Water as a Tool for Diffusing Socio-Political Tension

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July 22, 2022

This report captures findings from the study on “Water as a Tool for Diffusing Socio-Political Tension” implemented by Search in partnership with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut (AUB-IFI). The project is funded by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) from May 2021 to May 2022 in Lebanon and published on UNICEF website. The project’s overall goal was to further understand how water can be a tool for diffusing socio-political tension through identifying hotspots in Lebanon with high water-related stress, water related conflict risk, community-level resilience factors, points of division, key influencers, possible champions, and social connectors.

This study has utilised a mapping exercise that identified conflict hotspots and target communities for project implementation in addition to the social network experiment (SNA) to explore the interactions and roles of key stakeholders in water and conflict management in the identified two cazas (Baalbek and West Bekaa). Furthermore, 19 focus group discussions with 143 community members were conducted.

Findings from the SNA and FGDs highlighted the key actors across themes and aspects of conflict resolution and water management. Municipalities were identified as major players that are most frequently contacted for conflict resolution, especially when it comes to water-related conflict. Local mayors, in particular, were engaged by community members across all FGD participant communities. Important families, local religious authorities and political groups also appear to have a large stake in existing conflict resolution networks, though trust in these actors varied from community to community. The influence of international NGOs and IGOs such as UNICEF, EU and UNDP exists prominently in conflict resolution networks as well, however it is overtaken by local NGOs and regional and national authorities when it comes to water conflicts. Conversely, community members have little to no influence or engagement with knowledge exchange networks, meaning the varying degrees of local response initiatives and community development projects are rarely known outside of residents who directly participate in them. A list of project recommendations were proposed for implementing conflict-sensitive water projects with peacebuilding components.

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