Things Fall Apart: Political, Economic and Social Instability in Lebanon
In April 2013, Mercy Corps undertook a country-wide assessment to examine the interplay between economic fragility and societal stability in Lebanon. The purpose was to identify the pathways through which increased economic strain could lead to greater instability and violence. The guiding hypothesis was that, increased economic security would diffuse or at least neutralize social tensions between the Lebanese and the Syrian refugees. The assessment focused on the specific themes of: economic difficulties and opportunities; inter-group perceptions, relations, and sources of tension; community cohesion; and physical security.
Findings demonstrate that economic pressure is a significant driver of negative attitudes of host communities toward the visiting population. Competition for jobs has become a source of significant tension; where there is a high level of resentment Lebanese are also apt to blame the Syrians for a number of other grievances, including crime and harassment of Lebanese women. Moreover, in response to economic privation, the propensity for violence seemed to increase. The data also showed that a higher level of social interaction between the two groups is associated with a decrease in the likelihood of propensity towards violence. Lastly, the data revealed that the more positive one’s perception of local government performance, the less likely was one’s propensity towards violence. This strong correlation suggests that if local governance capacity is strengthened, the incentive for Lebanese constituents to turn to violent strategies to advocate will likely diminish.