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The good practices brief for responses to refugees final version


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The good practices brief for responses to refugees final version

  1. 1. Local Response Opportunities Preventing Tensions and Improving Quality of Services for Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Host Communities
  2. 2. Outline Situation Brief Methodology Recommendations 1. Good practices to mitigate tensions and conflicts 2. Good practices to strengthen institutional coordination for local response 3. Good practices to improve the quality of basic services Conclusion References
  3. 3. Situation Brief According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the total number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached close to 310,000 individuals as of February 2013. This includes Syrians who are registered or in the process of being registered with UNHCR. The Syrian refugees are located all over the Lebanese territory, with a higher concentration in North Lebanon and Bekaa.1 There are signs of increased tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities in different regions due to political and socio-economic reasons as well as weak response to urgent needs triggered by the situation. Conflicts between both communities present an urgent threat to human security and respect for human rights. In addition to the institutional challenges facing the Lebanese government, there are multiple coordination challenges between UNHCR, local and international organizations, and relevant stakeholders due to the large influx of refugees and sheer volume of needs. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees are suffering from lack of access to basic services that are necessary for their survival. An estimated 20 percent of Syrian refugee children are enrolled in school in Lebanon2 . There are many Syrian refugees who do not have adequate shelters, with several families living in a room orin tents. 1 Syrian Regional Refugee Response. Information Sharing Portal: Lebanon. (2013). UNHCR. Retrieved from 2 Robbed of Childhood, Running from War. (2012) World Vision International. Source: Syrian Regional Refugee Response. Information Sharing Portal: Lebanon. (2013). UNHCR “The government is not present to protect us from the Syrian refugees’ violations… We will protect our honor and our homes.” Focus group participant from Akkar
  4. 4. In addition to the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs and the High Relief Commission (HRC), approximately 25 local and international organizations are working with refugees to provide the following:3  child protection services  community services  coordination services  core relief items  education services  food  awareness on gender-based violence  health services  awareness on HIV/AIDS  information management services  livelihood services  nutrition services  protection services  shelter services  water and sanitation services  registration services Despite the large number of organizations working with Syrian refugees and their previous experience in comparable situations, there are still many gaps that need to be addressed urgently in order to fulfill the needs of refugee populations and of the local communities hosting them. Methodology This document provides recommendations for good practices and activities that can be adopted and implemented by local and international organizations to better respond to the refugee crisis. It was designed using a rapid research methodology based on the participation of affected communities, civil society groups, and practitioners involved in dealing with the refugee situation. The following steps were undertaken to develop the brief: 1. Review literature on response to refugees, conflict prevention, and civic engagement. 2. Analyze similar country cases, including Lebanon’s experience in handling refugees, and the role of local communities. 3. Interview 10 activists from local and international organizations that are either currently working with Syrian refugees or have previously worked with refugees in Lebanon. 4. Conduct 3 focus groups in Saida, Tripoli, and Bekaa with Syrian refugees, civil society activists, and international agency workers. Analysis of the research findings shed light on general trends and approaches to the refugee issue, informed the development of recommendations to overcome the challenges identified by stakeholders, and helped identify lessons learned and successful approaches used by local and international organizations in responding to the influx of refugees. The primary audiences targeted by this brief include: 1. Municipalities and local community-based organizations (CBOs) that are in direct contact with Syrian refugees. 2. Civil society organizations (CSOs) working with Syrian refugees or in host communities. 3. International organizations working directly with refugees and local populations or supporting CSOs and CBOs to implement related programs and projects. 3 Idem.
  5. 5. Recommendations This section presents the main recommendations derived from the consultative process described above for practices and mechanisms that can be adopted by local and international organizations in three main areas: 1. Good practices to mitigate tensions and conflicts between Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities 2. Good practices to strengthen institutional coordination for local response 3. Good practices to improve the quality of basic services
  6. 6. Good Practices to Mitigate Tensions and Conflicts There is an increase in tensions between Syrian refugees and local communities, as expressed by several stakeholders consulted for this brief and as reported in local media. The nature of these tensions combines demographic, political, economic, and social reasons:  The high concentration of refugees in certain areas is creating tensions over local resources in regions with weak infrastructure.  Some communities are facing tensions due to the difference in political affiliations between Syrian refugees and local citizens.  Poor communities are feeling left out of relief efforts primarily directed at Syrian refugees.  Competition over economic opportunities for skilled laborers is causing tensions, which is compounded by the scarcity of job opportunities.  Harassment incidents towards women were reported from both the Syrian and Lebanese communities, causing local conflicts.  Some Syrian students suffer from discriminatory attitudes and behaviors from Lebanese teachers and students.4 Below are recommendations for approaches and mechanisms designed to mitigate potential conflicts and tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. They are based on the field research as well as a review of international experiences in countries that have faced similar situations. Transfer of vocational skills between Syrians and Lebanese citizens as a means for collaboration • Problem: Business owners, in an attempt to reduce labor costs, are increasingly hiring Syrian refugees instead of Lebanese citizens. This is not only affecting the socioeconomic conditions of Lebanese families, but is also causing competition and tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens. • Opportunity: The Syrian refugees, especially youth and women, have advanced vocational skills such as those related to sanitary works, electrical works, paving, wood carving, sewing, embroidery, mobile phone repair, hairdressing and make-up. Creating opportunities to exchange those skills and including Lebanese and Syrians in the same sessions would enhance collaboration instead of competition, as well as reduce feelings of alienation in both communities. • Suggestion: It is recommended to organize vocational training workshops to be delivered to both Syrians and Lebanese in collaboration with skilled labors from both communities. This will contribute to transforming their relationship and alleviating tensions between them. It will also allow people from both communities to acquire a new set of skills that will enhance their employment prospects. To maximize benefits, such trainings should include job search assistance and follow-up to secure job placement for participants. Empower Lebanese citizens with advocacy capacities to participate in solving local problems pertaining to the influx of Syrian refugees: • Problem: Local citizens are not playing an active role in advocating to their municipalities to be more proactive in solving problems triggered by the refugee situation. This is mainly due to their lack of knowledge and skills about their role as active members in their local communities. 4 Idem.
  7. 7. • Opportunity: Several curricula have already been developed to foster citizen engagement with their municipalities, such as training materials developed by the National Democratic Institute as part of the Citizen Lebanon project as well as manuals created by Beyond Reform and Development on “Local Governance and Active Participation” and “Civic Engagement, Leadership and Democracy.” • Suggestion: Training workshops should be implemented in rural areas to foster citizen engagement with their municipalities to design solutions, initiatives and projects to deal with imminent challenges triggered by the refugee situation. Such workshops will equip citizens with the knowledge and skills to advocate to municipal authorities for a better response to their needs and those of the refugees. Promote cultural diversity and intercultural learning between Syrian refugees and local communities: • Problem: Syrian refugees are not familiar with cultural particularities and traditions of Lebanese host communities, and vice versa, which is causing cultural tensions between the two communities. The social behaviors most frequently cited by stakeholders were hygiene, family relations and gender roles. In addition, some local community members blame the increase in crime and robbery rates on Syrian refugees. • Opportunity: Both Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens, specifically in the North and Bekaa, have much in common such as religion, social values, rural characteristics and even some traditions. Making them aware of the commonalities can enhance mutual respect and exchange of thoughts and ideas. • Suggestion: Municipalities and local organizations are encouraged to organize short-term intercultural learning activities, joint projects and dialogue platforms, allowing both communities to share and discover commonalities, such as cooking events, traditional dinners, and family visits. Such eventswill help in transforming their relationships and consequently mitigating tensions. Starting these activities in the short term is essential to equip both communities with basic dialogue and acceptance skills they will need in both countries when the crisis ends. Raise awareness of Lebanese and Syrian common problems and protection mechanisms: • Problem: Despite the support of local and international organizations, Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens still face many challenges, such as health issues, security threats, poverty, and violations of children and women’s rights. Both communities are not aware of institutional and legal mechanisms that are in place to ensure social protection. • Opportunity: In addition to the suggestions presented in this document to help defuse tensions between Syrian and local communities, the Syrian refugee crisis presents an opportunity to raise the issue of the 1951 Refugee Convention not being ratified by the Lebanese government, and to lobby the parliament to ratify it. • Suggestion: Local and international organizations are encouraged to conduct awareness and advocacy campaigns for both Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens on the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol in addition to other international frameworks and mechanisms for human rights protection. Moreover, it is important to equip local NGOs and stakeholders with skills and contacts to advocate with regional justice courts to use these frameworks to protect Syrian refugees. Advocacy campaigns should call on parliamentarians to add this issue on their agenda, especially since elections are scheduled to take place in the spring of 2013. These campaigns can provide a common and safe platform for both Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens to discuss and exchange ideas, thus improving relationships and mitigating tensions.
  8. 8. Enable municipalities to mediate local conflicts between Syrian and Lebanese communities: • Problem: Mayors and municipal officers are receiving many complaints about rising tensions and conflicts in their communities, yet are unable to solve these conflicts. • Opportunity: There are many conflict mitigation and mediation programs that were previously developed by leading organizations, such as the UNDP Peace Building Project, the Lebanese Conflict Resolution Network, and the training and consulting firm named “…For Development”. • Suggestion: Capacity-building programs on mediation skills should be conducted to equip mayors and municipal officers with the tools needed to play an active and positive role in conflict mitigation in their communities. These programs could include small funding for municipalities to conduct activities aimed at improving inter-community relationships. Empower mayors and municipal officers to manage local crises: • Problem: The influx of Syrian refugees is negatively affecting the socio-economic conditions of host communities and increasing tensions between Lebanese and Syrians. • Opportunity: Municipal officers and mayors can play a positive role in dealing with the crisis and alleviating local socio-economic problems. • Suggestion: Local and international organizations are encouraged to build the capacities of mayors and municipal officers so they can assume their roles and responsibilities more effectively, such as by designing budgets that respond to citizen needs, monitoring rent fees imposed on refugees, involving citizens in developing local initiatives and programs, implementing income-generating activities, and revitalizing local economies. Organize joint activities between Lebanese and Syrian students to increase tolerance in schools: • Problem: Several common problems are facing Lebanese and Syrian students at the school level, such as the poor quality of public education, inadequate health and safety standards, and discriminatory attitudes. • Opportunity: In many villages, Lebanese and Syrian students are attending the same schools, and are being accompanied by local teachers and social workers. • Suggestion: Activities should be conducted for students and teachers to raise their awareness on issues of common concern and improve relationships between Lebanese and Syrian students through joint projects. Involve Syrian parents in parents’ committees in schools to collaborate in ensuring school cohesion: • Problem: Within schools that are attended by Lebanese and Syrian students, Syrian students are having difficulties integrating and adapting to the school environment, which is causing conflicts with their peers. • Opportunity: Parents can play an important role in helping their children accept differences and adapt to a new environment. • Suggestion: Schools should make a concerted effort to involve the parents of Syrian students in the parents’ committees, which will develop communication channels between Syrian and Lebanese parents so they can discuss common challenges and devise mechanisms to overcome them. This will also engage them in designing common extracurricular activities that respond to their children’s needs and facilitate their integration, such as school fairs, kermesses, sports activities, and field trips. Provide psycho-social support for Syrian and Lebanese youth:
  9. 9. • Problem: Syrian youth are having difficulty adapting to the local environment, performing at school, and overcoming the sad memories of the war in their country. • Opportunity: School teachers and social workers can play a positive role in helping youth integrate and express themselves freely in a safe, open environment. This will require training and development for school teachers and social workers to become better equipped to play that role in their environment. • Suggestion: Psycho-social support programs and activities should be organized within schools and in communities through which students will have a safe platform to express themselves and overcome the fears and psychological pressures they face. This can include self-expression activities, such as painting and theater classes, as well as youth camps where Syrians and Lebanese can get to know each other, share experiences, and build trust. Provide basic services to benefit the Syrian refugees and host communities equally: • Problem: Most services being provided in response to the refugee crisis are strictly targeting Syrian refugees even when host communities lack the same basic needs (such as food, water, health, and livelihoods), which is increasing tensions between Lebanese and Syrian citizens. • Opportunity: Many projects are being implemented in rural areas that benefit both Lebanese and Syrian citizens, and promote sustainable development, providing opportunities to scale them up to other regions and communities. • Suggestion: In designing programs, local and international organizations—and their funding agencies—should take into consideration the needs of both Syrian refugees and their host communities in order to avoid creating discrepancies between them and inadvertently increasing tensions. Services and initiatives that provide more avenues for positive interactions between the two communities, such as public spaces, gardens, and sports stadiums, can contribute to building social cohesion. Good Practices to Strengthen Institutional Coordination for Local Response Stakeholder consultations and field research revealed a number of institutional and coordination challenges that are hindering the quality and efficiency of response to the refugee crisis. Below are recommendations for approaches and mechanisms designed to promote coordinated action in responding to the needs of Syrian refugees and their host communities. Ease and improve efficiency of registration for Syrian refugees: • Problem: The growing influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is straining the capacity of existing UNHCR and HRC offices to register refugees and serve them properly when distributing kits and delivering other relief services. In turn, the delay in registering refugees makes it difficult to obtain an accurate picture of their needs and of the pressures faced by host communities. • Opportunity: There are many skilled individuals in the host communities who are willing to assist UNHCR and HRC in the registration process and other logistical details, either as unpaid volunteers or in exchange for small stipends. • Suggestion: The number of UNHCR and HRC offices should be increased all over Lebanon. This will enhance the quality of response to refugee needs as well as create job or internship opportunities for host communities. Improve coordination between organizations working on refugee issues:
  10. 10. • Problem: There is an overlap in many areas of service provision and a shortage of other services. Moreover, there is no centralized database for all activities and their respective service providers, which affects the quality of support to refugees. • Opportunity: There are more than 25 local and international organizations working in the field with Syrian refugees. They all have their own updated databases and are convinced of the benefits of having a centralized database and coordination on a day-to-day basis. • Suggestion: A user-friendly centralized database should be created for key stakeholders to access, edit, and update it with the latest data pertaining to Syrian refugees. In addition to serving as a monitoring tool, the database will enable better coordination and decision-making between all support organizations by providing:  A central location that compiles the existing databases of organizations working with refugees, allowing for improved efficiency and responsiveness to urgent cases.  Easy access to information on the work of local and international organizations around the country, including: geographic area, types of services provided, and size of the population served.  Regular reports on demographic changes, needs, and existing responses related to Syrian refugees. Establish an observatory to assess needs and early response mechanisms: • Problem: Despite the large number of services provided to refugees, there are still multiple needs that are not being covered by local and international organizations. The volatility of the situation requires systematic monitoring of a set of priorities and improvements in the pace and quality of response. • Opportunity: Local and international organizations in Lebanon have extensive experience in conducting needs assessments, monitoring priorities, and setting early response programs due to their role in previous similar situations faced by Lebanon. • Suggestion: UNHCR and local organizations are encouraged to establish a joint multi-agency observatory that centralizes needs assessments to prevent refugee fatigue and improve the pace and quality of relief response by continuously updating stakeholders with imminent needs and priorities. The observatory should use a systematic methodology and provide timely recommendations that feed into stakeholders’ response initiatives. Partner with local businesses in providing services to Syrian refugees: • Problem: Various kits are being distributed to the Syrian refugees, including food, non-food items, and hygiene kits. Moreover, renovation works are being executed for homes and spaces used by Syrian refugees. Yet in many cases, host communities are not benefiting from the supply chain of these services due to the limitations imposed by donors’ procurement regulations and the better price deals available within larger businesses. Many Lebanese residents have complained that donor agencies and international NGOs are deploying their teams to target communities with pre-procured items instead of buying goods from local shops and hiring local manpower to finish renovation works. • Opportunity: There are many local businesses in rural areas that can supply aid kits and provide renovation services, thus benefiting from the economic cycle of the relief efforts. • Suggestion: Local and international organizations that are providing relief services and conducting renovation works are encouraged to hire local businesses in the targeted regions whenever possible. This will create job opportunities for the host communities, improve their socio-economic conditions, and alleviate tensions that might arise from securing these services from outside the community.
  11. 11. Enable the Lebanese government to play an efficient and transparent role in coordinating response efforts • Problem: Coordination between UNHCR and local/international organizations on the one hand, and between Lebanese government institutions supporting refugees on the other—more specifically HRC—is not well-structured, which is causing lack of responsiveness, delays in service delivery, and mismanagement of resources. • Opportunity: International donors have made funding pledges to support Syrian refugees, which could help Lebanese government institutions deal with this issue with the least damages possible on the country. • Suggestion: The Lebanese government should establish a clear and transparent coordination mechanism and sign memorandums of understanding with all local and international organizations supporting Syrian refugees, which will help to clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and maximize the use of resources. Good Practices to Improve the Quality of Basic Services The increased population density caused by the continuous influx of Syrian refugees, combined with weak infrastructure and the low quality of public services in the regions, is causing local social tensions, negative competition, and increased poverty. This is allowing rival sectarian and political groups to provide alternative services that mask political agendas, contributing to political and security incidents. In light of this situation, the need to improve the quality of basic services was underscored during stakeholder consultations and field research. Below are recommendations for approaches and mechanisms designed to improve services in response to the refugee crisis. Allow and support the delivery of the Syrian school curriculum: • Problem: Syrian students are facing difficulties in adapting to the Lebanese curriculum due to many factors, including differences in the teaching language, crowded classrooms, and cultural sensitivities between students. This is affecting the quality of education and the performance of Lebanese and Syrian students, and often leading to increased drop-out rates among Syrian students. • Opportunity: Following the crisis, Syrian academics adapted the Syrian curriculum and successfully piloted it in two schools in the North in the summer of 2012. • Suggestion: Delivery of the adapted Syrian curriculum should be encouraged and supported by using Lebanese schools in the afternoon for Syrian students. This will ensure that Lebanese students’ enrollment is not affected while increasing the enrollment of Syrian students. It will also lower the number of Syrian students dropping out as well as create job opportunities for Syrian instructors. Support the creation of additional temporary and permanent medical clinics and field hospitals in rural areas: • Problem: In some areas, Lebanese citizens complain that medical support is exclusively targeting Syrian refugees while neglecting their needs. Moreover, there is a huge need to provide additional health services to refugees in rural areas. • Opportunity: The Lebanese Ministry of Health has established successful permanent clinics in North Lebanon, specifically in Abou Samra, El Hiche, Tikrit, and Amayer, which can be replicated in other regions. In addition, some international organizations have set up temporary clinics that cater to the immediate health needs of refugees and have proven to be scalable. There are many qualified doctors and nurses among Syrian refugees, in addition to the
  12. 12. Lebanese medical teams, who are willing to invest their time and expertise in the service of refugees and host communities. Moreover, Syrian doctors are coming from all over the world to volunteer their time and support the delivery of medical services inside the clinics. • Suggestion: The Ministry of Health, with support from international organizations, should establish additional permanent clinics in other regions of Lebanon where refugees are based in order to cover their needs and those of the host communities. International organizations should also scale the temporary medical clinics to parallel the escalating health needs triggered by the continuous influx of refugees. In addition to providing medical support to a wider range of Syrian and Lebanese individuals, the clinics will create job opportunities for Syrian and Lebanese doctors and nurses, and consequently contribute to improving their socio-economic conditions. Implement the “Task Shifting Model” to train host communities to provide technical support to refugees: • Problem: Despite the large number of organizations supporting refugees, there is still a gap between the support provided and the current needs. • Opportunity: The large number of unemployed educated individuals among the host communities who are willing to support local and international organizations can be leveraged to enhance assistance to the refugees. • Suggestion: The “Task Shifting Model” is a successful practice adopted by various organizations, notably the International Medical Corps (IMC) in Lebanon and Liberia, whereby citizens from the host communities are trained to deliver psycho-social support to refugees. In addition to building the capacities of the host communities and creating job opportunities, this contributes to filling the gaps in the psycho-social field by empowering localities to take responsibility for solving local problems and decreasing the cost of procuring services from outside the community. Empower Lebanese and Syrian youth organizations to participate in alleviating social and economic problems at the community level: • Problem: More services and support are targeting Syrian children and mothers. The specific needs of Syrian youth are not being addressed adequately in the current services provided. • Opportunity: Youth are the future generations in Syria and Lebanon. Building their capacities and empowering them will contribute to ensuring their integration in their countries’ post-crisis phase. • Suggestion: Local and international organizations are encouraged to design and implement capacity building programs targeting both Lebanese and Syrian youth. The programs will allow youth to gain interpersonal, leadership and critical thinking skills, develop social awareness, and learn how to transform differences into opportunities for improved partnerships between communities. Other technical skills that can be beneficial to Syrian and Lebanese youth organizations include needs assessment, fundraising, proposal writing, program development and management. Promote an entrepreneurship mindset and skills within host communities and Syrian refugee populations: • Problem: The crisis has equally affected the socio-economic conditions of Lebanese communities and Syrian refugees. Both lack capacities and skills to create local economic opportunities that can help improve their economic conditions. • Opportunity: With the proper support, Lebanese citizens can create small businesses in regions and provide job opportunities for both Syrian and Lebanese communities. Although Syrians
  13. 13. cannot start up their own businesses in Lebanon due to legal constraints, they can be equipped to do so when they return to their hometowns. Solid curriculums on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship have been developed by leading organizations, which can be easily adapted to the local context of communities, be they Syrian or Lebanese. • Suggestion: Local and international organizations are encouraged to build the entrepreneurial skills of Lebanese and Syrians to help them generate income, create job opportunities, and develop business initiatives. These programs should target women, youth, and other vulnerable groups to help them focus on development solutions and self-empowerment. Conclusion The above good practices reflect the outcomes of research and consultations with local, national and international stakeholders on ways to improve response efforts to the Syrian refugee crisis. The following conditions summarize key factors for enhancing the quality and efficiency of those efforts:  Take into consideration the needs of Lebanese host communities when planning and responding to Syrian refugees’ needs.  Make use of available human resources, from both the Syrian and Lebanese communities, to minimize response costs and provide employment opportunities.  Involve host communities in planning and implementation to help them take responsibility in dealing with the refugee crisis. Incorporating these key factors into response programs will help defuse tensions and foster social cohesion within communities suffering from a myriad of social, economic and political pressures.
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  15. 15. 20. Saba, N. Director of the Akkar Network for Development. (December 1, 2012). Personal Interview by A. Hmayed, BRD/I Group. 21. Fakih, A and Hamoud, A. President and Project Coordinator at Shajar w Bashar. (December 1, 2012). Personal Interview by A. Hmayed, BRD/I Group.