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3.2 Mechanisms for Social Stability in Lebanon – UNDP Compendium

Chapter 3 Promoting Social Cohesion

3.2 Mechanisms for Social Stability in Lebanon

Objectives

To

  1. promote social stability by addressing social, economic, and security challenges facing both Lebanese communities and Syrian refugees;
  2. invigorate the role of the municipality in mitigating conflict and managing the crisis through capacity building and securing financial and human resources and
  3. build trust between the municipality and citizens, donors, refugees, and civil society through a long-term strategy for mitigating conflict and alleviating the crisis.

Project Description

The pressure of the Syrian refugees’ influx into already impoverished Lebanese villages and cities has created challenges, social tensions and, at times, violence between Lebanese and Syrians or between Lebanese themselves. The Mechanisms for Social Stability project aims to improve and strengthen social interactions and stability on the local level with the objective of preserving peace and harmony. It is one of the few interventions that target the social aspect of the Syrian crisis in Lebanon and it draws on UNDP’s extensive peace-building experience around the world. It is flexible, seeks to address root causes of the conflict, and adapts to the specificities of each locality.

Through capacity building and planning sessions, unique mechanisms for social stability are developed to address the key problems identified. UNDP supports the established platforms to launch activities and events that address root causes. This is done in close collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs through the Social Development Centers (SDCs) that coordinate refugee services. It is also based on the different localities of the SDCs.

The Project provides vulnerable communities with mechanisms and platforms to address instability and social tensions to build their resilience and ability to face challenges and consists of three phases: 1) The Conflict-Analysis Phase: UNDP facilitates participatory workshops of local stakeholders representing local governments and local civil society to identify potential causes of instability. 2) Selecting the Mechanisms for Social Stability: the objective of this phase is to develop a strategy through the local group and mechanisms that will work to address the local conflicts and contribute to social stability. 3) Implementing the selected Mechanisms: the proposed Mechanisms for Social Stability are based on the principles of interaction, participation, and respect, aiming at enabling the municipality to shift the perceptions of threat and discrimination. This is achieved by encouraging common activities and easing relations within the Lebanese community, within the Syrian community, and between Lebanese and Syrians.

Innovation

This project represents a process innovation because, in the context of Lebanon, efforts to address social stability are rare. It breaks through barriers to utilise a highly-participative approach, brings a rich set of stakeholders together, and addresses root causes of social instability. It also shifts the paradigm of how conflict is addressed in parts of Lebanon, addresses mostly deep-lying social tensions in different villages, and engages the SDCs and the municipalities effectively in their role of maintaining social stability. It is innovative because it looks at the issues from a comprehensive approach and considers the conflicts as part of a system. It is also mainly about ownership and the feeling that each community has the full power over what is being developed.

The Project is flexible in that it accommodates the local conditions and customs by choosing the platform and solutions appropriate to the context – adapting the design based on feedback, learnings on the ground, and beneficiary needs – and creating conditions for collaboration. This highly adaptive approach has decreased risks and increased success. For example, the project allows for full ownership of the process to the local actors. The project team invests time and effort in order to bring different elements of the communities together such as elected officials, local civil society, political adversaries, refugees, representatives of different religions and sects. It has managed to bring villages together to create a mutual vision for the development of their area and transform the cooperation into an official platform, such as union of municipalities. Engagement in the conflict analysis as its very first step contributes to a deeper understanding of the situation by the targeted community, based on which responses are designed.

Another key element of the project is the fact that it builds relationships and linkages between municipalities as elected local authorities and local actors. These components of local civil society have traditionally been in competition but, in this case, the key is collaboration. This builds on the idea that citizens and community leaders also have a role to play by contributing to the work of local authorities and helping them manage tensions and conflicts jointly.

Good Practice Principles

Cost-Effective

The Project is both affordable and efficient. It builds mainly on facilitated discussions, meetings, workshops and retreats which are not costly and most of the events are taking place in the municipality offices at no charge.

Collaborative Resilience-Based Action

The activity is strengthening partnerships between local authorities, local actors, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) and local NGOs and creating collective action that reduces social tensions. The Project is also linked to the work of other UNDP projects that address basic services and livelihood gaps.

Sustainable Benefits

The established platforms are sustainable vehicles that will function after the project ends since both municipalities and SDCs linked to MOSA are involved and the way they were formulated and developed was locally driven from the beginning. Furthermore, the project has built capacity to ensure local leaders are well equipped to be able to continue on their own and a local NGO has been groomed to follow up on the implementation of the mechanisms and find local channels for technical support.

Locally Led

While led by UNDP, the project aims to hand off the social stability mechanism to local authorities and civil society members trained in new tools so they can continue to lead the process that looks at and addresses conflict in a different way.

Contribution to Social Cohesion

Social cohesion and social stability are at the core of the intervention and its objectives.

Partners

UNDP, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and Municipalities, municipalities, Social and Development Centres, and local NGOs.

Contact Person

Name: Joanna Nassar

Email/Phone: joanna.nassar@undp.org

Partners for this project

UNDP LEBANONUnited Nation Development Program - Lebanon