Local and Regional Entanglements: The Social Stability Context in Sahel Akkar
This report introduces the conflict context in the Sahel Akkar area, the Lebanese most northern coastal area bordering Syria. Sahel Akkar is predominantly agricultural, with Muslim Sunni and Alawite residents and a small Christian minority, in addition to a Syrian refugee population equivalent in number to a third of the Lebanese population. The conflict issues experienced in the area today are rooted in structural causes, including a long history of control by feudal families and marginalization in national politics and developmental agenda. Present day conflicts largely revolve around long-standing politicosectarian tensions between members of the Sunni and Alawite communities, which are vulnerable to regional and national level developments. These tensions alongside systems of economic exploitation and competition over resources impacts the relationships between the host community and Syrian refugees who are also negatively affected by national level policy on their legal stay in Lebanon and are vulnerable to gender-based exploitation and harassment.
In terms of actors, politically local Sunni inhabitants are largely loyal to the Future Movement with only a minority sympathizing with MP Khaled Daher and Islamic groups. Eid’s Arab Democratic Party commends the sympathies of the Alawite minority, particularly given the inability of other political groups to create an attractive alternative. Municipalities and Mukhtars are important local actors, and encompass within them key community figures who derive their authority from family or political ties. There is also an important role of religious figures and economic players, including agricultural merchants and land owners. In terms of dynamics, rumours and incitement by the media, as well as religious and political actors, burden what field research indicate to be weak social infrastructure and local conflict mitigation mechanisms. Recent establishment of a municipal union and improved coordination between members of the local government, as well the mediation of key figures in the villages at times of crisis is supporting the nascent social infrastructure. The positive role played by Syrian refugees in the agricultural production cycle and relative abundance in water reduces tension linked to economic production. The report recommends the implementation of social stability and conflict sensitive development projects to safeguard the area from the impact of regional political changes, further strengthening local actors as well as revisiting national level policy on the residency of Syrian refugees.