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In 2007, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) launched its program, the Lebanon Civic Support Initiative (LSCI) to preserve democratic space and empower youth to be active and independent citizens. Through small, in-kind grants and technical assistance activities OTI created independent space for civic activism, strengthened civil society organizations to have a more powerful voice for positive reform, and provided youth with the opportunities, knowledge and tools needed to shape their communities independently of traditional power structures. As of December 2012, over 397,000 people have participated in USAID/OTI LCSI activities, with over 29,000 youth equipped with civic activism skills, and 122 civil society organizations receiving U.S. funding for the first time.
In keeping with OTI principles of flexibility and adaptation to the political environment, LSCI reconfigured the program objectives in January 2013 due to increasing community volatility as a result of the spillover of the Syrian crisis. Steadily escalating violence in Syria has undermined stability in Lebanon by exacerbating sectarian tensions and burdening vulnerable communities with hundreds of thousands of needy and disaffected Syrians.
Working with its network of experienced partners, the OTI LSCI program seeks to increase social cohesion in vulnerable communities by mitigating tensions in areas most affected by the Syrian crisis. Programming will focus on empowering leaders who can bridge sectarian and ethnic divides; creating platforms to promote dialogue, cooperation and inclusive participation; promoting positive messaging through traditional and social media outlets, and; reducing resource and economic strains in affected communities. Illustrative activities include providing vocational training to vulnerable youth in militant strongholds such as Bab El Tabanneh and Jabal Mohsen; supporting local NGOs to address service gaps in receptor communities; strengthening the communications skills of peace activists and progressive community leaders, and; providing trainings to border communities in first aid, disaster preparedness, emergency response and mine awareness.
Initial geographic focus areas will include key communities in Tripoli, Akkar and the Bekaa. As refugee flows increase to the South, LSCI is investigating possible interventions in Saida and Zahle to ward off rising tensions. OTI will prioritize interventions in areas that have recently experienced violence, areas of increasing tension between displaced Syrians and host communities, areas of increased sectarian tensions, and symbolic communities in which interventions will have a multiplier effect on other communities. The program will continue to focus heavily on at-risk youth, primarily aged 15-28, as well as other influential leaders and organizations who can assist in stabilizing communities, particularly after violent events. Although the focus of OTI’s interventions will be on host communities, OTI’s local partners regularly attend relevant U.N. cluster meetings and coordinate with local authorities and other stakeholders to avoid duplication of efforts and improve targeting.
Last updated: May 17, 2013
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