This report analyses the challenges of implementing a “protection in the region” agenda in Lebanon, a country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, and which has been the recipient of one of the largest per capita aid and support packages since 2016. Our main finding is that EU diplomatic efforts and financial commitments to date have made very limited progress in ensuring protection for Syrian refugees in the country or improving their dismal socio-economic position. On the contrary, the main socio-economic indicators for Syrian refugees have remained very poor for the past three years, and the refugees’ continued presence in the country is increasingly questioned by parts of Lebanon’s political establishment. This report traces the reasons why donor efforts have had such limited success: restrictions created by Lebanese and European political narratives of displacement; the limitations imposed by Lebanon’s clientilistic economy; and the challenges of combining protection in the region with an economic reform agenda. Many donors have opted for predominantly technical approaches, based on cooperation with line ministries and state institutions. In our view, these approaches pay insufficient heed to the complex web of sectarian and personal interests that fuel Lebanese policy-making, with the result that limited progress is achieved for refugees.
About the authors
Ana Uzelac is a Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of Clingendael (CRU). Ana has a life-long interest in human mobility, and the ways in which it shapes the world we live in. She is particularly interested in the politics of forced displacement, demographic rearrangements in the root of - or caused by - violent conflicts, and the way in which economic, personal and political interact, resulting in migratory flows. Underlying all this is critical curiosity about state as a model for organising human societies and its challenges, advantages and limitations in the rapidly globalising world.
Jos Meester is a Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of Clingendael (CRU). His work focusses on the functioning of the private sector in conflict affected environments. He is in particular interested in supply chains spanning across political divisions, as well as the close relationship of political and private sector elites and its consequences for the stability of political power structures.
Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud © UNHCR / S. Baldwin