Historically, the strong influence of communal affiliation on political, economic and social dynamics in the Arab region is not a novel phenomenon. Nevertheless, a series of developments over the last decades have re-triggered this potentially detrimental trend, which has increasingly re-asserted itself in several countries in Western Asia. If left unchecked, communal tensions will become a formidable and potentially unstoppable force of fragmentation and disintegration across the ESCWA region and beyond, undermining reform efforts, marginalizing human rights and religious values, and flaming disorder and civil discord.
Adopting a purely qualitative approach based on the analysis of focus group discussions with youth in the age group 18-25, this study aims at examining the dynamics of communal tension, animosity and conflict and uses Lebanon as a case study. It unravels four building blocks as part and parcel of the root causes of existing communal tensions, namely: the reproduction of communal identity, the compartmentalization of intercommunal social relations, the exclusionary spaces of social relations, and the clientelistic nature of the political system. The study concludes with a number of recommendations put forth to concerned State institutions, multilateral organizations, civil society and donors to work towards promoting civic values within the education system and good governance practices within the public sector so as to enhance the capacity for development, social cohesiveness and peaceful coexistence.