Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on Displacement: Preventing violence through dialogue and media
Title: Civil Peace Service/Special Initiative on Displacement: Prevention of violence through the reduction of stereotypes and prejudices by dialogue and media
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2016 to 2021
Since the outbreak of war in their country, many Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. Almost two thirds of those who have fled are living in the Bekaa Valley and the North Governorate, structurally weak regions that are the poorest in the country. Approximately half are younger than 18.
Lebanon has taken in more Syrian refugees per capita than any other country in the world. According to official figures, Syrian refugees account for around a quarter of Lebanon’s population. Lebanon is not a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and refers to Syrian refugees as displaced persons. There are no official refugee camps to provide a minimum level of state protection. The commitment of the host communities, or at least their tolerance, is therefore extremely important, as is the work of civil society organisations. Yet just like the refugees themselves, aid workers are operating against a backdrop of legal uncertainty.
As the crisis has continued, the Lebanese who were initially willing to help are now increasingly sceptical about the refugees. Fear, stereotypes and prejudices serve only to increase misgivings. It is not uncommon for Syrians to be discriminated against by the Lebanese population and state actors, while the Lebanese media puts forward a very one-dimensional picture, portraying Syrians as terrorists or uneducated day labourers. This has already resulted in sporadic outbreaks of violence and there is a risk that violent confrontations between host communities and refugees will increase. Wherever people are denied human rights and opportunities for a better future, radicalisation starts to take hold among those seeking refuge and in host communities.
Regardless of their origin, people living in Lebanon are shown respect and do not have to fear outbreaks of violence. Xenophobia, prejudice and discrimination against Syrian refugees have been overcome; people are presented with alternatives to religious radicalisation.
As a supplement to humanitarian assistance, the Civil Peace Service (CPS) promotes the integration of Syrian refugees into Lebanese society. Its work focuses on breaking down prejudices and stereotypes within Lebanese society so as to reduce the propensity for violence over the long term.
Conflict-sensitive media work, research and public relations work encourage people at different levels of society to change their attitude towards refugees. Media professionals and students, for example, urge people to question the stereotypes of Syrian refugees presented by the media and to enter into dialogue with one another. Together with refugees, they develop alternative ways of telling the stories and matters that concern the Syrians, and communicate them widely.
CPS also provides marginalised groups with the opportunity to express themselves and creates a platform through which Syrian refugees and people from host communities can come together. This approach focuses on young people and young adults.
The project is part of the BMZ special initiative ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees’.
Despite increasing social hostility towards refugees, a group of media activists is committed to fact-based reporting on the subject of migration. An online media platform by and for refugees publishes daily reports on topics that are relevant in the camps. The training of citizen journalists gives the refugees themselves a voice.