Participation of national and local civil society in the Beirut Port blast response November 2020

NGO Jobs / UN Jobs Vacancy

Country: Lebanon
Organization: ActionAid
Closing date: 11 Jan 2021

About ActionAid Arab Region

At ActionAid Arab Region we work with grass root organizations and civil society actors that have a strong focus on youth and women in local governance. ActionAid Arab Region (AAAR) knows that to create lasting change, the root causes of poverty and injustice must be addressed and that affected communities must become the drivers of the change they want to see. Read more at

Terms of Reference

Briefing Paper: Participation of national and local civil society in the Beirut Port blast response

November 2020


Lebanon has an active and progressive civil society. Its organisations defend the rights of women, persons with disabilities, migrant domestic workers, LGBTIQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer) and Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Many of these organisations supported the October 2019 citizen revolutionary protests, demanding a complete transformation of the political system and the depart of the elites that have ruined the country. This economic and political crisis is underpinned by extreme structural gender inequalities. Lebanon ranks 145 out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, due to low rates of women’s economic and political participation and patriarchal socio-cultural norms[1].

The two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Beirut port blast and fresh protests in August 2020 has placed these national and local organisations as well as many volunteers at the forefront of different and complex types of humanitarian responses. Their timely role in providing aid and their proximity to the populations during the explosion on August 4th has been praised by UN officials and international NGO staff. Local organisations and volunteers were the first on the ground providing much needed psychosocial support, assistance and protection services and engaging in the cleaning up of the affected areas. Women were pivotal to the explosion response as first responders, with many stepping into roles traditionally held by men. The active involvement of women and adolescent girls contributed to a more inclusive response.

However, these organisations, frontline workers and volunteers were not able to fully coordinate its efforts with the government, which declared to be in a state of emergency for much of August and involved the Lebanese Army in the response, as well as the UN and International NGO actives in the humanitarian aid effort. The humanitarian and development coordination systems are particularly complex in Lebanon. Several international and national spaces coexist with different leads, and the international and national NGO have separate coordination forums[2]. This lack of participation has probably made the response less effective and contextualised. International actors have not benefited from the contextual knowledge of these grassroots organisations and their active presence and engagement with vulnerable groups. Lebanese NGO has also expressed concern that being absent of the decision making spaces will exclude them from receiving funds collected after the UN August Flash Appeal and international donor conference that followed[3].

On the other hand, there has been reports that Lebanese NGO and volunteers have not aided Syrian refugees or migrants. The Lebanese Centre for Human Rights issued a statement saying it had documented incidents in which people were refused assistance based on their nationality or religious sect[4]. The recent multi-agency Rapid Gender Analysis has also reported several cases of discrimination in the provision of aid. More generally, the report raises concerns that the significant amount of assistance being delivered via untrained, unofficial volunteers opened potential for discrimination and exploitation with little or no accountability.

Several levels of accountability overlap in what is a complex response in crowded urban setting with several crisis interlinked and a dysfunctional local and national authority, contested by civil society. The scenario will be even more complicated during the recovery phase, with European donors and the International Monetary Fund setting strict conditions and structural reforms before any release of funding. Lebanese civil society, which has been active in the response, has an opportunity to force greater accountability on the Lebanese government and thus become a more effective watchdog.[5] It should also explore its own accountability to affected communities and relation with international humanitarian actors.

Objective of the Briefing Paper

Lebanon is confronted to several crisis: Covid-19 pandemic, political upheaval, urban explosion and chemical hazard, economic meltdown, and discrimination of migrants and refugees. Instead of joining forces and having a common approach to this multi-layered crisis, the response of the international community is siloed. Each part of the crisis is addressed with different ex-post funding streams and several with UN agencies and international NGO competing for funds and having leading roles. Its ways of working and power dynamics excludes or are not conducive for local and national initiatives, in particular those of women’s and young people organisations. The response to the Beirut post blast is paradigmatic and poses fundamental questions to the international humanitarian system and its role in complex and overlapping crisis with a strong engagement of civil society.

The policy brief will contribute to transform the humanitarian system, providing proposals and case studies, from the specific case of the Beirut response and other ActionAid responses, to make it fairer and more inclusive. The document will give voice to frontline workers, particularly women and young people, and their organisations on the performance of the coordination mechanism and accountability to affected people during the Beirut blast response. The analysis and findings will make recommendations to UN agencies, international NGO, and local and national NGO on how work in complementary and mutually accountable manner to put the rights of affected people at the centre.


The methodology will use a gender transformative approach at all levels in the managing and conducting the research. There will be partnership developed with women-led and women’s rights organisations involved in the Beirut response to lead the research and foster social change. Affected persons interviewed and key informants will be invited to review the findings and recommendations.

The methodology combined a secondary review of existing data with primary data collection. The data collection will be done in Beirut through key informant interviews, focus group discussions and conversations with affected communities.

Content of the Briefing Paper

The briefing paper will have a maximum of 12 pages. It will be written in English and translated in Arabic. It will include quotes from the women humanitarian workers interviewed and affected communities. It will also have case studies boxes that illustrate the key findings and analysis.

The document will open with a background of the situation in Lebanon and the role of civil society in social and political change. This will follow with an analysis of the role of civil society organisations in the Beirut blast response and examples from one or two other ActionAid responses. There will be a section with findings on their engagement in the coordination mechanisms and mutual accountability towards other humanitarian actors and affected communities. This will allow an analysis on the impact in the effectiveness of the response and the capacity to address the root causes of the crisis. The last section will be a conclusion, with recommendations for different humanitarian actors to be more complementary and accountable in future disasters but also at the enormous task of reconstruction of the affected areas in Beirut.

Ways of working

The commission of the briefing paper will be a joint effort of ActionAid Arab Region, International Humanitarian and Resilience Team and a Lebanese women-led and women’s rights organisation. They will set a steering committee that will have the role of commission manager of the briefing paper.

The Lebanese organisation will contract a consultant who will produce the draft briefing paper. The briefing paper will be signed off and co-branded by ActionAid and the Lebanese women-led and women’s rights organisation.


The briefing paper will be produced during a period of eight (8) weeks. The consultancy will be involved during twenty (20) working days. The tentative calendar to develop the document is the following:

Week 1: Finalisation and approval of the draft Terms of Reference (ToR).

ActionAid Arab Region and International Human and Resilience Team

Week 2:

  • Establishing a partnership with a Lebanese women-led and women’s rights organisation and final ToR.

  • Contract a consultant

  • ActionAid Arab Region and International Human and Resilience Team

  • Lebanese women-led and women’s rights organisation.

Week 3: Work plan and secondary data review


Week 4: Key informant interviews, focus group discussions and conversations with affected communities


Week 5: Analysis data, findings and first draft finalised.


Week 6: Review of first draft, finalisation, editing and signed-off.

Steering Committee (Lebanese women-led and women’s rights organisation, ActionAid Arab Region and International Human and Resilience Team)

Week 7: Document formatted and finalised.

Steering Committee

Week 8: Dissemination of the briefing paper

Steering Committee

[1] UN Women, CARE, UN ESCWA, ABAAD, UNFPA, “Rapid Gender Analysis of the August 2020 Beirut

Port Explosion: An Intersectional Examination” (October 2020)

[2] Groupe URD, « Évaluation en temps réel de la réponse post-explosion à Beyrouth, 4 août 2020 » (August 2020)

[3] The Guardian, “Grassroots groups hold Beirut together, yet big NGOs suck up the cash”, Hayat Mirshad, Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering, RDFL (August 2020)

[4] “Local groups step up to lead Beirut blast response”, Kareem Chehayeb, The New Humanitarian (August 2020).

[5] International Crisis Group, “How Europe Can Help Lebanon Overcome Its Economic Implosion”, (October 2020).

How to apply:

Please sent to: (only received CVs on this email will be considered) please clearly indicate which position you are applying for, you will not be considered without putting this title in the subject bar. We respect all candidates but we can only respond to shortlisted candidates.

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