Civil Peace Service: Strengthening civil conflict transformation
Title: Civil Peace Service: Strengthening civil conflict transformation in Lebanon
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2010 to 2019
Lebanon's society is divided: the lengthy civil war (1975 to 1990), the unrest in 2006 and 2008, the civil war in neighbouring Syria and the national, regional and sectarian fragmentation have left their mark on the social fabric. The lack of a state monopoly on the use of force, the continuing presence of civil war elites in political offices and the associated culture of impunity lead to recurring tensions between population groups. The disproportionately high number of small arms in Lebanon encourages the use of violence in settling conflicts.
Currently, the Syrian refugee crisis is threatening the country's fragile balance. More than a million Syrians, as well as tens of thousands of Palestinians from Syrian refugee camps, have fled to Lebanon. Since the end of 2013, Lebanon has also been directly threatened by the violence of the civil war in neighbouring Syria. This is made clear by bomb attacks for which groups from Saudi Arabia and Iraq and cross-border militant organisations, such as the Salafist IS movement, have claimed responsibility. Attacks at army checkpoints in the border region and the intervention of Hezbollah in the fighting are further destabilising the already fragile state and increasingly unsettling the people.
Within Lebanese society and politics, religious affiliation plays an important role. It determines the structure of the education system, the media landscape, public administration and political representation. A total of 18 religious communities are recognised in Lebanon, including Shia and Sunni Muslims, Maronite Christians and many other Christian communities of the Eastern and Western Churches, Druze and a very small Jewish minority. In recent times, encounters between the groups have become increasingly difficult. Many people see themselves and their community as the sole victims and blame ‘the others’ for the precarious situation. This constrains social dialogue and obstructs necessary political decisions. It is also reflected in the limited networking and cooperation within civil society, which, in turn, impedes efforts to make a sustainable contribution to peacebuilding.
The various population groups in the country are engaging in dialogue with each other. Civil society is better able to manage conflicts in a constructive and non-violent way.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) supports various platforms that facilitate interreligious and intrasocietal dialogue. These include series of events for future religious leaders and with political youth organisations as well as work with young media professionals. A playful approach is used to teach methods of non-violent communication to people in remote communities. A specially designed board game gives players the opportunity to reflect on their own conflict behaviour and points to new courses of action that could be taken in conflict situations.
In addition, a pilot project is initiating a debate across the faiths on a desirable future. It aims to raise awareness about conflict management and is making non-violent behaviour a conceivable option by prompting a change of perspective.
Networks among committed actors have been established through training sessions and dialogue events. Repeat encounters between participants from different sections of the population have helped to break down reservations and develop a sustainably improved understanding of the situation and the perspectives of other groups.
CPS partners and their target groups are increasingly familiar with the methods of peaceful conflict transformation and are actively applying them in their environments. The board game about methods of non-violent communication has already met with interest beyond the national borders. It is now to be further developed in cooperation with international bodies and subsequently used for the purposes of reflection in other cultural contexts.