National Initiative - Open Discussions

With the continued economic, social and political deterioration of the country and the mounting regional threats brought about by an explosive region, it has become of paramount importance for Lebanon’s civic community and its vital forces to launch a dynamic national dialogue that defines the areas of malfunction in government and sets the priorities and mechanisms for reform. Equally important is to reaffirm the viable and sustainable role of the civic community in shaping the future of Lebanon.

  • Objective
  • Scope
  • Deliverables
  • Establishing a cohesive and sustainable platform for the civic sector and its vital forces
  • Launching a participatory mechanism on topics of change and priorities of reform that allows for a communal action.
  • Elaborating a framework of civic cooperation to exert pressure on decision makers.
  • Enhancing the richness, cohesion and unity of the civic community through presenting comprehensive initiatives on multiple levels.
  • Maintaining periodic dialogues
  • Establishing follow up committees
  • Producing white papers on topics of change, priorities of reform and mechanisms of action.
  • Collaborate on Organizing a National Civic Conference that produces common recommendations and a roadmap for future actions.

In March 2016, the CIH launched the National Initiative- Open Discussions & Round Tables in an attempt at finding common grounds among civic activists that allow for a cohesive participatory plan of action towards achieving a sustainable dynamics for change. The aim of this inclusive initiative was to establish a broad unified vision of a modern advanced Lebanon through finding real solutions for the chronic problems that the country has been facing on the economic, social and political levels due to decades of political failure and mismanagement of public affairs by the ruling class in the country.
This initiative included a wide range of Lebanon’s active civic community members across various sectors covering NGO’s, Municipalities, Economic Bodies, Syndicates, Universities, civic activists and the Lebanese intelligentsia. The three milestones of this initiative are to produce a Declaration of Principles, an Action Plan and a diversified Civic Platform that would exert the necessary pressure to effect positive change.

The Five Sessions of Dialogue

The CIH organized five national dialogues whereby over five hundred participants across multiple sectors were asked to present their perspective on three main questions:

  • What the main problems that the country suffers?
  • What are the solutions?
  • What are the most effective mechanisms needed for action?

Over five hundred individuals participated in these five dialogues with a representative reach of over two million citizens. All the sessions were recorder audio visually.

The Policy Advisory Board

The CIH put together a Ph.D level Policy Advisory Board with the mission of breaking down all the answers, defining their main components, ideating a solution and prototyping a rough draft of the Declaration of Principles to be followed by a solution based participatory Plan of Action.

The Declaration of Principles of Citizenship in a Free, Just and Independent Civic State

CIH initiated a series of round table discussions engaging Lebanese academics and professionals who have distinguished themselves in national endeavors.  These in-depth discussions led to the ideation of The Declaration of Principles of Citizenship in a Free, Just and Independent Civic State that now defines what our organization stands for. 

  1. Lebanon is a legal entity having internal and external legitimacy. The Lebanese State, at all times, embodies and commits to all enacted laws and internal regulations, as well as all ratified international treaties and charters, most notably the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the Arab League. read more
  2. The Lebanese Constitution and Lebanese law stand above all else, and cannot be superseded by any authority or government, by any private citizen or state official, nor by any right or privilege. They represent the source and regulating authority of all rights and obligations, and act as protectors and guarantors of legitimacy and sovereignty.
  3. Freedom is the norm, and authoritarianism the anomaly. Liberality is therefore the rule, and constraint can only be the exception, as subject to the law and the Constitution.
  4. Accountability is the core principle of responsibility, and legal immunity is a privilege contingent on well-conducted public office. As such, it is not intended to shield the abuse or misuse of authority, in a system of government based on the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, working together within a system of checks and balances.
  5. No other legitimacy can contest the Lebanese Constitution, as the fundamental basis for the stability of government, and the unity of land and people. A pluralistic, diverse and liberal Lebanon is a national, regional and universal necessity, and the chief requirement for building a citizen state.
  6. A citizen state is principally concerned with the individual, and upholds the rights of each citizen within a humanistic civic framework. Such a state would enact productive and inclusive economic policies, as well as social policies that promote justice and security, within a system of good governance.
  7. The Lebanese are citizens of a civic state, equal in rights and obligations, and enjoy the freedom of thought, religion and assembly. They are regarded as responsible and accountable, in a free, sovereign and independent country, without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race or opinion.
  8. No distinction can be made among the rights and obligations of citizens. The same legal protections should be afforded to all citizens and residents, as inalienable rights that cannot be arbitrarily granted or denied, under the rule of law and justice.
  9. Combating corruption, in all its forms and various repercussions, is a national obligation and a moral imperative. The pinnacle of corruption is for citizens to be made to choose between their conscience and their interests, their security and their freedom, or their livelihood and their dignity. In all this lies systemic corruption.
  10. Public space is the property of all Lebanese without distinction, and is only restricted by virtue of public interest and to maintain the balance between the public and private spheres. The same applies to participation in public affairs, which is a constitutional right enjoyed by every citizen, and conditional only upon legal eligibility.
  11. A life of dignity and sufficiency is a right enjoyed by all citizens and residents. As such, it can only be guaranteed by providing a clean environment, balanced and comprehensive development, compulsory education, social security and public healthcare, in a decentralized civic welfare state, enjoying social justice and the rule of law, and upholding human rights, public liberties and individual freedoms.
  12. The country’s public funds, as well as its natural resources and wealth, belong to all the Lebanese. Every citizen and resident is entitled to benefit from them, as they are integral to a dignified standard of living, which the state has the obligation to provide and safeguard, with justice and equality as its sole consideration.
  13. Preserving Lebanon as a state, ensuring its continued governance and preventing it from turning into an arena of conflict, is contingent on extending its sovereignty over its entire territory, controlling its international borders, and ensuring its monopoly on sovereign decisions, most prominently decisions of war and peace, and of defense and foreign policy.
  14. Positive neutrality in dealing with regional issues and conflicts, as well as a transparent foreign policy, should be adopted, in line with national interests and national security. The rejection of violence would guarantee the survival of an open, diverse, pluralistic and Arab Lebanon, and ensure the continuation of its cultural role in all domains, and the emulation of its democratic model of peaceful existence and transition of power.
  15. The ultimate condition for a legitimate government and a sovereign state is their acceptance by the Lebanese people, and there can be no legitimacy or sovereignty without abiding by and applying the very principles that such legitimacy and sovereignty were originally based upon.

Quantitative Results

First Meeting - Civil Society Organizations

January 27, 2016

The Civic Influence Hub launched its national initiative for open dialogues in a first meeting of civil society organizations at the Monroe Hotel, where more than a hundred groups and organizations participated, a number of which forming coalitions to work on national reform issues. The first meeting, which was moderated by Ziad El-Sayegh, CIH’s CEO, was an open dialogue around three basic problems in Lebanon, the priorities of reform and the common mechanisms of action.Read more

Sakkal The meeting started with the Lebanese national anthem. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the “Civic Influence Hub” Eng. Fahd Sakkal, gave a speech in which he said: “Our meeting this evening, carries several dimensions as it marks the launch of a national initiative in periodic open dialogues for all civil society sectors and vital forces. During these dialogues, national problems will be discussed along with the desired reform priorities in order to crystallize a road map for joint action. We know very well that you have carried, and still carry, the anguish of Lebanon and the pain of the Lebanese. We, at the “Civic Influence Hub”, share the same anguish and pain, and together we look forward to a better Lebanon through a comprehensive and productive national contract amidst good governance of State services, a true implementation of the constitution and respect for the laws, and implementation of the rights and obligations of all citizens. We hope to achieve a positive dynamic of change, together, because Lebanon and the Lebanese, through our unity, are worthy of hope in times of despair!”
Then a number of civil society officials followed suit: Princess Hayat Arslan gave a first speech in the name of the Civil Society Dialogue Table; followed by Esq. Nada Abdel-Sater on behalf of the “Lebanese Transparency Association – No Corruption”; Nimat Badr El-Din, in the name of the “We Want Accountability” (Baddna Nhaseb) campaign; Rafiq Kattan on behalf of “Our Unity is Our Salvation” (Wahdatouna Khalasouna); Dr. Makram Owais on behalf of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE); Ambassador Khalil Al-Khalil representing the Document and Constitution Commission; former MP Salah al-Haraka on behalf of the Lebanese Civil Coalition; Paul Abi Rashed on behalf of the T-E-R-R-E Liban; Retired Brigadier General Antoine Karim on behalf of the Civil Front ; Wedad Jarbou on behalf of the Samir Kassir Foundation; Hassan Al-Zein on behalf of the Committee for the Follow-up of the Civil Movement; and Ulfat Al-Saba on behalf of the Civil State Gathering.
Yehia The closing remarks were given by a member of the Board of Trustees of the Civic Influence Hub, Dr. Mounir Yehia, who stated: “Tonight we are not only holding a meeting, we are gathered to launch a permanent and continuous movement. We shall meet, at the same place and at an increasing pace, with unions, universities, economic bodies, student organizations, the media, and all sectors of the civil society. Every meeting will produce follow-up and coordination committees who shall hold a meeting to discuss consensual matters, so the civil society can prove its capacity to influence sound governance and build a comprehensive and productive national contract. The national initiative / open dialogues will extend over a period of one year and will be considered a space for exchanging ideas and galvanizing the energy and power of the civil society to determine Lebanon’s future.

Arslan Princess Hayat Arslan considered that “the basic problem in Lebanon is the absence of national loyalty due to inequality before the law and discretionary justice. We have duties, we have rights, and things will not straighten unless we commit to this balance.” She continued: “The absence of civic education at school and at home, where upbringing begins … and the reform priorities to address these problems begin with a respectable, clean, non-corrupt authority and an accountable political class matched with a government that plans and develops a strategy and offers a timeline program. These solutions, if available, would secure a sound economic and productive situation create job opportunities and stop the youth brain drain.” She suggested mechanisms of action as remedies namely “raising public awareness about means and capabilities i.e. believing in themselves and relinquishing the slogan: ‘There’s nothing we can do’.” To conclude, she called for “an electoral law that secures real representation via: proportionality, women’s quota, the role of youth, condemning the political class for its corruption and nepotism.
Abdel-Sater Esq. Nada Abdel -Sater spoke on behalf of the LTA / No Corruption. She summarized the main problems as follows: The lack of state components; lack of trust between the state (politicians and administration) and citizens; the lack of citizenship; the absence of administrative and legal accountability; the lack of financial and administrative organization; presidential vacancy; extension of the parliament’s mandate; neglect of parliamentary elections; and absence of a budget. She considered the reform priorities to be:
• Disseminating a culture of transparency and good governance;
• Pushing for the adoption of the following e-government laws: the Right to Information Law; the Law on the Protection of Corruption Detectors to provide the serious political will to combat corruption by adopting transparency involving the civil society and the establishment and strengthening of the independence and effectiveness of anti-corruption bodies in accordance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention against Corruption;
• Developing a project for administrative, financial, economic, social, judicial and municipal reform;
• Raising civil society awareness in order to enable young generations in Lebanon to live a free future in a society where democracy, transparency and the rule of law prevail;
• Enacting and enforcing information exchange laws, protecting whistleblowers, preventing conflicts of interest, recovering assets, and implementing financial disclosure;
• Protecting anti-corruption activists and enabling civil society institutions to play their role as a major and effective partner in the fight against corruption;
• Reforming the judiciary and ensuring and enhancing its independence and effectiveness in preventing impunity;
Badr El-Din Moving on to Nimat Badr El-Din, representing “We Want Accountability” (Baddna Nhaseb) campaign. She wondered whether it was possible to agree on the problems: “Of course, regulators already know that there is a wide range of answers to this question. We do not start from scratch, which is what many consent to. And under the pretext of searching for participants, we end up with compromises that make it difficult to polarize and which are not considered as a serious threat by the government. The problems are: the overthrow of the Taif Agreement, which was a step for addressing the problems identified at the time, i.e.:
• Sectarian political representation,
• Distribution of positions,
• Presidential nature of government,
• Neglect of the governorates,
• Absence of development,
• Administrative centralization, etc.
Dependence on foreign forces is related to the sectarian nature of the political regime, where religious leaders have transformed followers into expats. This situation has produced quotas in governance, power and administration, and complicity in grand corruption, as a necessity for the continuation of domination over social structures and thus strengthening the stability of the principle of quotas.
This has resulted in hegemony over the judiciary, security, oversight institutions, and the disruption of their roles. The hegemony of the neoliberal approach was carried through “the Hariri Policies,” a phenomenon that came with the advent of Rafik Hariri to power, and attracting the victorious warlords after Taif, i.e. Nabih Berri and Walid Jumblatt. Any scientific and objective historian would summarize the era of the last two decades of the 20th Century as the era in which this neoliberal trinity dominated and led to the destruction of the State, privatization, disrupting the public sector, and generating parallel administrations and extensive debt. The biggest problem lies in the continued division over the elements of Lebanon’s national identity. From a legal standpoint, when a judge says, explicitly, that they cannot rule in some cases because they fear for their position or their life, then amending and reforming laws becomes a matter of principle that does not translate into reality. And when a high-ranking honest official refrains from executing ministerial orders to remove encroachments on the public domain, it becomes blatantly obvious that implementing laws, no matter their quality, becomes impossible. During our recent endeavor to put pressure on the Judiciary, oversight, and inspection authorities, it became clear that there is great difficulty (not to say impossibility) in activating their roles in accordance with the principles for which they were established. These facts lead us to a reality over which disagreement is no longer understood. This great political, financial and administrative corruption is a structural necessity for the continuation of the political quota system, especially with the scarcity of external resources that used to help leaders nurture their leadership after they had eliminated state services and replaced them with the services they provide, so as to ensure the loyalty of their followers and the masses. Therefore, what must be done in order to achieve reform is, first and foremost, the reform of the political authority and the consolidation of its constitutional reference; that is, the implementation of the “Taif Agreement” as it is, or after its development, if necessary. The way to do this is to hold the parliamentary elections swiftly according to a modern law and on the basis of proportionality and one-district constituency. Likewise, it became necessary and possible to impose popular oversight, starting today and after the restructuring of the authority. People’s participation in deciding their own destiny is possible even if the authority is closed to representatives of people protest and public opinion, with the power of the street and the support of the public opinion.” She focused on restructuring the regime on the one hand, and perpetuating and activating popular oversight, on the other, because they are two vital goals that have priority in our view of the imminent reform. She explained that the Campaign continues to work on two important files: activating the work of regulatory institutions and providing electricity on a permanent basis. Without these oversight institutions, any talk about a newly established state becomes empty and void. The State exists – that is true – but it is in a state of clinical death. This issue is of great importance should we seek to organize the widest political, media, popular and elite pressure campaign in order to activate the role of these bodies and empower them. We also call, for example, to focus on the implementation of the illegal enrichment law established 70 years ago. Joint action and unified focused efforts are required such as participating in all announced movements and various initiatives, in the areas of mobilization, incitement and promotion. But the most important thing is the participation of new groups in the campaign without necessarily quantitatively increasing the number of campaigns.
Rafiq Kattan, speaking in the name of “Our Unity is Our Salvation,” called for overcoming personal, institutional, sectarian or regional interests for the sake of public interest. He summarized the main problems in Lebanon as follows:
• A structural defect in the political system and, consequently, the administrative and socio-economic systems, and this constitutes a crippling factor for institutions as the state is divided into spoils gained by a group of politicians, and citizens turn into clients, without any accountability, divided along sharp sectarian alignments serving foreign agendas.
• The crippled Judiciary due to structural, material, and political reasons, and consequently the slackness of oversight bodies, the spread of administrative and financial corruption, the lack of transparency, and the consolidation of nepotism instead of accountability.
• Lack of citizenship in the relationship among individuals and between individuals and the State, due to the dominance of the clan and religious sects.
• The socio-economic policies neglect of sustainable human development because of special and immediate interests (the relationship between politicians and funds) to turn our economy into a rentier economy.
• A burdened centrality that lacks flexibility and the mechanisms necessary for development, which makes it impossible to meet the challenges of underdeveloped public services.
Kattan enumerated the reform priorities:
• Perhaps the founding conditions for modernity are not only cognitive, scientific, and material; they are also found in the new social culture – where citizens and groups unite around common interests.
• Linking democracy to ethics promotes individual rights and freedoms as an expression of a free will to unite.
• Strengthening the discourse of the civil society, where citizens are united, as an expression of free will.
• Reinforcing the civil society discourse whereby citizens are bound by a joint contract of interests and where freedoms are preserved, and rights and obligations are mutually recognized.
• Decisive implementation of the constitution and electing a President of the Republic
• Re-establishing authority through elections held on the basis of a just law that reflects equitable representation of the people, upholds the methods and principles of true democracy, reforms the political and administrative system, limits sectarian behavior, strengthens citizenship and adheres to the principle of the national identity of the Lebanese people as a civilized option while respecting differences of opinion, emphasizing the importance of pluralism as a positive element, rejecting violence in all its forms, protecting the human rights of individuals and groups, ensuring effective separation of powers, especially the judiciary, and the adoption of decentralization as a contribution to balanced development, and the adoption of a modern partisan law.
Oueiss Dr. Makram Oueiss gave a speech on behalf of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, in which he said: “With the extension of the Parliamentary mandate twice and in light of the apparent paralysis of the government and the external influences that none of the political parties is ashamed to divulge, the Lebanese citizen remains the only victim. The political crisis we are experiencing today has produced a number of other crises. Foreign investments in Lebanon decreased from $4.84 billion in late 2013 to 2.5 billion in late 2014, for example.” Public debt exceeded 70 billion dollars, in the absence of any reform economic plan, private debts increased and reached 55 billion dollars at the end of 2014, i.e. 110% of the GDP (this means that companies in Lebanon no longer have collaterals to present in order to borrow from banks with the aim of investing and expanding their business). Consequently, trust between citizens and institutions, most notably Parliament and the government was tarnished; the level of trust declined in recent years and plummeted to 2% mid last year, (2% in the government, and 4 % in Parliament), according to a national survey conducted by the association out of a sample of 2,500 people. The main problem since the end of the 1975-1990 war is the dominance of warlords over all decision-making outlets, political, economic and social. And their continued use of the war mentality in managing the country’s affairs regardless of the interests and rights of citizens, which has brought the country to its current state. How can we achieve any breakthrough under this junta which acts as if the country is here to serve its narrow interests, and bends the laws or decisions to serve its welfare. The main hindrance to development in this country is clearly its political structure, an integrated clientele system that we have been suffering from for decades, not to mention the consequences of the regional conflict, which is getting more complex by the day as a result of the internal rifts. Remedies will require time but needs to be preceded by the following:
• A fair electoral law based on proportional representation in large electoral districts to improve representation and secure a mechanism for representing the various segments and components of society;
• The adoption of a number of electoral reforms namely ensuring the secrecy of the vote through the adoption of unified ballots, capping electoral spending to reduce vote buying and bribery;
• Granting women their right to representation through the adoption of a temporary women’s quota, in addition to reducing electoral age (voting and candidacy) and involving expats in the election process.
This law will bring fresh blood to Parliament and empower young people and women to reach Parliament with new ideas and programs; let alone increasing transparency and accountability and enhancing the role of the judiciary system.
These reforms will restore confidence between citizens and their institutions and between citizens and political parties, and reinstate transparency and accountability between the people, parliament, and government. This mechanism will not roll out tangible change at first, but will, at least, tear down this wall and create a catalyst for the change needed in subsequent parliamentary sessions. It will ultimately push the political parties to implement a series of internal reforms. He stressed the importance of respecting constitutional deadlines and holding parliamentary or municipal elections on a regular basis and in due dates. Elections are the first solution to crises and not a cause of the latter. All countries in the world resort to elections to solve the political crises they face, as they consider them as the means to restore confidence between the citizen and the state. What the stakeholders can do today to break the vicious circle is to show solidarity and push the political authority to take a bold stance to bring the country back on the right track and stop running away from responsibilities. To the political class, we say you are going against the normal course of things, and history will remember that you squandered valuable opportunities that were leading Lebanon and the Lebanese to safety and progress. Establishing a strong coalition that brings together civil society bodies, economic bodies, unions, universities, the media and political parties committed to reforms is the best solution to confront this situation. The basic requirement, in our opinion, should be to restore confidence in institutions through a just and developed electoral law. As for the time being, what we have to unite for is the holding of municipal and mukhtar elections as scheduled in May 2016, especially since the municipalities are the last legitimate bodies currently elected by the people, in addition to the fact that municipalities are close to people, and any disruption in their work could directly affect people’s daily lives. Therefore, we ask today and as soon as possible from all political parties to take clear and binding positions regarding these elections and assume their responsibilities, especially since the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese people are in favor of holding these elections in due time. Nearly three months ago, LADE launched the #el baladiyeh_nos_elbalad campaign (Municipality counts for half the country) which highlights the importance of the role that municipalities play and press for holding municipal elections on time. It is crucial to join efforts before is too late and before democracy falls apart. Postponing the municipal elections will be catastrophic for the country and all its components. Now is the right time to act, and take a decisive stand and spare no effort to restore civil and political rights.
Al- Khalil Ambassador Khalil Al-Khalil, representing the Document and Constitution Commission, pointed out in his speech that Lebanon’s forever problems are:
• sectarianism its spillover and misuse.
• National identity and the great rift it caused.
• Disrespect to the constitution and the law.
• Commitment and acceptance of external interventions.
• Palestinian presence on Lebanese territories and the lack of resources.
And worst of all are sectarian, fanaticism, sectarianism as used in politics, profaning the concept of coexistence, attacking legitimacy and falsifying democracy through successive electoral laws to reproduce the same authority.
The problem is that Lebanon as an entity and land is not the same for all the Lebanese. The Lebanese people cannot non discriminatorily chose where to live and reside as their choice is conditional upon sectarian and doctrinal affiliations. Authority and institutions do not stem from the people; and national consensus should not mean gathering opposites and crowding opposite and hostile parties into one government which will result in bickering and quarrels. Poor power supply and water shortage amidst waste piles reflect the lack of capacity to govern and bad faith.
Al Harake. Former MP Salah al-Harake spoke on behalf of the Lebanese Civil Coalition. He said: The Lebanese law mechanisms, if implemented, would help solve problems and manage the affairs of the state and citizens. The problem does not lie with the law, but with a number of politicians who control power and have wide popular support, play on encouragement, intimidation, or sectarian affiliations. The law provides for oversight and control mechanisms to monitor the work of ministries, parliament, institutions, and the Judiciary. However, the implementation of the law is left to the whim of a selfish, corrupt and interest-driven political class that feeds on quotas, nepotism and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the country and citizens, encouraged by a sluggish rotation of power. Unfortunately, voting was driven by purely sectarian instincts to protect communitarian interests. While seemingly supporting reform, the Lebanese people only blame others for corruption; seeing the splinter in the eye of their brother but never noticing the beam of wood in their own eye.
1- The main problem: selective implementation of laws.
2- Reform priorities: educating citizens about their interests as citizens; exposing all sources of corruption; raising awareness about the rights and duties of citizenship, similarly to any state in the modern world.
3- Harmonizing opposition movements and groups including in particular waste management groups (sorting, landfilling and exporting waste).
Finally, civil state is the only solution.
Abi Rashed
Representing Terre Liban, Paul Abi Rashed defended environmental security, as pollution threatens individual and national health and wealth namely nature, water, weather and soil. Among the environmental problems: unorganized urban expansion, quarries, random dams, sea filling, indiscriminate fishing, and finally solid waste problem which exposes the impotence of the political class. These are mainly due to:
• Unrestrained media;
• Consumption-oriented society;
• Treatment monopoly;
• Marginalized municipalities;
• Lack of transparency or openness with municipalities about the real prices of collection and treatment;
• Centralized solutions,
• Burdening one region with waste management;
• The gap between the state, municipalities and the civil society;
• The lack of accountability by municipalities and civil society;
• The violation of environmental laws and air, water and sea pollution;
• Bribery to silence opponents;
• Corruption and contracts breach;
• Nepotism and quotas;
• Power abuse and conflict of interests;
• Syrian displacement crisis;
• The impact of monopoly and privatization on the economic and social situation.
Karim Retired Staff Brigadier General Antoine Karim, who spoke on behalf of the Civic Front, saw that reform starts with politics, stability and security. It requires:
1- Activating the judicial and security accountability authorities
2- Replacing the roll-over project that produced the corrupt class with a reform project that reproduces power through parliamentary elections
3- Media coverage
And it was suggested that on the short term, funded and purposeful rallies would be held to maintain pressure on officials (survival requirements, pressure on a certain official to expose and sue him…); on the medium term, preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections, no matter the electoral law on grounds of a reform program. This requires awareness raising about to the electoral duty; and on the long run, encouraging youth involvement in preparation of the future.

The Second Meeting - Economic Stakeholders

March 03, 2016
After the first meeting of the CIH national initiative / open dialogues with civil society organizations on January 27, 2016, a second meeting was held with economic figures namely the Chairperson of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon Muhammad Shukair, the Chairperson of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Tripoli and the North Tawfiq Dabousi Saida and the Chairperson of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in the South, Mohamed Saleh, represented by his deputy, Eng. Omar Dandashli, and the Chairperson of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Zahle and Bekaa Edmond Jreissati, represented by lawyer Tawfiq Rashed Al-Hindi, and the head of the Businessmen Association, Dr. Fouad Zakhar, the President of the Industrialists Association, Fadi Gemayel, and the President of the Association of Warranty Companies Max Zakkar, in addition to observers from civil society organizations that participated in the first meeting and members of the Board of Trustees and management of the Civic Influence Hub. The meeting, which was moderated by Dr. Mounir Yehia, started with the Lebanese national anthem, with a speech by Mr. Faisal Al-Khalil a member of the Board of Trustees and management of the “Civic Influence Hub”, in which he said: the “Civic Influence Hub” wishes to thank the steadfast economic actors, who are attached to Lebanon and determined to continue its productive leadership, despite its crises. We are convinced that your steadfastness and determination, and your attachment to the institutions that you represent regardless of any political alignments, are enough to maintain hope despite any unfavorable winds … Lebanon deserves that we fight for its interests.“ Read more
Choucair Choucair took the floor and said: “The priority today is to strengthen the structure of the State, and that will only happen by electing a president and restructuring constitutional institutions by forming a new government and holding parliamentary elections. The Lebanese people have the responsibility of choosing their representatives before parliament which is entrusted with enacting legislations, exercising oversight and accountability. The number and size of problems presuppose close cooperation between the authority and civil society within the framework of a comprehensive national workshop to develop an integrated vision for the advancement of the country at all levels. We also believe that the partnership between the public and private sectors is the basis for advancing the economy, alleviating the burdens on the state’s finances, redeveloping infrastructure and services, and strengthening competitiveness. Our only demand as a private sector is to achieve complete stability, and “the rest is upon us” because Lebanon is like a beautiful trademark that does not require much effort to market. Since 2011, economic bodies have been raising their voices loudly to save the country and its economy, calls were made, all the way to June 25, to bring together the various forces of the Civil society; nevertheless, presidential elections were not held and the situation continued to deteriorate. As a civil society, our only option is to adopt the democratic methods allowed by the Lebanese constitution and the enforced laws. Together, we shall exert pressure to have constitutional deadlines met, the first of which is the election of the president.” Zmokhol As for Zmokhol, he praised the initiative of the “Civic Influence Hub” and pointed out that the strategy requires verifying numbers and facts. Lebanon is going through the most difficult stages of its history at all political, security, cultural, economic and social levels; radical changes were introduced and need to be followed closely, otherwise we will lose the bet. Lebanon’s economy has been declining for the past four years. We stand in front of a life crisis. Unemployment in Lebanon is increasing and has reached 36%. Foreign investments have decreased enormously, as ROI in Lebanon has declined. We are facing four wars: the presidential vacuum, government disruption, parliament paralysis, call for a positive shock. Otherwise, we are heading towards an escalating crisis, and we must return to discussing the vision more than the persons. Gemayel Gemayel referred to the problems in Lebanon: legal, political, security, educational, social, public administration and Syrian displacement. He suggested: “An integrated rescue vision within an economic system centered around a new stimulus package for the economy, approving the administration and private sector plans, activating public reforms; partnership between the public and private sectors, and the launch of a clear vision for oil and gas investment.” Dabboussi Dabboussi pointed out: “That the prevailing socio-economic climate requires that we work with the authorities and stakeholders and cooperate fully with various civil society organizations to reach a practical translation of this vision that is consistent with the general context of development and reform on the basis of the new reading to define a comprehensive concept of balanced development in Lebanon. Paradoxically balanced development is often confounded with balanced expenditures with services and expenses distributed on a quota basis keeping in mind political-sectarian regional characteristics instead of directing it to become a means of economic and social empowerment for all Lebanese regions.”Dandashli Dandashli considered that “it was very clear that the current economic, security, social and environmental policies in Lebanon, and in light of regional and international developments, need to be reconsidered. Here comes the role of planning, because transition requires the participation and planning of all social forces. That is, the fateful political decision that is appropriate from an economic, security, social and environmental perspective should be based on experience and knowledge and must be taken boldly and responsibly. In order to take such decisions, an open discussion and dialogue must involve all stakeholders. Dialogue will therefore be national and result in the right position and decision. Dialogue should involve non-governmental organizations and regulatory bodies, along with private and public sector bodies. This civil action corresponds to a similar action that the government and its specialized agencies must take to modernize the administration and working methods in all oversight and reform agencies.” Zakkar Zakkar, highlighted the disrupted public institutions; insurance which was always one of the main economic pillars in Lebanon, reputed for its modern legislations is now crippled. Insurance companies operating in a 1.5-Billion-dollar sector are now daunted with unhealthy competition. Priority is for enacting a parliamentary and municipal elections law, reviving the insurance sector by providing incentives to merging or expanding companies, and implementing a new legislative framework to regulate the insurance sector part of the national economy, and launch a specialized mechanism for the judicial insurance body to objectively examine insurance related cases. Lobbying is required to achieved the intended reforms and cooperation is a must to ensure a more balanced tax system in a way that secures more justice, and stresses the importance of insurance coverage for all sectors, which spares the citizen and institutions any harm.”Al-Hindi Al-Hindi underpinned the constant meddling with constitutional deadlines and legislative instability, which negatively affects the performance of public institutions and administrations, feeds corruption and scandals that go unobserved though unmasked by officials and leaves the private sector facing problems without support or guidance from the competent ministries, the irresponsible and undisciplined freedom of most media outlets that nurture tension instead of calm.” He called for: – Reducing security tensions as it is affecting the economy; – Protecting the economy and the national currency from political bickering while keeping dialogue open; – Calling upon stakeholders to implement a code of honor inside the Cabinet to oil the wheel and facilitate the life of citizens i.e. to fill vacancies in public administrations and vote the budget to accelerate procedures and preserve Lebanon’s international friendships and develop economic relationships with friend countries where 95% of the Bekaa production is exported. Among the redress mechanisms: – Expediting the election of a president, – Reinforcing oversight and central inspection mechanisms to combat corruption, An open dialogue was held at the end to stress the importance of communication and building a shared dynamic of change. Dr. Mounir Yehia’s said: “We gather tonight, from all economic bodies and activities in the second episode of the Civic Influence Hub – Open Dialogues initiative. Together, we discussed the main problems of Lebanon. We put forward the mechanisms of joint action. We will work on re-crystallizing it carefully with the speakers, and whoever wants to participate is welcome. It’s the second session, and the effort shall continue. We shall meet, at the same place and at an increasing space of discussion, with unions, universities, economic bodies, student organizations, the media, and all sectors of the civil society. Every meeting will produce follow-up and coordination committees who shall hold a meeting to discuss consensual matters, so the civil society can prove its capacity to influence good governance, and build a comprehensive and productive national contract. Announcing the third meeting in the coming weeks.

Third Meeting – Trade Unions of Liberal Professions

April 19 2016
The “ Civic Influence Hub ” organized the third meeting of the national initiative / open dialogues series with the trade unions of liberal professions with the participation of the Beirut and Tripoli Bar Association, the order of engineers, physicians, dentists in Beirut and the North, the Printing Syndicate, the Order of Pharmacists, the Syndicate of Hospital Owners in Lebanon, and the Association of Tourism Syndicates, the Lebanese Syndicate of Advertising Agencies, the Syndicate of Publishers Union in Lebanon, the Syndicate of Physical Therapists, the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuff, Consumer Products & Drinks in Lebanon, the Syndicate of Pharmaceutical Importers, the Union of Independent Businesses and Private and Public Institutions, the Press Syndicate, and the Press Editors’ Syndicate. Representatives from civil society organizations and economic actors who participated in the first and second meetings also participated in the meeting as observers. The following three topics were discussed: 1 – What are Lebanon’s main problems? 2 – What are the priorities for change? 3 – What are the available means of action and lobbying to implement the change?Read more
Wakim After the national anthem, the meeting held at the Monroe hotel was declared open by Antoine Wakim, member of the CIH Board of Directors who gave a welcome speech. He referred to the first meeting held on January 27 with CSOs and the second meeting on March 3 with economic actors and said: “We are honored to meet unions of liberal professions who are pioneer in terms of knowledge, creativity, moral commitments and developmental energies. You are a true influencer in the decision-making process and the enablers of a comprehensive and productive national contract. This is the choice of the “CIH” and you have always been in your unions a catalyst of change for a better Lebanon, for the best way to anticipate the future is to create it.” The meeting was then declared open, moderated by Youssef Al-Zein, member of the CIH Board of Trustees.Hachem The first speech was given by Esq. Antonio Al-Hachem /President of the Beirut Bar Association, who said: “In my capacity as president of the BBA, I wish to underline that Lebanon’s political life can only be reformed with the reform of the judiciary and with a workshop to update the constitutional and legal legislations; we will spare no effort in reforming the judiciary; strengthening the independence of the judge and reforming the laws. The judiciary in Lebanon lacks independence and faces a real crisis of confidence which calls for breaking any suppressing restrictions. Judges need to express their opinion about the laws, the challenges, pressure and corruption”. He concluded: “Let us have a new era in which we quietly discuss the content of the national partnership and the Lebanese social contract, amend the constitution and laws, and build a solid political system based on social justice, security, stability and economic prosperity.” Chehab Eng. Khaled Chehab, President of the Order of Engineers in Beirut, said: “Our meeting today reflects the success of our cooperation. The professional civil society is thinking outside the narrow box. We stand in favor of every movement and activity that carries different dimensions in science and culture.” “Our ancestors built this country, and we owe it to them to fight for protection which requires great steps, namely: 1. Sense of National belonging and true citizenship in all aspects of life. 2. The need to consolidate Lebanon’s fractured structure, which begins with the election of a president. 3. Cooperation between the authority and civil society. 4. Activating the role of legislative and executive institutions and reviving constitutional institutions. 5. Activating the official oversight bodies to put an end to rampant corruption. 6. Keeping the army and the judiciary away from politics.” “We, at the Order of Engineers, seek to develop studies and solutions to all the dilemmas, and we will work to engineer the successive solutions.” El-Hajj Dr. Jean El-Hajj, representing Professor Antoine Boustany / Chairperson of the Beirut Order of Physicians, said: “Let us, from the outset, recognize that political or religious pluralism is not a problem per se, since the same team embodies different affiliations. We believe that diversity reflects freedom of opinion and thought and participation lies in how we express plurality”. Quarrels might indicate that we are troublesome, as we divided the land, the sky, the water, the air, and everything, including the media, sports, development, and most recently prostitution. He called on the Lebanese people represented today by noble civil movement to endure, just as the Roman leaders did during their war with Carthage. They would end their speeches with “Carthage must fall” to indicate their absolute determination and Carthage fell. Haroun Engineer Suleiman Haroun, head of the Syndicate of Hospital Owners in Lebanon, said in his speech that “Problems in Lebanon are existential. Does the State of Lebanon really exist and is it immune against all the factors causing its erosion and leading to its collapse?” The success of any modern liberal democracy necessitates three pillars: the State, the rule of law and an accountable government. Reform means a unified history book, a civic education curriculum, abolishing sectarianism and voting an elections law.Al Masry Eng. Morsi al-Masry representing Eng. Marius al-Baini, president of the Order of Engineers in Tripoli, pinpointed the difficult political, security, cultural, social and economic situation in Lebanon. It is crucial to work with all authorities and CSOs to develop a vision that is consistent with development and reform, and defines a comprehensive concept of balanced development which will become a means of economic empowerment and social progress throughout Lebanon. Habib The President of the Order of Physicians in Tripoli, Elie Habib, said, “Today, on the 41st anniversary of the civil war in Lebanon, we stand in front of an unfortunate reality, we regret the past as we stand on the brink of a new civil war; cold true but that could easily spill over especially with the warlords and communitarian leaders who continue to loot public funds and fuel communitarian hatred which jeopardizes public funds, the nation and the citizen.”Kheir Esq. Abd al-Salam Kheir, representing the President of the Bar Association in Tripoli, Esq. Fahd al-Muqaddam, considered that civilians shall be forever indebted. The problem that has forever existed is called Lebanon. It is impossible to build a State and we didn’t develop the logic of institutions since all the written texts cannot build a state. Therefore, we have to define the problem and the mechanisms for the solution, but the reality is that each of us presents the problem from his personal angle and according to his interests, explaining that change comes from intellectuals and thinkers. Dagher Serge Dagher, speaking on behalf of the Syndicate of Advertising Agencies, identified the main problems: sectarianism, a failed political system, the plummeting concept of the State and economic collapse. He saw in the solutions the need to acknowledge pluralism, expand administrative decentralization, and ensure Lebanon’s unbiasedness. In terms of solution, the living forces should have their say in public affairs, lobbying, media access, advertising, social communication, laws and legislation, and activating and liberalizing accountability bodies.Younes George Younes, representing the President of the Association of Tourism Syndicates, Mr. Pierre Al-Ashkar, said in his speech, “We aspire to create a pluralistic homeland with brotherhood, love, peace and understanding at its core. We aspire for a State that meets the needs of its citizens, in the homeland and abroad, a State that upholds the law, justice, and equality to create conviviality and regular institutions that meet the needs of the citizens.” “It is crucial to develop a road map that secures reform, involves the citizen in public life and calls for a new electoral law, popular peaceful uprising and the election of a president”.Abdul Haq Mr. Nabil Abdul Haq, speaking on behalf of the Press Editors’ Syndicate in Lebanon, considered that education and culture will provide solutions and can install a spirit of citizenship into the young generation, you can seamlessly integrate society and nationhood. Education and culture mean a harmonized book; the printing movement will therefore put our children on the right track, because the young people who read patriotic books must be loyal to the homeland. Zeenni Dr. Roni Al-Zeenni, representing the Chairperson of the Order of Pharmacists, Dr. George Sili, said that the initiative undoubtedly helps build a national action plan with reform priorities. Our tragic reality is nothing but an accumulation of the Lebanese war and the resulting conflicts, let alone the internal and external political differences and their direct or indirect effects resulting from the absence of legislation, planning and vision, slack management, and lack of border control. Kalima Dr. Khalil Kalima, representing the President of Dentists Syndicate in Tripoli, Dr. Adeeb Zakaria, said: post war sectarianism and nepotism destabilized the concepts of citizenship and loyalty to the mother country; communitarian loyalty and blind devotion to political leaders and those who fought political feudalism are today the godfathers of sectarian feudalism. To address the problems in Lebanon, power must be reconfigured through the election of a president, the adoption of an election law and the fight against corruption. Khairallah The President of the Dentists Syndicate in Beirut, Dr. Carlos Khairallah, considered that the main problem in Lebanon is sectarianism. He wondered how is it possible to build a just state with 17 laws and 17 sects. “The absence of a fair law and oversight bodies is due to the political affiliations of the Judiciary; secularism and a civil personal status law are the only solutions”. Yehia CSOs presentations then followed suit. They mainly agreed on the main titles and after the discussion the floor was given to Dr. Mounir Yehia, a member of the Board of Trustees and management of the Hub. According to Yahya, the representative dimension of the participants gives the national initiative – open dialogues an exceptional momentum, with more than 60,000 engineers, 14,800 doctors, 14,500 lawyers, 9,000 pharmacists, 157 private hospitals with approximately 22,000 workers, 43 advertising agencies, 700 publishing houses, 2,000 physiotherapists, newspaper editors, and more than 1,000 journalists, in addition to the participation of 100 CSOs in the first round. The second session included the entire economic bodies with the Industrialists’ Association and the Businessmen’s Gathering, which is like a snowball that grows within three axes: the objectives of change, its priorities and mechanisms, under the umbrella of the constitution, the state and coexistence. The series will continue with students and the media, and the question remains, what’s next? Is there room for national salvation? The road map is clear: a representative meeting will be held for all participants, to present the common titles, based on all the interventions and discussions, the levels of the overarching and disputed topics, and then work will begin to hold a permanent, dynamic and effective national conference with which executive steps will be translated into unprecedented popular pressure to produce sound governance of the regime and its constitutional institutions.

Fourth Meeting - Municipalities

November 24, 2016
More than 100 heads and members of municipal unions and municipal councils participated in the fourth dialogue organized by the “Civic Influence Hub” as part of its initiative that aims to paint an integrated picture of the aspirations of the Lebanese civil society at all levels. In their interventions, the speakers answered three questions: What are the problems in Lebanon from a municipal angle? what are the reform solutions and priorities? and finally what are the common mechanisms of action that should be adopted to this end. The speakers explained the most prominent problems that impede the work of municipalities, such as corruption, bureaucracy, administrative routine, and poor planning and organization. They stressed the need to regularly pay municipal dues so that they can implement their programs, and unify efforts between municipalities with common goals and geographical contiguity. Suggestions included establishing a ministry for decentralization and municipalities; establishing a bank called the Local or Municipal Development Bank that provides soft loans to municipalities; establishing a national institute to train elected officials, etc.Read more
Gebrayel Engineer Elie Gebrayel, member of the “Civic Influence Hub” Board of Directors, gave an introductory speech emphasizing the importance of the meeting as it is coupled with the state and institutions return to life, and with a new presidential era that promises the momentum of a united national will to get out of the downfall, and launch a march for stability, prosperity and development”. He added, “Because municipal work is an essential pillar in the development process, and because administrative decentralization is one of the main titles of this promising era, we hope that our voice will be heard more than ever before.” Gebrayel explained that “the importance of this meeting is that it falls within the framework of a broader initiative, aimed at drawing an integrated picture of the aspirations of the Lebanese civil society at all levels.” He explained that the meeting is the fourth episode of a series of dialogue meetings held by the “Civic Influence Hub” within its national initiative, the first of which included 40 civil society groups and bodies, while the second was devoted to economic actors, and the third brought together the free trade unions. He said, “This initiative aims to launch a dynamic communication between all sectors of the civil society, its living forces, and its scientific, intellectual, union and youth competencies, which constitute a basis for forming a pressure group that actively contributes to shaping Lebanon’s future, and in crystallizing operational, economic and social policies.” The CIH seeks, through this initiative, to achieve a scientific and practical roadmap that identifies problems, priorities and joint action mechanisms for change, while building a comprehensive and productive national contract under sound governance and sustainable socio-economic policies. He pointed out that meetings with presidents of municipalities and unions of municipalities and municipal boards is an extra step towards drafting a clean plan of action to redress the serious structural imbalances. These meetings are held by persons with a practical experience who work closely with municipalities. He concluded by saying: “All we hope is that the concerned parties will build on the outcomes of this meeting, to further develop municipal work.” Odeimi The representative of the United Cities and Local Governments Organization in Lebanon and Director of the Technical Office of Lebanese Municipalities Bashir Odeimi said that “municipalities by reinforcing capabilities and investing in human resources are the main pillar of local, social, economic and cultural development and would transcend therefore the traditional role.” He stressed that “decentralization is not a luxury or a suggestion, but rather a need and a must stemming from the United Nations principles and directives whereby Countries should embrace decentralization, each according to its conditions and needs, and it is also one of the principles of the United Cities and Local Governments Organization.” He added: “The relationship between local municipal development and decentralization is very close. As local municipal development is conditional upon the municipality enjoying a minimum freedom of decision and movement, and this is done through decentralized legislations that entrust the municipality with the responsibility to carry out local development, apart from its current administrative and routine work. Decentralization empowers municipalities to become the actual lever for local development.” “In Lebanon, Municipalities are the first and only level of decentralization, and the current municipal law in Lebanon is very satisfactory, and is an advanced expression of decentralization as it gives municipalities freedom to maneuver.” He noted that “the restrictions imposed; the circulars governing municipal work and the failure to meet deadlines in distributing financial revenues to name a few hamper municipal work. Municipalities face several obstacles: “weak municipal institutions, lack of readiness to embrace administrative decentralization; the absence of a resource center to provide municipalities with information and statistics; the absence of a training center for the national team, municipal employee or even the municipal police; and the lack or weakness of the human resources; the complexities of employment, the lack of incentives and salaries, and the insufficient financial resources in general.” He also referred to “the absence of a State-level municipal vision; the absence of a special national program for municipalities; the absence of the State in some areas in light of the strong centralization and the weak capabilities of the deconcentrated centers; limited relationship with the municipalities to exercise oversight; municipalities and unions incapacity to develop these areas through the development and activation of decentralization; failure to distribute financial revenues; and the Revenue and Fees Law conflict with the economic reality.” He spoke about “basic defects in the Municipalities Law, including that the resident does not vote, mayors not being elected by citizens, and the vote of confidence in the President after 3 years.” Regarding the reform priorities to address these problems, he stressed the need to “develop an integrated approach to municipal affairs and the holding of a relevant workshop.” He pointed out that “this is one of the duties of the central state, which has its grip on the financial, oversight and administrative aspects of municipal work. It is also the duty of municipalities to submit proposals in this regard.”Itani The dialogue session, which was moderated by Gebrayel and a member of the Hub’s Board of Trustees and its management, Dr. Mounir Yahya, began with a speech by the Mayor of Beirut, Eng. Jamal Itani, who considered that Lebanon’s past civil movement is “an experience worth learning from.” He continued: “A major problem in Lebanon is the absence of communication with citizens, and this is what we have decided to work on overcoming. We have chosen for this more than one way, including permanent meetings with associations, participating in their activities, daily communication with people by visiting the capital’s neighborhoods and meeting with citizens, or through the open-door policy, where citizens are welcome, once a week, or through interaction with all forms of social and demand work, and when the problem of communication begins, the first step towards addressing the remaining serious problems begins.” He added: “In view of all the crises of waste, roads, transportation, water, electricity, pollution, health, environment to name a few, we, at the Beirut municipality have decided to work in parallel, meet our responsibilities and cooperate with the relevant ministries and state administrations, on the short, medium and long-terms, in order for the outputs to be logical, scientific and applicable regardless of any populism, overstatements, and scoring.” The Beirut Municipal Council’s is open to “all those interested and concerned with any of these crises that plague Beirut its residents,” and is willing “to meet, and communicate with every party that believes that it has a proposal, plan or idea for any solution, and to discuss and support it whenever success can be met.” The municipality is ready to “respond to the constructive initiatives put forward by the civil society”. He said, “We have already begun to address a number of problems, as we had a clear role in preventing waste piling in the streets of Beirut, after the Sukleen predicament, and we are launching today a clear and transparent tender for sweeping and collecting waste according to international standards that encourage citizens to sort waste from the source, to be followed by another plan for treatment, which we will announce as soon as the health and environmental conditions are met. We have taken the lead in rehabilitating the roads, the infrastructure, the public spaces and lighting and we will soon hold a press conference explaining the steps, past and future, and that will be implemented in all fields. “The problems that everyone knows require concerted efforts to transform theories into action, by diagnosing each problem separately and determining the priorities of work and the mechanisms of action.” He concluded: “Today we are beginning with a first step by inviting all those who have a suggestion to share it with the Municipal Council, our hearts and minds will be open to reach the desired solutions.” Al-Saudi The head of the Saida – Al-Zahrani Union of Municipalities, the mayor of Saida, Eng. Muhammad Al-Saudi, noted that “the most important problems in Lebanon are electricity, and waste.” He recalled that “Saida had a major problem of waste accumulating over 30 years in a 58-meter-high mountain.” He pointed out that “the city was able to solve the problem, by stopping the dumping at the landfill, and by establishing a waste treatment plant.” He explained the nature of the lab’s work and pointed out that the Saida municipality seeks to address the problem of electricity, similarly to other major municipalities in Lebanon.” Gebara The Mayor of El Jdeide- Baouchrieh – Al Sad Municipality, Antoine Gebara, mentioned that “Article 1 of the Municipalities Law states that the municipality shall have financial and administrative autonomy.” He said: “We started looking for administrative and financial autonomy in vain.” The texts and circulars annexed to the Municipalities Law have stripped the mayor from any power, so he eventually became a clerk tracking and chasing signatures between departments rather than being a real decision maker.” He added, “With the exception of Tripoli and Beirut, where there are technical and engineering offices, the rest of the municipalities are subject to the Technical Office of Civil Planning or the Union of Municipalities, this means that any project under study requires around two months.” He stressed the need for “the municipalities to implement their law.” He added, “The state should ease some of the harsh and burdening administrative procedures.” He added: “Municipalities are independent and they are the nucleus of decentralization; we are not postmen. A low ranking public servant can throw away 5 or 6 months of work with the stroke of a pen.” He concluded by saying, “We pray that obstacles are removed to that municipalities become truly effective authorities and play a fundamental role in the country’s renaissance.” Abu Karoum Engineer Yehia Abu Karoum, head of the Chouf Soujani Federation of Municipalities, emphasized the role of municipalities that directly reflect people’s concerns and needs and may be fortunate in seizing the opportunities of change and participation.” Abu Karoum asked, “Why are municipalities gaining momentum throughout the world and taking the lead in terms of state institutions development and services, while they keep regressing in our local circles in front of simple dilemmas and entitlements?”Abu Karoum made some suggestions for developing municipal work, most notably: “empowering municipalities by securing resources and paying dues, continuous training of cadres and municipal bodies, and establishing unions that would frame municipalities as sources of power which enhances their position, facilitates strategic planning and secures financing for development projects.”He called for “the modernization of laws and the issuance of appropriate legislations to develop municipal work, the most prominent of which is the amendment of the electoral law to reduce the voting age, ensure women’s participation and revisit the educational attainment of mayors (university or secondary).” He called for “supported and directed planning by the ministry to include all municipalities, each according to his needs, to achieve balanced development. This includes interweaving the strategic plans emanating from the empowered municipalities and unions to reach a comprehensive development plan for all of Lebanon’s municipalities.” In this context, he suggested “establishing a planning directorate in every ministry.” He pointed out that “marginalizing municipalities, wasting their rights, withholding their resources and entitlements for reasons and criteria that may be illogical, in addition to a serious imbalance in the distribution of municipal quotas, especially those that have undergone development, demographic change and an exceptional increase in the population (due to internal displacement), may not be reflected in public records where ballot lists are the only reference criteria. “The noticeable population increase in the tax schedules is a key reference as it imposes heavy burdens on municipalities in terms of services and infrastructure to name a few and that exceed the value of the incoming tax resources”. “Dues should be distributed in a fair manner, with 50% based on ballot lists to guarantee the rights of municipalities whose residents have been displaced, and 50% based on the tax schedules to enable municipalities to bear the burdens of this increase.” Harfoush The president of the Jezzine Federation of Municipalities, Khalil Harfoush, pointed to “the establishment of a committee of 8 mayors who expressed their ideas in a clear plan with the support of a consulting firm that developed an analytical study for each sector to shed the light on the problems facing the region such as geology, soil, population distribution, forests, springs and water.” He added: “The study comprised 9 sectors: infrastructure, culture, health, social development, tourism, agriculture, urban planning, the environment and light industries. It built on existing studies, the most important of which is the general master plan for the Lebanese territories. We complied all the available studies and prepared our study accordingly to preserve the land and build the future”. He said: “Our vision is based on developing the various life sectors in Jezzine, while preserving the natural and architectural heritage, taking into account high-quality environmental conditions and standards, regulating urban expansion, protecting green spaces, and securing the conditions of economic growth that allow the launching of projects that attract visitors and investors and contribute to creating job opportunities for villagers, within a systematic institutional framework based on passion and credibility, and constituting the first reference that unites the development process within an integrated and sustainable plan. He continued, “We have set 4 strategic directions: developing tourism activities; investing in the environmentally rich Jezzine area, which can attract eco-tourists in particular; strengthening the social fabric and social development to keep pace of what is happening; and supporting light industries to avoid any harm to our nature and agriculture which has suffered a lot during the war; and giving farmers advice about productive crops to make sure they stay in their land.” He said, “In this context, we have identified 70 projects and developed terms of reference for ten projects and priorities. We have involved civil society through committees. And we set a charter so that the citizen can see that he is involved with us. We highlighted the need for paying fees, to be able to survive, and it is a kind of moral commitment for the citizens to be involved in sustainable development.” Harfoush presented a number of projects, such as the rehabilitation of some tourist attractions, some of which included partnership with the private sector, such as the “Forest House” project in Bkassin, which aims to attract eco and heritage lover tourists. On the agricultural level, Harfoush discussed the directives given to farmers not to plant seedlings that cannot be put on the market. He shared the cooperatives experience such as the “Cooperative Society for Olive Growers in Jezzine” which works with private companies. The cooperative purchases the crops from farmers, including olives and pine nuts, and handles the processing and marketing aspects. In terms of tourism, a tourist map of the area showcasing the most important landmarks has been drawn, paths were built for nature lovers, and communication is incessant with citizens through social media. In addition, to monitor the works that are being implemented, 70 growth indicators have been developed for the nine sectors, showing the growth of each of them and the overall growth of all of them. Lakkis The mayor of Baalbek, Brigadier General Hussein Lakkis, raised a number of legal problems related to municipal work, saying that “Legislative Decree No. 118 stipulates that the municipality is subject to the monitoring and auditing of the central authority, and at the same time it is a personal and moral entity that enjoys financial and administrative autonomy, so how can it exercise this autonomy.” He noted that “the powers of the members within the committees give them the right to obstruct the work of the mayor by refraining from signing administrative disbursement orders. This subjects the head of the executive authority to the lower ranks (the members) and the higher ranks (the governor – the civil organization – the Audit Bureau…).” He recalled that “the Minister of Interior and Municipalities prevented municipalities in governorate and district centers from giving construction permits, while entrusting municipalities elsewhere with such prerogatives. Hence the irregularities and bribery that caus negative vibes among citizens.” He touched upon the “problem of administrative red tape,” and explained that “any development project requires the approval of the governor, Qaemaqam, urban planning, the Ministry of Interior and the Audit Bureau, which requires a long period to be completed and causes price fluctuation, and thus a re-study.” He added, “During the tender process, low but unreliable offers may be received, and this necessitates re-tendering and consequently further delays in implementation.” He considered that one of the problems is “not involving the municipalities in the study or the ToRs for projects that are implemented by the central authorities within the municipal scope.” He mentioned municipal fees, saying that “the state, public departments and institutions collect fees for municipalities. Municipalities do not know their actual value, and when they earn them it is usually after a while.” He pointed out that “there are doubts about the fees charged by EDL and the landlines.” He highlighted that “the abolition of the municipal clearance of administrative transactions has negatively affected the collection of direct municipal fees.” He stressed that “all these matters prevent the municipality from accurately setting its annual budget and its annual and strategic plans.” He pointed out that there is a problem related to the internal administration and the staff, explaining that “the mayor, in order to carry out his role, needs a competent team, and this is not available in most municipalities due to the employment mechanism that does not take into account the standards of competence and the need for staff.” He pointed out that “there are several extra employees who impose financial burdens on the municipality, and for humanitarian and moral reasons, it is difficult to lay them off.” “We lack the necessary security authority to enforce municipal decisions and the mayor and the municipal council are reluctant in many cases to take decisions, because they do not have the authority required to impose implementation, and this is due to the weakness of the municipal police’s capabilities and powers. The concerned security services have been reluctant to provide support to them.” Lakkis also said that “most municipalities do not have a strategic development plan, and this negatively affects the development process. Likewise, this leads to the reluctance of the central authorities, donors and friendly agencies to provide them with material assistance. Most municipalities lack the finances needed to cover services awarded and salaries, and therefore do not have the capacity to implement any quality development projects.” Lakkis stressed the need to “provide material and moral support to local authorities to enable them to perform their role to the fullest, earn the citizen’s trust and nurture the sense of national belonging.” Lakkis suggested a set of solutions: – Amending the Municipalities Law in terms of expanding the powers of the mayor, ending any connection to central authorities and eliminating administrative red tape, while maintaining oversight and accountability. – Allowing municipalities in district centers and governorates to issue building permits within reasonable legal conditions – Finding a legal formula to involve the municipalities in study projects implemented by the central authorities within their scope and in developing ToRs – Informing municipalities of their share in the public budget to ensure proper planning – Representing municipalities in any entity where municipal funds are concerned (the Independent Municipal Fund, the ministries and establishments of water, telephone and electricity) – Compelling the relevant departments to transfer municipal dues every 3 months.”To improve the municipality’s direct funding, Lakkis suggested “re-imposing municipal clearance to all transactions, and facilitating the collection of municipal taxes, by involving of bank branches in the collection process, and looking for new resources for municipalities.” Lakkis highlighted the importance of “consolidating the relationship between the citizen and the municipality,” recalling that “the citizen is a partner in the municipal work.” Lakkis called for “strengthening the role of the municipal police, expanding its powers, and securing its immediate support by the relevant state agencies,” and “adopting scientific employment standards”, stressing the importance of “strategic development planning.” Hammoud The Vice-President of the Tire Union of Municipalities, Hassan Hammoud, recalled that the first municipal elections after the war were held in 1998, and considered that “the 18-year post-war experience can be studied and assessed.” He enumerated the most important problems facing municipalities, including “corruption in public administrations” and the communitarian protection of “public servants.” He noted that “bureaucracy prevents any administrative development and stands as an obstacle for towns and local councils to implement development plans in their areas.” He stressed “the weight of the central administrative and financial custody, which limits the municipal initiative.” He pointed to other problems, including “traditional concepts of municipal work and family divisions,” “the lack of transparency and accountability,” and weak planning and organization. He recalled “the lack of regular distribution of municipal revenues and the municipality’s misinformation about its share, as well as the misdistribution based on the number of registered residents.” Hammoud listed the most prominent solutions, including “exerting pressure on the Executive to tighten administrative oversight and accountability to purify the administrations of all the corrupt, and to introduce the share of municipalities in the general budget so that municipality is able to know its share and receive its dues every three months, to represent municipalities in any party concerned with the municipal funds and to find a way to compel state departments to pay their dues.” He also called for “reinvigorating clearance,” and finding “a means to compel the citizen to pay what he owes, activating the relationship between the citizen and the municipality, adopting mechanization and modern communication, and activating youth participation.” He also pointed to the “importance of women’s active participation in municipal work, and the representation of the most vulnerable in municipalities, such as people with special needs.” He stressed the necessity of “passing the law on administrative decentralization, as well as holding conferences for municipalities and the union of municipalities that lay down strategic plans to develop the work of municipalities and develop laws.” Tayoun The Deputy Mayor of Zgharta-Ehden, Engineer Ghassan Tayoun took the floor and spoke about the legal framework for the main problems, specifically about “obstacles and administrative slowness that creates great complications that neutralize the powers granted by the current municipal law, which allows a wide margin of movement.”Then he addressed the structural problems, referring first to “the internal executive structure, specifically issues such as vacancies and/or inadequacy to the existing municipal situation, such as vacancies in the main tasks, and an unproductive surplus in others.” He touched upon the “inadequate accounting system that does not allow analysis, which results in an impractical budget.” Tayoun complained about the two problems of “limited financial capabilities and non-diversified sources” on the one hand, and “the failure to understanding municipal work and the narrow approach by some members of elected bodies” on the other. Tayoun insisted on strategic development at the level of municipalities, federations or districts. Instead of an emergency response, a proactive solution should prevail to reconcile between daily work and sustainable development plans. Municipal unions are not a club of presidents as some might be pleased to think but an engine for sustainable strategic development”. Reform priorities should focus on: – The rehabilitation of the elected council, – The establishment of a national institute to train the elected council members; – Staff structuring and staff training such as motivation, follow-up, and accountability; – Amending laws to ensure a capable and stimulated decentralization in line with the future development vision; – Allocating a ministry for decentralized administration and municipalities; and the reconfiguration of municipal councils as a transitional stage.” Proportionality should be applicable in municipal elections to produce a majority and an opposition that may lead to an increase in the number of electors, the expansion of the municipal scope, and a representation that takes into account regional peculiarities. This will produce an opposition that participates in voting and decision-making, and a majority that elects the president and the executive council, and leads a participatory governance approach, and the council’s deliberations may become open to citizens while keeping secret ballots.” To conclude, Tayoun discussed the joint mechanisms of action, proposing a “participatory national Hub for solutions and reform projects, and an open communication and dialogue with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and parliamentary committees, to develop a modern and appropriate decentralized municipal bill.” Obeid Aley Municipal Council member Issam Obeid noted that municipalities are “the closest to the local community, the people and their needs and express their aspirations and ambitions.” However, “municipal work is flawed by a tendency to limiting its services and ambitions within one municipal area (…), which made the municipalities semi-independent entities that seek to succeed within their scope in bridging with other neighboring municipalities that share common aspirations.” “Therefore, the size of projects implemented within a single municipality reduced and the cost increased, which prevented small and even medium sized municipalities from implementing many urgent development projects.” He stressed “the need for municipalities to harmonize efforts and goals and activate cooperation and joint work to implement community development projects.” The Aley Municipalities Caucus was able to “engage in participatory work and create common, complementary, harmonized goals,” and “involve the civil society in all activities and in drawing up and implementing plans.”He called for “deconcentration because decentralization is not possible at present.” He considered that “a sustainable and balanced result lies at the heart of the state’s tasks and duties. Municipalities should not be burdened with exhausting tasks. Rather, they must complete local development plans within the state’s strategic plans to achieve the required balanced development.” He stressed “the need for the state to pay the municipal dues in order to be able to implement their programs,” noting that “the financial obstacle is one of the main obstacles, as it is impossible for them to set an expenditure budget for the proposed projects. It is necessary to reconsider the financial laws in order to accommodate the quantum leap made by municipalities and increase their needs and requirements, especially since there are pending dues for municipalities.” He suggested “the establishment of a Local or Municipal Development Bank, funded transfers from the Central Bank, the independent municipal fund and donations from donor institutions, whether governmental or private. This bank is subject to the applicable laws approved by the Central Bank.” He explained that “the mission of this bank is to secure soft loans exclusively for municipalities.” Khalifa The head of the Engineering Authority at the Byblos Union of Municipalities, Engineer Michel Khalifa, initially indicated that the Byblos Union of Municipalities “includes 13 municipalities and has been carrying out several activities for the benefit of municipalities since 1983, most notably the rehabilitation of infrastructure, assistance in joint projects for its members, technical support through its engineering apparatus and the management of household waste within the entire district by providing bins and collection mechanisms for member municipalities and managing and operating the 100,000 square meters Habalin Center. Khalifa touched upon the future plan of the union, which includes the establishment of an automated waste sorting plant with the production of RDF, with a capacity of 225 tons/day, covering an area of 4,000 square meters, at an estimated cost of 2 million euros. Also, work is being done to establish a composting plant for organic waste through closed tunnels technology in order to extract and treat odors, at an estimated cost of 1 million euros.Khalifa discussed the establishment of a sanitary landfill for the waste generated by the two treatment plants. In the same context, the current landfill will be treated according to European standards and waste will be sorted (plastic, minerals etc.), which in turn can be converted into RDF, while minerals are sorted and sold, and its cost is estimated at 5 million euros.

Fifth Meeting - University Students

February 8, 2017
Yesterday, Wednesday February 8,2017, more than 130 students from 23 universities participated in the fifth dialogue meeting organized by the “Civic Influence Hub ” as part of its national initiative that aims to paint an integrated picture of the aspirations of Lebanese civil society at all levels.In their speeches, the speakers answered three questions: What are the problems in Lebanon from a students’ perspective; what are the reform solutions and priorities; and finally what are the common mechanisms of action that should be adopted. The speakers from 14 universities raised the most prominent problems in Lebanon, and suggested solutions. In their interventions, they addressed the regime, political sectarianism, terrorism, corruption, the environment, educational policy, the electoral system, youth migration, women’s participation in public affairs, to name a few.Read more
Gebrayel and Houayek The “Civic Influence Hub ” Board Members, engineers Elie Gebrayel and Elias Houayek, moderated the meeting, and expressed their pride to see the Hub “providing the opportunity for more than 130 students from all over Lebanon, representing thousands of their colleagues, to discuss their concerns and problems.” They explained that this meeting “is the fifth session of a series of dialogue meetings held by the Civic Influence Hub within its national initiative, the first of which included 40 civil society groups and bodies, the second devoted to economic activities, the third with free trade unions, and the fourth with municipalities.” They pointed out that the meeting, “is based on three questions: What are the problems in Lebanon, what are the reform solutions and priorities, and finally what are the mechanisms of action that should be adopted?” They noted that the interlocutors “constitute a microcosm of the entire Lebanese society, and of the aspirations of the rising generations in particular.” Howayek highlighted that the national initiative launched by the Hub last year “aims, through these dialogue meetings, to activate the efforts of all civil society components, to push for a homeland that meets the aspirations of its people and is based on a new social contract.” He added, “Through its meetings, the Hub wanted to start communication between all sectors of the civil society and its live forces, leading to the formation of a broad pressure group that would contribute to charting a bright future for Lebanon, based on a roadmap that specifies the problematics, priorities and joint mechanisms of change”. He stressed that the Civic Influence Hub seeks “to make these meetings the broadest national moral, professional and scientific reference that will be the basis for a comprehensive national contract.” Younes Dr. Nizar Younes, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Civic Influence Hub took the floor and started his speech quoting his first conference before the Union of University Students in Lebanon on December 29, 1961, when he was head of the first executive office of the National Union of University Students in Lebanon. He recalled that his generation was “seeking and thirsting for the establishment of an accomplished modern state, in a safe homeland, dedicated to freedom and coexistence.” He asked: “Would these dreams have come true if we were more vigilant, experienced and immune, and if they were less fierce, cunning and selfish?” Younes recalled the struggles of the student movement in that era, its “cross-party, cross-sect and loyalties” demand movement, and its vision of achieving “peaceful democratic change,” based on President Fouad Shehab’s reformist project, pointing out that the coup attempt carried out by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party led to a legitimate abortion and final dissolution of the union in 1964. He made a critical review of that stage, saying: “We might have been able to remedy the repercussions of the event if we (…) had enough experience and self-confidence to follow the path we had drawn.” Addressing the students, he said: “The years have passed and our generation is still lost like it lost its path and the star did not guide it to your universities. Our generation went through its experience and did not succeed, and it is still selfish and unable to accept what was once the slogan of its struggle: that there is no opportunity for peaceful democratic change without the rational and purposeful participation of student and youth forces affiliated with university organizations. He concluded: “We have nothing left to give except what we have gained from our experiences, so best of luck to you, young people to walk down the road while we watch and accompany you with our experience.” “Lebanese University” Then speakers from universities followed, starting with the president of the Student Council at the Faculty of Law – the French Branch at the Lebanese University, Muhammad Shamas. Shamas complained that the certificate obtained by any Lebanese student is often just a “paper hanging on the wall,” so emigration is a gateway to securing livelihood, while the Lebanese state “does not provide job opportunities for its children.” He noted that recruitment is based on “nepotism, wasta, and sectarian subordination.” Shamas discussed the situation of the Lebanese University and its facilities, “which are dilapidated and unusable, lacking the minimum requirements to secure a good study environment.” He criticized the absence of student elections at the Lebanese University since 2005. He stressed that the Lebanese students want “a society that preserves their rights and duties, based on the concept of patriotism and citizenship, and away from sectarianism.” He added, “In order to achieve this, we must abolish political sectarianism,” because its abolition is “the first step towards a civil state.” He highlighted that students are the door to the abolition of sectarian politics,” and that its abolition requires eradicating it “from the roots, from ourselves, from our thoughts and our lives.” “Antonine University” Julian Bsaibes from the Faculty of Media and Communication at the Antonine University took the floor. He discussed “terrorism and human rights”, noting that terrorism is “a behavior that deviates from Lebanese customs.” Eight thousand Lebanese joined the conflicts in Syria and Iraq in 2015, the figure is set to increase “as long as the most basic rights of citizens in Lebanon are not secured.” He stressed that the fight against terrorism “is not limited to the military and information aspect, but must also be on the social level, because the individuals who join the organizations are victims of ignorance, poverty, and most importantly lack any sense of belonging.” He considered that “the phenomenon of terrorism did not arise overnight, but rather is the result of indifference or negligence on the part of the state, which failed to secure the basic rights of its citizens”. The solution lies in providing free and decent public education, establishing a decent hospital policy, and seeking to secure job opportunities in all Lebanese regions, so that the Lebanese youth has one of two options: to emigrate or to go to the unknown.” He added: “In light of the worsening situation, the role of the people is still important in holding the state accountable. If we young people remain silent and indifferent to our rights and duties, we will not be able to change this country.” “American University of Beirut (AUB)” Mira Fakhruddin spoke on behalf of the American University of Beirut students, to reflect on a survey of university students, confirming the need for a “strategic plan based on a long term national vision, to implement gradual, parallel reforms on the level of governance institutions, laws, or the people through the proper education that makes them aware of their rights and duties and respect the regulations.” She said that “restoring trust between the people and the authority is the highest priority to implement reforms,” and it requires a set of factors, the most important of which is “to have a new blood and the abolition of the hereditary system.” She stressed the necessity of “establishing an electoral system that guarantees the fair representation of the people,” noting that “most of the current representatives are not qualified, and work for their interest or the interest of their community and not the interest of the Lebanese.” She enumerated the advantages of the proportional election law at the level of one district, calling for “the people’s involvement in the development of the electoral law through a referendum.” She said that ” students mainly want sectarianism to be abolished from the election criteria or conditions, however this is conditional on a radical change in politics among the general public.” And she stressed the need to put “the right person in the right place on the basis of merit and not sectarian affiliation.” She considered that the fight against corruption in the state is the first required reform, stressing the importance of transparency, “essentially in the fight against corruption.” She highlighted the necessity of improving infrastructure as it is a gateway to solving basic problems. “American University of Science and Technology (AUST)” Mireille Maddah from the American University of Science and Technology touched upon the obstacles to women’s quota in the Lebanese parliamentary, municipal or mukhtar elections. She emphasized how women can gain access to decision-making “without quota assistance in the first place”. And she considered that “once the two listing mechanisms are developed and worthy electoral programs are approved, there will be no need for a pre-determined quota.” She highlighted the importance of reforms “sooner rather than later” to establish a standard of gender equality for the next generation. “Balamand University”The representative of the political sciences and public relations students at the Balamand University, Hala Mezher, addressed the issue of rape as an example of unfair laws for women, considering that “there is a long way to go” regarding the required legislation. And she considered that “the state should limit its protection to rapists who invoke marital rights that completely ignore the woman’s right to refuse or consent.” However, she highlighted that “this problem is much deeper than amending or repealing a law,” and is related to the social environment that “places the blame partially or completely on the victim.” And she considered that “the solution lies in education and in spreading awareness among children and their families about the social and humanitarian responsibility that each person bears as a result of his actions, as well as by spreading sexual education and culture in schools and universities and building a methodology developed on an academic and scientific basis.” She stressed that, “It is unacceptable that we are today in Lebanon in 2017, and most of our schools still do not seriously address the issue of sexual education.”“Arab University” Muhammad Ali Al-Maghabat from the Center for Human Rights at the Beirut Arab University, spoke about some of the flaws in the Lebanese constitution, “which negatively affect political life and disrupt the proper functioning of constitutional institutions,” suggesting some solutions. He first addressed the issue of the abolition of political sectarianism, which remained unimplemented because it was not linked to a time period, leaving its implementation to the whim of the ruling political class. Al-Maghabt referred to the fact that the Constitutional Council was stripped from its power to interpret the constitution which allows for “every deputy, minister, or political party to interpret the constitution based on its narrow interests.” He believed that there is a problem with the appeal before the Constitutional Council after closing the door on the possibility of “any entitled Lebanese citizen to file an appeal.” He enumerated other individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution, and stressed that today there is a golden opportunity to effectively implement these texts with the creation of a State Ministry for Human Rights that can form committees to ensure the implementation of these texts.“Higher Institute of Business (ESA)” Rasha Haddad from the “Higher Institute of Business” (ESA) gave an intervention titled “Waste Disaster: Towards Sustainable Development”, and considered that the solution to waste lies in “sorting from the source, transferring waste from the source to treatment centers according to its type, re-sorting, and recycling some waste, converting organic waste into compost, and the rest into non-polluting energy.” But she stressed the link between waste and “sustainable development” from three basic angles: the economy, society and the environment.” She highlighted in this context that solving the waste issue within the framework of sustainable development creates job opportunities and limits youth and brain drain, and contributes to activating tourism by offering a civilized image of the country, maintaining land prices, providing permanent solutions for electricity, activating agriculture, and providing resources for non-polluting energy and so on… “Haigazian” The representative of Haigazian University’s Political Science Students’ Association, Najib Safieddin, focused on university education and the judiciary. He criticized “the lack of financial support from the state to reduce university tuition fees,” and “the lack of post-graduation job opportunities.” He also saw that one of the obstacles to university education is “the lack of public transportation for students who study in Beirut and live outside Beirut.” Safieddin touched upon some of the basic problems in the Lebanese judicial system. He saw that the existence of religious courts contradicts the constitution, which stipulates that all Lebanese are equal before the law. He underscored that “the independence of the military court judges is not guaranteed because they are appointed and subject to the authority of the military hierarchy.” “Université Saint Esprit – Kaslik (USEK)” Ingrid Ghanem, a member of the student body at the USEK Faculty of Law, presented a project on youth migration from Lebanon. She explained the causes, including a better education, a larger market, decent salaries and a better social life. She talked about the negative impact or the crisis namely Lebanon’s loss of manpower and brilliant brains, and the disintegration of the family etc. She revealed the results of a statistical study showing that 88.1% refused to leave Lebanon if their needs were secured, compared to 11.9% who insisted on emigrating. “Lebanese American University (LAU)” The Lebanese American University students were represented by Majd Khayami from the Faculty of Sciences and Arts and a representative of the student council at the university. In his intervention on “Inequality, the root of all evil” referring to gender inequality in terms of the rights of women and homosexuals, he noted that poor security forces people to resort to parties and groups, to gain security, but in return leads them to extremism. He noted the weakness of educational guidance in terms of the lack of adequate guidance for graduates entering university, and this is reflected in long term unemployment. He criticized the mentality of young people “who strive to be the best in their fields of specialization and do not accept short steps.” He also criticized “the mentality of withdrawing and leaving the country instead of working for change that could encourage young people to stay.”“Notre Dame University (NDU)” The head of the student body at Notre Dame University, Asaad Delptani, spoke about the “student elections,” and asked: “How can we, as educated students, be the protectors of democracy if we are forbidden to practice this democracy in our universities, which is supposed to be a preliminary stage to participating in political life? And how can we demand an electoral law and lowering the voting age to 18 years at the national level, while we are prohibited from voting on a smaller level, which is our universities?” He highlighted that “the electoral process leads to positive competition between many groups and leads to the improvement of electoral projects, and in the end the only winners are the students.” He noted that “university elections teach students that the team that wins has to implement its projects, and that the team that loses has to watch, oppose, and prepare itself for the next year.” He pointed out that “the elections contribute to increasing student interaction by choosing their representatives and holding those who elected them accountable.” He saw this as “raising awareness on the importance of participation and accountability,” and contributing to the preparation of “cadres who will deal with public affairs in society later.” He called “all universities where elections are not held to work again on this issue, as our universities are not only a place for students to come to study and graduate, but rather a gateway to life in society.” “Rafic Hariri University” The student elections were also the focus of a speech by a member of the student body in the College of Graphic Design and Computer Science at Rafic Hariri University, Nora Samoura, who stressed the importance of “accepting the other,” as “a culture that begins at home with parents and covers all aspects of society.” University elections are devoid of political affiliations,” she said, adding that students should start “changing the election curriculum so that it is based on competencies.” She highlighted the necessity of amending school and university educational curricula “to modify the employment system so that it is based on competence” and not “wasta.” “La Sagesse University” Etienne Moslem, the representative of Sagesse University and the general coordinator of pastoral work addressed the “educational policy,” explaining the “vast difference” between the academic and professional curricula, and the number of graduates in both. He stressed the need to “adjust the balance between them,” noting the “lack of guidance, especially in the professional sector.” He touched on the impact of this on the economy, noting that “good guidance will contribute to increasing job opportunities.” “Saint Joseph University (USJ)” Yomna Sham, a member of the “Feminist Club” at the Saint Joseph University, raised environmental concerns. “Lebanon, drowning in political and security problems, is neglecting the environment though it should take priority as if affects human health.” According to Sham environment should be introduced in the school curriculum so that the young generation is aware of environmental issues.” She touched on “a set of dilemmas that need immediate solutions namely the Zouk thermal plant and car exhaust emissions where refineries are able to purify a large percentage of pollutants.” She addressed the waste crisis and the need for healthy landfills in line with international environmental standards and a sorting from the source policy.” As for water preservation, building dams is the only solution. Fisheries must be organized and firefighting requires that the civil defense is equipped with advanced capabilities.” Quarries must operate in designated areas based on a reforestation of the damaged areas.” Representatives from other universities An open dialogue followed suit with the participation of students’ representatives from a number of other universities, including the American University of Culture and Education (AUCE), the American University of Technology (AUT), the Lebanese Canadian University (LCU), the University of Arts, Science and Technology in Lebanon (AUL), and the Islamic University in Beirut (IUL), the Arab Open University (AOU), the Modern University for Business and Science (MUBS), the Lebanese International University (LIU) and Kafaat University. Then Al-Houayek gave a closing speech.

The Dialogue table

June 28, 2016
Within the framework of the National Initiative, the “Civic Influence Hub ” launched the first dialogue table titled: “ The Constitution, the State and Coexistence”, with the participation of a group of those committed to national affairs and members of the Hub’s Board of Trustees and management. The dialogue table was inaugurated with the Lebanese national anthem and a minute of silence for the souls of Lebanon’s martyrs. Antoine Wakim, member of the Board of Directors gave a speech on behalf of the “Civic Influence Hub in which he said: “As for what we are dealing with today, it was preceded by three meetings of the National Initiative within open dialogues with civil society bodies and the movement, economic actors, and unions of liberal professions, which means that we are facing two parallel tracks. The first is horizontal, which presents the problems in Lebanon, the reform priorities, and the proposed action mechanisms to achieve an interactive and participatory dynamic of change. The second is vertical looking in depth in where we are? And where should we be? How do we get to where we should be?Read more
The results of these open meetings showed that there is a great passion for a unified direction towards a modern constitutional path, the cornerstone of a modern and inclusive state, as well as a solid and deep will to move forward in building a deep and rooted coexistence.Wakim added: “Today’s wars are the result of a programmed will, not the result of a Black Swan-style goal, and their results will inevitably interact, especially with the plummeting oil price, which has been a dynamo for the economies of the region for decades. Don’t you think there is a price to be paid? Do you not find that we live under the terrorism of weapons and the terrorism of corruption? Indifference in these circumstances, if not eliminated, will be fatal to our children. Your presence with us and our presence with you today is a rejection of indifference, and an expression of the will to be steadfast, the steadfastness of the free world and science, so that Lebanon remains a legacy and a debt to us.”The deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civic Influence Hub, Dr. Mounir Yehia shared the concluding results of the first three meetings of the open dialogues with civil society bodies, economic actors, and trade unions of liberal professions, on which the Hub relied in analyzing the approaches that revolved around the Constitution, the State and coexistence. The discussions revolved around the enormous predicament the Lebanese are experiencing at the levels of the Constitution, the state, and coexistence, in light of the regional fires. There were references to the need to remedy structural problems on the one hand, as well as achieving paths for a roadmap for change on the other; upholding coexistence as a basic rule for managing pluralism through citizenship; achieving differentiation between constitutional democracy and charter democracy, with basic reforms in the political system, i.e. the electoral law and administrative decentralization and the establishment of the National Authority for the Abolition of Sectarianism; defining the dangerous geostrategic formations that could present an imminent danger on the region, and in Lebanon; ensuring Lebanon’s neutrality, and linking economic prosperity to social protection and changing the status of Lebanon from an occupied state to a country that is fear free and capable of taking effective and symbolic steps to its salvation. Based on the above, the participants did not fail to point out the necessity of educational reform to end the sectarian grip on the Lebanese identity, away from the threatened identity, towards the formation of an honest, efficient and effective citizen who implements the constitution and establishes a capable and just state governed by the law, and leading coexistence to exemplary success in light of the growing extremism. These topics were subject to an in-depth discussion. Then there was a closing speech by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civic Influence Hub, Eng. Fahd Sakkal, in which he emphasized the continuation of dialogue to build a coordinating framework towards the desired change.

Civic Consultative Meeting

December 9, 2017
A number of political, diplomatic and national figures, representatives of economic bodies, trade unions, liberal professions, non-governmental organizations, civil society components and living forces, students from Lebanon’s universities, as well as media representatives and key figures, responded to the invitation of the Civic Influence Hub to participate in the “ consultative civil meeting ” within the national initiative, which was held on Saturday, December 9, 2017, at the Bristol Hotel in presence of the Board members of the Civic Influence Hub, Messrs. Faisal Al Khalil, Dr. Nizar Younis, Dr. Mounir Yahya, Dr. Abd al-Salam Hasbini, Youssef El-Zein, Mr. Elie Gabriel and Mr. Youssef Abi Al-Lama’. The meeting was meant to discuss and exchange opinions on the socio economic and political difficulties that Lebanon is encountering. After the Lebanese national anthem, a welcome speech was delivered by board member Dr. Abdel Salam Hasbini, who read out the text of a working paper entitled: “A Call of Honor for Lebanon,” which stated:Read more
“A Call of Honor for Lebanon” Lebanon faces, for the 2first time in its modern independent history, an unprecedented existential danger, as it finds itself facing unparalleled challenges on the Arab, regional and international levels affecting its national, social, political and economic balances. Today more than ever before we are called to the rescue. Lebanon’s current crisis requires from its free men, media, civil society, NGOs, unions, businessmen, youth and students to assume a historical responsibility and urge the Lebanese, individuals, parties, and groups, guided by the constitutional institutions of the Lebanese State, to abide by the following: – To uphold the constitution, and its implementation without prejudice or partiality, as the only guarantee for Lebanon’s survival, the full implementation of its national obligations, and respect for the covenants signed by the Lebanese State, especially the Charter of the League of Arab States, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. – Refusing to slip into narrow regional and international axes, affirming the Arab interest, strengthening relations with friendly countries, and rejecting normalization with Israel, in order to preserve Lebanon’s diversity and its pluralistic vanguard role, and to generalize its democratic model namely power rotation. – Setting up the executive mechanisms of President Michel Aoun’s inaugural speech: “… Lebanon is crossing a minefield; taken abreast by the burning fires in the region. It remains at the forefront of our priorities to prevent any blazing spark. Lebanon must stay away from external conflicts, committed to respecting the Charter of the League of Arab States, especially Article 8 of the same, while adopting an independent foreign policy based on Lebanon’s supreme interest and respect for international law in order to preserve Lebanon, an oasis of peace, stability and convergence.” A series of interventions then followed on Jerusalem, and need to include it in the call as the eternal capital of Palestine; the need to implement the constitution; abolish political sectarianism; fight against corruption and in favor of change in the parliamentary elections building on the experience of municipal elections; defending the environmental cause and the necessity of framing the components of civil society; supporting the Lebanese University and strengthening the role of youth in shaping the future, social integration, and neutrality in the face of regional conflicts. In conclusion, Dr. Hasbini thanked the speakers for their valuable interventions and pointed out that the content of these interventions will reflect into the final Call of Honor, which will be completed on Wednesday, December 12th, during the meeting that will be held at the headquarters of the Hub in Gemmayzeh. Participants were kindly requested to confirm their attendance. The document was approved and will be shared with the national and political authorities, representatives of the Arab countries, the five major countries, and regional and international organizations.

The Civic Consultative meeting on developing the "Declaration of the Principles of Citizenship in a Free, Just and Independent Civic State"

August 6, 2018
Starting March 2016, the “Civic Influence Hub” launched a series of open dialogues and round tables with a large number of NGOs, municipalities, economic bodies, unions, universities, civil activists, academics, and self-employed people, with the aim of analyzing problems and the main political, economic and social aspects with priorities for treatment, proposing national action mechanisms in order to achieve the governance of the operating system, and developing comprehensive and productive economic initiatives within a just social policy.