refugees receiving financial support.
It is also important to remember the historical context. Syria occupied Lebanon for a period of almost 30 years, ending not so long ago in 2005. Therefore there was already some tension between Syrians and Lebanese even before the Syrian crisis began.
Ms Jacquard’s office is working on many projects to try empower both Syrian and Lebanese to better cope with the crisis and to enter into constructive dialogue. “What we are trying to do to re-humanise Syrian refugees, they are no longer refugees only, they are also individuals, they are human beings with feelings, and who have to deal with going through a lot. After they cross the border they are living in very very dire circumstances so we are really helping them to cope again, at the basic level needs but also at the human needs,” said Ms Jacquard.
For example, adults have been brought together at roundtable discussions to create joint projects to improve their local community. While, during the week more than 600 Syrian and Lebanese children are learning English together. Through these classes they are also taught about building empathy and overcoming discrimination: “because there is a need of not only formal, but also informal education space,” added Ms Jacquard.
Since 2012, total EU funding to Lebanon in the context of the Syrian crisis accounts for €487.4 million. It addresses simultaneously development and humanitarian assistance refugees and host communities’ needs. In particular infrastructures (eg: water, waste water, solid waste management) but also health and education.
Within this framework, the EU is supporting a 24 month project implemented by SFCG called "A Youth-led Approach to Peaceful coexistence between Syrian refugee and Lebanese host communities". It promotes dialogue and trust-building among 320 youths from eight different communities.
On 15 December 2014, the EU established the ‘Madad’ EU Regional Trust Fund in order to mobilise additional resources and to better adapt their support to the Syrian crisis. Benefiting Lebanon, the fund will increase flexibility and limit the scattering of funding. It will be operational in the coming weeks.
SFCG has also teamed up with local organisations and key humanitarian actors on the ground, such as the Danish, to share expertise. “[SFCG has] been doing conflict transformation for more than 32 years in 35 countries and we are now providing them with training on how to deal with conflict arising between Syrian and between Syrian and Lebanese,” said Ms Jacquard. “We are bridging this divide between humanitarian and development actors by sharing expertise and networks, without reinventing the wheel.”
To such an end they have created a collaborative platform where all members can share their expertise and resources.
|For more information on the EU's policies in Fragile and Crisis situations please visit the Public Group on Fragility and Crisis Situations. In this group you can also download a copy of the EU Staff Handbook for Operating in Situations of Conflict and Fragility.|