Europe in the World

Lebanon on the edge

26 April 2018
Francesca Fabbri (Former Policy Analyst at the EPC)



Lebanon has frequently been praised for its resilience in the face of regional turmoil. But behind its solid façade, there are structural weaknesses – a polarised political class, dysfunctional institutions, deteriorating living standards, and social divisions – that threaten the country’s stability in the long term. On the eve of the long-delayed parliamentary elections, this paper takes a closer look at the political dynamics at play in Lebanon and assesses whether political change is imminent.

It also argues that, as a longstanding partner and donor, and as an actor that has a vital interest in the resilience of Lebanon and the wider region, the EU, together with the international community, should look beyond the optics of Lebanon’s deceptive resilience and use the upcoming elections to revive the debate on the country’s governance and examine latent elements of discord and resentment. Turning a blind eye will only further entrench the underlying fragility of Lebanon’s political system. The paper therefore lays out a series of fundamental requirements for a renewed dialogue between the international community and the country’s authorities after the forthcoming elections:

  • Strengthening the country’s institutions and addressing the factors at the roots of Lebanon’s precarious stability should be at the top of the post-election political agenda. Urgent matters include the promotion of accountability within the state apparatus, the fight against corruption and a policy towards Syrian refugees that involves social justice and the provision of infrastructure and services through a rights-based approach for both the refugees and the local population.
  • The EU should put more emphasis on reform, reviving the interaction between state and society and on making state policies more accountable. Engagement with independent interlocutors that are emerging at the national level will be critical to advance towards these objectives.
  • More attention should be paid to how international conferences and aid funding are planned out and interact with the Lebanese context. International donors need to implement stricter rules on the disbursement of funds and ensure transparency, accountability, inclusiveness as well as constant consultation with civil society and marginalised groups.
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