According to the UNHCR, there are over a million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon as of September 30th, 2015. This number does not cover the total amount of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, given that there are many refugees who have not registered themselves with UNHCR. The Lebanese government temporarily suspended new registration of refugees as of May 6, 2015. This means that the concentration of refugees per capita ranks Lebanon at first place worldwide in absolute number of Syrian refugees.[1]

The presence of so many Syrian refugees is a risk to the already fragile political and security situation in Lebanon. The crisis has also worsened the current divide in Lebanese politics. Several security- related incidents such as the August 2014, clashes between the Lebanese army and the Syrian Islamist militants in the northeast town of Arsal and Northern Tripoli. These incidents have led to the Lebanese authorities making decisions and measures that contravene with its international obligations, particularly in regards to the principle of non-refoulement, or the forceful return of asylum seekers or refugees to the country where they risk prosecution. such measures are embodied in the Lebanese government policy paper adopted in October 2014, which requires Syrian nationals entering Lebanon to validate their entry under specific categories expressed in a memo by the General Security Office (GSO). [2]

As the refugee crisis enters its fifth year in 2016, tensions continue to mount between Lebanese communities and Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Long-standing conflicts and incidents are exacerbated by the socio-economic impact of the Syrian crisis, coupled with the lack of a comprehensive human rights and protection strategy by the government. According to parliamentary sources, as of September 2013, 45 municipalities as have been identified as being most at risk of conflict, and immediate risk mitigation interventions are needed in these locations. [3]In light o these challenges, there is a compelling necessity to design rights-based solutions to address the numerous problems Syrian refugees face in Lebanon; solutions that take into account Lebanon’s specific challenges resulting from this acute humanitarian crisis. That involve relevant actors in decisions that affect their lives, and helpelping improve refugees’ readiness to return home by preserving the strengths and skills of their community. It is critical to note that the main entity that should implement these solutions is the state. However, in Lebanon’s unstable political situation, municipal actors have taken on a greater role and are be pioneers in fostering human rights in their constituency.

ALEF believes that municipalities play an active and vital role in protecting human rights and in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon. ALEF seeks to support local municipalities in addressing the crisis in accordance to human rights standards by reducing tension between Syrian refugees and host communities, reducing and eliminating tensions that are a product of the scarcity of available resources for Syrian refugees, and raising awareness about the importance of using a rights-based approach.

With the support of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), ALEF is working on a project entitled “Towards Protection- Friendly Local Governance”, which builds the capacity of the municipalities of Jezzine and Roum. The program hopes to raise the awareness of municipality members about their responsibilities in adopting protection- friendly rights- based policies within their communities, and their ability to independently create mechanisms such as community committees to oversee the adoption of such practices. This will be central to creating a common understanding of civilian and refugee rights among participants while mobilizing participants to create a committee that involves both Lebanese and Syrian representatives. Twelve municipality members from Jezzine and Roum attended four workshops on human rights, refugee protection policies, and conflict prevention and resolution. In close coordination with municipality members, twenty representatives of the Lebanese and Syrian communities designed and implemented two development initiatives that helped ease tensions among local and refugee communities.

Environmental issues are a main concern for members of the Jezzine community. Pollution and trash have directly impacted the municipality’s infrastructure and the health of its inhabitants. he Jezzine community’s development initiative consisted of a day- long campaign in which members of the host and refugee communities, mainly Lebanese and Syrian students from Jezzine elementary schools, attended a play showcasing the importance of environmentally- friendly practices. The play encouraged them to take action against littering and improper waste disposal. After the play, the audience carried out a clean- up action, to clean up disposable waste in Jezzine’s forests. Each participant then took part in a tree- planting activity. This activity fostered a sense of environmental responsibility amongst Lebanese and Syrian civilians living in Jezzine.

In Roum, the main problem was the lack of organized activities for youth throughout the academic year. As a result of this, local youth often resorted to dangerous activities, leading to tension and reprisal amongst them and their elders like drifting in neighborhood streets. In response the municipality decided to design a solution that would pre-occupy students while ensuring that their activities are enriching physically or mentally. The municipality hosted a series of indoor activities for youth of all ages. These activities led to the annual summer sports events, which the Roum youth and culture club organizes yearly. Roum also decided to launch a cinema club, which screened family-friendly movies on a weekly basis. The activity brought Syrians and Lebanese youth together and created a healthy medium for interaction beyond the school premises.

[1] UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response, Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal, available at:

[2] Lebanese Council of Ministers, Syrian Refugees Policy Paper, Adopted on 23 October 2014, available at:

[3] Interview with Mr. Ramzi Naaman, Council of Ministers. (11/09/2013)