Since the popular uprising and subsequent war in Syria in 2011, more than a quarter of its population have fled – mainly to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – and another 25% have been internally displaced. The end of 2017 saw 12.6 million Syrians forcibly displaced – 6.3 million refugees, 6.2 million internally displaced (IDPs) and 146,700 asylum-seekers. In the words of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi: ‘A quarter of all Syrians are refugees. A quarter of the world’s refugees are Syrians’.
In Lebanon, 976,065 Syrians were registered as refugees with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as of 31 June 2018, out of an estimated 1.5 million Syrians residing there – most of whom (87%) live in Lebanon’s 251 most vulnerable and deprived municipalities. Lebanon hosts the largest proportion of refugees compared to its population worldwide, with one in six under the UNHCR mandate – virtually all of whom are Syrian (UNHCR, 2018a). In 2017, more than three-quarters of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon lived below the poverty line ($3.84/person/day), making humanitarian aid essential for many. Yet as the needs of Syrians rise, international funding continues to fall. In 2017, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) was only 45% funded, and only 17% of the displaced Syrian population received multi-purpose cash assistance from UNHCR, though nearly 70% of those registered are eligible.
This case study is part of a two-year project by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) seeking to better understand dignity in displacement. Central to humanitarian principles and foundational human rights documents, dignity is often invoked in modern humanitarian action, yet aid programmes and policies rarely identify exactly what it is, or how they are trying to support it. More importantly, they seldom gather or report affected communities’ views on dignity. This research seeks to fill this gap.