Lebanon’s massive garbage crisis isn’t its first. Here’s what that teaches us.

Maastricht School of Management

The parallels between the current trash crisis in Beirut and the waste crisis that befell south Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee communities in 2012 are particularly telling. Exactly because they lacked citizenship and the related service entitlements, Palestinian refugees were forced to play by the informal and politicized rules of local authorities and to accept quick-fix solutions that only entrenched their vulnerability and their dependence on corrupt politicians. 

While Palestinians, as refugees, did not have the clout to bring about the institutional and political change that is a prerequisite for reliable, equitable and affordable services, their Lebanese counterparts, as citizens, do. Never before has such a large segment of Lebanese society “so clearly and publicly” called for the overhaul of the Lebanese political system.

The people demonstrating against Lebanon’s “trashy politics” today need to be steadfast in their demands that services are rights, not privileges and that they are citizens, not clients.

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