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Conflict and Fragility

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Social capital in the lives of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

26 Feb 2018 - 16:06
Bron: Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese school classroom-DFID/flickr

Syrians in displacement - The importance of social capital in protracted displacement

This article presents the findings of Clingendael's research into the role that social capital plays in the lives of Syrian refugees in Lebanon – how it is created, sustained, converted and what happens when it breaks down. Through a better understanding of this role the authors hope to generate discussion about ways to further tailor assessments, targeting and programming in this and other situations of protracted displacement.

In their research the authors aimed to capture the state of the four key ‘capitals’ at refugees’ disposal: material, financial, social and human. The key finding was that, although generally most of these resources were in decline, refugees were in some cases managing to create significant new social capital. That social capital is in many cases their most important asset in protracted displacement, as it is the only one that could still be exchanged for access to livelihoods, access to better living conditions, or as a form of basic social insurance. Breakdown of social capital, where it occurs, is therefore also often an indicator of extreme vulnerability of refugee households.

Important as it is, social capital however remains difficult to capture and operationalise, and only in rare cases have the national and international aid actors been able to use social capital in their work. This article makes a case for all workers involved -aid agencies, donors and researchers- to invest additional efforts to design assessment and targeting tools, as well as intervention strategies that would be able to capture and leverage refugees’ social capital to their own benefit and the benefit of their host communities.

This article features in the 57th issue of the Forced Migration Review, published by Oxford University's Refugee Studies Centre.

The article is one of the deliverables of the Surviving2Thriving project, funded by the Nationale Postcode Loterij. Within this project the Clingendael Institute identifies productive and unproductive coping mechanisms of refugees and host communities in Lebanon. These insights feed into the work of NGOs that improve the conditions of refugee settlement in the region by putting these coping mechanisms and refugees’ own agency centre stage.