In the wake of the Beirut explosion, USIP’s Osama Gharizi says much of the international aid is being channeled through NGOs and other third-party sources, as “there is a general loss of faith in the Lebanese establishment” after the prime minister and other officials were forced to resign.
A massive explosion ripped through the Port of Beirut on August 4, sending shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing approximately 200, injuring thousands, and leaving upwards of 300,000 homeless. This comes with Lebanon already on the brink of economic collapse, struggling to address a COVID outbreak, and as the trust gap between citizens and the state is wider than ever. Although in the immediate aftermath of the explosion some suggested Lebanon had been attacked, the cause of the explosion is likely much more banal: government negligence resulted in thousands of pounds of explosive chemical material to be improperly stored in the port for years. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Mona Yacoubian examine what this means for Lebanon’s beleaguered political system, the long-term implications for the country, and how the international community has responded so far.
While Americans are understandably preoccupied with multiple crises at home, a catastrophe is looming in Lebanon with significant implications for the United States. Roiled by a major debt crisis that has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic lockdown measures, Lebanon is rapidly spiraling toward the worst-case scenario: a failed state on the eastern Mediterranean.
Lebanon’s leaders have lacked a cohesive strategy to respond to COVID-19, exacerbating tensions that sparked mass protests last fall. But while the government struggles, and Hezbollah’s influence weakens, USIP’s Elie Abouaoun says, “Unfortunately, the protest movement is as fragmented as the government.”
Protests erupted in Lebanon last year over the country’s lagging economy and sclerotic, sectarian-based political system, but slowed amid the global pandemic. The small Mediterranean nation’s economy is in free fall, with the World Bank estimating more than half the population living below the poverty line. Protesters were forced to switch tactics amid the coronavirus and the lock down measures have forced even more Lebanese into poverty. But protesters are planning to return to the streets as COVID precautions ease. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi discuss how the government has responded in the months since protests erupted in October 2019, how the protesters adapted during the pandemic, and the role of Hezbollah.
Coinciding with Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades, popular protests in the country have been ongoing for more than four months. The protests were initially sparked by a government tax on the popular WhatsApp messaging service. They quickly evolved into Lebanon’s largest, sustained peaceful protest movement. The demonstrations were notable for being geographically diverse and starkly anti-sectarian. Women and youth have played outsized roles in the protests, which emphasized a focus on civic engagement. Recently, however, the protests have taken a troubling turn, with episodic clashes between protesters and security forces.
Mona Yacoubian, senior advisor for Syria, Middle East and North Africa, testified on November 19 at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism's hearing on “What’s Next for Lebanon? Examining the Implications of Current Protests.” Her expert testimony as prepared is presented below.
Over the last week, mass protests broke out across Lebanon, signaling citizens' mounting discontent with their government and economy. Millions of Lebanese of all backgrounds, including Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze from across the socio-economic spectrum hit the streets to express their exasperation with the country’s endemic corruption. The government announced on Monday emergency economic reforms in an effort to assuage protesters. Will it be enough? USIP’s Elie Abouaoun takes a closer look at what sparked the protests, the impact on Lebanon’s highly polarized politics, and possible scenarios for the next few weeks.
On May 6, Lebanese voters will elect a new parliament for the first time in nine years. This election introduces a new electoral law that scraps the former winner-take-all model in favor of a proportional representation system, aimed at opening the door for smaller parties and independent candidates to make it into parliament. While the election is an important development for Lebanon’s democracy and stability, it will be closely watched by regional and major powers alike.
Nonformal dialogues offer complementary approaches to formal dialogues in national peacemaking efforts in contexts of conflict. As exemplified by the nonformal dialogues in Myanmar, Lebanon, and Nepal examined in this report, nonformal dialogues are able to...