Submitted by: Nasser Yassin, PhD, Interim Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB)
Email: [email protected]
- Fact of the Day (@nasseryassin)
VIDEO: AUB4Refugees (28 May 2019)
Introduction to the project
September 2016 - Ongoing
The project is ongoing and has been so for the past three years. It is a sustainable and long-term project.
An initiative that encourages national dialogue and action in partnership with interested parties to address protection and social stability issues that refugees face.
The Lebanese Policy and Research Network on Displacement (PRND) envisages a region that respects and implements policies related to displacement and refugees that are based on international and regional human rights instruments, responsibility sharing, and social inclusion; and where partnerships to respond to protection and assistance needs are inclusive.
The Lebanon PRND works to address the mounting anti-refugee rhetoric, influence the public’s views and stimulate critical thoughts that will lead to more informed decision-making processes and effective assistance for refugees. It also presents a platform for communication among researchers, policy makers and community organizations that seek to counter the negative narrative associated with the refugee crisis. Moreover, the network aims to strengthen the engagement of other local civil society actors within it. It was set up in 2016 and has systemically engaged with well over 30 actors on displacement issues and the wider public.
The network, as a convenor, provides a national platform for members to exchange useful information as well as clear and accurate facts on the social and economic effects of refugees which strengthens their capacity and feeds into their advocacy initiatives. The network also encourages members to collaborate bilaterally on joint projects of common interest that are related to displacement. Additionally, the network members identify priority issues facing refugees and host communities in Lebanon based on consultations with stakeholders and existing assessment and surveys, in order to influence policy making and carry out joint advocacy for refugees.
In the past three years, IFI, as the secretariat of the Lebanese Policy and Research Network on Displacement served as a reference point or hub for facts around the Syria crisis and Syrian refugees in order to promote refugee protection and social stability in Lebanon. IFI dedicated its time and resources to produce scientific evidence and facts to inform the public and guide the debate around refugees, making sure to always highlight the positive contributions of refugees to dispel the myths around Syrian displacement and the growing xenophobic sentiments.
In addition to setting up a secretariat and acting as a convener, IFI through the network:
- Initiating the Fact of Day campaign on Twitter and Facebook to address misperceptions reaching on weekly basis around 1 million users and multiplying through its use by others in Lebanon and Syria. This was captured by mainstream media outlets including televised and media interviews with Al Jazeera, BBC, Economist, and the Financial Times, DW among others.
- Issuing 2 volumes of the 101 Facts and Figures booklet targeting policy makers
- Hosting two #AUB4Refugees forums which is a university-wide initiative that encourages partnership and strives for impactful research and engaged practice. #AUB4Refugees showcases research projects and interventions that various AUB faculties, institutes, centres, and student clubs or societies have been carrying out in response to the protracted refugee crisis in Lebanon and abroad.
- Conducting over 290 media interviews on refugee issues
Convening regular meetings and coordinated activities and workshops between the members. Furthermore, it facilitated the development of an advocacy strategy for the defined priorities.
VIDEO: #AUB4Refugees Initiative - Interview with Dr. Fadlo Khuri, AUB president, on how AUB is addressing refugee crisis.
This project, particularly the secretariat, is supported by UNHCR Lebanon since 2016, both financially and technically. However, the Institute has also complemented it with other initiatives in support of refugees such as the AUB4Refugees Initiatives and regular dialogue, policy briefs, roundtables and assuming advisory roles with policy makers and their advisors.
- Local civil society actors
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Vibrant local civil society and scattered advocacy efforts
- Constantly changing environment in Lebanon towards refugees
- Rising tensions between refugees and some host communities
- Framing refugees as the cause of unemployment, instability and diseases
How they were overcome:
Regular dialogue and coordination with key civil society actors, which then led to IFI to take the role of the convenor among other local civil society networks.
Results of the Good Practice
Enhanced refugee protection and social stability through through the following:
- Different meetings with line ministries and policy makers to advise on priority topics and support in the development of favourable policies and positions for refugees
- Roundtable discussions related to refugees
- A series of policy papers and research studies around refugees, including the 101 Fact and Figures on the Syrian Refugee Crisis in English and Arabic (Lebanon and regional compilation), volumes 1 and 2
- Numerous advocacy campaigns, etc. such as #AUB4Refugees, #RefugeesIntheEyeOfStorm and the Fact of the Day
- Facts that reached an average of 1 million impressions per week and created a healthy conversation among different actors working on refugee-related issues and helped highlight many misconceptions that were attached to the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and neighbouring countries
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
By providing facts that disallow the exacerbation of numbers and effects of the crisis. In addition to bringing together actors working on refugee-related issues in discussions and roundtables around priority issues facing refugees and host communities with the aim to jointly develop and implement advocacy related interventions around them. Providing studies and research projects that identify solutions and recommendations help relevant actors adopt good practices when addressing issues facing host countries
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The project does not lead to direct protection or assistance to refugees. However, its activities will support in softening and widening the protection space for refugees, including social stability and self-reliance.
Objective 4: Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity
By providing reliable information about the situation inside Syria that are otherwise not accessible to the general public, particularly refugees. Moreover, presenting research studies that investigate conditions of return to Syria among other topics helped inform the work done by NGOs, activists and policy makers. Also, IFI hosted a number of closed door roundtables on return as part of opening the dialogue around the topic.
The role of the Network continues to develop based on input and direction of its members, as well as its priorities. IFI is also working on outreaching and expanding membership and scope of the Network, including establishing closer synergies with academia, media, faith-based organizations and social media influencers, as well as private sector (e.g. syndicates) and other local civil society groups so as to increase effectiveness and collaboration, as well as to avoid duplication. Synergies will be built with advocacy groups, as the previously established synergy with ALEF’S local protection advocacy group.
IFI is also committed to explore ways to engage the refugee community and its structures within the network. Moreover, it will continue to share facts and information on a weekly basis (2-3 times per week) and produce/publish further volumes of 101 Fact and Figures Book (which is a compilation of the facts shared throughout the year) and distribute it widely among all relevant actors (policymakers, media, NGOs, activists, etc.)