Lebanon’s conflict prone areas are in need of a stronger rule of law that promotes human rights and democratic values. ALEF’s “Building Local Capacities for Peace” (BLCP) project aims at building the capacities of citizens who are involved in various development plans within their communities in the suburbs of Beirut (Nabaa, Chiyah & Ain el-Remmeneh areas). The BLCP project intentionally targets areas that have had a reputation for armed conflict since the start of the Lebanese civil war. These regions’ societies are extremely heterogeneous, comprised of residents of various socio-political backgrounds. This type of atmosphere, coupled with harsh economic circumstances, is fertile ground for possible future conflicts

The understanding and implementation of the protection of human rights is an important mechanism in building peoples’ capacities in preventing, solving, and mitigating inter-communal conflicts. Developing such knowledge, skills, and practices at an early age is crucial. Early childhood years are critical for laying a solid foundation for the development of a person’s skill set and learning capacities that value diversity and promote equality and social justice. The project consists of a capacity building segment where the local active youth are introduced to core human rights concepts and ideas in order to:

  • Help preventing, transforming, and resolving communal conflicts
  • Establish local community committees working on a community-based conflict transformation approach

The project’s overall methodology is based on a participatory approach that will actively involve targeted participants in every stage of the project. Such learning methodology is then reinforced through the creation of an environment that adheres to human rights values and supports the necessary life skills for conflict resolution and mitigation.

The first year (Phase I) of the three-year project targeted students between the ages of twelve and sixteen enrolled in public and semi-private schools in three conflict prone areas;

  • Lycee National Libanais in Nabaa
  • Yasmin school in Ain el-Remmeneh
  • Santa Maria school in Chiyah

Schools are the best way to reach out to children who can play an active in role in their communities. This is done through disseminating human rights principles beyond the school classrooms and playgrounds, and into their homes and wider community.

The capacity building session were made up of eight different thematic training sessions:

  • Team Building
  • Human Rights
  • Child Rights
  • Gender equality
  • Discrimination
  • Communication skills (verbal & non-verbal)
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Financial Budgeting

Phase II of the BLCP project targeted several youth groups in the community. The youth ages eighteen to twenty-five were not only students, but also working class citizens and school dropouts. These youth groups were targeted because, when empowered, they can become actors of change in their respective communities. The objective was to build the capacities of these individuals and eventually create a committee in order to find community-based solutions for any prospect conflicts or problems. The sessions mostly covered the following themes:

  • General Human Rights
  • Discrimination
  • Conflict resolution
  • Citizenship
  • Freedom of thought and expression

Phase III is highly focused on peace building and conflict resolution by providing a small group from each region with a set of skills learned through extensive training. The training focuses on different aspects of conflict, and the proper methods of designing affective conflict mitigation strategies. ALEF suggested that the groups in the three regions are to be divided into two committee groups where training and coaching sessions are to be implemented at the same time. The first committee group was comprised of a merger between the two groups in Chiyah and Ain el-Remmeneh, Risala scouts and PARTNERS (a youth group actively promoting activities in the Chiyah area), where the work centered around a common good shared between the two groups in an attempt to foster social cohesion and build a bridge of trust amongst the participants. Whereas the second committee was solely comprised of the Syriac scouts who live in the Nabaa area.

The Building Local Capacities for Peace project has had the following achievements:

  • ALEF has built solid contacts with various stakeholders and active youth groups in the Ain el-Remmeneh, Chiyah, Nabaa areas as a part of its Human Rights Education & Outreach Program
  • Provided youth participants with capacity building sessions in order to sensitize them to different human rights concepts
  • Formation of local community youth groups

Regarding future steps, the BLCP project will entail designing conflict mapping toolkit on early warning indicators that will help participants to better understand the nature of potential conflicts which may arise in their areas.