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A look back at the Lebanese studies course – Municipalities are the starting point

The explosion at the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 was like a metaphor for the escalating political, humanitarian and economic crisis in Lebanon that had become horribly true. Yet what are the underlying causes of the desolate situation in this small Mediterranean country? In our Lebanese studies course in early November participants learned about Lebanon's modern history and its political system, so that they could better understand the context of current Events.

'I once heard that anyone who thinks they've understood Lebanon hasn't had things explained to them properly', remarked one participant, who at the end of the course drew the following conclusion: 'I've now gained a much better understanding of the complexities and received lots of new information'.

Together the participants worked through the history of the political and social tensions in Lebanon, and held some lively discussions on the challenges faced by Lebanese municipalities. They all agreed: 'We keep encountering these problems time and time again in our partnership projects'.

In her speech on the country's future prospects, invited speaker Dr. Bente Scheller, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Division at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, also found cause to offer the following words of motivation: ‘Given the political crisis at the national level, the local level is the starting point for moving things forward. Municipal actors are often very highly motivated and committed when it comes to doing something locally for "their" citizens'.

Once again, the importance of the work of municipal partnerships in situations of crisis became clearly evident here.