In general UMAM D&R is guided by the belief that acknowledging Lebanon’s relatively recent past requires that important evidence and artifacts of its history be carefully collected, protected, and promoted to the public. In stark contrast, Lebanese political elites and governmental officials continue to ignore-or pretend to ignore-the gravity of Lebanon’s violent past as well as the pool of conflicting memories that have their roots in this past and are updated continuously by the cyclic disturbances the country still experiences.
This failure to appreciate the weight of the past makes itself apparent by the conspicuous absence of either a national archive or a public library which specializes in such information. Thus, not only has no official accounting of the country’s past ever been conducted, but the very idea of dealing with the past is still fighting to impose its legitimacy. For example, civil society organizations have called repeatedly for governmental action, and some of the country’s politicians seem to have begun listening and reacting to these admonishments, at least verbally.
In this regard and as it has done since its inception, UMAM D&R continues to tackle Lebanon’s past by engaging in diverse activities that include archival projects, cultural initiatives, and technical workshops.
While UMAM contributes to the ongoing debate over Lebanon’s national memory by continually revisiting the nation’s past, it operates in an environment that consistently rejects historical reflection, considers it acceptable to ignore the past for its perceived lack of practical impact on the present, and uses strained, fragmented memories to achieve short-term political gains rather than long-term national stability. As a result, Lebanon’s political culture remains as divided as it is mute on the nation’s collective schizophrenia. Thus, among its organizational endeavors, UMAM D&R focuses on:
– Recalling the violence and diffuse culture of hostility that rules social and political life in Lebanon.
– Enabling the generally disempowered yet growing chorus of voices that call for the adoption of a transitional justice approach tailored to Lebanon’s specific needs relative to its successive postwar deadlock.
– Acknowledging publicly the ongoing cycles of blame and counter blame within the nation’s political discourse despite the ever-present threat of renewed political violence. Today, the voices being raised help build the case that the national predilection for closing the files of the past has failed, and that Lebanon must urgently begin the painful yet essential task of truth seeking. Clearly, taking any other course will accomplish nothing more than keeping open the wounds of our society.