Summary: following the end of the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah on 14 August, the displaced population has returned in massive numbers to an area devastated by bombing and afflicted by UXOs. The response to basic needs has been strong but the institutions which have to deliver services to meet these needs are weak, under-resourced or politically biased. At a time of high internal political tension and latent external aggression there are strong threats to the sustained return of displaced people.
Internal coping mechanisms have been weakened by repeated displacement. A key issue for protection actors is how the most vulnerable in society are cared for. There are already clear signs that what services are present for the most vulnerable are undermined by poor referral pathways. There are also clear signs that political and sectarian divisions are hampering the continuing response to unmet need. However, there has been no sustained protection monitoring, analysis and reporting following the end of hostilities, nor do agencies appear to be planning to monitor the protection situation and, indeed, are planning further downscaling of activities. The protection of the returned and displaced population is, therefore, not well understood- a critical weakness in discharging responsibilities under Resolution 1701, as well as 1325 and 1612. It is too easy to say that there are no protection problems because the overall response has been so generous. Rather, it is counter-intuitive to assume there are no protection problems given internal tension and history of failed national response to displacement.
Within a co-ordinated inter-agency approach, UNHCR plans to monitor the protection of returned and displaced populations and build up the capacity of local institutions to understand protection problems and respond to them. It is critical to monitoring that a consistent dialogue between populations of concern and the Office is established as a "one-off" protection assessment will not provide the information necessary for proper analysis and reporting.
For this reason, UNHCR proposes to "piggy-back" monitoring onto existing programmes being run by partners or to start up small, new projects to use as vehicles for protection monitoring.
1. In response to the on-going conflict between Israel and the Hizbollah, UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/1701 of 12 August 2006 called for a full cessation of hostilities between the Hizbollah and Israel.
2. The resolution further "[c]alls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the Government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the Protection Strategy for Lebanon future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;" and "[a]ffirms that all parties are responsible for ensuring that no action is taken contrary to paragraph1 that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, including safe passage for humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the Security Council."
3. The cessation of hostilities came into effect on 14 August, at 0500 hours GMT - around 33 days after the conflict began. As noted by the Secretary-General in his fourth report to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1559 (2004), a number of positive developments have taken place in Lebanon since the ceasefire, including, inter alia, the deployment of UNIFIL+ forces along the Blue Line, the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces, the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance by various agencies including UNHCR to civilian population, the lifting of the sea blockade that and a gradual revival of the economy in some parts of Lebanon. The emergency crisis response phase has already given way to an early recovery and reconstruction phase.
4. At the same time, the conflict has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in Lebanon since 1982. While the affected population possesses some degree of internal coping mechanism, it is becoming apparently clear that some people are struggling to cope, especially those already least able to. A range of critical protection issues in the returned population are likely to arise while others, such as the dangers of unexploded ordinances on civilian populations, have already emerged since the ceasefire. A key task for UNHCR in the early recovery and reconstruction phase is to ensure that those people of concern to the Office, i.e. those who have returned and the small number who remain displaced, are able and willing to remain or return- that return becomes sustainable- and to prevent or mitigate further displacement.