Local expertise and global packages of aid: The transformative role of volunteerism and locally engaged expertise of aid during the 2006 July war in Lebanon


Resource type: Articles

Language: English

Keywords: Accountability and Participation, Conflict, violence & peace, National & regional actors, Participation

Countries: Lebanon

Agency: Lebanon Support

Author(s): Mognieh, L.

Date published: July 2015

This case study explores the relationship between volunteerism and the building of local expert knowledge during war in Lebanon. Drawing from three local experiences and initiatives thats emerged in response to the July war in 2006, this case study explores the ways in which volunteerism produces locally informed and politically engaged experts that have the ability, resources and skills to effectively respond to war and crisis by contributing their local knowledge to relief and aid. This case study also addresses the difference between locally informed and engaged expertise and standardized-globalized humanitarian skills and packages of aid, universally adopted by humanitarian organizations during emergencies and wars.

This study relies on three case studies of local forms of volunteer aid that emerged out of the 2006 war to provide specific kinds of support and expertise for war-affected communities. These three examples are: 1) the intersubjective experience of volunteering in Samidoun during the war;1 2) the experience of the Reconstruction Unit team in postwar reconstruction and 3) the psychosocial knowledge base and tools formed during the July war. These examples highlight the importance of volunteering in responses to war and conflict as well as the role of locally emergent expertise in informing and challenging global humanitarian programs, concepts and procedures during war and in its aftermath.

After addressing the methodology, the next section will describe the first case study on the meaning of volunteering during war, while the second and third sections will respectively document the architecture and psychosocial experiences of volunteering. The last section will analyze the themes emerging from these case studies and engage them with the work of global humanitarian interventions.

A roundatable discussion was held on the topic of the case study, both informing it and drawing its limitations. In the roundtable, some of the topics discussed revolved around the decline of the volunteer culture and local engagements in Lebanon, local experiences of support and community-building during the 2006 and presently, the role of volunteer-based organizations during war and postwar periods, the importance of building on local expertise through the use of local resources, manuals and skills in the current Syrian refugee crisis and the concept of international volunteerism. While this case study focused on grassroot forms of volunteerism that emerged in various forms under Samidoun during the war, and was itself shaped by professionalized and political schools of engagement, the study did not specifically research volunteer-based organizations and their role during past and current conflicts.