Security assistance and border management in Lebanon

This research project, which will be implemented from 1 May until 1 November 2023, focuses on multi-actor interventions to strengthen Lebanese security agencies’ border management capacity. Since 2006, and in earnest since the outbreak of the war in neighboring Syria in 2011, international efforts to strengthen the porous border between Lebanon and Syria have accelerated. These interventions – predominantly led by major Security Assistance providers such as the US, UK, and France – are in many ways ad hoc and informed by geopolitics. They are not multilateral coalitions with a comprehensive peacebuilding mandate, nor do they seek to implement a political reform strategy. Rather, they operate in a field we may call a double coordination-complex: at the Lebanese level, the fragmented landscape of security agencies and actors, wedded to both formal and informal power-sharing principles, provide significant challenges to building effective and legitimate border security responses, while at the international level, competition and cooperation operate in tandem and with largely unscripted patterns of coordination between international donors. As such, international efforts to strengthen the Lebanese state in the face of cross border threats such as trafficking, terrorism, illegal migration, and instability are highly instructive when analysing how multi-actor interventions develop coordination practices at the ad hoc level.

This research project maps and scrutinises a selection of coordination mechanisms that have been initiated over the past decade in order to overcome this ‘double coordination complex’, with emphasis on border management. Observing that international security sector support, and in particular the border security portfolio, has developed a host of new institutions and initiatives designed to foster concerted international efforts, and at the same time, enable coordination and integration between Lebanese border security agencies, the project will explore the extent to which border management initiatives prove effective in overcoming the double-coordination complex. Observing furthermore the shifting priorities of such multilateral intervention into cross-border challenges, drifting from counterterrorism to the more composite threat conception of ‘smuggling’, the project will capture what this shift means in practice for the capacity to control Lebanese borders, and for the legitimacy of recipients of security sector assistance more generally. As the current set of practices clustered under the threat label ‘smuggling’ incorporates economic, political and social challenges, the project will treat the Lebanese-Syrian cross-border space holistically, recognising that interventions on the Lebanese side have implications for both countries, as their economies in particular are deeply interlinked.

Principle Investigator: Simone Tholens

Call for Research Assistant, deadline 11 May 2023

This project is funded by The Cross-Border Conflict, Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT) programme