Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’
The Role of Civil Society in Lebanon
Let’s start with a definition. Civil society is the people and groups that form the basis of a functioning society that are not part of the government (regardless of that state’s political system) or business institutions. Civil society tries to protect people against human rights abuses and try to protect freedom of speech and other individual rights. Organizations that are part of civil society include political parties, trade unions, human rights organizations, newspapers, community groups, faith-based and charititable organizations (definition from here).
How does one begin to articulate how incredibly important civil society is in a country like Lebanon? When a government is unable or unwilling to provide for the needs of its people, it is left to individuals and groups to advance their common interests.
This may take the form of a women’s group implementing a daycare program in a high-needs area, or a faith-based organization advocating for the rights of migrant workers and refugees, or a coalition which endeavours to build peace within a divided society.
The depth and breadth of issues addressed by civil society groups is awe-inspiring! It seems that when there is a need, people from diverse backgrounds quickly come together to work towards a solution.
It truly was a humbling and amazing opportunity to meet Development & Peace partners who work tirelessly within Lebanon, and the wider region, to bring about positive change.
It also reminded me that people are experts in their own experience, and that collaborating with and supporting our partners throughout the world is truly the most effective means of eradicating unjust social, economic, and political structures.
by Alex Wright
The Lebanese responding to local needs in Lebanon
Caritas MONA is based in Beirut, which allowed us the opportunity to spend three days with the staff during which we learnt about, and visited, some excellent projects, from the regional level to the local level. (Click here for part one of our time with Caritas MONA).
Yesterday, Caritas MONA took us to see a few of the local on-the-ground projects that are meeting the needs of local people in Beirut and Lebanon. Firstly, we met with “The Voice of Lebanese Women”, founded after the war by women volunteers who sought to rebuild their community and to support the many newly-widowed women.
The centre currently provides daycare for more than 55 children at just $50 per month, with free services for those without the means to pay. Women are able to get English lessons, vocational training, and can access start up materials for small enterprises. Teenagers have programs to teach them life skills and are able to explore personal themes through theatre. A recent initiative supported by the US embassy and Caritas U.S. (Catholic Relief Services) provides one month of training on citizenship, teamwork, tolerance, and conflict resolution. This is followed up by the creation of a mock cabinet through which youth simulate the political process in Lebanon.
In the afternoon, we were taken to the large industrial headquarters of “Arcenciel” (arc en ceil means rainbow in french), an organization that attends to the needs of people with disabilities. The facilities contain a number of large workshops, which produce many mobility tools (wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and more), to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Arcenciel employs people with disabilities in order to help them gain skills and become more independent – all the wheelchairs in Lebanon come from this workshop. The facilities also provide free dental care, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and job placement services.
The final project that we witnessed on our tour of Beirut was a drop-in centre that provides support to people living with HIV/AIDS and/or drug addiction. The Centre trains Peer Outreach Workers to provide information and harm-reduction materials to at-risk people, for example gay men and sex workers. The Outreach Workers are also trained to be able to provide on-the-spot testing for HIV and Hepatitis. The increasing demand for drug rehabilitation led the Centre to provide a safe haven for drug-users 2 nights a week, and follow-up with patients on the other 3 nights a week while the Centre is open. Beyond medical assistance, the Centre also provides a social community, legal services, and counseling. New programs are using psychodrama and theatre to help clients deal with their addictions.
In one day we had a chance to see 3 very innovative centres that have developped locally to respond to the needs of the vulnerable and excluded in Lebanon. An excellent snapshot of what grassroots development looks like!
by Jacques St. Laurent
Meeting CARITAS MONA
Today we met with Caritas MONA- Moyen Orient et Nord Afrique (Middle East and North Africa), and learned a tremendous amount about the Caritas network and what it means when we are talking about “capacity building”.
What is Caritas? Caritas Internationalis is the international association of 165 national Caritas networks. It is one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations. Communication and coordination between national networks is made more effective by seven regional offices that serve Africa, Asia, Europa (Europe), Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa (MONA), North America, and Oceania.
The principle themes that Caritas tries to address on a global scale, are economic justice, peace and reconciliation, refugees and migrants, HIV-AIDS, climate change, and emergency relief.
16 member organizations in the MONA region work, often in situations of conflict, to meet the greatest needs of local communities. Local Caritas groups have emergency plans to respond to needs generated by conflict, but do not play a political role in war time.
The main projects of the Caritas organizations in the MONA region, given by order of frequency of project type, are:
- Health care
- Emergency relief
- Assistance to migrants
- Social development
- Youth services
- Humanitarian assistance
- Empowerment of women
The mission of Caritas MONA is to: work on exchanges and assistance between member organizations and to facilitate their working together in harmony while ensuring that everyone in the region applies the objectives and values of the Caritas confederation.
This is capacity building: supporting the growth and health of organizations through:
- training sessions and organizing seminars,
- providing tools for campaigns and fundraising with the programs of Caritas Internationalis,
- assisting with the foundation of new Caritas organizations,
- helps the member organizations in achieving their goals,
- connecting the work of members with the wider Catholic church
This is capactity building: trainings so that organizations, social movement and citizens are informed and equipped to take on the challenges they face in a way that is participative and peaceful.
This is capacity building: Partners are well linked into communities, are strong and credible, and can develop appropriate strategies to deal with the challenged that they face.
Caritas MONA opened our eyes to the depth and breadth of the humanitarian efforts being made by the Caritas networks in each country of the MONA region. The staff shared with us the global picture, with the challenges being faced in the region, as well as the inspiring efforts of single individuals, such the single nun who is Caritas Libya, and the 1,538 staff who run the many programs in Caritas Egypt.
Long may the good work of our Caritas family continue!
by Jacques St. Laurent
On June 21st, the Lebanon Solidarity trip team was fortunate to spend a second day with Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre. The Centre was established in 1994, in response to the large number of refugees from Sudan arriving in Lebanon. CLCM aims to serve migrant workers, asylum seekers, and refugees by offering a variety of social services to migrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or political persuasion.
One might expect that they work the most with a large number of Iraqi refugees that have fled to Lebanon over the last decade (click here for blog post on their work with Iraqi refugees).
However, the issue of migrant workers within the country, and their need for protection, was not an issue that the group had imagined prior to traveling to Lebanon…
BUT according to statistics, there are more than 157,000 migrant workers legally entitled to work in Lebanon. Additionally, there are more than 100,000 Syrian workers in the country, with rules around travel and work in Lebanon are somewhat more lax. There are also a large number of illegal workers whose status in Lebanon is even more precarious.
In our meetings with CLCM staff members, we learned about the plight of migrant workers. Many women from countries including Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Madagascar and many others, arrive in Lebanon every year as domestic workers.
Agencies recruit the women, and connect them with households in Lebanon. We learned that there are over 600 recruitment agencies working in Lebanon. The agency holds the worker’s passport. Women have to sign on for 3 year minimum contracts, and collect around $150 – $250 dollars per month.
At times, these domestic workers are physically or sexually abused and/or harassed in the homes where they live and work.
Tragically, we learned that there has been an increase in the numbers of murders and suicides of migrant domestic workers, and it is believed that some deaths go unreported.
The Centre for Migrants offers support to domestic workers in need of assistance. The Solidarity Trip team was able to visit a shelter for vulnerable women and their children.
The women are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and come from a range of very difficult experiences. Some are newly-arrived Iraqi women and children, with the father in prison for entering “illegally”, while others have had awful experiences of being mistreated by their employers. We spent the day with the women, sharing in each other’s cultures, dancing, playing soccer with the kids and eating traditional food that the women had made. We really enjoyed their company!
CLCM offers key services to migrant workers, refugees, and asylum seekers, including providing basic needs, social and psychological support, providing for medical needs, educational support and payment of school fees and supplies, and legal support.
And, importantly, the organization is also working with the government to develop a special law relating to domestic workers. This law would better protect the rights of both Lebanese and foreign-born domestic workers. With the frequent changes to governmental leadership in Lebanon, it has been difficult to get the law ratified.
It is positive to know that Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre is doing everything they can to assist the large number of migrants and refugees, both by advocating for changes in law, and by providing vital services.
by Amanda Nolan
Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre: an experience of displacement
On June 20th, 2011, the Lebanon Solidarity Trip team had the opportunity to meet with Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre, and learn about the essential work that they do with refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant workers.
One of the important groups of people the organization works with is refugees from Iraq. Lebanon has been receiving a flood of Iraqi refugees for a number of years now. Previously, more Muslim refugees were fleeing to Lebanon, but lately, there has been an increase in Christian Iraqis arriving in the country.
Our presenter from Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre shared with us that overall, Lebanon offers more individual freedom in comparison to other Middle Eastern nations, such as Syria and Jordan, and so that’s why many Iraqis have fled to Lebanon. She told us about the routes where one can enter Lebanon illegally from Syria. The CLCM staff members strive to work with the over 1,000 Iraqi families living in and around Beirut.
Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre supplies immediate basic needs to newly arrived and desperate Iraqi refugees, as well as medical assistance in the form of helping to pay for medications, and paying for emergency medical bills.
Additionally, CLCM offers legal information and acts as an intermediary with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help them access basic resources. Many of the Iraqi families are hoping to move on to receiving nations like Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe. A big source of stress that the families experience is waiting to move on to one of these nations/regions. I can imagine it would certainly be difficult to live with so much uncertainty!
The organization also helps to pay for school fees and supplies for young students. One challenge that the staff member we met with explained to us was that a number of youth are dropping out of school in order to work. Rental accommodations in Beirut are quite expensive, and so it is a struggle for many Iraqi families to live in the city.
We were also told that Iraqi refugees do face some discrimination in Lebanon, mostly due to their accent. These pressures weigh heavily on many people and so alcoholism and domestic violence does occur among the people. CLCM employs social workers to work with the Iraqi families, and conducts follow up visits with them over their time here.
In really bad situations, there is a shelter for women and children in need of protection. We learned that Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre also runs a 24 hour hotline.
Another positive program for many youth is a summer camp for Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese youth ages 6 to 14. The youth are brought together and live at a summer camp for a month. Many activities take place, including peace-building and social and recreational opportunities. There are also post-camp sessions to reunite the youth who have become friends but live in divided worlds.
Our team also had the opportunity to visit a CLCM Community Centre, which opened in March 2011. The Centre assists the Iraqi population in various ways. There are daycare/drop-in times for children aged 6 to 16. Sessions for women take place as well, where they can share their experiences and concerns, and make some crafts to sell. Some of the sessions are conducted with a psychiatrist. There is also an equivalent men’s group. Once a week, families get together to share a hot meal, and this allows newly arrived refugees to meet and learn from Iraqis who have been in Lebanon for some time.
It was certainly an eye-opening experience for the Solidarity Trip team to learn about Iraqis in Lebanon, the issues they face, and the work being done by Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre to serve them.
by Amanda Nolan
Women in Lebanese Civil Society
While only in Lebanon a few days we have already experienced so much – incredible encounters, meetings and experiences. This morning, we were looking forward to meeting Linda Macktaby to learn more, because our curiosity is growing day by day! When we met her in Beirut we did not expect to make such a connection with this young activist, a dynamic, interesting woman, with a special sense of humour.
In Beirut: Linda from FDCD, Geneviève and Amélie, DP Ottawa-Hull members
Through this young woman, who leads programs and youth groups with FDCD (Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue), we discovered all about the life of a Lebanese person who is involved and active in civil society in Lebanon. Working on the reconstruction of peace and reconciliation in a country as divided politically and religiously as Lebanon, is not an easy task, let alone doing so as a woman.
FDCD members with DP members!
However, Linda’s strong character and her unparalleled motivation seem to give her wings for her work and for the FDCD programs. Lebanese women do not always have a voice. The FDCD projects are primarily focused on young people and the empowerment of women, both being essential for the construction of a strong civil society. In fact, the employees and members of FDCD are mainly committed and determined young people, where women thrive.
Although women are marginalized in Lebanon, they are surely the most active in sharing an insatiable desire for a change in attitude amidst situations of inequality and injustice. As a woman myself and a student in the field of development, the work and spirit of Linda and FDCD have inspired and affected me greatly.
Social justice, one day, will triumph!
by Amélie Laurin Gravel
Shatila Palestinian Camp, Beirut
More than 250,000 Palestinians are currently living in 12 camps within Lebanon. The Palestinian people have been displaced, and have been living as refugees for over 60 years. Nevertheless, the Palestinians continue to live in the daily hope of returning to their homeland.
This was most evident in May, when 100,000 Palestinians returned to the Israeli border to demonstrate their right to return to their homeland. Six were killed. Today there is little evidence that displaced Palestinians will become citizens of their own land in the foreseeable future.
One Palestinian camp in Lebanon, named Shatila, is situated within Beirut. The 1km2 of land is home to over 17,000 people. 5,000 people are Palestinians, and the rest are a mix of Syrians, Lebanese, Sudanese, and Iraqi refugees. Non-Palestinians use the camp as a safe haven, the one place they can avoid prison terms for being an “illegal” person.
As refugees, Palestinians are denied the right to work or own property, despite their will and abilities – 50% are university graduates. Opinions over the Palestinians’ right to work are divided; there are fears that allowing them to work will encourage them to remain in Lebanon, though they will tell you clearly – they want to be in Palestine, not Lebanon.
During the Israeli war on Lebanon in the early 1980’s, Shatila was the scene of a catastrophic massacre in 1982, where 1,500 people were slaughtered at the hands of the militia of the Lebanese Forces, supported by the Israeli army. Immediately after, in Lebanon and internationally, news, information, or press about what happened were suppressed and the destroyed camp was declared a military zone. With the assistance of the UN, the Israeli’s withdrew, and control was handed over to the Syrian army. Conditions remained desperate within the camp. In 1984 the “war of the camps” broke out. Shatila remained under siege for 3 years, where the camp was denied food, resulting in starvation and deaths.
The Syrian army began to withdraw in 2003. With greater freedom, many people left the camp, while others began to improve conditions by bringing in materials and looking for informal work. Despite this, Shatila remains without a play area, a proper school, or adequate housing.
Community is strong within the camp, and it is not as dangerous a place as is commonly perceived. Palestinians have expressed their wish for their efforts to be recognized, respected, and supported. There is a hope that an awareness of the situation for Palestinians within the camp will generate sincere progress towards a peaceful, just resolution to their displacement.
by Jacques St. Laurent
To read more about our time in Lebanon click here!
The first two days of the 2011 Development & Peace Youth Solidarity Trip to Lebanon were spent meeting with members of the Permanent Peace Movement in Beirut, and understanding the organization’s important work within the context of the current social, economic and political realities in Lebanon.
The Permanent Peace Movement (PPM) is an independent Lebanese Non-Governmental Organization founded in 1986 at the height of the Lebanese civil war by a group of young university students unified by their common vision for the future and their aversion to war.
They considered that peaceful means for conflict resolution are the most useful of all, and that when these are exhausted, one should resort to non-violent means and never to violence.
Such a commitment to peace building within Lebanon is an incredible challenge – this is a country brimming with domestic tension as members of 18 various sects, within a population of less than 4 million people, have repeatedly entered into violent conflict.
Sectarianism within Lebanon means that political office, government positions, and senior military and security appointments are divided based on the principle of religious balance.
Thus, it appears that for many Lebanese, political, economic or cultural survival is dependent upon occupying positions of power in order to protect the rights and values of their own group. Moreover, divisions within the country are not simply predicated on religion, but on various political ideologies, which further fragment groups.
It is apparent that there are no easy solutions to ending violence and preventing further conflict. Indeed coming from a generation of Canadians which have little experience with war, the situation appears absolutely overwhelming.
We are super impressed with the energy, initiatives and commitment of the staff and volunteers of PPM – who work on limiting the arms trade, give conflict resolution workshops weekly, as well as creating opportunities for youth who are Christian or Muslim, Palestinian or Lebanese to come together, all while they continue to advocate for and promote alternatives to violence based in the Middle East experience.
By Alex Wright
To read more blog posts about our trip click here!
Development and Peace in the Middle East!
The stimulating, challenging and inspiring experiences we are living out during our Solidarity Trip in Lebanon are being added to the blog throughout the summer. But before you continue to see what we did, who we met, and what we learned about peace-building and development, here is more information about Development and Peace’s programming in the Middle East region.
Ever since it’s founding, Development and Peace has been coming to the aid of people in the Arab world who find themselves in difficulty. Here are a few programs you might remember supporting, from a snapshot of our presence and support in the last ten years:
- during the ”war on terrorism”: emergency relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan and in Iraq
- during the huge earthquakes: emergency relief and reconstruction in Iran and in Pakistan
- during and after the Israeli wars: emergency relief and reconstruction in the Palestinian Territories and in Lebanon
Development and Peace is continuing to build and strengthen action for peace and development in the Middle East – that is our goal and you and I are involved in helping to realize this goal through our support of partners in Lebanon.
Cruise through our blog posts to find out more!
A Canadian cocktail in Montreal
When individuals from across the nation meet, the label “Canadian” reveals its colorful, multifaceted, and sometimes controversial subtext. Arriving in Our Lady of Fatima camp on the edge of Montreal, the participants of the Development and Peace Solidarity Trip to Lebanon converged to begin with three days of orientation.
There was also training related to inter-cultural communication, group dynamics, and public-awareness raising (sensibilisation in french). We soon became aware of our innate differences and the potential for mistranslation, which gave us the opportunity to explore this wonderful mélange we know as Canada:
- Melodie and Steve are from Montreal at UQAM
- Amelie and Genevieve are from Ottawa/Gatineau region and help us with translation
- Alex and Amanda are from Ontario and Manitoba, and are social workers
- Jacques is from Victoria and Angelique is from Montreal, both doing their masters at university
- Marie-Helene and Genevieve are our trusty and intrepid organizers
In a few hours we will head to the airport to begin the exciting journey to our long awaited destination of Beirut. Various methods to remediate the anguish of jet lag are being employed, but anticipation will likely keep energy levels high while we shuffle our way out of thrombosis.
Amanda and Jacques
Our aim is to share some of what we learn throughout our journey with you. We expect new and stimulating experiences from the people, the land, and the culture.
Check back soon, Peace!
PS – Here is the link to all our blog posts!