Social Cohesion and Governance Programming in Lebanon – Testing Theories of Change and Impact Evaluation
With the Syrian crisis in its fourth year, tensions between Lebanese host communities and refugees are high. After years of strain on employment, social services and resources, and the continued deterioration of the national economic situation due to falling trade and foreign investment, Lebanon and the Lebanese face unprecedented challenges managing the effects of the crisis. Furthermore, the economic hardships also erode the relationship between the Government of Lebanon and its constituents, as all confidence in the government’s ability to provide services collapses. Mercy Corps implemented the ten month Capacity Building for Municipal Responses Project 2 in Lebanon between June 2014 and March 2015 with the support of the British Embassy in Beirut. The project worked with two municipalities, Hermel and Miryata – in the provinces of Baalbek-Hermel and Zgharta respectively – to address the resource-based tensions the refugee crisis is causing.
The project sought to empower vulnerable municipalities and communities to mitigate conflict through a two-fold approach to, firstly, facilitate collaboration between municipalities and communities to implement social service projects and respond to and mitigate disputes before they escalate. And secondly, improve municipal financial and operational capacity and local and national government coordination, to enable municipalities to be more responsive to local needs. Results from the study indicate that social interactions between Lebanese and Syrians improve inter-community perceptions by the highest degree and therefore form the strongest basis for building social cohesion. Moreover, I indicated that access to resources achieve fluctuating results, with five-times lower impact on Lebanese perceptions of Syrians than vice-versa. Good governance likewise improves Syrian perceptions of Lebanese, but only marginally improves Lebanese perceptions of Syrians. It further made evident that economic interactions it appears are more prone to power dynamics and exploitation, and subsequently significantly vary by community and by the type of interaction. Lastly, gender, age and education also notably impacted inter-community perceptions.