Office Beirut
Rue Monot, Achrafieh
P.O.Box: 11-6107 - Riad El Solh
Beirut, Lebanon

Tel/Fax: +961 (1) 320080

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Upcoming Activities

Conference: New Fault Lines in a Changing Middle East, December 4, Crowne Plaza Hotel Beirut

Conference: Free Connected Minds, December 7, Phoenicia Hotel Beirut

Ceremony: LYLOT Graduation, December 13, Beirut

New Publications

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Journalists without Bounds

Society, Economy and Culture

Lebanon is a country of political complexities and socio-cultural contradictions. Some call it the 'Switzerland of the Middle East', due to its Western lifestyle, political openness and cosmopolitan modernity. Others see it as the tinderbox of the region, remembering the country's troublesome history of war, civil strife, and the ongoing disruptions with Israel since its establishment in 1948.

As people of 18 different religious communities live together in this relatively small country, there is a great diversity among the Lebanese population. The segregation and isolation of the particular communities is further fostered by the country's consociational political and legal system and the existence of close bonds between Lebanese communities on the one hand and groups, parties and governments of the same religious confession in neighboring countries on the other hand. This diversity has constituted a central challenge for the country in manifold ways since as far back as the eighteen hundreds.

In the late 20th century, social and political contradictions resulted in the outbreak of a bloody civil war (1975 - 1990), which dragged on foreign interventionism motivated by diplomatic endeavors, power struggles and territorial interests as well as military clashes with Israel, the last of which dates back to 2006. The results of this turmoil are the loss of numerous lives, large-scale internal displacement, and massive destruction of infrastructure. Social development processes and the implementation and maintenance of democratic structures are regularly challenged by these domestic and international political conflicts.

According to the economical backlash after the ongoing crisis and conflicts until 2006, the Lebanese economy stagnated considerably. As result, there is a high degree of social disparity, leaving a great deal of the population facing problems like unemployment and poverty, especially in North Lebanon. Although Lebanon belongs to the category of 'developing countries' with an annual GDP of 8,175$ per person as accord to a 2009 estimate by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the country still benefits from a good integration into international markets and from relatively stable economic activity.

Yet, the increasing engagement of not only domestic but also international actors displays a growing awareness for the specific social, political and economic problems Lebanon is facing. According to the growing number and activity of national and international NGO's, foundations, and organizations, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has a variety of potential partners aiming at spreading awareness about the roots causes of the country's problems and supporting development and progress.

Targeted approaches in co-operation with labor unions, political parties and civil society organizations and activists aim at establishing fundamental democratic structures as well as judiciary and law enforcement reforms. Various endeavors to strengthen the already quite high degree of liberty in Lebanese civil society aim at further increasing the political participation of women, youth, and other vulnerable social groups, in order to protect basic human rights and to achieve a higher degree of social justice and equality.