Between the State and Community: Child Protection in Lebanon

  • Thomas El-Hoss

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Lebanon hosts a child protection system which has thus far been poorly examined in the literature. This thesis traces the development of the country’s protection model over the last twenty years. It contends that the most prominent feature of Lebanon's child protection landscape is its pluralism, where responsibilities for the ultimate safety and wellbeing of children are diffused among a variety of stakeholders including the state, religious courts, international NGOs, local NGOs and faith-based organisations. This arrangement is reflective of the nation’s wider public policy approach where civil society plays a significant role in sustaining social welfare. It is also reflective of Lebanon’s consociational political structure, which grants autonomy to religious courts to govern family affairs.

Previous research has criticised Lebanon’s plural protection environment for its lack of coordination and standardisation in responding to child maltreatment. This thesis sought to engage with these core concerns by conducting fieldwork which included 54 semi-structured interviews with state institutions, civil society organisations, social work professionals and religious court personnel. Through a thematic analysis of the data, it was established that since 2014 the state has sought to radically address the fragmentation of the field by introducing national practice standards and orchestrating closer coordination between civil society and the statutory system. However, there remain unresolved challenges harmonising the activities, interests and values of the state and religious authorities when it comes to the protection of the child. This has had negative implications for children at risk. The findings from this thesis hold significance to key debates regarding the ongoing evolution of Lebanon's protection system and the suitability of existing theories of child protection outside the context of high-income, western countries.
Date of Award16 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorRana Jawad (Supervisor) & Louise Brown (Supervisor)


  • Child protection
  • lebanon
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare
  • state
  • religion
  • international development
  • Beirut
  • child protection system

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