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Narrative Report - Regular Perception Surveys on Social Tensions throughout Lebanon: Wave II - January 2018

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Executive Summary

This report presents an analysis of data from the Second Wave of the UNDP Regular Perceptions Survey on Social Tensions throughout Lebanon.

Funded by the Government of the Netherlands, it focuses both on changes in public opinion over a three-month period from May to August 2017, and on developing a geographically-specific understanding of the structural, evolving and proximate drivers of tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. The findings presented here are representative to the district-level of the total adult Syrian and Lebanese populations in Lebanon, providing a comprehensive evidence base for partners to understand the evolution of tensions. This section provides a short overview of the report’s key findings.As the Syrian crisis enters its seventh year, host community fatigue with the protracted presence of Syrian refugees remains prevalent.

A significant plurality (49%) reported that inter-communal relations have deteriorated since 2014, while 37% stated that relations had stayed the same. When examining changes over the last three months, 40% of Lebanese respondents reported that relations with Syrians worsened. At the same time, inter-communal relations remain stable with only 12% of Lebanese characterising these relations as ‘very negative’, and 91% of both populations affirming that the Lebanese people have been good hosts to Syrian refugees, while no major incidents of inter-communal violence were reported. Moreover, changes in tensions were largely only incremental; an expected finding, given the fact that perceptions generally evolve only slowly over time.

However, under this overarching narrative of relative stability and only incre-mental changes in perceptions, lies significant variation by geography.

For instance, notable improvements between communities in areas such as Tripoli– where only 2% reported that relations were ‘very negative’–stand in sharp contrast to perceptions in relatively nearby areas such as Bcharre–where a concerning 83% came to that judgement. Equally, in Mount Lebanon, negative perceptions in Baabda were widespread (78%), while in the nearby Chouf, relations were much less tense (19%).

Competition for lower-skilled jobs remained the primary source of tension (64%), especially in areas with the highest concentration of refugees, such as in Bekaa (92%). Yet, the data also revealed that there was limited overlap between the sectors in which the two communities work, as 75% of Syrians indicated that they work in construction and agriculture compared to only 15% of Lebanese.

Notwithstanding the primacy of competition over lower-skilled work as the most significant driver of tensions, competition for services and utilities as a driver increased by 11 percentage points during the reporting period, with particularly high figures in Beirut (58%), and Mount Lebanon (43%) for this metric. Notably, in certain areas such as Zgharta (61%), Matn (56%), and Bcharre and Batroun (50%), respondents were more likely to state that tensions were caused by differences in culture.

Perceptions of refugee population pressures were not found to be only depen-dent upon personal experience or direct interactions with refugees. Rather, these perceptions were more significantly dependent upon historic and structural factors.

For example, Lebanese who agreed with statements such as, ’memories of the Syrian army occupation still impair relationships with Syri-ans’ were also significantly more likely to consider refugee population pressures as mounting, irrespective of their personal experiences with refugees. This finding carries implications for conflict and development partners that seek to reduce inter-communal tensions through addressing historical grievances between Syrians and Lebanese communities.

Nevertheless, echoing a finding from the first wave of this research, the data also demonstrates that social forces do play at least some role in determining the quality of relations between refugees and host communities. For instance, greater interaction between Syrians and Lebanese was associated with lower tensions and less concern over refugee population pressures.

Given this finding, it was concerning to find that segregation has entrenched in areas hosting the most refugees.

In Akkar, the proportion of people reporting to never interact with members of the other community rose from 22% to 55% during this reporting period. The proportion on this indicator remained high in central Bekaa (37%), Rashaya (77%), and West Bekaa (68%). This finding is concerning, given the aforementioned finding that links perceptions with levels of interactions. At the same time, the findings demonstrate that NGOs and the UN could play a key role in mitigating tensions in this regard as 52% reported that their interactions with other communities are at sites or events organised by these actors.