Four Years of LPDC Activity

Four Years of LPDC Activity
  • Lebanese researcher and former regional adviser to ESCWA
    The issue of refugees in Lebanon has moved to the forefront again due to the heavy presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Are there lessons derived from the experience of dealing with Palestinian refugees that can help to properly address their situation today? Could they also be useful in addressing emerging problems in dealing with new refugees? The LPDC was established in 2005 and since then it has been working consistently away from the limelight, with the exception of the disruptions imposed by the developments in the final phase of its continuous work since former Minister Dr. Hasan Mneymneh assumed the helm  from April 2014. A stable work strategy was subsequently established.
    Over the past four years, the Committee has been able to accomplish several tangible achievements, most notably:
    Launching a dialogue among representatives of the seven major Lebanese parliamentary blocs who formed a group called The Lebanese Working Group on Palestinian Refugees. 
    Consenting to five practical recommendations made by the Working Group and submitting them to the Cabinet.
    Issuing a document entitled “A Unified Lebanese Vision for Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon” prepared by the Working Group after two years of dialogue between representatives of the main parties in the working group.
    Implementing the census of Palestinian refugees living in camps and gatherings in Lebanon.
    Issuing two books on the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
    Formulating strategic plan guidelines for the next phase.
    Lesson 1: A new approach and methodology
    When it comes to approach, for the first time the security and fragmented manner of dealing with the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was transformed into an integrated political, human rights, social and security approach. This shift to an all-inclusive approach was a reason for the relative success and for the convergence of the Lebanese parties’ views on the issue under discussion. It leads also to the improvement of the relationship between the Lebanese and the Palestinians, on the basis of a political and human rights consensual approach.
    As for the methodology of work, which is complementary to the approach, it was achieved through the formation of a working group representing the different – and even contradictory – attitudes toward the Palestinian cause and refugee issues. Through a genuine and continuous dialogue that respects differences and is based on objective knowledge, the group was able to draft a common document. Most participants in the Working Group never expected such a document to be finalized when the dialogue began.
    Lesson 2: Stereotypes and objective facts
    The most important issue in this regard was the publication of two books on the reality of refugees in Lebanon and the implementation of the census. The two books, produced by LPDC with the collaboration of researchers, contributed to breaking the stereotypes prevailed against Palestinians that ruled the minds of large segments of the Lebanese population during the years of the civil war. 
    The first added value of the two books was that they were issued by a governmental authority. The second was that they represented an almost comprehensive documentation of the situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, starting from the decision to establish the State of Israel to the present moment; they also included political, social, cultural and other dimensions. The two books showed that the Lebanese relationship with the Palestinian refugees was bittersweet, and that the focus on the negative aspects was no longer justified after the 1982 turning points. All the discourse that held the Palestinian presence as solely responsible for the Israeli attacks was no longer understood after the departure of the PLO and the continuation of the Israeli wars against Lebanon. The same applies to the Palestinian involvement in the Lebanese war, since internal and regional tensions also continued without an active Palestinian factor role.
    The census showed that the actual number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was less than 200,000, meaning less than half the number registered with UNRWA which stood at 456,000. Both of these figures are correct since the UNRWA records are a documentation of the Palestinian refugee status, regardless of the whereabouts of these refugees. Its first objective is to preserve the Palestinian identity and safeguard any rights toward the Israeli-occupied territories; while the figure for those who are actually in Lebanon is the one that must be referred to in Lebanese public policies toward refugees, whether in the labor market, the educational and health services, or the establishment of camps and associations, and so forth.
    Lesson 3: The possibility of immediate solutions to specific problems

    This is the lesson learned from the five recommendations reached by the working group, in particular, the two related to the right to work and social security (Acts 128 and 129), which indicate that these issues can be rationally dealt with under the Lebanese laws in force. This also reveals internal flaws in the formulation and implementation of policies and laws in Lebanon, which is a structural and institutional problem that negatively affects the refugees in the situation in question. Legal amendments were issued in 2010 to allow the inclusion of Palestinian refugees in social security within certain restraints, as well as their open participation in the labor market rather than the current form of participation.
    In this case, the question that persists is: Despite the law and the political consensus on it, why do these laws remain unimplemented?
    Lesson 4: Forward thinking and developing adaptable plans
    In the future work strategy of the LPDC, there are shifts toward prioritizing tracks:
    Confirmation of the adoption of the vision document by the signatories, and its conversion into a government commitment.
    Implementation of the Working Group recommendations, as the criterion of success resides in implementing, and not in reaching, a recommendation.
    Consolidation of the approach shift in the Palestinian refugee issue, and breakdown of prejudices and stereotypes.
    Transition to a political dialogue institutionalized between the Lebanese government and representatives of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, to be prepared quietly and objectively without urgency, to prevent any negative results that could occur despite good intentions.
    These are the brief lessons derived from the efforts of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee; they are useful for dealing with the other crises we face today. The way to address such crises properly is through scientific methodologies, real dialogues between the parties, and peaceful and objective talks, away from futile heated arguments.
  • In the future work strategy of the LPDC, there are shifts toward prioritizing tracks: