You can access here my review of Lucy Mayblin’s book “Asylum after Empire. Colonial Legacies in the Politics of Asylum Seeking” on Refuge 34(2): 158-160.
Posts Tagged With: Humanitarianism
Specchi Scomodi. Etnografia delle Migrazioni Forzate nel Libano Contemporaneo (by Estella Carpi, November 2018)
E’ uscito il mio primo libro Specchi Scomodi il 13 novembre 2018!
Ho pensato a questo libro con un fine divulgativo, seppur si basi sul mio lavoro di dottorato (2010-2015).
Attraverso il racconto etnografico di quattro donne reduci da esperienze diverse di migrazione forzata – Souhà, Iman, ‘Alia e Amal – cerco di offrire un’approfondita lettura storica e sociologica dei flussi dei profughi verso il Libano contemporaneo e all’interno del paese stesso. Il fine è quello di offrire ai lettori le motivazioni e le implicazioni sociali e politiche dei fenomeni migratori dal Libano meridionale alla periferia di Beirut a causa dell’occupazione israeliana, e dalla Palestina, Iraq e Siria al Libano a causa di processi politici tuttora irrisolti. Con una particolare attenzione al fornimento dei servizi sociali, il libro enfatizza la continuità storica – per l’appunto, gli specchi scomodi – che lega indissolubilmente non solo questi quattro complessi processi storici, ma anche le vite individuali, le sensazioni, le tattiche quotidiane di sopravvivenza economica ed emotiva e le micro-politiche delle quattro donne protagoniste.
Lo potete prenotare online e in libreria. Nelle librerie italiane lo troverete invece in ampia distribuzione da gennaio 2019 in poi.
Intermediaries in humanitarian action: a questionable shortcut to the effective localisation of aid? (by Estella Carpi, November 2018)
Over the last decade, international humanitarian agencies have endeavoured to develop effective ways to localise their practices of intervention in areas receiving forced migrants or stricken by conflict or disasters. ‘Localisation’ is an umbrella term referring to all approaches to working with local actors, and includes ‘locally-led’ projects which refers specifically to “work that originates with local actors or is designed to support locally emerging initiatives” (Wall 2016).
Local-international partnerships have received much rhetorical attention as a more acceptable face of the humanitarian programming designed in the global North. Nonetheless, there is evidence that northern funding and organisational structures still give preference to implementers from the global north (Ramalingman, Gray and Cerruti 2012). In this framework, the middle space, spanning from international donors to local implementers, is of crucial importance in shaping decision-making processes related to humanitarian funding, practices and policies. In this framework, I would like to advance my considerations on the international humanitarian system that presently places special emphasis on the role of intermediaries in crisis-stricken settings, or contexts that are proxies to crisis.
On November 14 2018 I participated in a roundtable organised by the Overseas Development Institute which aimed to evaluate the role of intermediaries in humanitarianism. In this context, several London-based humanitarian professionals expressed the need to define the role of the intermediary figure in humanitarian action, and to rely on the latter’s support to access local and refugee communities in the targeted areas. By contrast, academic literature which seeks to map such a ‘middle space’ is scant (Kraft and Smith 2018). Based on these observations, what are humanitarian actors trying to bypass, remove, enhance or achieve by emphasising the importance of intermediaries in their sector? With the following considerations, I intend to shed light on how intermediaries may be problematically employed as a shortcut to localisation and as a logistic facilitation strategy to not further contextualise policies and practices which are often designed in the so-called global North.
The first observation I would like to make is related to the layered social identity of intermediaries. Indeed, it is a common belief that intermediaries are mostly local or regional residents with strong connections and networks in the areas targeted by humanitarian programmes. If the line of separation between the ‘international’ and the ‘local’ is unavoidably blurred, it is important to note that some segments of local middle classes – generally those employed in the humanitarian system to manage crisis – are as unfamiliar with other social strata of their own country as many international workers with whom they share common lifestyle standards. As a result, from a relational and emotional perspective, some local professionals may not necessarily be any closer to the people they address. At the same time, however, intermediaries are believed to be well placed to manage local politics, such as corruption, inefficiency or reluctance to comply with external norms and requests. Can such a social figure ever exist? In this respect, the research I conducted from 2011 to late 2013 in Lebanon (Carpi 2015) demonstrates a promiscuous intentionality of the international humanitarian apparatus: on the one hand, the desire to avoid local politics and its discontents, but, on the other, the need to rely on intermediary figures who are able to prepare beneficiary lists and can provide contextual knowledge to enable humanitarian actors to rapidly and safely access local and refugee groups. However, as my research has shown, by doing so international humanitarian agencies often end up recognising local authorities as key actors of the humanitarian machine. In my field experience, the moral impact of what I may call an ‘unintended alliance’ between humanitarian internationals and local gatekeepers was particularly relevant when local residents and refugees expressed their desire to get rid of intermediary figures operating between them, the humanitarian system and the central government. Intermediary roles were predominantly covered by local state officials and delegates (makhatir and mandubin respectively) and other local informal leaders (zu‘ama’). In sum, the necessary entrance of formal and informal local authorities into the international humanitarian labour chain produced a substantial impact on humanitarian workers who must deal with local politics and its contextual configuration.
The second issue that I would like to analyse is the excess of intermediaries in the contemporary humanitarian sphere. Looking at the intermediary role as a relational and performative process rather than a clear-cut sociological mission, it is possible to identify unorthodox configurations of “intermediariness”. Even though it is mainly conceived as local actors, –networks, individuals, diaspora groups or formal organisations that occupy the middle space between initial donors and final implementers, intermediaries can sometimes be epitomised by INGOs and UN agencies. For instance, the humanitarian corridors that currently take Syrian refugees from Lebanon to Italy and France across the Mediterranean are a suitable case in point. As a local aid worker recounted in an interview in Beirut in March 2017, in order to retrieve personal data and carry out an initial selection of the refugee groups who better suit the Italian and the French labour markets, the INGOs in charge of organising the humanitarian corridors rely, in turn, on other INGOs and UN agencies that can provide them with a contact database. This modality of selection is believed to avoid a costly and time-consuming door-to-door strategy. In this case, needs assessment is viewed as a bureaucratic hurdle rather than an effective way of identifying needs and protection and their changing nature. Likewise, another aid practitioner working for an INGO in a village of northern Lebanon affirmed that individual and family eligibility to cash transfers was determined through the UNHCR central database, rather than independent field visits and assessments (interview in Halba, February 2017). These two anecdotes show how intermediaries operating in the humanitarian middle space are at times excessive.
My third observation concerns bureaucracy. Enhancing and institutionalising the role of intermediaries may sort out the difficulty of pinning down sociological figures in changing contexts and of managing institutional trust versus informal society. By this token, we may think that the role of intermediaries should therefore be professionalised. However, the institutionalisation of the intermediary role might instead add complexity and slow down the already hyper-bureaucratised system of international humanitarianism and development. The same system has long been accused of being poorly responsive to context-sensitive needs (Belloni 2005) and de-humanising war and disaster victims (Pandolfi 2002). In this regard, Lebanon offers the meaningful example of the Municipal Support Assistant (MSA). This professional figure, appointed by local municipalities, has been created to work with local authorities and international humanitarian actors and acts as a local government administrative assistant. In the case of Lebanon, the MSA needs to be fluent in Arabic and English to be able to develop double communication strategies. As a municipality representative of Sahel az-Zahrani reported in a 2016 study conducted by UN-Habitat and the American University of Beirut, the MSA has presumably been created to enhance coordination between the local and the humanitarian systems of governance (Boustani, Carpi, Hayat and Moura 2016). However, considering the formal ways of working that the MSA needs to comply with, bureaucratic impediments are practically enhanced. In other words, if bureaucracy is enhanced to achieve greater coordination, I would be wary to believe that actual coordination can soon see the light.
The very aims of the ongoing efforts towards an “intermediary-sation” of humanitarian action need to be clearly motivated and contextualised. From a personal perspective, considering the provisional presence of many international humanitarians and researchers in the areas where crisis management is needed, we continue missing historical continuity. Short field visits are in fact unlikely to trace the local history of human relations, contextual power dynamics and assistance mechanisms. Should the international humanitarian system not find the radical determination to develop physical and moral proximity towards the populations it endeavours to serve, I hence envision intermediaries only as everyday researchers who conduct “reality checks” whenever accurate humanitarian assessments of outreach, programming, policies and local specificities are needed.
Belloni, Roberto (2005) Is Humanitarianism Part of the Problem? Nine Theses. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Boston, MA.
Boustani, Marwa, Carpi, Estella, Hayat Gebara, and Mourad Yara (2016) Responding to the Syrian Crisis in Lebanon. Collaboration between Aid Agencies and Local Governance Structures. London: IIED Urban Crisis report.
Carpi, Estella (2015) Adhocratic Humanitarianisms and Ageing Emergencies in Lebanon. From the July 2006 War in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs to the Syrian Refugee Influx in the Akkar Villages. PhD dissertation, University of Sydney (Australia).
Kraft, Kathryn and Smith, Jonathan D. (2018) “Between International Donors and Local Faith Communities: Intermediaries in Humanitarian Assistance to Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon”, Disasters.
Pandolfi, Mariella (2002) “’Moral Entrepreneurs’, Souverenaités Mouvantes et Barbelés: le Bio-Politique dans le Balkans Postcommunistes”, in Politiques Jeux d’Espaces, ed. Pandolfi, M. and Abélès, M., special issue, Anthropologie et Sociétés, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 29-50.
Ramalingam, Ben, Gray, Bill, and Cerruti, Giorgia (2012) Missed Opportunities: The Case for Strengthening National and Local Partnership-Based Humanitarian Responses, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Oxfam, Tearfund, and Action Aid.
Wall, Imogen with Hedlund, Kerren (2016) Localisation and Locally-Led Crisis Response: A Literature Review, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
You can here listen to my interview with Habitat for Humanity-Great Britain (May, 2018), which summarises the report I published with the International Institute of Environment and Development in the framework of the Urban Crisis Learning Partnership project – including Habitat for Humanity-GB, Oxfam-GB, the Overseas Development Institute, and the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (University College London).
To access all outputs and the broader outline of the partnership:
To access my report:
‘Southern’ and ‘Northern’ assistance provision beyond the grand narratives: Views from Lebanese and Syrian providers in Lebanon
Over the past few decades, scholars have increasingly employed the categories of ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ to explore different political geographies and economies in development cooperation and humanitarian aid provision. Without doubt, whether and how these denominations make sense are not merely dilemmas of terminology. The Global South has been historically referred to in a number of ways: as the ‘Third World’, coming after the First World, including the US and its allies, and the Second World, including the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc partners; as ‘non-DIAC countries, i.e. not belonging to the Development Assistance Committee of Western donors; or as ‘postcolonial donors’, which, however, does not manage to capture the different positioning of Southern countries vis-à-vis donorship and aid reception.
Against this backdrop, the categorisation of the Global South has existed since the mid-1970s, effectively indicating the changing power relations of this groups of countries with the Global North. With respect to the ‘East’ – a notion tentatively incorporating diverse realities but nowadays embedding them in the Orientalistic discourse first advanced by Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said (1978) – the Global South better allows for multi-directional flows of economic, cultural, and political capital between different countries, and therefore anthropology is surely well placed to explore such multi-directional flows. However, the definition of the Global South has too often been misleadingly reduced to a marginal or anti-imperial positionality, independent from context. In particular, in a bid to learn about and consider different Souths (from an intentionally plural perspective), Global South should not be our episteme – the point of departure for enlarging our knowledge about such a concept. It is in this regard that some scholars have opted for a conception of the Global South as ‘not an exact geographical designation, but as an idea and a set of practices, attitudes, and relations’ (Grovogu, 2011) or ‘a linguistic family, a belief system and an epistemology’ (Mignolo, 2015).
It may be helpful to examine a world map and reflect on the very geographic characteristics of the countries that are included in the Global South category. For instance, given that Australia is a political pole of the Global North, just as China is for the Global South, physical geography cannot fully explain what North and South are, since these categories refer not only to places but also, more importantly, to different political projects related to development and humanitarian action.
As Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Daley highlight in their introduction to the Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations, the present South-South cooperation and its underlying principles are historically associated with anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles around the world: ‘The emergence of a South-South cooperation was originally conceptualized as a way to overcome the exploitative character of North-South relations through diverse models of transnational cooperation and solidarity developed since the 1950s and 1960s, including internationalist, socialist, and regional approaches and initiatives such as Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism’. Dahi and Velasco have recently pointed out that, in the decades following World War II, between the 1950s and the late-1980s, South-South trade represented roughly 5–10% of all global trade, but, by 2013, that share had risen to 54%. Over the same period, the direction of these exports shifted to other Southern countries, while global South-South financial flows also increased substantially. This shared interest in mutual collaboration in the Global South, presently championed by Northern actors (that purport to act as facilitators) is also reflected in the so-called ‘localisation agenda’ promoted by the international humanitarian apparatus, as endorsed during the 2016 Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit. At the ‘Africa Stories: Changing Perceptions’ workshop held at University College London in June 2018, Michael Amoah, from the London School of Economics, confirmed Dahi and Velasco’s findings by contending that, in its current form, regional solidarity ideologies like pan-Africanism imply a new material inter-relationality, namely a new shared political economy between African countries, rather than an exclusive political ideology.
Thinking of South-South Cooperation (SSC), which is today incorporated in the framework of the United Nations (UNOSSC), the member states own different levels of economic development (the so-called ‘Human Development Index’) and are viewed as being located at different stages of democratic transition. Many countries partaking in the SSC are, at the same time, both aid donors and aid recipients. Some of those that are also donors do not wish to be defined as such, since such terminology is loaded with negative connotations associated with the Northern aid industry. In this sense, grouping the different realities that form an imaginary South under the banner of ‘emerging’ or ‘non-traditional donors’ is anti-historical as it represents the Northern neglect of a Southern history of assistance, which has similarly been developing for a long time.
In the light of this, should we endeavour to modify the categories ‘South’ and ‘North’ and work towards new definitions that can still grasp power relations without dooming countries to essentialised geopolitical positions? Or, rather, should we liberate the ‘South’ from negative connotations and the ‘North’ from positive biases? North and South are very telling with regard to our mental and cultural maps, not always encompassing the different technical, economic, political, and cultural assets and deficiencies that these political geographies present.
The emergence of UNOSSC is only one symptom of the increasing claim to postcolonial solidarity within the South and between the North and the South. Similarly, it can partially indicate the difference of the South from the North in the way that development and humanitarian assistance are thought about and implemented. These debates go beyond the realms of global economy, international relations, and politics; instead, they relate to the way in which ordinary people conceive of, explain, and concretely manage ideas and issues related to development and crisis management. In March 2018, I had the opportunity to speak with Syrian and Lebanese aid and service providers in Lebanon, among whom were three religious authorities engaging in assistance to Syrian refugees, and meaningful ways of understanding the services funded or managed by countries in the Global North or Global South emerged.
For instance, for a Syrian Sunni sheikh from Homs (western Syria), now managing a school in Tripoli, governance and markets represent the substantial differences between aid actors. He asserted that, in the Global South, governments are more present, while, in the Global North, there are private assistance initiatives that have their own rules and independence. Assistance in the Global North therefore ends up being random (ashwa’iy), reflecting an unleashed labour market behind assistance provision: ‘paying rents, employees, careers, and so on’.
A Lebanese Greek-Orthodox priest who provides aid to refugees and vulnerable citizens on a discontinuous basis in the city of Halba (northern Lebanon) expressed his way of thinking about the South in relation to the aid he provides in terms of what is outside of the Global North. However, he pointed out that, to him, in the mind of the beneficiaries, there is no difference with regard to the source of help and they do not distinguish between actors: ‘If you do lots of sponsoring, eventually your name is going to stick in their minds, but people do not really separate out providers in terms of principles and motivations, only whether the political campaign is massive, e.g. services coming from Saudi Arabia […] in this case, the image easily sticks in their minds, but they don’t know the name of the organisations involved most of the time. I personally think that what differs for Southern and Northern providers is the funding: it is sustainable for UNHCR but certainly not for us. They have governments supporting them, [whereas] we just have the Lebanese government, which neglects us. In that sense, I would identify as a Southern provider’.
Another Lebanese Greek-Orthodox priest working for a branch of the Ministry of Social Affairs in Halba raised the issue of global power holders imagining one homogenous South while departing from the idea of several Northern perspectives: ‘The Global North is the macro-picture for the politics we mostly hear about. As Lebanese providers with few means and little funding, we’re just numbers to be taken care of: I’m a Muslim in the eyes of the West, even though I’m Greek-Orthodox, because we, Middle-Eastern people, are all Muslims in the eyes of outsiders. Instead, I don’t feel there’s a shared understanding or feeling of the East, of the South, as you prefer to put it: there’s no homogeneity outside of the North. I don’t feel any proximity to Asian or African countries, especially to the Arab Gulf, which has its own interests here. Moreover, as a Greek-Orthodox, I have little to do with Arabness’.
The Syrian director of a school in a Tripoli neighbourhood (northern Lebanon) similarly stated: ‘I don’t feel closer to the Arab states with respect to Canada just because we’re all Arabs. Arab states haven’t been supportive at all toward Syrian refugees. I think the real difference between assistance provided by Northern and Southern countries is our hijra [migration with spiritual connotations, related to the migration of the Prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD]. The South migrates, and the North doesn’t accept us, even if we are qualified and have culture’.
A Syrian service provider in Tripoli proposed that ‘Northern’ or ‘Southern’ mean something in relation to the social, political, and emotional positionality of the provider: ‘The real difference is not the country we talk about; it’s rather our human condition. It’s about sharing nationality and issues with the displaced you assist [and is] nothing to do with East and West, South and North […]. Beneficiaries identify with countries of reception primarily on the basis of their political position; for example, if I get stuff from Turkey, as a Syrian opponent, I feel closer to Turkey. If you get aid from Saudi Arabia or Qatar, you will prefer one of them if you are a salafi (a follower of Salafism) or ikhwenji (from the Muslim Brotherhood) respectively. So, there’s politics behind our proximity to a country. In this sense, I don’t think I have anything to share with the ‘other South’. As a Syrian, Syria is my Global South’.
Reflecting on the various understandings of ‘Southern-led provision’ is relevant insofar as it allows us to grasp the complex social and political positionalities of assistance providers in the global framework of development and humanitarian action. In this sense, some contemporary academic debates merely re-consign agency to the vulnerable and the disenfranchised, e.g. by seeing Southern actors and refugees as inherently ‘different aid providers’ or by aprioristically defining them as resilient. These debates are tiring at a time when ‘Southern agency’ is heralded as a human and an intellectual conquest of the Global North. Instead, a valuable point of departure may instead be acknowledging the existence of multiplicity and respecting what each side suggests – at times participating and at other times acting by oneself in the realm of development and humanitarian action.
اكتسبت برامج سبل تحسين العيش في المنظمات غير الحكومية الإنسانية أهمية متزايدة على مدى العقود الماضية. وهذه البرامج تتضمن مختلف قطاعات المنظمات الإنسانية، بما في ذلك الحماية والأمن الغذائي والمياه والصرف الصحي والنظافة الصحية. وعلى وجه الخصوص، تغيرت استراتيجية برامج سبل العيش الإنسانية التي تستهدف اللاجئين في جميع أنحاء العالم من رعاية اللاجئين ومساعدتهم/حياتهم، إلى صيغة الاعتماد على الذات خلال الستينات والسبعينيات.
والتحدي المتمثل في ترجمة مفهوم “سبل تحسين العيش” من اللغة الإنجليزية إلى لغات أخرى جدير بالاعتبار، ولا سيما فيما يتعلق بالمصطلحات التكنوقراطية، وعمومًا تعتمد اللغات اللاتينية أيضًا على هذه المصطلحات الاجنبية في هذا المجال. وفي المقابلات التي قمت بها في شتاء 2017 مع عمال الإغاثة المحليين في مدينة حلبا في محافظة عكار (شمالي لبنان)، ترجم الموظفون عبارة “سبل تحسين العيش” إلى اللغة العربية باستخدام تعبير أوسع. وللترجمة المفاهيمية غير المناسبة المتقدمة لـ”سبل تحسين العيش” دور رئيسي في تفريغ الخصوصيات التاريخية، فهذا واضح في تصدير استراتيجيات سبل تحسين العيش من خلال البرمجة الإنسانية التي لها الغرض (المتناقض) الذي يتمثل في ضمان العيش على أساس الخصوصيات.
وفيما يتعلق بحالة عكار في شمالي لبنان، تهدف معظم برامج سبل تحسين العيش التي يجري تنفيذها حاليًا للاجئين والمضيفين المحليين إلى إنتاج أشكال مؤقتة وصغيرة الحجم للعمل، معظمها للنساء في المنازل. وبالنسبة للاجئين السوريين الذين قابلتهم في عكار في شباط وآذار 2017، فإن البرامج الإنسانية ليس لها سوى دور “إكسسوار/تزييني/تجميلي” وهامشي، فهي لا تولد أي شكل عمل مستدام، حيث تحولت التدريبات المهنية إلى أنشطة ترفيهية. وبالنسبة لهؤلاء اللاجئين، لا يبدو ذلك مفاجئًا. وهم يدركون فقدان فرص عمل في اقتصاد عكار، ويدركون سياسات لبنان الاجتماعية (وعامة هذه السياسات نفذت بحكم الأمر الواقع وغير الرسمي) التي تنظم حياتهم اليومية، ويدركون القيود القانونية التي يواجهونها كلاجئين في لبنان. فلبنان ليس من الدول الموقعة على اتفاقية جنيف لعام 1951 الخاصة باللاجئين وعلى بروتوكول عام 1967. في الوقت الحاضر، يسمح للسوريين بالعمل حصرًا في قطاعات الزراعة والبستنة والتنظيف والبناء. هذه هي القطاعات التي عمل فيها العمال النازحون السوريون تاريخيًا في جميع أنحاء لبنان.
ويعتقد اللاجئون الذين أجريت معهم المقابلات أن البرامج الإنسانية تلعب دورًا “تجميليًا”. لذلك يجب أن نفهم الخطاب الإنساني حول سبل تحسين العيش لللاجئين في لبنان، حيث أن النزوح يصبح طويل الأمد. وقال مسؤول في الأمم المتحدة قابلته إن برامج “النقد مقابل العمل” تحولت لبرامج يطلق عليها “دعم المجتمع المحلي”. ويتم ذلك في محاولة لإخفاء ما يحصل عليه اللاجئون ويستفيدون منه ويتعلمونه في المجتمعات المضيفة.
وتهدف النية الإنسانية في المقام الأول إلى خلق وتعزيز مصادر سبل العيش، بدلًا من مشاركة المستفيدين في الأنشطة الترفيهية. ومع ذلك، لا ينبغي التقليل من القيمة الاجتماعية والعاطفية الممثلة في توفير مساحات لأشكال التبادل الجماعي والتعلم.
وحتى الآن، تم تسجيل 253332 لاجئ سوري لدى المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين في هذه المنطقة اللبنانية. على الرغم من ضخامة هذا العدد، إلا أنني أثناء زيارتي الأخيرة في عكار لاحظت أن اللاجئين أصبحوا أقل وأقل بشكل متناقص في الساحة العامة. بعد أن انتقلوا إلى لبنان منذ عام 2011، فإنهم غالبًا يكونون غير موثقين، ويشعرون بعدم قبولهم على المستوى المحلي، وبالتالي يفضلون أن يقودوا حياتهم وراء الأبواب المغلقة.
ومن ناحية أخرى، لبرامج سبل تحسين العيش نتائج إيجابية غير مباشره تتمثل في توفير تجارب جديدة للمجتمعات، حيث يكون الاختلاط ضروريًا ولا يتطلب تقديم أوراق قانونية. ومن ناحية أخرى، فإن التدريب المهني القائم على الأنشطة الصغيرة وأشكال العمل المنزلية التي تستهدف الاكتفاء الذاتي كثيرًا ما تجمد عدم المساواة في اقتصاد غير متكافئ. وعلاوة على ذلك، تهدف معظم برامج سبل العيش إلى إنتاج العمالة الذاتية والأنشطة غير الرسمية، ويتم الترويج لها أساسًا لضمان البقاء البيولوجي بدلًا من روح المبادرة والتنمية الاقتصادية، فأشكال العمل هذه تشكل تحديًا في النظام الاقتصادي الأهلي للحكومات المضيفة على نطاق صغير، ومن غير المرجح أن تثير أشكال معارضة محلية. وبالإضافة لذلك، فإن الأنشطة المنزلية في دورها لا تهدد التفكير الثقافي الذي يشكل الأساس للأدوار الجنسية في العائلة والمجتمع.
وتشير المقابلات مع اللاجئين والسكان المحليين الى أن توقعاتهم كمستفيدي برامج سبل تحسين العيش متنوعة جدًا، وتتراوح بين الرغبة أو الحاجة الى عمل والتدريب كنشاط ترفيهي. فيتعامل أكثر السكان المحليين المستفيدين من برامج سبل تحسين العيش كفرص عمل محتملة ويتعاملون مع المنظمات الإنسانية كوكالات توظيف. وعلى الرغم من أن المنظمات الإنسانية بدأت بهدف أخلاقي يتمثل في إنقاذ الأشخاص الذين تضرروا من الأزمة وتخفيف معاناتهم، فإنها حاليًا تعمل بصورة متزايدة كقوات لحل النزاعات. ولكن لا تستطيع المنظمات أن تعترف نفسها بمقدمي الوظائف رسميًا. وفي كل الأحوال أصبحت المنظمات جزءًا مهما من أسواق العمل المحلية.
فما هو الدور الحالي للمنظمات الإنسانية في ترويج لقاء بين اللبنانيين والسوريين في أماكنِ العملُ قليل فيها؟ وما يكون الهدف النهائي والإنجاز الفعلي لهذا الترويج؟ لقد ساهمت برامج المنظمات الإنسانية في لبنان تاريخيًا في تحديد الاحتياجات البشرية الجديدة والقديمة على أسس عرقية وأحيانًا دينية. إن تقديم المساعدات لللاجئين السوريين في منطقة عكار الفقيرة ليس استثناء من استقطاب السكان المحليين والمغتربين في البداية من خلال التمييز بين احتياجات اللبنانيين واحتياجات السوريين. ويبدو أن المنظمات الإنسانية اليوم تعمل مع هدف الاستقرار المحلي في معالجة التوترات الاجتماعية عن طريق تعزيز البقاء البيولوجي لللاجئين والتنمية الاقتصادية والتوظيف للسكان المحليين.
وعلى الرغم من أن المنظمات قدمت مساعدات إلى جميع السوريين في بداية الأزمة في 2011، وغالبًا بلا شروط ودون تمييز، فإن المنظمات الإنسانية استهدفت تدريجيًا اللاجئين و”المضيفين” اللبنانيين في محاولة للتعويض عن الاحتكاكات الناجمة عن تقديم سابق للخدمات المركزة على اللاجئين فقط في المناطق الفقيرة المزمنة في لبنان.
وفي هذه الأيام، برامج التنمية الاقتصادية المحلية وبرامج سبل تحسين العيش الانسانية مرتبطة إيضاحيا بالاستقرار الاجتماعي وببرامج التماسك الاجتماعي. وبدلًا من الاكتفاء الذاتي كهدف نهائي إيضاحي، فإن السياسات للمنظمات الإنسانية الحالية لسبل تحسين العيش تضع التماسك الاجتماعي والاستقرار كهدف أساسي في البرامج للسوريين واللبنانيين.
لذلك، في حين أن تركيز المنظمات الانسانية يكون على التوترات أو الاستقرار محددًا في سياقات مختلطة عرقيًا، فإن استراتيجيات الاستهداف للمنظمات الإنسانية على أسس عرقية أو دينية تتناقص في العدد، وهي ممثلة بشكل أفضل ضمن إطار المعونات التي تركز على المنطقة و أحوالها وصفاتها. وبعبارة أخرى، فإن جغرافية الضعف الاجتماعي والاحتياجات تستبدل سياسات الهوية (الإثنية والدينية) في معالجة للحاجة وتقديم المعونات. فبرامج التماسك والاستقرار الاجتماعي في المجال الإنساني لا تزال مؤسسة على أساس الهوية العرقية والدينية وفعلًا غالبًا تتعامل هذه البرامج مع المناطق المختلطة عرقيًا، وبالتالي ترغب في أن تحصل المنظمات الإنسانية على نظم إثنية وعرقية متجانسة للاستقرار، وحاليًا تركز أكثرية البرامج على التوترات في المناطق المختلطة.
بما أن أكثرية الأزمات المعاصرة طويلة الأمد، فتظهر برامج بناء اكتفاء الذات لللاجئين. وبالمثل، تستخدم المنظمات الإنسانية في حملاتها لغة “الاستدامة” عن طريق وضع المسؤولية المادية من أجل البقاء البيولوجي والنمو الاقتصادي على المستفيدين أنفسهم. وإذا ازدادت شرعية البرامج الإنسانية في عكار عن طريق التماسك والاستقرار للمجتمع “المضيف”، فإن المستفيدين من اللاجئين مدعوون أيضًا للمساعدة في الحفاظ على هذا الاستقرار المحلي.
وفي البلاد التي ليس فيها قوانين للاجئين، غالبًا تكون المنظمات الإنسانية مثقلة بالمسؤوليات التي يفترض أن تتحملها الحكومات المضيفة. لذلك، أشجّع صناعي الرأي والسياسات على النظر إلى أبعد من القيود القانونية والبنيوية لصحة اللاجئين وعافيتهم وسعادتهم، وبالعكس أشجّعهم على أن يسألوا أنفسهم كيف يشعر الأفراد عندما يتعلمون مهارات جديدة ولا سيما عندما يدركون أنهم من غير المرجح أن يتم توظيفهم في أي وقت قريب. فالإحباط الشخصي والتسليم بالمستقبل المهني قد يقدم إجابات مبسطة وغير مرضية. وحقيقة أن بعض اللاجئين يعتبرون برامج سبل تحسين العيش كأنشطة ترفيهية تفتح طرقًا جديدة لتفكير النظام الإنساني في شكله العملي وشكله المثالي اثناء أزمات طويلة الأمد.
In an attempt to reflect on some lectures I have delivered on humanitarianism in Lebanese, Turkish, and Italian universities over the last three years, I would like to advance a few reflections on the “public afterlife” of my experience of teaching, the language I used in those classes, and the response I received from different cohorts of students. Delving into the afterlife of my humanitarianism classes allows me to tease out some of the current epistemological challenges of my primary area of studies and underscore the very importance of de-centring the humanitarian discourse.
Humanitarianism was born from the will to assist crisis-stricken populations and alleviate their suffering, thus humanitarian intervention has historically been a symptom that states are not doing too well. As such, speaking of and teaching humanitarianism cannot produce the same effects everywhere, especially when the framework used to explain theories and concepts is not culturally customised, but is rather drawn on the one developed in British and Northern American universities and institutions.
The act of teaching humanitarian ideologies, policies, and practices is thus necessarily an act of social positioning. It is about positioning the social and public Self as a teacher, and it is about the teacher presupposing the social positioning of her own audience.
More generally, in order to teach, we all rely on what Pierre Bourdieu used to define as “linguistic capital”, the set of linguistic capabilities, ways of expressing oneself, and embracement of normative terminologies which characterise everyone’s speech. In that sense, we are all linguistically political when we choose a term at the expense of another one.
As lecturers in class we own the biggest linguistic and epistemic power: But is the language I use legitimate in response to different students and backgrounds? I am not a native English speaker myself, but having received my postgraduate education in humanitarianism in an Australian university, English is my mother tongue for teaching humanitarianism. This became a factor which is worth reflecting on, especially when I delivered lectures in countries diversely familiar with the English language, and where English is not the official language.
What shapes the cultural pattern of students across Lebanon, Turkey, and Italy is certainly not their very national origin, but I here refer to an overarching cultural framing of a multiplicity of backgrounds that come to forming an identifiable “academic culture” within different countries. It is in this sense that I will now compare my teaching experience in Lebanon, Turkey, and Italy.
In this post, my primary goal is to explain how this long established theoretical framework, that increasingly populates academic books and media outlets, does not meet its listeners identically. I believe teaching humanitarianism particularly tests the students’ cultural dispositions – dually meant as both habitus and cultural capital – with respect to teaching something like physical quantum theory or algorithms. This is not because quanta and algorithms are bereft of imperial history: Let’s think of the way such scientific studies emerged, of the social classes in which they became objects of study, and the way these studies were funded and even traded worldwide. Rather, what I mean is that speaking humanitarianism overtly puts down the veils of the relationships between Others, breaks down the Other and the Self, demolishes certainties between the Self and the Other through the exploration of the necessarily dialogic act of assistance provision and aid reception.
Likewise, teaching exposes the lecturer to multiple encounters at once. The encounter with the students first – the immediate interlocutors of the teaching frame. Second, the encounter with one’s own society at large, which may identify with a single geographic space or more than one – as the teacher, by conveying knowledge and, hopefully, triggering critical stimuli, comes with an experiential baggage accumulated in one or more societies that historically shape the teacher’s way of thinking, speaking, and building the teacher-student encounter. Third, it is also an encounter with the multiple societies of the others, that is all of the societies “summarised” into the intellectual presence of each student in class.
It is exactly this collective moment, made of several encounters at once, that characterises the ways in which humanitarianism is both individually thought and culturally nuanced.
In light of this, each academic culture frames displacement, migration, and humanitarian action differently. The latter are undoubtedly tied up to broader politics and social processes which often intertwine, but each of them is differently thought and responded to in Lebanon, Turkey, and Italy. I experienced solipsism when I lectured in Turkey, as I realised how unfamiliar the students were with my Anglo-centric way of explaining humanitarianism-related topics. The most responsive to my lectures were the Lebanese students, who seemed to be highly familiar with the catastrophe discourse. This therefore led me to further reflections, as the fact that Lebanon has historically been more exposed to crisis than Italy and Turkey did not sound entirely convincing to me. There are, in fact, two factors that contribute to the students’ response to humanitarianism delivered in the form of an academic framework: The first is academic literature, and the second is postcoloniality – which, surely, to some extent, underlies the former. In fact, the Anglo-centric character of the humanitarianism framework – as it is globally discussed nowadays – is fully reflected in the academic literature which is delivered to students. Neither literature nor students themselves are bereft of political history.
Lebanon, having become home to several refugee groups, has often been studied in international academia in the context of the catastrophe discourse. Thus, humanitarianism has framed a large part of local learning about external interventions, especially since the years of the 1948 Palestinian Nakba. In this vein, even local infrastructures and local populations in Lebanon have drawn greater academic attention when turning into humanitarian spaces, host communities, displaced people, or migrants. Contrarily, Turkey is a country where catastrophe does not need to be there to justify tough security, anti-democratic measures, and political states of exception. Therefore, Turkish scholars have set up a mostly legal and policy-oriented framework for discussing refugee influxes and humanitarian practices,. The catastrophe narrative neither needs to strengthen a state which is already centralised and has rather enhanced domestic accountability by carefully gate-keeping refugee-populated areas, international support and involvement in domestic humanitarian affairs. In other words, in Turkey refugee influxes have been studied as a means to capture domestic changes, e.g. in market, employment, and housing. In Lebanon, however, the very goal of humanitarian research has long since revolved around refugees and NGOs themselves. Scholars of humanitarianism now increasingly address Lebanese people, governance, and services in light of the Syrian crisis. However, local people and services are still approached in the light of their response to crisis and given their relationship with refugee-related issues. In Italy, humanitarianism-related issues start stimulating academic curiosity in the wake of the Kosovo war in 1999, the 2001 western intervention in Afghanistan, and more recently, the migration flows from African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries. Often unfamiliar with the anglo-centric ways of setting and naming the humanitarian framework, Italian students increasingly find themselves in the need to manage a foreign language and tackle diverse conceptual universes (mainly published in English) before encountering humanitarianism in their own language and academic culture. It is indeed meaningful that domestic emergency crises and humanitarian management – such as the earthquakes in central Italy– have primarily been tackled through the lens of disaster and risk reduction.
The postcolonial character of Lebanon vis-à-vis Turkey and Italy also sets up different student responses to learning humanitarianism in class today.
The French colonial mandate in Lebanon between 1920 and 1943 consistently shapes today’s student response to humanitarianism; familiar with postcolonial governance and catastrophisation as a way of understanding the current humanitarian discourse, my Lebanese students seemed to rely on categories of thinking which easily suit the humanitarian framework. The colonial mandate and the intervention of international assistance providers to back domestic parties and local communities gradually overshadowed the pre-existing thick network of local community services in academic literature. The present literal inundation of international crisis managers in Lebanon makes local students suitable interlocutors on the humanitarian mainstream narrative as well as its critiques.
In Turkey, humanitarianism has been acquiring international colours way before the beginning of the Syrian refugee influxes and the latest intervention of several humanitarian agencies. The 1915 Armenian genocide and deportations from Ottoman Turkey prompted the first cases of foreign charitable assistance in the region, in addition to the international refugee regime set up to deal with the massive displacement caused by the First World War. Overall, Ottoman authorities were reluctant to accept unconditional international assistance because they did not want to see their political power undermined. Traditionally decentralised and domestically managed, humanitarian services to forced migrants during the Ottoman Empire were mostly delegated to local communities, making the contemporary humanitarian approach to crisis and assistance unsuitable in the Turkish context. Nevertheless, while the Turkish government has already been pursuing a politics of intervention in Somalia since 2011, the recent intervention of international humanitarian agencies inside Turkey in response to the Syrian crisis is unprecedented.
Italy seemingly looks to humanitarianism with an ambiguous gaze. Past colonial governors in the Horn of Africa, and historically imbued with the Christian Catholic culture of assistance to the vulnerable, Italian students responded to my humanitarianism classes with the curiosity of the potential missionary. Approaching the catastrophe discourse to understand how new migration flows are shaping politics and ethics in the Mediterranean doorway, Italian students tended to associate humanitarianism either with human rights – which would require several political steps ahead – or with philanthropic charity. Italian students were rather inspired by the future possibility of doing good, and focussed on humanitarian sentimentalism, such as the pros and cons of compassion: Humanitarian governmentality, managerialism, donorship, and bureaucracy seemed to scarcely inhabit their humanitarian imaginary.
These reflections of mine also suggest that alternative humanitarianisms should be taught at school to unlearn their “alternative” – that is non-mainstream – character. This can be done if students are also allowed to develop contents and critical consciousness in their first language too. Skipping these stages leads to the imposition of one among many possible understandings of – and ways of teaching – humanitarianism. Individual responses, cultural patterns, ideologies, and material circumstances will always colour humanitarianism differently. The teacher’s challenge should be expanding the students’ gaze across political histories, human behaviours and moral expectations, while conveying one’s own identity peacefully. This is certainly not an easy job.
Humanitarianism in an Urban Lebanese Setting: Missed Opportunities (by Estella Carpi and Camillo Boano)
Prior to the arrival of Syrian refugees and international humanitarian agencies in 2011, the Akkar region in northern Lebanon bordering Syria has rarely made global headlines. However, this region has historically suffered from local and national instability as a result of war and social upheavals without receiving adequate relief and support.
Basic infrastructure and public services in Akkar’s capital, Halba, are insufficient. Electricity, when not purchased privately, is available for only four hours per day. Local people have access to a small number of hospitals and schools. With the arrival of Syrian refugees fleeing violence, Halba – historically a regional hub for administrative affairs – has become a hub for humanitarian response too. Due to demographic growth, organic expansion and massive stress on infrastructure, an urgent reflection on the transformation of the city is increasingly needed.
This article examines the interface between ‘the urban’ and the humanitarian system in a Syrian-Lebanese border area. It aims to shed light on the antagonistic and, at times, collaborative relationships between local authorities, local and refugee labourers, and international humanitarian agencies. Moreover, in an era when humanitarian agencies expand their urban operations, cities contribute to “redefining the focus and limits (temporal, spatial, operational) of humanitarian action”.
An ‘Urban’ Political Economy?
Home to 128 municipalities and 160 villages, Akkar is one of the country’s most deprived regions with severe poverty levels and the worst unemployment rate in the country. Out of Akkar’s total population of 1.1 million, a little over 700 thousand live below the poverty line: 341 thousand Lebanese, over 266 thousand Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR since 2011, 88 thousand Palestinian refugees, and almost 12 thousand returning Lebanese expatriates. Too small to be called a city, Halba is more like an urban centre. Society is still structured according to hierarchical relationships which characterise the landowning, class-based social organisation of the surrounding hamlets. Urban and rural are therefore interdependent categories at multiple levels. Local people move back and forth between these two environments, trading goods and services, and visiting family split between the city and the villages.
In this geography, the ‘city’ constitutes a spatial continuum with unclearly bounded informal assemblages, where large groups of Syrian refugees reside. During the 1980s, following demographic growth, many unauthorised houses were built in Halba’s former cotton fields, and refugees nowadays rent out some of these properties at unregulated prices.
It is perhaps not surprising that, when people who cope with economic hardships move to cities, they often revert to rural livelihood and survival strategies, such as cultivating vegetables and fruit in the streets, as is currently happening in Syria. Likewise, some of Halba’s residents still work in the surrounding fields to earn a living, as the city does not offer a large number of job opportunities. Consequently, as Akkar-based aid workers have confirmed, most humanitarian livelihood programmes are centred on rural activities.
Market places in Akkar’s towns and villages have gradually disappeared because of the lack of appropriate environmental and urban planning, the absence of public space, and worsening traffic. In this context, according to local inhabitants interviewed in winter 2017, local consumption outside of basic goods has barely increased: as a local resident affirmed during fieldwork conducted between February and March 2017, “local people are dragged by necessities, not leisure”. The refugee influx therefore increased the population without a corresponding increase in job opportunities.
Local Governance in Halba
The refugee influx resulted in the arrival of several international humanitarian agencies further stretching the capacity of local government in Akkar. The government’s decision in 2003 to upgrade Akkar from a district [qada’] of northern Lebanon to a self-standing governorate [muhafaza] was implemented only in 2014 when local authorities were already dealing with humanitarian governance to manage local service delivery and housing options. This raises an important and still unexplored question about the role of humanitarian systems in the process of northern Lebanon’s increasing administrative centralisation and coordination with humanitarian agencies.
In this vein, a local development office (LDO) has been created to enhance coordination between local and international NGOs, and inter-agency meetings now take place on a regular basis. According to local governors, such meetings brought in INGOs to better understand the local context, therefore contributing to an amelioration and an increase in local knowledge of needs, resources and capacities. Unfortunately this did not result in an actual coordination between the different service providers. Contrarily, some local NGOs have begun competing with each other for better access to international networks and larger funds.
The Syrian Refugee Influx in Akkar
With a population of 27 thousand local inhabitants and 17 thousand urban refugees, the latter mostly reside in informal tented settlements (ITS) alongside public roads, or rent Lebanese-owned shared apartments in Halba at an average monthly cost of 400 USD. Syrian refugee families tend to rent properties in the same buildings. The ITS are subject to cyclic evictions by the Lebanese army. Unregistered Syrian refugees tend to stay indoors for fear of being deported, making it challenging for UN agencies and NGOs to identify and assist them.
Although Syrian nationals in Halba still provide most of the unskilled labour for gardening, construction, cleaning, and agriculture, the profile of Syrian migrant workers has changed. Those who came to Akkar prior to the Syrian crisis, were mostly young or middle-aged males. They worked as seasonal labourers before returning to Syria. When the conflict broke out in Syria in the spring of 2011, some of these migrant workers brought their families to Lebanon. The local economy of Akkar, therefore, started to be formed by diverse segments of refugees, including both previous migrant workers and refugee newcomers, including refugee women, youth and children, who provide cheap labour on an irregular basis.
The Impact of Refugee Influx and Humanitarian Presence
The influx of refugees placed major economic pressure on the agricultural sector, in which Syrian nationals are legally allowed to work. Local peasants and refugees increasingly compete over the same jobs. Contrarily, Akkar’s property owners and rental agencies have seen increased international demand, because humanitarian agencies normally rent out cars and apartments to conduct their programmes in loco. What is important to illustrate is that, on the one hand, humanitarian actors have looked to Halba as a city to improve their logistic strategies and their engagement with local authorities; but, on the other, they have ignored its urban character and potentialities.
In this setting, the humanitarian system initially acted with a traditional, short-term, and urgent action-oriented focus. It neglected municipal and regional governors, local farmers and landowners, all of whom are not equipped to face emergency crises. The aid industry in Akkar, with meaningful delay, resorted to local authorities to guarantee legitimacy as a mere way to build quicker access to local populations, rather than invoking local in-depth knowledge of the territory. A deeper mutual understanding between the local governance and the humanitarian system, and their respective approaches to crisis are still lacking along with their possibility to integrate. Training local authorities and asking for their formal approval to operate have been mistaken for substantive engagement. No bilateral knowledge transfers between these systems of governance and care have occurred thus far.
The humanitarian system in Halba has initially attempted to enable individuals to cope rather than provide appropriate infrastructure. The UNDP and UKAID-funded market in Halba illustrates how the provision of public infrastructure needs to be carefully planned and coordinated with the relevant municipal authorities. The market,set in 6,000m2 of public space and with the capacity to accommodate nearly 390 traders, was inaugurated in December 2016. However, it was shut down after four days as the newly appointed municipal authorities had not given permission to open the market and, moreover, the area was not served by any public transport. As a result, even though UNDP had provided financial management and capacity building support to the Halba municipality, the market was short-lived. Ignoring the socio-spatial implications of the market’s construction, the actual needs and the local infrastructure ended up being unused, abandoned, and ineffective.
Humanitarian Livelihood Programming and Infrastructural Needs
Some humanitarian livelihood programmes, such as the International Rescue Committee’s coast cleaning project (from al-Abdeh to the Arida border-crossing), employ vulnerable citizens and migrants in a bid to contribute to improving the Akkar landscape and environment. Yet, the short timeframes of the humanitarian system make it difficult to sustain impact. Such a delayed encounter has shown how provisional the effects of humanitarian action can be if the aim to create well-functioning public infrastructures (waste management, access to water, etc.) comes late. The international acknowledgment that pre-existing infrastructure in northern Lebanon could not cope with the massive refugee influx and create new job opportunities was also delayed. Despite the need to build access to local populations, humanitarian actors are reluctant to involve local authorities in their work. They unrealistically desire to keep humanitarian action out of local politics. Yet, their attempt at avoiding involvement in local politics and the decision to exclude public authorities, who still gate-keep urban settings to a certain extent, remain neatly political, often impeding multilateral knowledge transfers which would eventually lead to actual collaborations and exchange.
From a Place of Intervention to a More Appropriate Humanitarian Inhabitation
As the leader of the Akkar Traders’ Association reflected, “when shops shut down Halba dies”. Indeed, aside from low local consumption and an overall constrained regional economy, the enhancement of the Halba business volume in the wake of humanitarian interventions has remained relatively low. Indeed, humanitarian actors have rarely resided in the city for everyday economic purposes, and based themselves in other surrounding villages where entertainment is more accessible. They approached Halba as a mere place of intervention. This further points to the missed opportunities for collaboration between city authorities, longstanding service providers and humanitarian agencies in Akkar. Indeed, an urban-humanitarian encounter is not simply related to systematic programming, but it is also characterised by spontaneous daily interactions.
What follows is a list of concluding remarks that we hope will contribute to the wider urban-humanitarian debate. It is based on field research conducted in Halba in the winter of 2017:
– The collaboration between humanitarian actors and local authorities in Lebanon has historically proved to be successful and effective in already resourceful municipalities in Lebanon (e.g. the Beirut southern suburbs and southern Lebanon after the July 2006 war). In these settings, the municipal approval of humanitarian programmes is an essential condition for intervening. For example, the ART-Gold project, promoted by UNDP and Oxfam-Italia after the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, has in practice strengthened the municipal services destined to local residents in Beirut’s southern suburbs (especially the districts of Ghobeiry and Haret Hreik). In this regard, humanitarian resources and support should be particularly channelled into the most vulnerable municipalities. In the same vein, Lebanon-based INGOs – which normally have easy and direct access to local municipalities in order to implement service provision – should not sideline the Lebanese government, but rather demand state responsibility while supporting its capacities.
– To make humanitarian action effective, public infrastructure needs more resources than the present provision of individual-focused activities, often meant to bring refugee lives back to normality (e.g. the majority of today’s humanitarian livelihood programmes). Indeed, local markets need to be approached from a relational and social perspective, able to highlight the relevance of a collective-oriented and area-focused approach to economic sustainability.
– Local municipalities in northern Lebanon paradoxically lack the incentive to improve the city: solid infrastructure and well-functioning urban systems, may attract larger numbers of refugees from other areas in Lebanon which are less well served. As the Global North’s borders become increasingly inaccessible, preserving the status quo, rather than enhancing the capacity of local authorities and infrastructures, spares Halba and other Lebanese areas having to host even larger numbers of refugees in search of job opportunities and better quality of life. The lack of incentives for local infrastructural improvement questions the oversimplifying dictum of “working with local authorities” which nowadays overpopulates the experts’ recommendations contained in policy briefs and humanitarian accounts. Thus, the international community needs to recognise and address its failure in equally sharing humanitarian responsibility vis-à-vis the refugee influx. In fact, this failure often results in the abovementioned lack of cooperation of local authorities.
 J. Fiori and A. Rigon (eds.), Making Lives. Refugee Self-Reliance and Humanitarian Action in Urban Markets (London: Save the Children and UCL, 2017, p. 106).
 OCHA, ‘North and Akkar Governorates Profile’, 2016, available at:https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/North-Akkar_G-Profile_160804.pdf.
D. Satterthwaite, The Scale and Nature of Urban Change Worldwide: 1950-2000 and Its Underpinnings, Human Settlement Discussion Paper Series (London: IIED, 2005, p. 22).
Interview conducted in Halba, February 2017.
The region was in fact originally part of the broader North Lebanon governorate. See:http://www.localiban.org/rubrique394.html.
M. Boustani, E. Carpi, et al. Responding to the Syrian Crisis in Lebanon. Collaboration between Aid Agencies and Local Governance Structures (London: IIED, 2016).
 Halba, 8 March 2017.
Demographic data has been provided by the secretary of the Akkar governor in February 2017 and then confirmed by Save the Children – Lebanon.
‘Akkar Village to Begin Evicting Syrian Refugees’, Daily Star, 19 April 2017.
F. Battistin, IRC Cash and Livelihoods Support Programme in Lebanon (IRC publication, 2015).
J. Chalcraft, The Invisible Cage. Syrian Migrant Workers in Lebanon (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009).
UK Aid Funded Projects in Underprivileged Akkar, UK government website, 16 December 2016.
Informal conversation with local residents, Halba, March 2017. Interview with the governor, Halba, 8 March 2017.
For the major infrastructural needs across Lebanon after the Syrian refugee crisis see: UNHCR and REACH, ‘Multisector Community Level Assessment of Informal Settlements – Akkar Governorate, Lebanon’, Assessment Report, November 2014. To know the infrastructural projects that humanitarian agencies have undertaken, see:https://www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com/export/sites/trade/files/market_studies/Libanon-infrastructureProjects2015.pdf.
 Interview conducted in Halba, March 2017.
 Interviews with local and international aid workers. Al-Qobaiyat (Akkar), March 2017.
 L. Mourad and L. H. Piron Municipal Service Delivery, Stability, Social Cohesion and Legitimacy in Lebanon (DLP and IFI-AUB Report, 2016).
 For more information, see: https://www.oxfamitalia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Oxfam-Part-two.pdf.
Reflections on Faith-Based Solidarity and Social Membership: Beyond Religion? The Case of Lebanese Shiite FBOs (January 2018)
I have recently published a study on “Caucasus International”.
During the July 2006 postwar period in Beirut’s southern suburbs (Dahiye), which were destroyed by the Israeli air force in its effort to annihilate the Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah, the Islamic Shi‘a philanthropic sphere has been growing. It has pioneered the postwar reconstruction process and local relief provision, while diversely defining itself in relation to its secular and faith-based counterparts. This paper examines the extent to which religious providers develop solidarity with or antagonism towards provider members of the same community in times of crisis. Indeed, intracommunity solidarity among different aid providers tends to be taken for granted. Problematizing this common belief is particularly important for defining the ways in which social solidarity either develops or contracts across faith-based communities during conflict-induced displacement. In this context, aid provision and local accountability remain fundamental litmus papers. Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted in Dahiye from 2011 to 2013 with Lebanese Shiite faith-based organizations and private initiatives, a secular local organization, and their respective beneficiaries, this paper advances reflections on how social membership and acts of solidarity and charity interact within the Lebanese philanthropic scenario.
To read the whole article see: http://cijournal.az/post/reflections-on-faith-based-solidarity-and-social-membership-beyond-religion-the-case-of-lebanese-shiite-fbos-by-estella-carpi.
I have contributed to this research in brief with my study on Halba in northern Lebanon. You can download the whole paper here: https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/publications/refugee-self-reliance-moving-beyond-the-marketplace.
The issue of how to promote refugee self-reliance has become of heightened importance as the number of forcibly displaced people in the world rises and budgets for refugees in long-term situations of displacement shrink. Self-reliance for refugees is commonly discussed as the ability for refugees to live independently from humanitarian assistance. Many humanitarian organisations perceive refugee livelihoods creation, often through entrepreneurship, as the main way to foster refugee self-reliance. Yet focusing on a purely economic definition of refugee self-reliance is problematic as it does not capture the diversity of personal circumstances or the multifarious ways that refugees live without international assistance.
Refugee self-reliance, livelihoods, and entrepreneurship have considerable salience – yet there remain notable gaps in understanding and supporting non-economic dimensions of refugee self-reliance. Academic and policy literature often focuses on technical economic outcomes at the expense of social and political dimensions and the use of holistic measurements. This latest RSC Research in Brief, titled Refugee Self-Reliance: Moving Beyond the Marketplace, presents new research on refugee self-reliance and addresses areas not commonly included in current discussions. In particular, it focuses on social and cultural, practical, and programmatic aspects of refugee self-reliance. In so doing, it rethinks the concept of refugee self-reliance and aims to contribute recommendations to help achieve positive outcomes in policy and practice.
This brief arose out of a two-day workshop at the Refugee Studies Centre on rethinking refugee self-reliance, convened by Evan Easton-Calabria and Claudena Skran (Lawrence University) in June 2017.