Resilience in the Face of Crisis: Rooting Resilience in the Realities of the Lebanese Experience
Since 2011, Lebanon has seen a huge influx of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and currently hosts the biggest number of Syrian refugees in the world. Faced with waves of violence, insecurity and instability, Lebanese communities have found ways of adapting and developed coping mechanisms to deal with worsening conditions. This adaptability has often been called ‘resilience’. The following paper aims to demonstrate the limitations of this reactive view of ‘resilience’ and takes instead the view that resilience is not merely the ability to adapt to worsening circumstances, but a developmental investment in and strengthening of marginalized communities to become equipped with the skills, infrastructure and resources that allow them to proactively address adversities in ways that can reduce future vulnerability. The results of this study demonstrate that, in terms of economy, citizens felt marginalised by the Lebanese state. Already precarious economic conditions were worsened by the Syrian refugee crisis with competition for jobs creating resentment among host communities. Moreover, closure of the borders with Syria forces them to rely on more expensive local goods. Similarly, Lebanese communities in border areas (who used to access healthcare centres in Syria) have been forced to seek local services, which are significantly more expensive. Resentment among host communities further extends to humanitarian organizations, which are, in their view, aiding the Syrian refugees and neglecting the Lebanese hosts. The increase in the number of Syrian refugees who are not familiar to the residents coupled with a lack of police presence have exacerbated the feeling of insecurity. Lastly, in terms of education, the presence of Syrian refugees has resulted in bigger class sizes in which differences between Lebanese and Syrian levels of education become evident and cause tension. The underdevelopment of many Lebanese regions that the Syrian refugee presence has exacerbated should alert policy to the need to channel resources under an umbrella of reform towards such areas. Resilience of Lebanese communities needs to be strengthened through collaborative and participatory decision-making process that is able to channel local voices of these communities to decision-makers and empower them in strengthening their own resilience. Lebanese communities need to receive positive dividends from this crisis to be continuously able to host the influx of refugees. This goes beyond ad hoc and stopgap interventions to the creation of a more holistic plan and strategies that address national issues and problems facing the vast majority of Lebanese communities, especially those in peripheral areas.