Barcelona Province (Spain)-Union of Municipalities of Al Sahel (Lebanon): promoting peace and coexistence

30 January 2018

PLATFORMA has decided to reward the best city to city and region to region international cooperation projects. Twelve projects have been shortlisted out of 25 applications. This is how the Barcelona Province (Spain) is presenting its project with the Union of Municipalities of Al Sahel (Lebanon):

The Union of Municipalities of Al Sahel is located in the West Beqaa District, one of the eight mohafazats (governorates) of Lebanon. The population of this Union is estimated to be 70,500 citizens.

The Union’s geographical location has made it highly susceptible and vulnerable to the various political and social changes taking place in Syria, especially after the Government of Lebanon has agreed to keep an open-borders policy, allowing thousands of refugees to find shelter in Lebanon.

The massive protracted displacement of refugees (88,700 refugees) has contributed to a situation of rapid, unsustainable urbanization in an already vulnerable and fragile area. This new situation now poses diverse challenges to the 12 municipalities of the Union, humanitarian actors and receiving host communities, who — in addition to refugees are struggling to adjust to long-term asocial, economic and demographic shifts and pressures associated with displacement.

One such challenge is how to foster social cohesion and mitigate rising social tensions between refugees and the host communities caused by the limited access to basic goods, services and livelihoods.

Studies show that rising social tensions between communities have the potential to generate secondary conflict in host communities such as domestic violence, drug abuse, isolation, frustration, scapegoating, discrimination and the participation in radical collective action and crime.

In this context, the project “Building the capacities of Union of Municipalities of Al Sahel in order to promote peace and coexistence” is aimed to demonstrate that, reinforcing the Union of Municipalities of Al Sahel by proposing two main actions towards young people (Lebanese and Syrian) and local police performance will provide the capability for quick response in addition to the log-term capacity to reduce tension and to promote non-violence actions in the villages of the union.

The one-and-a-half-year project has been carried out in partnership with the Union of municipalities of Al Sahel and United Cities Lebanon envisaging mainly training and experience exchange activities.

This project has been organized into two different action lines: one oriented to the youngsters and the other to the local police (Local police are the ones who are in daily contact with Syrian refugees).

The first activity block has offered training to a group of youngsters (Lebanese and Syrians) about the importance of participating in the public live through local governments. The training has also covered issues such as social cohesion and conflict prevention and resolution through art and culture.

The second activity block provided training to the local police of the Union as the ones who are daily in touch with refugee camps. An exchange of experiences on “proximity police” has been carried out between the Union and the municipality of Terrassa (Barcelona).

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