Aseel Naamani
Ruth Simpson


The issue of public spaces is increasingly at the core of civic movements and discourse of reform in Lebanon, coming to the fore most recently in the mass protests of October 2019.  Yet, these most recent movements build on years of activism and contestation, seeking to reclaim rights to access and engage with public spaces in the face of encroachments, mainly by the private sector. Urban spaces, including the country’s two biggest cities – Beirut and Tripoli – have been largely privatised and the preserve of an elite few, and post-war development has been marred with criticism of corruption and exclusivity. This article explores the history of public spaces in Beirut and Tripoli and the successive civic movements, which have sought to realise rights to public space. The article argues that reclaiming public space is central to reform and re-building relationships across divides after years of conflict. First, the article describes the evolution of Lebanon’s two main urban centres. Second, it moves to discuss the role of the consociational system in the partition and regulation of public space. Then it describes the various civic movements related to public space and examines the opportunities created by the October 2019 movement. Penultimately it interrogates the limits imposed by COVID-19 and recent crises. Lastly, it explores how placemaking and public space can contribute to peacebuilding and concludes that public spaces are essential to citizen relationships and inclusive participation in public life and affairs.


How to Cite
Naamani, A. and Simpson, R. (2021) “Public Space as a Venue for Peacebuilding in Lebanon? The Role of Civic Movements in Reclaiming Public Space in Beirut and Tripoli”, The Journal of Public Space, 6(1), pp. 25–46. doi: 10.32891/jps.v6i1.1324.
Author Biographies

Aseel Naamani, International Alert

Aseel is Programmes Manager at International Alert in Lebanon. She plays a key role in the management and development of Alert’s peacebuilding programmes in Lebanon, with a focus on dialogue, gender, and conflict and peace research. Aseel has experience in more than one sector including youth activism, gender equality and child rights. Prior to Alert, she worked with national and international organisations in Lebanon. Her experience includes programme management and development, fundraising and communications, and capacity development. She also co-founded a local organisation in Tripoli, North Lebanon dedicated to eliminating social inequality through community development and youth engagement programmes. Her interests include gender and youth issues, Middle East history and politics, development and public spaces, and writing. She holds a BA and MA in Business Administration from the University of Balamand, Lebanon.

Ruth Simpson, International Alert

Ruth Simpson is the Country Director for International Alert, Lebanon. She provides strategic oversight of the programme and expert advice peacebuilding, conflict prevention, conflict sensitivity, social cohesion and preventing violence. Prior to this she was our Europe and MENA Programme Development and Learning Manager leading on programme development, impact and quality assurance for the regional programme. Before joining International Alert, Ruth worked with a number of international NGOs and international agencies, providing technical advice and capacity-building support, and managing peacebuilding and armed violence prevention programmes in the Middle East, central and east Africa, and Latin America, with a focus on programme design and strengthening evaluation and learning, and impact assessment. She has an MA in International Law and Conflict Resolution, within which she specialised in mediation, peacebuilding, human rights, transitional justice and reconciliation. She has published, co-authored and peer reviewed several papers and academic articles related to peacebuilding, social cohesion, resilience, peace education and violence prevention.


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