Policy Mobilities, International Aid and Planning: Regionalism and Refugee Policies in Lebanon

in collaboration with the American University of Beirut

LSE PI: Dr Romola Sanyal
Co-PIs: Dr Mona Harb & Dr Mona Fawaz
Duration: August 2014–December 2016


While there has been considerable literature looking at policy mobilities including issues of transfer of policy ideas, models and techniques, these studies have remained somewhat narrow in their scope, stopping short of conceptualizing changing forms and scales of governmentality in cities and regions, and considering how planners and experts learn and contribute to these transformations and transfers.

In our project, we are keen to embed a critical approach to policy mobilities in a wider reflection on regionalism, refugee policies, and planning. Indeed, while ideas of regionalism and refugee policies have come to Lebanon through international donors and humanitarian agencies, there are actual local and regional practices and policies incorporating a range of actors—municipalities, municipal unions, NGOs, experts, activists and scholars—taking place on the ground. Some of these actors are operating as planners, elaborating spatial strategies at a large territorial scale, trying to identify productive sectors of development. Others are operating in a crisis-response mode providing shelter, basic services and small scale infrastructure to refugees and host communities, to help contain and manage the urgent humanitarian crisis.

The project thus seeks to understand how international aid and policy mobilities affect, on the one hand, refugee policies, the delivery of shelter and services, and on the other hand, spatial planning and scales of urban governance in Lebanon. We are also keen on understanding what are the socio-spatial and political effects (planning-relevant) of these changing planning practices in Lebanon? How does aid help us rethink the forms and entanglements of sovereignty between actors such as the EU, UN, international donors, municipalities, municipal unions, NGOs and political parties? How is this changing and negotiating the hegemonic political configurations dominating the Lebanese territory?

Research Team


Romola Sanyal | Principal Investigator

Romola is Assistant Professor in Urban Geography at LSE. Her research intersects political and urban geography and focuses on the forced migration, urbanisation and citizenship.


Mona Harb | Co-Principal Investigator

Mona is Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Politics at AUB. Her research investigates how space and politics are dialectically constituted through institutions and processes of policy-making.


Mona Fawaz | Co-Principal Investigator

Mona is Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Studies at AUB. Her research stems from the imperative of making cities more inclusive.


Yara Najem | Research Assistant

Yara graduated with a BS in Environmental Health and is currently pursuing her Masters in Urban Planning and Policies at AUB. 


Jessy Nassar | Research Assistant

Jessy earned her Bachelor’s degree in political and social sciences from Sciences Po Paris and her Masters in Middle East Politics from SOAS.


image credit: Jordi Boixareu, 2012.