Some of the most radical urban struggles we have witnessed in Lebanon, arose in the face of projects or buildings that had not yet been implemented, due to our knowledge of their devastating environmental, social, economic and psychological consequences. We have supported, followed and participated in campaigns, obstructive movements and interventions and even direct confrontations with security forces to stop real estate projects that were approved by the lebanese authority, starting with opposition to the Solidere project in the nineties, to the confrontations against the construction of the Bisri Dam in 2020, as well as Dalieh of Raouche and Eden Bay in Ramlet al-Baida and Fouad Boutros highway in Rmeil, the construction over Anfeh salt evaporation ponds, and the destruction of the fishermen’s port in Adloun and others.
It is not surprising that a lot of discussion and movements are built around future construction, while objections to it and attempts to prevent it grow aggressive, since all stakeholders – protesters, residents, politicians and real estate developers – are well aware of what is at stake in these issues.
The struggle over land includes that which is, as well as that which has not yet been, what we use today, and what we will not see tomorrow: the pace of construction and its price affect everything, from housing, to agriculture, to the environment, to transportation, and even to schools and other facilities. Land is not only a commodity, but rather a comprehensive issue that directly affects a number of basic rights, and this is because land is distinguished by the specificity of its content and connotations, simply because it is the source of life and the place of living. This is what we can see firsthand today through urban and residential transformations and the continuous change of land and space use.
An increasing number of people in Lebanon are being displaced from their lands and homes in order to make room for huge projects. The destruction of agricultural land by real estate speculation has led to local food inequality, which in turn has contributed to increased migration and the impoverishment of decentralized areas. Measures taken in land administration and regulation are also contrary to the interests of the people, their environment, health and mobility, especially for those who depend on land as a means of subsistence, survival and the preservation of their human rights. Thus, land use regulations that guide future construction operations – or what is known as the exploitation factor – are of great importance in the struggle over current and future conditions. The latter include conditions for adequate and affordable housing, environmental degradation, social inclusion or exclusion, access to public property, and more.
The way in which these decisions are made, through what is known as urban planning, is a reflection of the larger policy choices and economic visions taken by the state; which includes at the same time, the vision and the method of implementation. Therefore, there is a need to refocus attention on how land is used, controlled and managed, and for land policy to be an integral part of both the discourse and practice.
Land Policy Observatory
An online platform, created by Public Works Studio, to produce and make available knowledge about land issues in Lebanon. The observatory aims to promote just development and equality within the framework of policy making, and to support all those who work on it, including researchers, residents, and concerned groups, by monitoring a number of topics from the perspective of spatial justice. The Land Policy Observatory monitors urban planning institutions (with a particular focus on the General Directorate of Urban Planning) in order to ensure that relevant information is available, and to nurture public debate. It also monitors plans, laws, and decrees, in partnership with the Legal Agenda and the Gherbal initiative, and documents and comments on their violations of land rights and their alignment with the interests of the dominant class. By doing so, we ensure that no spatial intervention goes undocumented or not commented upon. This will help bridge the gap in terms of exclusion that targets groups affected by land management and regulation policies.
Land is a source of livelihood for many, and therefore a central component of economic rights. It is also a material expression of the diverse traditions, memories, identities and socio-cultural habits of its inhabitants and users, and is thus linked to social and cultural rights.
- Identifying the different aspects of the lack of integrated development in the lebanese regions, their marginalization, and the unequal distribution of resources among them;
- Knowledge of state institutions dealing with land issues, and the way in which decisions are taken, in order to form a participatory approach in the pursuit of just policies;
- Periodic monitoring of master plans, legislations, decisions and large-scale projects, and consequently the dissemination of relevant information, results and tools;
- Development of an indicator of equitable and inclusive planning;
- Mapping and archiving the history, tales and stories of the Lebanese regions, from the perspective of land;
- Developing strategies for land defending land rights, and their manifestations in the Lebanese regions.
Monitoring Mechanisms and Partnerships
The monitoring process is conducted through a collaboration with the Legal Agenda regarding proposed laws in Parliament; and with Gherbal initiative on official request for decisions of state institutions, as well as laws and decrees published in the Official Gazette.
Additionally, the Land Policy Observatory continuously monitors issues related to land, urbanization and spatial rights and justice through the pages of municipalities, the Council for Development and Reconstruction, the government, and the published news related to the decisions of municipalities, the government, councils, diverse governmental institutions and others. We also make periodic visits to some institutions, most notably the General Directorate of Urban Planning, to monitor master plans and overall DGU decisions.
The information is monitored and categorized to be shared through the observatory so that it becomes accessible to the public. We also provide a critical reading of prominent laws and decrees, as well as research materials related to them, such as maps and timelines analyzing information, linking them to each other, and making them available to public access.