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Engaging Municipalities in the Response to the Syria Refugee Crisis in Lebanon


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Government, National & regional actors, Urban
Countries:Lebanon, Syria
Agency:Mercy Corps
Date published:March 2014

Lebanon’s political, economic, and social challenges preceded the Syria refugee

crisis. However, the population shift from Syria is causing enormous pressure on
host communities and exacerbating instability triggers. With funding from the British
Embassy in Beirut, Mercy Corps conducted in-depth assessments in 12 vulnerable
municipalities in Lebanon and found that 71% of the surveyed host community
indicated that conditions have worsened in their municipalities. For instance,
79% of municipalities identified service delivery (i.e. water, electricity, education)
as their greatest challenge, which has a direct impact on the local populations’
ability to fulfil their basic needs. Also, 50% of the host community and 47% of
the refugee population indicated that unemployment is their primary concern.
As socio-economic conditions in the country continue to decline and political
instability rises, it is projected that there will be an increased risk of intolerance
and withdrawal of host community assistance to refugees.1 To strengthen social
cohesion and prevent further political instability, humanitarian organisations, donor
agencies and the central government must immediately focus on remedying the
socio-economic impediments and wider systematic needs exacerbated by the
Syria refugee crisis with conflict sensitive approaches.

However, while these challenges exist, there are bright spots as well as successful
responses that municipalities across Lebanon have developed to manage the
Syria refugee crisis. Despite this conventional wisdom about community-level
tensions, Mercy Corps found that over 65% of Syrians felt welcomed by the host
community, and only 23% of refugees currently feel that the Lebanese do not
welcome them any longer. At the same time, 85% of Lebanese indicated that they
felt a moral obligation to host Syrian refugees. Moreover, while municipalities lack
key resources, they are proactive and working to address community-level needs.
Out of the 12 surveyed municipalities, 100% are registering refugees and providing
housing assistance, while 89% are facilitating assistance provision, 78% have
increased their security presence with more staff in their communities, and 78%
are providing dispute resolution facilities between refugee and host communities.
Since municipalities are on the frontline of the crisis, they are aware of community
needs, as well as how to best manoeuvre project implementation in such a delicate

Mercy Corps sees enormous potential to address these pressing social-economic
needs in collaboration with municipal actors because they understand and prioritise
community needs, as well as know how to best operate project implementation
within sensitive political, social, and economic dynamics. At the same time,
Mercy Corps aims to initiate and advance discussions about modalities to create
humanitarian and development hybrid approaches to increase the effectiveness
of assistance at this critical juncture in Lebanon. Thus, it is essential that NGOs,
donor agencies and the Government of Lebanon work to empower and support
municipalities to strengthen their capacity to reconcile local-level challenges.

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