The RELIEF Centre

Prosperity in the age of mass displacement

The RELIEF Centre is a centre for research and learning focused on inclusive growth and prosperity. It is about the prosperity of Lebanon in particular, but it is also part of a larger agenda for developing sustainable ways to improve the quality of life of people throughout the world. In every country in the world, the means and mechanisms to turn the wealth our economies generate into prosperity, and to share the benefits of that prosperity more evenly across all social groups, is severely lacking. This is one of the major challenges for future global prosperity. The RELIEF Centre brings Lebanese and UK institutions and expertise together to address this challenge.

Prosperity is about more than income or wealth of GDP growth. When we talk about prosperity we mean a holistic notion of progress which takes into account the multiple dimensions of people's lives. These include personal dimensions such as health, education, and meaningful membership in a community, as well as external or environmental factors such as high-quality public services, safe and health urban environments, and availability of good jobs in one's place of residence.

In the context of Lebanon, developing an agenda of prosperity is particularly urgent because of the pressures that the country is facing as a result of the ongoing refugee crisis. The arrival of over a million Syrian refugees since 2011 has put enormous strain on public services and infrastructure, jobs and wages, and educational opportunities. It has also created social tensions between host and refugees due to increase competition for scarce resources.

Addressing these challenges through the lens of prosperity enhances the potential of future economic development and growth in Lebanon. The task ahead is to use cutting edge research and innovation to maximise the benefits of economic growth and to do so in a way that is inclusive of all members of society.

In collaboration with local communities, the Centre will explore how endeavours to promote economic growth can intersect with improvement in people’s quality of life. Community researchers will design metrics for, and measure, the prosperity of their local areas and how it changes over time. We will work with new learning technologies to enhance the educational and skills of more people living in Lebanon, in the fields of sustainable design, post-conflict urban regeneration, and education.

The centre will also examine how Syrian refugees can work alongside their host Lebanese communities to design more resilient and better quality living environments. It will also look at how new technologies can be used to deliver affordable education to both refugees and Lebanese citizens, equipping people with the skills and capacities for managing conflict, and improving their environments and well-being. In addition, the centre will conduct research into how Syrian cities, institutions and communities can be rebuilt and strengthened once the current conflict is over.

The RELIEF Centre is funded for five years by the UK Economic and Social Research Council under the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. It is led by the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL and is a collaborative project between the American University of Beirut (AUB), the Centre for Lebanese Studies and University College London. UCL's Development Planning Unit, the Department for Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, the Institute of Education, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies are all partners in the Centre