Lebanese municipalities on an exchange visit to the Westallgäu region
Funded by the Quick-Starter Package I, from 7 – 14 May 2018 a delegation representing six Lebanese municipalities Gemeinden (Al-Mohammara, Bar Elias, Bwarej, Ghazzé, Rachiine and the Union of Minieh) visited the German municipalities of Heimenkirch, Amtzell, Gestratz, Hergatz and Opfenbach. This was a return visit by the Lebanese delegation, following the visit made by the German municipalities to Lebanon in November 2017, during which initial links were established. Lebanon has taken in more refugees from Syria relative to the total population than any other country in the world.
In some of these municipalities the number of Syrian refugees is several times the number of local inhabitants. Al-Mohammara with about 8,000 inhabitants has taken 40,000 Palestinian and 10,000 Syrian refugees. Bar Elias (50,000 inhabitants) houses over 200,000 Syrian refugees. 800 fled in Bwarej with about 3,000 inhabitants. Ghazzé with 6,500 inhabitants has taken over 35,000 Syrian refugees. Rachiine with 4,000 inhabitants offers 300 Syrian refugees a shelter and the Union Minieh has taken about 100,000 inhabitants about 35,000 Syrian refugees.
This creates new and huge pressures. Whether it be waste management, water supply and sanitation, or local administration – despite the huge solidarity and extraordinary dedication, the municipalities are not always able to cope with the new challenges. Often, more resources or additional knowledge are needed in order to handle the situation.
Examples and transferring possibilities
Examples and transferring possibilities
During their stay in the Westallgäu region the guests from Lebanese visited chiefly local institutions delivering basic public services. These included a waste gasification plant and a biogas plant in Amtzell, the Upper Laiblach wastewater association – in which the municipalities ofHergatz, Heimenkirch and Opfenbach have joined forces, a reed bed treatment plant in Kißleg, the remote water supply facility in Upper Allgäu and the solid waste management association in Kempten.
The focus was on the possibility of transferring solutions to the Lebanese municipalities. Another focus of the exchange based on practical examples involved various projects for local economic development and environmental protection. The visitors also had an opportunity to see for themselves the Alpine landscape and the Nagelfluhkette nature park, and while touring the locality they got a chance to see the gym, the village shop, the community centre and the fire brigade. In cooperation with the village and rural development school (SDL) in Thierhaupten, a one-day exchange event took place at which participants compared the municipal structures for local self-government in Lebanon and southern Germany. They discussed and defined options for implementing joint projects together with the Lebanese municipalities.
Development of concrete projects and their implementation
A final workshop was held in Heimenkirch on 14 May. There, the municipalities from Lebanon met in small groups with representatives of the German municipalities in order to provide their feedback on the agenda for the visit, and continue detailed planning for concrete project partnerships.
Based on the needs of the Lebanese municipalities, specific ideas were discussed that can be realised through funding delivered through further quick-starter packages I and II: advice on planning and constructing a biogas plant; support for establishing a health centre and dialogue on municipal prevention strategies in the health sector; cooperation to rehabilitate a large park that is jointly used by refugees and the local population; construction of a small school for refugees, and dialogue on municipal strategies to improve education for refugees. There are plans to maintain links with the village and rural development school, which is looking at the possibility of providing training on drawing up development plans or establishing a special-purpose association and its working structures. Temporary placements might also be an effective way of transferring knowledge.
Everyone involved praised the successful organisation of the visit. As well as the specific projects that are to be implemented in the near future, participants also underlined the importance of the cultural exchange, which led to an important growth in understanding during this week spent together.