(In)Security and Reconstruction in Post-conflict Nahr al-Barid Refugee Camp

This article examines the intersection of the Lebanese state’s post-conflict security policy in Nahr al-Barid refugee camp and the reconstruction of the camp, which was destroyed in a battle between the Lebanese army and the militant group Fatah al-Islam. The significance of the government’s security focus derives from its intention to make Nahr al-Barid a “model” for all the other camps in the country. After discussing the Lebanese security context, the characteristics of the pre-conflict camp, the arrival of Fatah al-Islam, and the ensuing battle, the authors focus on the urban planning process for a reconstructed Nahr al-Barid, highlighting both the state’s militarization of the process and the local grassroots planning initiative which, in partnership with UNRWA, managed to secure some concessions. Also analyzed is the government plan submitted to donors, which conceives of “governance” as community policing without addressing the status of the Palestinians in Lebanon.


was an urban planner and community activist with the Nahr al-Barid Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC) and a PhD candidate at Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven, Belgium. He wishes to thank all NBRC fellow volunteers who have been pushing to reconstruct the camp over the past three years.


is associate professor at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He would like to thank Rami Khouri and Tara Mahfoud from the Issam Fares Institute (IFI) and research assistant Nizar Shaaban, who carried out twenty interviews with Nahr al-Barid leaders from April to September 2008. Part of the fieldwork was carried out in the framework of the IFI-AUB camp program.