Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

The municipal system has been a key pillar of debates on administrative decentralization, economic development and political participation in Lebanon. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, activists sought to stop the demolition of the 1924 Barakat Building on the basis that it was a heritage site. In response to public pressure, the Municipality of Beirut expropriated the building in 2013, and has since overseen a contentious process of transforming the space into a memory museum. International donors have increasingly directed aid flows for Syrian refugees in Lebanon through municipalities instead of the central government. Concomitantly, many of these municipalities have imposed curfews and other systematic violations of the civil and human rights of Syrian refugees residing or working within their boundaries. During the 2015 garbage crisis, protesters demanded that waste management revert back to municipalities in Beirut and Mount Lebanon rather than the central government’s Council for Development Reconstruction (CDR). At the same time, several municipalities colluded with the government to create makeshift dumpsites that threatened environmental and health risks. Across such examples, municipalities serve as a crucial site of political praxis in Lebanon.

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