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Report: Tripoli City Profile

[Tripoli City Profile. Credit: UN-Habitat] [Tripoli City Profile. Credit: UN-Habitat]

UN-Habitat just released a report on the city of Tripoli (Lebanon), entitled Tripoli City Profile. This is the first of a series of City Profiles UN-Habitat, Lebanon will be publishing in the following months. City Profiles are a multi-sectoral spatial tool to improve understanding of vulnerabilities in specifically urban settings, and to inform the response. Developed in close collaboration with municipal unions, municipalities, humanitarian partners, and other stakeholders, the profiles are based on currently available data, and will be updated online to take account of new information, including information gathered from UN-Habitat Neighbourhood Profiles, and reported activities of crisis response partners from the 2016 year end and beyond.

UN-Habitat City Profiles are formulated to offer a cross-sectoral perspective on urban vulnerabilities that will inform interventions by local authorities, humanitarian agencies, and others to alleviate poverty. They also aim at contributing to an analytical knowledge base that will facilitate nuanced medium to long term public sector planning and investment agendas. The City Profile is structured around four themes: space, governance, population, and services. National and city-specific data is presented against each theme followed by identification of gaps and challenges. The last theme, services, is divided into: economy, basic urban services, and social services.

The Tripoli City Report is available here. Below is an excerpt:

Analysis of Tripoli in terms of its three-municipality functional geography has generated a profile of this historic urban pole that begins to reflect the pragmatic, as-lived nature of the gglomeration in its true scale. The potential role of Tripoli in a more polycentric Lebanon of the type promoted in the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territories (CDR, 2005) has been raised as a long-term policy and investment agenda. However, the urgent local and strategic barriers to reaching a point where such a discussion is realistic have been shown in sharp relief, inter-relating across the economy, urban services and social services.

The urban challenges shared across Lebanon are found in abundance in Tripoli. What is unique however is the unrivalled concentration of impoverishment, and the steepness of its descent from a pre-Civil War regional hub. Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city, is indeed a city at risk, travelling along a self-reinforcing spiral of a weak economy served by weak infrastructure support. Historical events combined with the level of poverty represented across both host and refugee communities have yielded a socio-economic and sectarian conflict tinderbox. Home to affiliates of both sides of the Syrian conflict, Tripoli represents a concentration of potential to destabilise the country.

Humanitarian interventions and local authority programming are undermined by Lebanon’s lack of a robust statistical base. The overwhelming finding for Tripoli has been the lack of reliable population data, leaving scope only for speculation between rival data sources. There is strong suggestion, however, that the official figures used by all partners to the crisis response and for national planning – totalling just under 288,000 for Lebanese - are grossly below conservative estimates of the real situation, as exemplified for instance by the union’s estimate of about 365,000. UN-Habitat’s own calculation puts the Lebanese population figure at a level approaching 418,000. The uncertainty undermines the validity of policy and programming decisions by the third sector where poor Lebanese are involved. It also affects the ability of municipalities and the union to align planning to service demand or to monitor critical urban indicators such as employment rates.

Regarding the approximately 100,000 refugees in Tripoli, there are data caveats around the number of unregistered individuals, as well as around how point of registration relates to actual place of residence. Paying for shelter is the second highest outgoing cost amongst Syrian households, and insecurity of tenure a major concern--the dynamics of which are not well understood.

Activities reported against the various sectors by partners to the response often show concentrations on Beddaoui, home to the metropolitan area’s Palestinian camp, with a spread throughout the remaining geography which takes limited account the new influx of Syrians who have predominantly occupied the lowest cost aspects of the mainstream housing market, shared with the Lebanese poor. It is hoped that the current profile will contribute to the metropolitan knowledge base in ways that foster the extension of the focus on well-known Beddaoui to other less familiar neighbourhoods.

Cross-cutting all other issues, the governance theme has probed constraints in how civil society is ordered in Tripoli. The critical finding is that, between the North governorate on one hand and the individual urban core municipalities on the other, there is a meso-level vacuum in place of active strategic coordination and urban interest promotion at the metropolitan level. Integrated and mutually supportive collaboration between municipalities for service planning and delivery would potentiate efficiency gains and the capture of economies of scale. The focus could include demand and supply assessments leading to action across topics such as transport, employment markets, land and housing markets, and office and industry markets.

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