Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 346, 11 March 2021

Lebanon: The revival of protests amid worsening economic conditions
Apoorva Sudhakar

In the news
On 9 March, National News Agency, a state-run organisation, reported that demonstrators protesting against the country’s deteriorating economic conditions had blocked main highways including that leading to the capital city, Beirut. The developments came despite the President’s calls to clear the roadblocks.

On 8 March, President Michel Aoun called on the army and security forces “to clear roadblocks after a week of protests over a collapsing economy and paralysed government.” However, the Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, said, “The officer also is suffering and is hungry, to the officials I say, where are you going? What are you waiting for? What are you planning to do?” Therefore, he pushed the political leadership to find a long-lasting solution to the economic and political crisis.

On 6 March, the caretaker Prime Minister, Hasan Diab threatened to abstain from his duties thereby attempting to pressurise the political leaders to form a new government.
Issues at large
First, the crash of the Lebanese pound. On 2 March, the Lebanese pound hit a record low against the US dollar on the black market thereby being valued at 10,000 Lebanese pounds against the dollar. Further, the official exchange rate stood at 1,520 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. This acted as a trigger to the latest protests.

Second, the return of protests. The current unrest is the third occurrence of mass protests since 2019. The first mass protests of recent times started in October 2019 when the government proposed a tax on WhatsApp calls, threatening the people’s options to communicate freely without incurring heavy expenses on telephone calls. This triggered anti-government protests which later translated into a demand to overhaul the sectarian-based political system. Next, people took to the streets in August 2020 after the Beirut Port blast which left at least 200 people dead and thousands injured. However, in all cases, the protests remained leaderless.  

Third, worsening economic conditions. Amid economic deterioration and rising prices, the Lebanese have been struggling to secure essential commodities. The UN says, at least 50 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. In March 2020, Lebanon defaulted on a loan of USD 1.2 billion. In December 2020, Diab said subsidies on flour, fuel and medication, would have to be lifted in early 2021 as foreign reserves are falling short.

Fourth, the political deadlock. The current Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri had resigned as PM in 2019 following the protests; Diab was appointed in January 2020. However, following the Beirut blast, Diab resigned and his successor Mustapha Adib resigned within a month. Following this, in October 2020, Hariri was re-elected as PM but has been unable to form a government due to differences with President Aoun.

In perspective
First, since protests in Lebanon have remained largely leaderless, it has been difficult to sustain them as support for the protests wane away with time, thereby pushing Lebanon into a status quo, be it political or economic. Therefore, the current protests too may take a backseat after some months. However, the Army Chief’s words come as a surprise being the first of its kind from a person of authority.  

Second, unless the political deadlock ends, it will be difficult to arrive at a solution to the country’s economic woes. The economic situation is bound to worsen in the coming months and its effects could last for years.

May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 374
Yemen: The Battle for Marib rages on

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 371
Pakistan: Meetings with Afghan leaders
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 369
Israel-Syria: Continuing Missile Strikes
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 362
Iran: Another act of

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 358
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 356
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 353
Niger: 137 massacred in the latest attack by gunmen
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 351
Yemen: Saudi Arabia announces ceasefire

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 347
Australia: Women fight against sexual violence 

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 345
The US: The George Floyd trial begins
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 340
Syria: UN report calls for a complete ceasefire
February 2021 | Conflict Alert # 333
South Korea: The 'Comfort Women' issue returns to haunt
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 222
Russia: Pro-Navalny protests turn anti-government 

January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 220
COVID-19: The Vaccine Wars
December 2020 | Conflict Alert # 200
India: Farmers' protests intensify as deadlock persists
November 2020 | Conflict Alert # 191
Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 174
Bangladesh: Protests intensify against sexual violence

October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 167
India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 166
Pakistan: The persisting polio problem

September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 156
Pakistan: Targeted Violence continues in Waziristan
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 154
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 148
Israel and UAE normalize relations
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 146
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement

August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 138
In Iraq, the protestors return to the streets 
July 2020 | Conflict Alert # 118
J&K: Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence
June 2020 | Conflict Alert # 105
Black Lives Matter brings the US to its knees

May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 86
Libya: Khalifa Haftar announces ceasefire 
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 81
India: The surge in violence in J&K

April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 71
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 67
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 64
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps 
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 63
Indigenous Communities battle a complete wipeout 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 51
Coronavirus & China: Fall in numbers 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 47
Coronavirus & Nepal: In the second stage, cancels
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 44
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 42
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 38
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 35
A ceasefire between Israel, Islamic Jihad in Gaza
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 34
Libya: rivals withdraw from Geneva peace talks
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 33
India: Violence in Delhi

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 32
Afghanistan: Seven Days of Peace
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 31
Climate Change Fallouts: Impacts the Bird population
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 28
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 27
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 26
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 24
Israel: Violence in post  Trump-deal
January 2020 | Conflict Alert # 20
Kenya: Al Shabab and a week of killings
December 2019 | Conflict Alert # 19
Citizenship Amendment Bill:2019
November 2019 | Conflict Alert # 18
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue 
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 16
Bolivian unrest
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 15
Hundreds protest in Haiti
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 14
Protests rock Chile
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 13
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 12
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 11
Turkey's Offensive in Syria
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 9
Africa to be Polio Free

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 7
Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 6
Moscow Protests: Thousands rally in Moscow
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 3
Jordan Restores diplomatic ties with Qatar