Things Fall Apart: Political, Economic and Social Instability in Lebanon

man and boy working in street

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Lebanon is facing a potential nightmare: a perfect storm of economic, political and social instability. The Syrian crisis has infused life into old tensions and given birth to a range of newer crises. At the heart of the problem is the inability of Lebanese society to cope with the spill-over effects of the Syrian struggle.

In April 2013, Mercy Corps undertook a country-wide assessment to examine the interplay between economic fragility and societal stability in Lebanon. Findings led to a range of policy and programming recommendations, including:

  • Economically assist Syrians and poor Lebanese to get through the near- to medium-term. Data shows a 95% confidence level that greater perceptions of economic security decreases people’s propensity toward violence, increases positive perceptions of the other group and increases overall feelings of safety.Bolstering the coping mechanisms of struggling Lebanese and Syrian workers and provide them with realistic income-generating opportunities in the short- and medium terms can help lessen the potential for economic issues to foment discord between these communities.
  • Strengthen local governance institutions. Findings reveal that an increase in the positive perception of government performance is associated with a decrease in the likelihood of propensity towards violence. Thus, humanitarian actors should prioritize engaging and empowering local governance institutions in all programming efforts, from NFI distributions to protection mechanisms, to help improve the local residents’ perceptions of government performance.
  • Address negative media with clarification and positive media. The power of the media in feeding instability in Lebanon cannot be underestimated. Most of Lebanese and Syrians’ negative perceptions of one another were based on what they were hearing on the media and from other people, and not rooted in personal experience. The humanitarian community has a responsibility to set facts straight, and address the dearth of positive media in creative ways that ideally engage both Syrian and Lebanese youth as a resource for stability.