Theses Master's

Role of Institutions in Responding to the Syrian Refugees Crisis in Lebanon: The Humanitarian Aid Framework of Saida

El Hariri, Ola

As of September 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that millions of Syrian refugees have been displaced from their homes due to the ongoing Syrian civil war. Since the beginning of the uprising against the Syrian government in March 2011, Lebanon has become host to almost 1.2 million Syrian refugees. The lack of Lebanese policy, legislation and action toward managing their increasing influx has led to arbitrary and dispersed settlements in over 1730 different localities in Lebanon, residing mainly in lower income communities. The Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon is entangled in a complex and continually shifting array of issues spanning from the humanitarian, socio-economic, political, and security circumstances of the Syrian refugees, to their impact on Lebanon's economy, social fabric, political stability, and national security. With the absence of a robust response by the Lebanese government to the crisis, this study focuses on the role of local, international, governmental, and non-governmental institutions in confronting the refugee influx, and managing the impact of their introduction to the Lebanese milieu. As a case study, this thesis considers the aid framework of the city of Saida, located in the South of Lebanon. Saida's framework represents a flexible, high-engagement modality for localized management of refugee inflows, featuring a coalition of local Islamic NGOs in close collaboration with the municipality. International organizations such as the UNHCR are also heavily involved in Saida's relief management. This case study describes the varying activity and impact of the principal actors of Saida's operating environment, and highlights the distinct roles of Western and Islamic aid organizations.
Building upon phenomena revealed in the case study, this thesis presents an analytical framework delineating the principal variables affecting Saida's operating environment. These variables are Legislation, Economy, Public Services, Housing, General Security, Policing, Social Capital, and Transnational Aid. Each variable contains a particular set of dimensions, whose clear layout helps to illuminate interrelations between variables, as well as the challenges facing aid practitioners in Lebanon. This analytical framework further emphasizes the importance of the Transnational Aid variable to the stability and progress of the Syrian refugee circumstance, inspiring further investigation into current transnational aid modalities. The Humanitarian Aid Models section presents and analyzes the structure, operations, financing, political interests, and ideologies of the two main humanitarian models involved in the refugee crisis in Saida: the Secular Western Aid Model, and the Faith-Based Islamic Aid Model. Empowered by the Operating Environment Variables framework and the Humanitarian Aid Models analysis, this study makes dimension-level recommendations to the principal actors impacting Saida's operating environment. Yet this thesis goes beyond merely offering recommendations for the stability and advancement of the current aid paradigm, which is centered on providing refugees with basic amenities and rights. This study elucidates the possibility of a positive-sum refugee management paradigm, predicated upon the idea that a well-managed integration of Syrian refugees potentiates a cosmopolitan socioeconomic environment. Through education, training, microfinance schemes, and other economic encouragements, Syrian refugees could be integrated into dynamic economic frameworks on the local and national level. This paradigm redefines 'social justice' as the appreciation and liberalization of the human capacity for innovation and discourse, arguing that Syrian refugees - and certainly others - stand to contribute significantly to the socioeconomic capital of host communities. Moreover, cross-cultural discourse could broaden eclecticism and generate unique synergies, enhancing the general quality of life in host environments.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Irazabal Zurita, Clara E.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 16, 2015