Tuesday, March 06, 2007

LEBANON: UNIFIL wins hearts and minds in south, but questions remain over security

The UN appears to be leading a hearts-and-minds fiesta in Lebanon:

'BEIRUT, 4 March 2007 (IRIN) - Nepalese soldiers are teaching computing skills to the women of Houla, a Shia Muslim village 2km from Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

At barracks across the south-east, Spanish troops meet their Lebanese counterparts to teach them Spanish.

And at 8am in the Christian valley town of Ebl Al Saqi, just south of the Litani River, a class of excited eight and nine-year-olds from Al Fardis School learn the basics of yoga from the Sikhs of the 15th Punjab Division.'

This adds to an earlier posting where the Spanish military contingent announced that they had a budget of some 6.5 million Euros to undertake humanitarian projects. In this example, the UNIFIL is undertaking $500k US in Quick Implementation Projects (QIPs) including the traditional well-digging and street cleaning projects.

While the scale of projects is impressive- 4,000 patients from mobile clinics alone- it does pose a very simple question- What is the point of having humanitarian agencies in Lebanon if peacekeepers are doing so much? More revealing still is the lack of information on what UNIFIL is accomplishing on the security front- presumably their primary task. The same spokesperson recounting their humanitarian successes made at best vague references to the effect that no Hezbollah fighters have been seen moving weapons, though, '...there was, reportedly, evidence that Hezbollah fighters were building a new line of defence just north of the Litani.'

The debate continues. In the meantime, the Lebanese can benefit from the secondary yogic effects of Peacekeeping...