A fundamentally different approach, as opposed to other conventional conflict resolution approaches, is needed to transform the precarious stability in Lebanon into durable peace. Repeated outbreaks of political violence since the 1989 Taif Peace Accord show that Lebanon’s model of power sharing and liberal economic growth, while widely praised, has in reality failed to deliver a noticeable peace dividend.
The absence of peace in Lebanon is due to 3 contributing factors: social, governmental and regional instability. Lebanon is conflicted because of complex interactions between the government and the public and between internal and external actors. Peacebuilding responses to promote reconciliation, reform and sovereign resilience therefore demand equal attention and need to be addressed strategically and simultaneously.
The project entitled “Youth Building Reconciliation”, is an initiative in which ten volunteers are trained on the themes of reconciliation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Then, in pairs they go to several universities in Beirut. These volunteers received intensified training on reconciliation and prepared community action projects to be implemented in different areas in Lebanon by a variety of groups. The development and capacity-building of the volunteers is more important than the outcome of the project because of ALEF’s commitment to being process-oriented.
One of the community action projects implemented was “The Memory of the Lebanese Civil War,” library prepared by one of the groups and exhibited in Sawfar A town in Lebanon’s Chouf district. The project was then displayed at various universities and redesigned to be a mobile library.
As the project went on, and by continuously testing and evaluating our skills on project planning and execution, ALEF quickly realized that the solution to the conflicts within universities was to build reconciliation among individuals before moving to building reconciliation among groups.
The aim of the project was therefore modified and now the library is called “ikhtilaf bedoon khilaf”, or “Diversity Without Conflict” focusing on the management of diversity, an important need for most universities in Lebanon, because if not treated with care, this diversity might be fertile ground for potential conflict.
The community actions following the caravan tour were at St Joseph University and the Beirut Arab University. which were based on the concept of “positive youth development” and “community youth development”. It is an outreach by youth to the community and vice versa, where youth can develop their diverse communities despite their differences.