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 its population. However, following an instruction by the Lebanese authorities in 2015 to cease registration of refugees, the real figure is estimated to be much higher. 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, or at least the tolerance, of the host communities vis-à-vis refugees, together with the work of civil society organisations, are therefore extremely important. Yet just like the refugees themselves, aid workers are operating against a backdrop of legal uncertainty.
As the crisis has continued, the willingness to help shown by the Lebanese population initially has given way to growing scepticism towards 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 are deprived the opportunity of a better future, moves towards radicalisation begin to appear both among those seeking refuge as well as the inhabitants of marginalised host communities.
Regardless of their origin, people living in Lebanon are shown respect and do not have to fear outbreaks of violence. Fear and prejudices towards and discrimination against Syrian refugees have been eliminated. 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 eliminate in the long term the propensity for violence when dealing with conflicts.
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 Syrians’ stories and the matters that concern them, and communicate these widely.
The 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 entitled ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees’.