Morning Dialogues


The Civic Influence Hub strives to build public policies, and endeavors with its partners in the active societal forces to enforce good governance based on a sovereign, free, just, and independent citizenship state, ruled by the constitution, with due respect for the principles of transparency, productivity and accountability.In Lebanon, considering the plight of daily challenges, and the importance of restoring critical thinking to the public sphere, the Civic Influence Hub envisions the need to launch Morning Dialogues with specialists in constitution, economic, social, and cultural issues, to bring back to the common public space some of its blurred compass.Objectives
  • Bringing together specialists and experts with actors in the active societal forces to think about Lebanon’s predicaments and solutions.
  • Involving the key stakeholders of the active societal forces in public discussions that tend to build perceptions of public policies and constitute the foundation for good governance, according to what is stated in the mission and vision of “The Civic Influence Hub”.
  • Awakening public opinion to engage in scientific thinking away from superficial and stereotypical approaches, and restoring the logic in the public sphere in connection with the common good.
  • Providing substantial content in the Media and Social Media platforms on national issues and their connection to the current moment, while understanding the causes of what the Lebanese people are experiencing rather than resolving to understanding the symptoms.

First Session 19-10-2022

“The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution”

“The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution” in brief.

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Watch full Session 

The first session: “The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution” discussed the root causes of the Lebanese Crisis, especially the constitutional and political situation. It stressed on the need to rebuild the heart and soul of the Constitution in order to build a free, sovereign, just and independent State. The session was broadcasted live on the Hub’s social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem and screened the documentary: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People”.

Press Release

 

The Civic Influence Hub launches the Monthly “Morning Dialogues”

Session 1: “The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution” 

El Khalil: The CIH will oppose the Constitution Overthrow and the Violation of Sovereignty
 Kanso: Postponing the Abolition of Sectarianism means Postponing the Building of the State

Younes: The Taëf Accord is Lebanon’s Salvation and Pact

 

The Civic Influence Hub held its first monthly “Morning Dialogues“, in presence of prominent figures, experts in constitution, politics, sociology, economy, communication as well as civil society activists.

The first session: “The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution” discussed the root causes of the Lebanese Crisis, especially the constitutional and political situation. It stressed on the need to rebuild the heart and soul of the Constitution in order to build a free, sovereign, just and independent State. The session was broadcasted live on the Hub’s social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem and screened the documentary: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People”.

El Khalil

The CIH President, Faysal El-Khalil, then gave a welcoming speech in which he pointed out “that the suffering has intensified at all financial, economic, social, medical, and educational levels. But The CIH decided to approach the root causes of this suffering, as the Constitution is still on hold, sovereignty is breached, corruption is widespread, and justice thwarted.” El-Khalil added, “The clientelism apply still, the mafia and militia alliance continues to turn Lebanon from a civilized model into a Failed State”. The Lebanese people are victims of an organized crime that destroyed all sectors, assassinated social justice and economic prosperity, and the most horrific example for this organized crime was the Beirut port blast on August 4, 2022”. El-Khalil concluded: “We are all required to look into the root causes of this situation, each from his/her position to save Lebanon from this infernal quagmire, and protect its civilizational identity, which requires adjusting concepts, building public policies and good governance, in line with CIH’s mission and vision. Now is the time to restructure the power and Restore the State”.

Dr. Kanso

The dialogue facilitator, University Professor and researcher, Dr. Wajih Kanso, insisted on abolishing sectarianism as stated in the Taëf Agreement, and “crossing over from the quagmire of endless alignments and tensions, to a space of stability and a stable productive arena. At every deadline, we are terrified and afraid, invoke many arguments, and find no way but to put things off, while postponing the establishment of a healthy nation and a capable State. It turns out that delaying the abolition of sectarianism means postponing the building of State, democracy, and disrupting our Citizenship”. Kanso considered that “the abolition of Sectarianism has more than one dimension. The first is administrative and organizational, which is related to the constitution, and the legislative, legal and organizational mechanisms within State institutions, to consolidate the abolition of sectarianism as a final and radical form regulating the public sphere. The second dimension is cultural and social. which means that the abolition of sectarianism is a shift in the attitude, behavior, mentality, frameworks of relations and the pattern of demographic distribution. And restructuring the State and the political involvement on a non-sectarian basis.” Kanso concluded that “the abolition of sectarianism is a bold and dangerous step, but it has become a necessity to save the

homeland and the citizen. It is achieved by the community itself. Just as there is no democracy without democrats, non-sectarianism has no meaning without non-sectarians.”

Dr. Younes

Then, Dr. Nizar Younes presented the session’s working paper titled ” The Essence of the Taëf Accord, Article 95 of the Constitution”: He elaborated as follows “Lebanon stands at a turning point where extremist groups are fighting in vain.” Younes said: “First of all, we must admit that the current crises are not an inescapable fate. They are the inevitable result of a political system whose composition and dynamism has produced corruption and laxity in the State’s structure. However, despite acknowledging unanimously at the Taëf Conference that abandoning this system is the only way for the democratic State to be established, we hastily took refuge in it, as if the Pact was no longer our reference, and as if Article 95 of the Constitution was meant to remain unimplemented”.

Younes pointed out that “the squabble over the abolition of political sectarianism raises sensitivities and concerns,” he considered that “Ignoring the constitutional text that entrusts the National Dialogue Commission with the task of proposing ways to abolishing sectarianism raises questions about the impartiality of those who claim to defend the agreement.” Younes asked, “What is the alternative to Article 95 of the Constitution? Not that the sectarian political establishment confirmed its inability to continue its procrastination to circumvent the charter and disrupt the constitution, for fear of a new strife that will lead to a new reconciliation conference or to a more destructive catastrophe.”

Younes identified some basic principles, speaking of the “legitimacy of the Lebanese nation and the reason for its existence. Lebanon has never been an arena for the struggle of tribes or sects, with peculiar religious or tribal specificities. It was a safety harbor for the spiritual and ethnic families who sought refuge in it in this region. During the most difficult times, the Lebanese lived together. They were not deterred by the conspiracies, temptations and disputes they were exposed to, so they bravely repelled the Sultanate’s attempt to turkish the Arab world and obliterate its memory.” Younes said, “The lands of Islam are vast, and this small country will not enlarge them. Likewise, the land of Christianity is vast, and Lebanon will not make it more spacious, and it is their homeland Together and not the homeland of one religion without the other. This is what was confirmed by the Apostolic Exhortation in a New Hope for Lebanon, which stated that Lebanon has a circle greater than its area and population”. Younes considered that “Lebanon is more than a Homeland, it’s a message. And his message, which stems from the pluralism of faith, lies in the acquaintance of Islam and Christianity, and in the love of the other and its acceptance of others.” Younes then spoke about the characterization of the State in political science, which means “the legal, political and organizational institution entrusted with managing a national entity in all aspects of the lives of its citizens”. He said “It is not permissible to confound nation and state in a single political concept. It is shameful to align the homeland with the political institution that usurped the capabilities of the homeland, its people and its history. Because this inevitably leads to denying the right of any group of the pluralistic Lebanese society to participate in the homeland on an equal basis with any other group, no matter how large their number or how hard they help impose their will on others. Al Sayed Chamseddine, the late Imam Muhammad Mahdi Chamseddine, head of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, was alerted to this. He advised his followers from the Shiite community and the Lebanese in general that the Lebanese diversity is a great national example and a civilized window to the world and a message of permanent dialogue in itself and its surroundings. The civil society in Lebanon is diverse. And it must remain diversified in what should be a unified political community.”

Younes considered that “the Constitution is a book on the performance of the authority. It regulates the living together in the State, and is entrusted with engineering the political system and ensuring its rhythm. “The will to live together is the essence of the nations’ stability.” He then enumerated some of Lebanon’s main landmarks “a sectarian political system defined by the Lebanese formula in the era following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire; the re-formation of political entities under the French mandate and British influence, pursuant to the battle over the sharing of powers in the emerging country between sectarian and family fiefdoms; the war that ended the regional and international balances of power in 1989, and allowed a national reconciliation conference in Taëf. The Lebanese welcomed Taif to end the strife between the belligerents and build a State on the grounds set forth in the preamble to the Constitution, as a final, contractual solution to the issues that, in the past, intertwined between sectarian sites, and prevented the establishment of the State. It was not possible, at that critical stage, to expand the implementation of all the constitutional and legal measures to avoid the political manipulation, so it was decided to postpone the implementation of the measures accompanying the abolition of sectarianism in order to provide an opportunity for dialogue and understanding among the Lebanese themselves, during the transitional period marked by the Pact”. It all starts with the national dialogue, he said, in accordance with Article / 95/ of the Constitution, as per the requirements of the Pact, by forming a national body headed by the President of the Republic to study the ways to abolish sectarianism, prepare suggestions and submit the same to the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and follow up on the implementation of the transitional plan. Younes suggested that “this part of the Pact was the decisive motive to distort its goals and obstruct its implementation, for fear from achieving reconciliation based on the concomitant abandonment of sectarian political representation in the State and the sectarian scourge our country.

Accordingly, Younes talked about the role of the “National Commission for the Abolition of Sectarianism” and said that it is “entrusted with preserving the specificities of this country – and the future of its generations, provided that we abandon political sectarianism, distribute power among the sects on an equal footing and develop the mechanism that provides sustainability, maintains balance and civil peace, and is the safety valve in national crises.

Younes concluded by saying: “If the state is destined to rise, let us first release ourselves from the stigma of underdevelopment, as we will have a modern State like everyone else in the world, as an alternative to the warring sects, not worthy of the civilized progress that we claim. Individuals “will be transformed from followers of sects to full-fledged citizens who don’t need a mediator or intercessor. The employee freed from bondage will be restored to his role of caring for citizens and serving public affairs.”

 

The Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

Beirut 19/10/2022

 

Second Session 16-11-2022

  Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together”

 ” Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The second session was titled “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together” and focused on the latest developments, the ongoing search for a series of proposals and draft laws on expanded administrative decentralization and the various positions therefrom, which would bring life to the “National Reconciliation Accord”, i.e. the heart and soul of the Constitution, in order to build a state of free, sovereign, just and independent citizenship.

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the first Morning Dialogue, which was held last month under the title “The Essence of the Taëf, Article 95 of the Constitution.”

  Press Release

 

The Civic Influence Hub – Second Session of Morning Dialogues Initiative

  Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together”

Hasbini: We have taken upon ourselves to focus on addressing the causes of the crisis, not its symptoms

Shalak: The rulers are still quarreling, ignoring the suffering of oppressed people

El Chaer: The legislators of decentralization feared losing their grip on power

 

The Civic Influence Hub organized its second monthly in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” in presence of prominent figures, civil society activists, experts in law, constitution, culture, intellect, media and academia alongside the president and members of the CIH.

The second session was titled “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together” and focused on the latest developments, the ongoing search for a series of proposals and draft laws on expanded administrative decentralization and the various positions therefrom, which would bring life to the “National Reconciliation Accord”, i.e. the heart and soul of the Constitution, in order to build a state of free, sovereign, just and independent citizenship.

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the first Morning Dialogue, which was held last month under the title “The Essence of the Taëf, Article 95 of the Constitution.”

The Vice-President of the CIH, Dr. Abdul Salam Hasbini, delivered a speech in which he welcomed the participants, and said: “Today’s meeting, the second in the series of the “Morning Dialogues” is titled: “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together“. It is our commitment to “revive the Taëf reforms, to implement the heart and soul of the Constitution, and build a state of free, sovereign, just, and independent citizenship, a state of living together”.

Hasbini added: “The CIH is aware of the pressing financial, economic, and social concerns and has taken upon itself to focus on addressing the causes of the crisis, not its symptoms. Lebanon as a State and people is the victim of an organized crime committed by the mafia-militia alliance. We need to save it from this infernal quagmire”.

Shalak

The facilitator of the dialogue, Huda Al-Khatib Shalak, spoke about the conditions leading to the Taëf Accord and the end of the war in Lebanon. The Accord was meant to be “a clear transition from war to a modern civic state.” She referred to the “Lebanese consensus and regional and international legal and political support” leading to the Accord before its adoption by the Lebanese Parliament. The provisions of the Accord were approved by the UN Security Council on 7/11/1989 and 22/11/1989, as “a settlement of the Lebanese crisis and a guarantee to Lebanon’s full sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity”.

Shalak asked about the reasons that prevented the implementation of Taif before the October revolution and the call for reform. While the Lebanese people suffer oppression, the rulers continue their quarrels. Responding to peoples’ demands is akin of implementing one of the most important reforms, which is administrative decentralization, within the one unified state, far from any divisions while ensuring “the citizens’ participation in a balanced and just development, and national unity”.

Shalak emphasized, “Decentralization as an administrative process reflects local needs, and the legislator’s keenness to ensure that the central state maintains exclusive command and authority in the areas of defense, finance, foreign affairs, justice, and legislation. It also encompasses the organization, rationing, and the fair distribution of resources”.

Shalak concluded by affirming that “nearly three decades after the Taif Accord, administrative decentralization has still not made its way towards implementation, and it is still the subject of controversy and debate,” pointing out the risks of this reluctance in light of the unprecedented major collapse in Lebanon’s history.

El Chaer Speech

Esq. Rabih El-Chaer presented the “Working Paper on Administrative and Financial Decentralization in Lebanon,” and explained it as “one of the embodiments of democracy for a healthy popular representation, optimal economic and social development, smooth formalities, easy access to public funds and reduced red tape”.

El Chaer then defined the criteria that govern “administrative and financial decentralization” as determined by “administrative science”. He considered that “the elected local administration, represented by the municipalities, does not meet all the requirements of contemporary administrative decentralization, considering the difficulty of collecting dues, or paying salaries.” This paralyzes all initiatives and decreases financial resources for these municipalities”. 

El Chaer talked about the imbalances in the proposed solutions and considered that “Taif deputies failed to submit successful suggestions” due to negligence or premeditation.” Decentralization requires that “decentralized councils are elected by the people and represent their will.” The deputies maybe “feared losing grip on power and being overthrown by the public and had no future vision for governance issues”.

El Chaer dealt with the contradictory view of the economic and social role of the elected local administrations and the importance of their financial independence. He pointed to several contradictory opinions among those who fear “excessive administrative decentralization that will give regions autonomy at the expense of national unity”; while others “exaggerate the demand for administrative decentralization with broad powers as a guarantee for individual initiative and a free economy, and thus prosperity and development.” A third that calls for “a compromise that secures administrative decentralization for a country like Lebanon as the best way to express the desires of a group of people and meet the needs of a specific region, provided that the state maintains its role in monitoring, coordinating and distributing wealth in order to extend social justice to all.” 

El Chaer considered that balanced development was and will remain “the State’s responsibility to distributing wealth fairly and controlling public finances. He pointed to “scientific standards that take into account economic and social needs,” including, for example, “comparing the economic growth rates between regions, the per capita income, unemployment, development, production, and weaknesses.” Based on the available data, Al Shaer insisted that “federalism must not be confused with decentralization and de-concentration. The State shall secure national harmony and balanced development between the various regions” and strengthen the role of the Central authority. “All of this is done through an independent ministry for local councils and administrative development, a ministry for planning or a council for balanced development and defining the economic function of each Caza by developing a strategy in which the Cazas do not compete but rather integrate”.

El Chaer added, “It is necessary to activate electronic government, governance and combat corruption, activate the public procurement law and the General Directorate of Statistics, establish an independent election oversight body, amend the tax system, initiate tax collection, prepare and train employees, establish administrative courts in the Cazas, and organize and distribute the public facilities and services fairly among all Cazas, abolishing the post of Qaemaqam, strengthening the role of the Mohafez, and making administrative divisions on the basis of economic, social and demographic data. El Chaer also suggested “establishing a police force whose mission is to maintain security at the Caza level; reforming the municipal elections law to enable voters to vote according to their place of residence; adding other powers to the competences of the local councils, including the powers of the Qaemaqam after abolishing this post, establishing and developing infrastructure, ensuring energy production, developing economic projects, organizing public and private transportation, and developing the Caza mapping designs and the master plan subject to municipalities approval”.

El Chaer pointed to the importance of amending the financial and administrative powers of the elected local councils to avoid double taxation and to ensure taxes are distributed based on income, added value and built property. He insisted on increasing the rates of 25 municipal fees, allowing local councils to borrow money from the private sector, adopting a mechanism for preparing budgets, developing and generalizing a unified accounting system, abolishing guardianship and prior administrative control, adopting post-control that guarantees freedom of initiative, and establishing local branches of the General Accounting Bureau in districts to ensure transparency and limit corruption and neglect of the public interest”.

El Chaer concluded by saying: “Administrative decentralization both economic and financial can only be possible using an integrated political, economic, administrative and judicial reform process. Reform is a whole that is achieved through the convergence between the political and popular wills”.

The keynote speeches were followed by a discussion between the attendees. 

Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

16 /11/2022 

Third Session 14-12-2022

“Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees”

“Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The third monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the first Morning Dialogue”, which was held last month under the title “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together.”

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub – Third Session of the Morning Dialogues Initiative

Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees

El-Zein: Lebanon is exposed to an organized crime, and we must adjust the compass

El-Sayegh: Bicameralism protects a golden equation in Lebanon’s Civic Constitution

Messarra: The Senate is the embodiment of common spiritual values in Lebanon

 

The Civic Influence Hub organized its third and last monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” at the Gefinor Hotel- Rotana Hamra titled: “Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees” in presence of prominent figures, civil society activists, experts in law, constitution, culture, intellect, media and academia alongside the president and members of the CIH.

Proceedings of the meeting

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the first Morning Dialogue”, which was held last month under the title “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together.”

El Zein

Mr. Youssef El-Zein, CIH Board of Directors Member pointed out in his introductory speech that the CIH had committed itself to “addressing the causes of the crisis, not its symptoms. Lebanon as a country and people are the victim of an organized crime, which requires that we contribute to correcting the compass to save it from this infernal quagmire, and to building public policies implemented by good governance.”

El Zein added: “Today, we are looking at a fundamental reform in defining the rights of Lebanese citizens and determining guarantees for the constituent communities of the Lebanese society using a formula that upholds the living together and respects diversity. The formula is bicameralism namely: A Parliament and a Senate.  May we immerse ourselves in it to serve the Lebanese Cause and the Lebanese People, so that rationality, wisdom, toughness and integrity spearhead the establishment of the state of citizenship, the state of truth and justice.”

El Sayegh, facilitator of the dialogue

Ziad El-Sayegh, the facilitator of the dialogue, Executive Director of the CIH, pointed out the “ambiguous concepts through which the constitution was subjected to a systematic misleading process causing a Coup and the fragmentation of the State.” He said: “Lebanon is a country with a parliamentary system in a democratic republic that is consensual in the scientific and constitutional sense”. Therefore, it provides for the “separation of powers, amidst cooperation for the service of the common good”. It is “at the core of the structural reforms approved by the Taëf Agreement where bicameralism, a house of representatives and a senate, was mentioned since the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon and in the 1926 constitution.”

 El-Sayegh added, “Bicameralism protects a golden equation in Lebanon’s Civic Constitution, which is the rights of citizens and the guarantees for religious communities. This golden equation has been violated since its inception. During the past decade, Lebanon was governed by the rights of confessions to the point of assassinating the rights of citizens. It was an outrageous crime to obstruct the progress in implementing Article 95 of the constitution for the establishment of the state of citizenship, the election of a parliament out of the sectarian constraint, the establishment of a Senate that simulates confessional representation, amidst an expanded administrative decentralization, and the guarantee that weapons, their use and possession, is centralized with legitimate military and security institutions the central decision of peace and war, and the positive neutrality that guides foreign policy for the Greater Lebanon. El-Sayegh warned against the blatant crime, which manifested itself in a premeditated paralisation of all paths leading to the implementation of the constitution. Transforming Lebanon into a chaos run by an oligarchy that robs the constitution with loose jurisprudence that goes as far as perpetuating norms that transform noble consensual democracy in the name of the Pact to a system of mutual vetoes.” El-Sayegh concluded by saying: “Lebanon does not have any crisis of regime or constitution, but rather a regime or constitution related crisis. We have problems in the overturning of the constitution. We encounter difficulties in going back to the facts on which our constitution was based to end its malicious and functional exploitation intended to undermine the social contract between the Lebanese.”

Messarra Working paper

Professor Antoine Messarra then presented the main “Working Paper” under the title: “Which Parliament? Which Senate? Which Lebanon?Messarra started it by noting that “Any constitutional proposal or amendment are pointless if the constitution is basically suspended, not implemented and violated on a daily basis. The proposals, deliberations and debates about the current Lebanese constitutional system constitute an obscuration of the State dilemma in Lebanon, which can be summed up in the fact that the Lebanese State is not reflecting the four main characteristics which are: the monopoly of organized power and diplomatic relations, the imposition of tax collection and the management of public policies. The most dangerous thing is that the Lebanese constitution, in its text and spirit, is suspended, not implemented, and violated on a daily basis, especially through the formation of Mini-Parliamentary governments, which violates the principle of separation of powers.”

Messarra said: “In all matters related to the religious communities, it is necessary to proceed from the formation of the National Commission to develop a phased plan to overcome “Sectarianism” (Article 95 of the Constitution). As for a piecemeal approach, it abbreviates the comprehensive and multifaceted nature of the development of the Lebanese constitutional system. The Taëf requires a distinction between “constitutional constants, which are mostly mentioned in the preamble to the constitution, on the one hand, and organizational affairs, such as the election law, decentralization, the Senate…”.

Messarra considered: “The Senate is the embodiment of the common spiritual values in Lebanon, which have a prominent role in consolidating national unity and protecting civil peace.” When the “election of the members of the Senate through general elections was rebutted lest it constitute” the peak of sectarianism because it compels every voter to elect a member of the House of Representatives from the same denomination which leads to artificial sorting in the same family, it is suggested that a mini electorate is appointed by the leaders of the Religious Communities based on criteria that must be strictly adhered to in terms of competence and experience.”

Messarra then considered that “the Lebanese Senate is not a second chamber, but rather a supportive body and has no legislative capacity, fearing that all issues would be tainted by confessional positions such as taxes, civil regulation, consumer prices, and administration.” Messarra enumerated some specifications and said that “senators do not have to be full-timers and receive fixed compensations.” They should meet “to build a State that guarantees the living together, national sovereignty, inclusive culture, protection of constants, and defense of its Arab and international relations. It is better to have the presidency of the Senate and the majority of office members from minority denominations, to prevent any factional practice or tyranny.”

Messarra strongly criticized the “Proposed Law on the Senate”. He commented on many rejected points, warning against their risks, considering that it completely disregards the ‘’nature of pluralism in the Lebanese society, which is pluralistic and intertwined and constitutes a departure from the founding philosophy in Lebanon of the unified electoral college and leads to “an artificial division of the people and an immersion in sectarian electoral behavior.” And when he refused to be “part of the legislative authority or an expression of the “sectarian political system”, he considered that “fatal issues do not mean and do not necessarily include legislative authority. This stands in opposition with the content of the Lebanese constitution, because the Lebanese constitutional system is not sectarian, but has been and is being sectarianized, to cover up clientelism, contrarily to the content of Articles 12 and 95 of the constitution.”

Messarra considered: “The role of the religious communities in the constitutional and institutional entity of the Lebanese state – contrary to what was stated in the positive reasons – is fulfilled in the current constitution if it is properly applied in letter and spirit. The most prominent text is” Article 19 on the right of heads of sects to review the Constitutional Council. The wording “the Consensual System” is a regurgitation of a slogan circulating in Lebanon, contrary to what was mentioned in the description of the Lebanese constitutional system in the introduction to the constitution and all its details, in order to avoid “exploiting sectarian differences in a political competition.”

Messarra concluded by saying that the draft law in its proposed form “constitutes the most dangerous path in the sectarianization of the entire Lebanese constitutional system, an artificial segregation of citizens, and the consolidation of divisions stemming primarily from conflictual mobilization and not from the depth of Lebanese society.”

The speeches were followed by a discussion between the attendees.

Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

14 /12/2022 

Fourth Session 22-02-2023

“Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation
and Effective Governance”

“Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The fourth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees”e on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the third Morning Dialogue”,  titled “Expanded Administrative Decentralization: Balanced Development and Living Together.”

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub – Fourth Session of Morning Dialogues Initiative

“Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance”

Hoayek: We are at a historic turning point and firm solutions are a must

Abou Farhat: To say that the current electoral law is a modern law is inaccurate, its cons outweigh its pros

El-Machnouk: Any complaint against the election law is meaningless unless it is accompanied by an alternative law

 

The Civic Influence Hub organized on 22/02/2023 its fourth “Morning Dialogues Initiative” at the Rotana Gefinor Hotel in presence of prominent figures, civil society activists, experts in law, constitution, culture, intellect, media and academia alongside the President and members of the CIH.

The fourth session was titled “ Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance “, i.e. the heart and soul of the Constitution, in order to build a state of free, sovereign, just and independent citizenship.

Proceedings of the meeting

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese National Anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the third Morning Dialogue, which was titled “Lebanon’s Consensual System and Bicameralism: The Reality of Rights and the Meaning of Guarantees.”

 Al- Hoayek’s

CIH Board Member, Eng. Elias Hoayek, first took the floor and confirmed that “the financially, economically, and socially dire situation has become disastrous and is no longer bearable.” Some may consider that “what we are doing is out of context,” but we at the “Civic Influence Hub” are “determined to think the causes of the crisis, not its symptoms. Lebanon’s people are subjected to an organized crime, which calls upon us to correct the compass and save it from this dangerous quagmire while building public policies implemented by good governance. This lies at the core of the goal and mission of the “CIH”, as we are at a sensitive turning point where firmness is a must.” 

Abou Farhat

The facilitator of the dialogue, Ms. Joelle Abou Farhat, gave a detailed presentation under the title “Assessing the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections Law 44/2017”, which was enforced for the first time in the elections of May 6, 2018. Abou Farhat made a comparison between the positive opinions that considered the law modern, developed and representative, and the negative ones that lynched it.

Among the pros were: adopting “The Principle of Proportional System instead of the Majority System”; “the unified official ballot slip”; “the continuity of the electoral campaign oversight body and its partial independence from the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities”; “the requirement of having 200 registered voters abroad at an Embassy or Consulate to open a polling station”; and finally, “the presence of a representative of civil society among the members of the oversight body”. As for the cons, “the failure to include women’s quota to redress the representation imbalance between women and men; maintaining the voting age at 21 years instead of reducing it to 18 years; preventing the military from voting; not ensuring the total and complete independence of the election oversight body which soon became a false witness to what is happening; appointing the oversight body based on sectarian grounds and political quotas; dividing Lebanon into 15 electoral districts without any specific criteria; unfairly approving the distribution of seats according to sects and constituencies; considering the electoral threshold in the electoral law to be parallel to the electoral outcome which causes inequality in the value of the vote and the value of the seat; inequality in the deadline for prior resignation among senior officials; authorizing the transfer of voters from abroad, which is electoral bribery and vote-buying; raising the candidacy fee to thirty million which jeopardizes equal opportunities for candidacy; raising the upper limit for electoral spending allows the purchase of votes; preventing the adoption of the magnetic electronic card in mega centers; limiting the right of the voter to one preferential vote while counting the full list; calculating the results vertically instead of horizontally which secured the victory of candidates with 77 and 79 votes; computing the white ballots in a way that excluded small lists;  the manual sorting in polling stations; the suspension of voting in any expatriate constituency of 6 deputies; preventing the voting by mail; and failing to address the organization of electoral media on social media”.

El Machnouk

Dr. Saleh El-Machnouk’s, in his intervention titled “The Electoral Law in Lebanon: Which Law for Which Country?”, “considered that “there is no perfect law in any country, because its aim is political. In Britain, for example, the goal is to keep extremism out of the system and to maintain the two-party system, even at the expense of “correct representation”, therefore, we must learn from other experiences, to weigh in the solutions, while maintaining the pluralistic nature of Lebanon, particularly if the aim of the law is to establish citizenship. There is an academic consensus not to “ignore” sectarian divisions, but to confront them by striking a balance between representation and citizenship.”

El-Machnouk added, “Extremely liberal election laws in pluralistic countries do not necessarily lead to a liberal vote, but rather produce an opposite effect in most cases. In the Iraqi elections in 2005, a single district proportional law (aimed at unifying Iraq) had 88% of Iraqis vote for sectarian parties which resulted in increased strife. Accordingly, complaints shared with sectarian nature are natural, because without them there would be no citizenship or crossing over of sects, but rather tyranny of the majority. Having Christian seats in areas with a Muslim majority, after Taêf Accord, was meant for political reasons, not citizenship, and this is an experience in several countries. Therefore, the transition towards a civil, non-sectarian political system cannot be done in one leap, because it can produce the opposite effect. And before that, we must prove the real and serious existence of cross sects parties.”

Regarding the goals of any modern electoral law, El-Machnouk said, “It boils down to the arrival of new civil faces outside the traditional system of power. And the consolidation of citizenship and moderation without “Major Sectarian Tyranny” and allowing the correct liberal representation of groups without imposing a specific identity on the citizen and creating political diversity within sects to prevent sectarianism.

El-Machnouk called on the Lebanese who complain about the “Crooked” electoral law to “suggest a logical alternative. What we hear about the proposal “Lebanon as a one region in a proportional system” is applicable in only 5 countries, and it leads to the isolation of sects from each other and it is said that it is the best way to express the sectarian self freely. As for Lebanon, its effect is worse than in other countries with sectarian divisions. Such a law, for example, allows Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to elect 15 deputies from outside their confessions, because they do not need to stock up on their votes for the victory of their 27 deputies, due to the proscription of competition for these seats. Therefore, it is no coincidence that this law is proposed by a sectarian group that considers itself a “Majority”, and this is what leads in the academic sense to ethnic tyranny.”

El-Machnouk said: “The current law is relatively good, for several reasons: it introduced the principle of proportionality that allowed political minorities to be represented; gave soft guarantees to Christians in contrast to the Orthodox Law that time; and opened the door to the abolition of political sectarianism from the parliament, as stipulated in the Taêf Accord.” It has also proven that it allows the election of progressive, non-sectarian deputies from outside the traditional system. 13 were elected in 2022, and if they had succeeded in their experience and the percentage of voting in exile increased, the number would have reached 30-35, which is a huge percentage in a country like Lebanon!”

However, El-Machnouk also saw that the approved law had “structural problems, including first the possibility of creating one-color governments, and second that the preferential vote was placed for a small district and for a person, contrary to the logic of the law and its desired goals, and third, its failure to include a quota for women. We can also consider reserving seats for parties that cross regions and that did not get any seat in a specific constituency.” El-Machnouk concluded by saying: “In the absence of a logical and acceptable alternative, the complaint about the election law is meaningless if it is not directly linked to a proposed alternative law.”

The keynote speeches were followed by a discussion between the attendees.

 

Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

February 22, 2023

Fifth Session 18-05-2023

“Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems”

“Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The fifth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems” broadcasted Live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the Fourth Morning Dialogue”,  titled “Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub – Fifth Session of the Morning Dialogues Initiative

Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems

Gebrayel: The compass should be redressed to save Lebanon from this dangerous quagmire

Hani: There is no alternative but to establish the Citizenship State

Ouaiss: Our diversity should be a source of enrichment not a source of fear

 

The Civic Influence Hub organized its fifth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” at the Rotana Gefinor Hotel in presence of prominent figures, civil society activists, experts in law, constitution, culture, intellect, media and academia alongside the President and BoD members of the CIH.

The fifth meeting was held under the title “Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems” inspired by the National Accord Document (Taëf Agreement) with its reform clauses and the option of returning to the constitution, to build a state of free, just and independent citizenship, a state of living together.

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “Civic Influence Hub in 10 Years: Committed for Lebanon and its People” / Second a summary of the fourth Morning Dialogue, which was held under the title” “Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance.”

 Gebrayel’s Speech

The CIH Board member, Engineer Elie Gebrayel, took the floor and pointed out that the CIH “decided to fight for restoring citizenship, as established since the State of Greater Lebanon, and mentioned in the 1926 Constitution.” Gebrayel added, “We are convinced of the cumulative, peaceful and purposeful work, redressing the compass to save Lebanon from this dangerous quagmire and to build public policies governed by good governance, and this lies at the core of the goal and message of the CIH, as we are at a historical moment in which gray solutions are useless.”

Hani’s Speech

The facilitator of the dialogue, researcher Shaden Hani, said that there are “social, religious and political dimensions that contradict the concept of citizenship in Lebanon. When we say citizenship, we say homeland, as a person needs a home in order to practice citizenship; the two are inter-related and based on a historical, social, political and religious culture.” Hani pointed out that “Lebanon’s geography was not defined until after World War I and the establishment of Greater Lebanon in 1920.” She pointed out that, “Since Lebanon’s independence and after the 1943 Charter, opportunities have emerged and attempts have been made to build a real state, but no rules or provisions have been developed or practiced to foster the unity of the nation, and its people, to consolidate the entity and pillars, just as the politicians who took over the reins of power did not fully give citizens their rights. “The citizen has not fully fulfilled his responsibilities.” Therefore, “the State’s lack of commitment to carrying out the duties required by its existence allowed the local – feudal and religious leaders to grow and influence, as the citizen felt that the leader, the feudal lord, the politician, and the clergyman were his only guarantee in light of the state’s inaction; which perpetuated sectarianism and confessionalism.”

Hani talked about “temporary privileges,” pointing out that “there are 18 confessions in Lebanon that form a religious pluralism. The constitution preserved the rights of each of them. The constitution gave a temporary privilege, which became permanent when distributing powers to the sects.” Hence the “struggle over political influence, bullying others from outside Lebanon, to the extent of entering into local wars.” Lebanon has become “an arena for regional conflicts.” This “has increased divisions and unilateralism in light of the religious pluralism that exists in Lebanon.” The invention of the word “coexistence between sects is nothing but a speck of dust in the eyes.”

 Hani criticized the absence of “one vision for Lebanon,” she considered that “pluralism, which is a source of enrichment and wealth in many countries, has become, in its religious twist in Lebanon, a source of troubles and contradictions.” Considering that “the situation is complicated,” she said, “to get out of the quagmire,” we must start by establishing a “democratic political system,” and “adopting the law as the sole reference in conflicts and disputes, protecting rights equally, and respecting cultural and religious differences and customs between groups.”

Hani concluded that “there is no alternative but the establishment of the state.” It must be “strengthened by all cultural, educational, media and social means through solidarity and unity that politicians have prevented, depriving citizens who have awareness, wealth and sufficient maturity to rise up and build a homeland. The panacea is to separate religion from the state and preserve the specificity of religions and individuals in worshiping God.”

Ouaiss’s Speech

Dr. Makram Ouaiss then took the floor. He believed the talk on Lebanese Citizenship and Diversity a “sensitive and an important one as it defines how as Lebanese we will relate to one another, but also how we will work together to build the Lebanon of the future”. Ouaiss’s presentation consisted of three parts, “the first is a reflection on where we stand as a people and how we relate to our state and to each other as citizens. The second, is what political options we have to address the issue of citizenship and diversity from a political vantage point, and the third and last part looks at the way forward and proposes ideas on how to strengthen citizenship and increase respect for diversity in Lebanon”.

“Notwithstanding foreign interference in our internal affairs which has disrupted or influenced our political life over the past decades, Lebanese remain greatly affected by a number of factors: First is the 1975-1990 unresolved war files, which includes most prominently the fate of the 17,000 disappeared and missing. The lack of effective reconciliation at the people’s level, the absence of agreement on a common history curricula since the end of the war in 1990, and the non-implementation of the post-Taef amended constitution.  What is less so and much less discussed, is the lingering fear citizens have of being unprotected by the state if living in areas where they may not be from the majority group or where potential clashes between two or more groups may take place. This war-time feeling of fear has been passed to the new generation in an unconscious way and has shaped demographic movements in the country and impacted the return of refugees to their regions, which remains limited”.

Ouaiss added: “These feelings of fear and threat are combined with a deep skepticism as to the role of the state as an honest broker. These feelings of fear, threat, alienation and frustration towards the state which I just described, have been reinforced and preserved by an electoral system that remains significantly biased in favor of these established leaders and parties despite recent important reforms. Finally, our education system has failed since Taef to promote better knowledge, understanding and respect of other citizen’s backgrounds, religious identities and groups, special needs, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc”. 

He later on acknowledged a series of negative elements, pointing out that some options may be sought on different levels:

  • “Human rights education in all schools with a clear and well-defined curricula, over several years
  • Civic education review and addition of a political component that is currently missing.
  • Critical knowledge of history by introducing and adopting an agreed upon curricula that promotes critical thinking, is fact-based and respectful of the diverse narratives that have existed while promoting a narrative that can help build a state that is inclusive and respectful of international conventions and agreements that Lebanon is part of.
  • Giving the Constitutional Council the ability to interpret the Constitution and to hear cases presented by individuals and small groups of citizens.
  • Making the independence of the judiciary a top priority and extricate it from the control of the Ministry of Justice while giving needed protection for the judges.
  • Drafting a comprehensive civil status law and advocate for its passage.
  • Reforming the electoral process to extricate it from the confessional and strict districting promoted by confessionally-based parties and to address the areas mentioned earlier.
  • Introducing a new political parties law, where parties are prohibited from receiving funding from non-Lebanese and are forced to be more transparent and internally democratic.
  • Moving as quickly as possible towards e-government for most transactions so as to shield citizens from any dependency on parties and “leaders” to receive state services.”

In conclusion, Ouaiss called for a major inclusive process that takes into account the diversity of the Lebanese society. Ouaiss said: “Our diversity should be celebrated and not become a source of constant fear that is used to divide us.  Ultimately without a renewed sense of both citizenship—that each Lebanese has an equal and direct relationship with the state by law—and inclusiveness, Lebanese will be unable to build a Lebanon on solid ground and remain too weak to stand up against internal and external ambitions and threats. While it may take some time to prepare the groundwork for such changes, making progress is possible. We can have a diverse Lebanon with citizens who feel and are actually included in how the country work”.  

The keynote speeches were followed by a discussion between the attendees.

 

CIH

Media Office

May 18, 2023

Sixth Session 11-10-2023

The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics

The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The sixth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics” broadcasted Live on the CIH social media platforms, started with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by two documentaries. First: “CIH 2012 – …Second a summary of the Fifth Morning Dialogue”,  titled “Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub – Sixth Session of the Morning Dialogues Initiative

Lebanon and Article 95 of the Constitution: The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics

Rahme: Lebanon is facing an existential crisis, but there is resilience in its genetic makeup that enables it to remain a nation with a mission for freedom and fraternity”

Mourad: Lebanon entered its second centenary as an independent country, yet it continues to exist as a nation without a state, amid persistent and prolonged crises

Al Bsat: The secularization of the law of personal status should be a political and national demand, not merely a feminist one

 

The Civic Influence Hub resumed its monthly ‘Morning Dialogues Initiative’ after the summer break, hosting its sixth meeting held at the Gefinor-Rotana Hotel. The event gathered a distinguished group of participants including civil society activists, legal and constitutional experts, cultural and intellectual figures, media professionals, and academics, as well as the President and Board of Directors members of the CIH.

The sixth meeting, held under the title “The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics“, was moderated by Dr Ali Mourad, who engaged in a conversation with Dr Elham Kalab Al Bsat. The discussion was inspired by the National Accord Document – Taëf Agreement with its reform clauses and the option of returning to the constitution, to build a state of free, just and independent citizenship leading to a state of living together.

The meeting, broadcasted live on the CIH social media platforms, commenced with the Lebanese national anthem. This was followed by two documentaries: one titled “Civic Influence Hub: Committed to Lebanon and Its People”, and the other a summary of the fifth Morning Dialogue, which was held under the title “Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Challenges”.

 Rahme’s Speech

The CIH Board member, Fadi Rahme, presented the introductory remarks and addressed the audience by referring to the mission of CIH ” to fight for the restoration of citizenship, as established since the State of Greater Lebanon and enshrined in the 1926 Constitution.” Rahme pointed out that Lebanon is facing an existential crisis, but there is resilience in its genetic makeup that enables it to remain a nation with a mission for freedom and fraternity. Based on that, he emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes of the crisis, not just its symptoms. He further highlighted the CIH’s belief in the value of peaceful and purposeful efforts to guide Lebanon out of its current turmoil and develop public policies for implementation by a responsible and accountable government.

Rahme concluded by quoting a famous saying by Khalil Gibran, Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion”. He added, ‘Perhaps we can purify politics in Lebanon from religious bias and sectarianization, and religion from politicization and extremism, for we are all citizens seeking the common good. May God protect Lebanon”. 

Mourad’s Speech

The dialogue facilitator, Dr. Ali Mourad, began by noting that Lebanon concluded its first century by settling the question of its identity. However, as it enters its second century as an independent nation, it continues to exist as a stateless entity amidst enduring and protracted crises. Mourad added, “The Taëf Agreement was founded on the basis of internal and international agreements that allowed for the end of the civil war. Hence, the constitutional amendments in 1990 were based on the Taëf Agreement, a result of political balances imposed by the outcome of a fifteen-year war, in order to determine a political settlement on the basis of sectarian power-sharing on the governmental level”.

Mourad considered that history has taught us that documents like “the Taëf Agreement are not sacred texts and society can rebuild itself around them to restore order to the system and respect for the state. However, what happened in Lebanon was quite the opposite. The temporary nature of the sectarian system transformed into a fixed and entrenched practice, sidelining the secular and civil nature of the state as stipulated by the constitution in favor of intricate sectarian representations. As a result, constitutional institutions became entirely dysfunctional, and real power in the state shifted outside the constitutional bodies.”

Mourad has also criticized the prevailing opinion that “constitutional amendments based on the National Accord Document entrenched sectarianism”. He argued that “a comprehensive reading of the constitution reveals the complete opposite”. In light of this, he highlighted Article 95 of the constitution, considering it “essential because it clearly indicates the temporary nature of the sectarian system. It serves as the cornerstone in the roadmap for overcoming political sectarianism through an elected parliamentary council based on parity, akin to the 1992 council, a change that has not occurred for over 32 years.”

At the end of his presentation, Mourad posed a series of questions regarding “the gradual measures and proceedings leading to the path of abolishing political sectarianism within the constitutional framework.” These questions included, “Is the issue more in the political practice than in the constitutional text, or is it the opposite?” and “Should we apply what is stated in the post-Taef constitution, and directly abolish political sectarianism, or has the time that has passed since the Agreement made these provisions unenforceable?” He also asked, “Should a national body be formed to abolish political sectarianism, or should another measure be adopted?” and “How can a parliamentary council be elected outside of sectarian constraints? or, alternatively should an electoral law be adopted to ensure fairness and accuracy of representation for parties and political groups?” Additionally, he inquired, “Is it necessary to adhere to what is stated in the 1990 constitution after sectarianism and establish a Senate?” and “If a Senate is established, how can its powers be limited to prevent it from becoming a dysfunctional body through the use of sectarian vetoes?” Finally, he questioned whether sectarian representation should be maintained at the presidential level or if a rotational system should be adopted, or if this representation should be bypassed altogether.” 

Al Bsat

After that, Dr. Elham Kallab Al Bsat delivered her presentation under the title “Secularizing Personal Status Laws.” She highlighted the ongoing efforts to build a civil state by confronting the politicization of religion, its influences on politics, and the need to free the state from the dominance of sectarian affiliations. Yet, these efforts require taking a comprehensive and general view of all aspects encompassing political, legal, religious, and social contexts as changed in one area can potentially generate questions and concerns in other areas.

Al Bsat mentioned that “the path to achieving a civil state may primarily involve the elimination of political sectarianism, but the transformation in the popular and societal base, as well as in concepts and mentalities, requires coordination and synchronization across all levels of social and political dynamics according to a “gradual plan”. “Al Bsat pointed out that “the constitution has left space for religious sects to intervene in the realm of personal status laws, turning citizenship into a sectarian matter permeating all aspects of family, humanity, and legal regulation. This is despite Article 9 of the constitution, which guarantees respect for the personal status of sects without granting them exclusive rights.”

Al Bsat also noted that “the demand for secularizing personal status laws is often considered primarily a feminist demand, championed by and worked on by various associations stemming from women’s struggles in the deepest moments of their lives”, in this regard, she argued that this topic should be regarded as a national and political demand, regardless of gender, one that could constitute a fundamental gap in the sectarian wall and lay the foundation for a new generation.” Transitioning to a modern family law framework in Lebanon, operating under civil legislation, carries several compelling justifications. These include the restoration of the state’s legislative authority, Lebanon’s commitment to upholding international agreements, and the recognition of the right to choose civil marriages”.

Therefore, Al Bsat considered that “the struggle is not between the religious and the secular, but between the political sectarianizing and the choice of the state.” In fact, people rely on the state and its laws, not on sectarian authorities, religious systems, and politicians who manipulate religion to disrupt worldly affairs, leading to a conflicting duality.”

After mentioning that “there were about 12 bills, proposals, memoranda, and principles put forward between 1971 and 2017 to amend the Personal Status Law,” Al Bsat pointed out that these laws were characterized by professionalism, legal knowledge, and national awareness. However, none of them were enacted since they collided with religious positions or with political institutions, including ministries or parliamentary councils, especially those politicians who benefit from protecting sectarian interests.” “Yet, Al Bsat emphasized that this history of consecutive disappointments did not deter renewed efforts.”

At the end of her speech, Al Bsat concluded by stating, “All of these projects have focused on transferring the jurisdiction of religious and Sharia courts to civil judges and courts before being concentrated on the duality of a mandatory or optional law.”

Finally, the keynote speeches were followed by a discussion between the attendees.

 CIH

Media Office

Beirut – October 11, 2023

Seventh Session 13-12-2023

Lebanon: A state of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality and Support for Social Justice

Lebanon: A state of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality and Support for Social Justice” in brief.

Watch full Session 

The Seventh monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon: A State of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality, and Support for Justice”, the event featured discussions by lawyer Nada Abdel Sater and Dr. Simon Kachar. The discourse was inspired by the National Accord Document (Taëf Agreement), emphasizing its reformative clauses and the call to return to the constitution. The aim is to build a free, just and independent citizenship State.

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub (CIH) continues its monthly “Morning Dialogues” in its seventh meeting,

titled “Lebanon: A state of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality and Support for Social Justice.”

Haykal: We will persist in the National Dynamics as long as Lebanon is facing Existential Threats.

Abdel Sater: The concept of Neutrality is at the core of the Lebanese Independence.

Kachar: Since its inception, Lebanon has been founded on the principles of neutrality and consensus.

 The Civic Influence Hub (CIH) hosted its seventh ‘Morning Dialogues’ session at the Gefinor Rotana Hotel in Hamra.  The event gathered group of participants including civil society activists, legal and constitutional experts, cultural and intellectual figures, media professionals, and academics, as well as the President and Board of Directors members of the CIH.

Titled “Lebanon: A State of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality, and Support for Justice”, the event featured discussions by lawyer Nada Abdel Sater and Dr. Simon Kachar. The discourse was inspired by the National Accord Document (Taëf Agreement), emphasizing its reformative clauses and the call to return to the constitution. The aim is to build a free, just and independent citizenship State.

Event Proceedings

The meeting, broadcasted live on CIH’s social media platforms, commenced with the Lebanese national anthem and a welcoming remark by journalist Denise Rahme Fakhry. This was followed by two documentaries: One introducing the work of the Civic Influence Hub and the other summarizing the sixth Morning Dialogue titled ‘Lebanon and Article 95 of the Constitution: The Foundation for Depoliticizing Religion and Secularizing Politics’.

Haykal’s Speech

Richard Haykal, Civic Influence Hub board member, delivered the introductory remarks, stating: “Today, we gather once again, and the Middle East is suffering. At the Civic Influence Hub, we persist in the fight for the restoration of citizenship, a legacy rooted in Greater Lebanon and enshrined in the 1926 Constitution. Highlighting Lebanon’s existential crisis, Haykal emphasized its inherent resilience, shaping it as a nation driven by a mission for freedom and fraternity.”

Haykal concluded by recalling the event during the October 12, 2019 revolution when the Civic Influence Hub’s tent in downtown Beirut was set ablaze amidst discussions on ‘Lebanon’s Neutrality’. He underscored its significance, remarking, “Four years and three days later, we convene under the same issue, symbolizing our unwavering dedication to the cause.”

Abdel Sater’s Speech

Following the opening speech, the moderator, lawyer Nada Abdel Sater, began her remarks by noting, “Our meeting today on December 13 follows the observance of yesterday’s ‘International Day of Neutrality,’ designated by the United Nations since 2017. Thus, the concept of neutrality holds various political and legal facets. As described by Butrus Al-Bustani in his book ‘Muhit Al Muhit,’ neutrality denotes ‘neutralizing something, i.e., setting it aside.’ Ibn Manzur in ‘Lisan Al-Arab’ defines it as ‘neutral or impartial, abstaining from taking sides with fairness.’ In public international law, neutrality was discussed during the ‘Peace Conferences at The Hague’ in 1899 and 1907, laying the groundwork for subsequent international legal frameworks, notably the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their additional protocols signed in 1977.”

Abdel Sater further explained the legal perspective, citing the definition of neutrality from the ‘United Nations website’ as “the legal status arising from the abstention of a state from all participation in a war between other states, the maintenance of an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents, and the recognition by the belligerents of this abstention and impartiality”. She also presented the geopolitical viewpoint, mentioning that neutrality “implies refraining from involvement in other nations’ wars. Neutrality can be either permanent or temporary, addressing a specific conflict or encompassing overall circumstances. Neutral countries can also be armed, as seen in Switzerland, or completely demilitarized, similar to Liechtenstein. Ultimately, a declaration of neutrality can stem from a nation’s local and national will or be proclaimed by a UN decision, designating the concerned state as a neutral entity, referred to by some as ‘neutralization’.”

In this context, Abdel Sater posed the following questions, “Where does Lebanon align with these notions of neutrality?” She highlighted that the notion of neutrality “whether as a broad concept or a philosophical and existential notion, is deeply ingrained in Lebanon’s quest for independence. Lebanon, shaped by its socio-religious fabric, has been pulled in two opposing directions. The National Pact laid the groundwork for Lebanon’s foreign policy, shaping its global and regional stance. The pursuit of neutrality persisted throughout Lebanon’s era of independence until 1980, which was evident in successive ministerial declarations affirming Lebanon’s dedication to neutrality. Notably, even before Lebanon’s independence in 1943, an preliminary document calling for independence, signed by the Administrative Council of Mount Lebanon on July 10, 1920, advocated for Lebanon’s neutrality and the restoration of its separated territories.”

Building on this, Abdel Sater’s emphasized the historical reality of the concept of neutrality as entrenched  within Lebanese thought and identity since its inception. Even critics of this concept acknowledge its validity within the Lebanese context. To support her claim, she presented perspectives from Sobhi al-Mahmassani, Kamal Jumblatt, and Ghassan Tueni. Her intervention concluded with thought-provoking questions: Could Lebanon’s neutrality encompass an armed facet?  Is Lebanon’s neutrally absolute, or are there exceptions to this neutrality? For instance, in advocating for the Palestinian cause, does Lebanon’s stance imply ideological support or a willingness to engage in military actions or offer its territory for war? Moreover, do armed factions in Lebanon align their weapons in defense of the people’s freedom.”

Kachar’s Speech             

Following Abdel Sater’s intervention, Dr. Simon Kachar took the floor, stating, “When asked to be the main speaker at this meeting, I didn’t hesitate, especially after last week’s launch of the “Good Governance and Citizenship Observatory” at the American University of Beirut. Additionally, I have previously collaborated with the CIH executive director, Ziad El-Sayegh, on a policy brief paper focused on Lebanon’s foreign policy, stemming from the significant CIH’s tent gathering during the 2019 revolution. Hence, I find myself here today discussing neutrality by reflecting on President Fouad Chehab’s experience between 1958 and 1964 and focusing on four core themes: citizenship, sovereignty, neutrality, and justice.”

In the discussion on citizenship, Kachar highlighted, “Fouad Chehab aimed for responsible and dedicated citizenship, seeking its alignment with social justice to establish stronger connections with the state. He emphasized that without a credible state image, citizen allegiance remains unattainable. Consequently, ‘his vision extended beyond political independence to encompass the developmental aspects of the state.” Kachar noted that Chehab’s emphasis on direct citizen engagement and institution-building facilitated the alignment between the state and its citizens. When confronted with political entities rejecting this approach, Fouad Chehab engaged with citizens through the state, proactively initiating contact rather than waiting for citizens to take initiative—that was his secret”.

On neutrality, Kachar referred to the meeting that gathered General President Fouad Chehab with the President of Egypt and the United Arab Republic, and the leader of Arab Unity, Gamal Abdel Nasser. He highlighted that “This meeting marked a historical turning point, primarily due to Nasser’s response to his Lebanese counterpart’s proposal and his agreement to convene under a tent built between the Syrian and Lebanese territories. This action aimed to uphold Lebanon’s dignity and consider the sentiments of a significant portion of the Lebanese population, who perceived the unity between Egypt and Syria as a grave existential threat to the Lebanese identity. Based on that, Kachar explained that given Lebanon’s status as a nation embracing multiple civilizations, the country was inherently inclined towards neutrality. This wasn’t an ideological imposition of policies against others but a practical and realistic stance resembling an approach of avoiding conflict and abstaining from involvement in international issues.”

On sovereignty, Kachar “saw a significant connection between a country’s sovereignty and its foreign policy. He mentioned that Fouad Shehab considered that preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty requires a fraternal policy with the Arab community founded on genuine cooperation and backing for any unified Arab policies. Nevertheless, in instances where Arab countries diverge on regional or international matters, Lebanon should adopt a neutral position. In this regard, it is worth noting that this approach doesn’t diminish Lebanon’s engagement with the West and the global community, an engagement long upheld and perceived by Christians as a means of safeguarding and security.”

Regarding justice, Kachar highlighted Shehab’s perspective, “asserting that Lebanon’s fundamental challenge resides in societal issues predating political or economic dimensions. For instance, Fouad Shehab emphasized the state’s role extending beyond justice and equality to fostering economic growth, securing individual livelihoods, and maintaining decent living standards. He focused on establishing and invigorating public administration through institution-building while concurrently empowering citizens. The judiciary system held paramount importance in his perspective.”

Kachar concluded by stating, “Lebanon, since its inception, has upheld a commitment to harmony among all its components. The responsibility to maintain this harmony rests in the hands of the President of the Republic, whose authorities have not been diminished by the National Accord Document or the Taëf Agreement. On the contrary, the constitutional outcome of the National Accord Document and its subsequent amendments aimed not at bestowing honorary or ceremonial duties upon the Lebanese president, but at proposing a different ruling model, allowing the Maronite President to transcend sectarianism. His pivotal role emphasizes safeguarding the constitution, transcending traditional authorities, and establishing a just state while embodying Lebanese unity.”

Finally, the event concluded with discussions among the panelists and the attendees.

 

Civic Influence Hub (CIH)

Media Office

Beirut – December 13, 2023

Eighth Session 13-03-2024

Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Partnership with the Diaspora

Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Partnership with the Diaspora in brief.

Watch full Session 

The Eighth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Partnership with the Diaspora” aiming to shed light on ‘the Lebanese expatriates’ position towards the concept of effective citizenship and divergent leadership. This event emphasizes on the hub’s commitment to highlight the role of expatriates and invite them to participate in shaping the future of Lebanon and utilizing their capabilities ‘to build a state of free, sovereign, just citizenship and a state of living together.

Press Release 

The Civic Influence Hub in its Eighth session of the Morning Dialogues

“Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Partnership with the Diaspora”

Al Sawaf: The diaspora is our pride and our partnership is strategic

Al Kosseifi: Expatriates in developed countries portray the “Global Citizen” identity

AL Rihani: We do not trust a state that violates the constitution or a state with diminished sovereignty

 

The Civic Influence Hub (CIH) hosted its eighth ‘Morning Dialogues‘ session at the Gefinor Rotana Hotel in Hamra.  The event gathered a distinguished group of participants including civil society activists, legal and constitutional experts, cultural and intellectual figures, retired judges and officers, media professionals, and academics, as well as the President and board members of the CIH.

The meeting was held under the title ‘Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Partnership with the Diaspora’, aiming to shed light on ‘the Lebanese expatriates’ position towards the concept of effective citizenship and divergent leadership. “This event emphasizes on the hub’s commitment to highlight the role of expatriates and invite them to participate in shaping the future of Lebanon and utilizing their capabilities ‘to build a state of free, sovereign, just citizenship and a state of living together.”

Event Proceedings

The meeting, broadcasted live on CIH’s social media platforms, commenced with the Lebanese national anthem and a welcoming remark by journalist Celina Braidy. This was followed by two documentaries: one introducing the work of the Civic Influence Hub and the other summarizing the seventh Morning Dialogue titled “Lebanon: A state of Citizenship, Sovereignty, Neutrality and Support for Justice”.

Al-Sawaf’s Remarks

Following that, a speech was delivered by Mu’taz Al-Sawaf, CIH board member who stated, “What matters to us at the Civic Influence Hub, while Lebanon confronts several challenges, is to continue with our battle to build a state of citizenship- a spirit that has existed since the inception of Greater Lebanon and was enshrined in its initial constitution in 1926.”

He further added: “Our conviction is that Lebanon can only thrive through the collaboration of its residents and expatriates. Hence, the CIH’s commitment to deeply engage and coordinate with the diaspora. The diaspora is our pride, and their participation with us is strategic. Welcome. May God protect Lebanon.”

Al Kosseifi’s Remarks

The session started with opening remarks from the moderator, Pamela Ibrahim Al Kosseifi, who mentioned, ‘Today, we need patriots, the majority of whom are living abroad, raising the slogan of love for the country and their homeland.’ Therefore, Lebanon cannot be imagined without its expatriates, neither can the dynamics of the relationship that connects them to their homeland be overlooked, nor the extensive presence of the Lebanese diaspora around the world. In fact, each expatriate has their own story to tell depending on the duration of their absence and the regularity of connection with their country. We notice that Lebanese expatriates portray the identity of ‘Global Citizens’ in their behaviors and lifestyles. We often find them engaging seamlessly in new societies, drawing from their culture that enhances individuality, regardless of gender, race, or religion. They respect systems and laws, as well as easily endorse the values of citizenship. They also uphold the value of personal freedom, enabling them to develop their capabilities and talents without the major obstacles that are unfortunately witnessed in Lebanon.”

Al Kosseifi added, “Today, we urgently need to embrace an open mindset free from sectarianism and personal interests.” She urged Lebanese residents to “learn from and be inspired by the Lebanese diaspora, who have excelled in various fields and emerged as the backbone and primary source of support for their homeland and its economy, especially amidst the current economic crisis.”

She concluded by stating, “We must emphasize the importance of the diaspora in influencing and engaging in commercial, political, and social activities, as well as enhancing investment opportunities and economic and financial developments in Lebanon.” Furthermore, she highlighted the expatriates’ contribution to maintaining the national social fabric and their relentless efforts to uplift the country on all levels while preserving its identity and economic freedom.

Al Rihani’s Remarks

Afterwards, Ms. May Al-Rihani and in a comprehensive strategic intervention affirmed “As expatriates, we comprehend, analyze, and assess Lebanon’s civilization as a complex, rather than simplistic entity.” She elaborated, explaining that “Lebanon’s distinctive civilization acts as a bridge between the East and the West; our civilization is shaped by the cultural and technological dimensions of the West, particularly in its forward outlook.” Additionally, this civilization interacts with the rich spiritual and social atmosphere of Lebanon’s eastern surroundings, as well as the depth of its Arab heritage and aspirations.

She further stated, “For expatriates, this identity is the essence of being Lebanese, serving as the cornerstone of Lebanon’s past, present, and future.” Regarding the concept of citizenship, expatriates view it as “rights and responsibilities outlined in the constitution through adherence to laws and the duty to enforce them.” Citizenship, she emphasized, is not tied “to primary allegiance to a specific sector of the population, class, family, or even a party before loyalty to the nation.” “It is very difficult for a nation to progress without emphasizing the priority of the loyalty of its citizens to it, as all other allegiances are insignificant.” Ultimately, “citizenship is a pact between the nation and its citizens built on principles and values that cannot be compromised.” Therefore, the work of expatriates stems from this belief and gets stronger when Lebanon faces complex and existential crises. The diaspora becomes, ” the voice and conscience of Lebanon abroad.” They often explain to communities abroad and their governments the reality of the situation and urge decision-makers to assist Lebanon and its institutions.

As a matter of fact, “I believe everyone knows the active role Lebanese expatriates play in influencing the decision-making of the American government in supporting the Lebanese Army.”

Al-Rihani also highlighted the role of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), which presented at its annual conference in November 2023 in Paris a list of recommendations , including: the necessity of controlling weapons and leaving the decision of war and peace in the hands of the Lebanese state, and entrusting their implementation to the Lebanese Army, while demanding the implementation of Security Council resolutions related to Lebanon, especially resolutions 1701 and 1559. Also, the need to elect a sovereign and reformist president to avoid further deterioration of the situation and to ensure the smooth functioning of institutions by adhering to the constitution.

Based on that, Al-Rihani called for “establishing a partnership between Lebanese residents and the expatriates, to work together for the greater good of Lebanon.” In fact, Lebanese people “no longer trust a state that violates the constitution, compromises sovereignty, or manipulates laws to the benefit corrupt leaders who exploit public and private funds.”

Al-Rihani elaborated on essential concepts she identified as fundamental for both political and non-political leadership to achieve success. These include adopting a clear vision to guide teams towards defined objectives, thereby facilitating the pursuit of effective solutions. Such endeavors necessitate dedication, optimism, self-assurance, and the ability to foster courage and excellence.

Al-Rihani emphasized Lebanon’s dire situation, depicting it as one of the most severe crises politically, economically, and socially. The possibility of war escalation deepens the existential crisis, exacerbating poverty, and undermining stability and security. Hence, Lebanese citizens are urged to challenge the status quo by advocating for the establishment and election of a new leadership that initiates radical change, beginning with affirming Lebanon’s positive role regionally and globally. This involves steering Lebanon towards a path that upholds citizenship, freedom, equality, and diversity while rejecting corruption, and prioritizing justice over oppression. Such efforts are essential for addressing entrenched issues and fostering a brighter future for Lebanon and its people.

Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

Beirut – Wednesday 13 March 2024

Ninth Session 24-04-2024

Lebanon the State of Citizenship: Economic Recovery, Financial Stability and Social Justice”

Lebanon the State of Citizenship: Economic Recovery, Financial Stability and Social Justice in brief.

Watch full Session 

The ninth monthly meeting in the “Morning Dialogues Initiative” titled: “Lebanon the State of Citizenship: Economic Recovery, Financial Stability and Social Justice” to emphasize the urgent need to tackle the financial, economic, and social crises affecting the resilience of the Lebanese people.

Press Release

The Civic Influence Hub in its ninth session of the “Morning Dialogues” titled

“Lebanon the State of Citizenship: Economic Recovery, Financial Stability and Social Justice”

El Khalil: ” There appears to be no imminent decision to address the economic crisis.”

Tabbara: “Citizenship isn’t defined by constitutional laws and articles but by practical implementation.”

Hayek: “This presents the pathway to recovery and the rejuvenation of the middle class.”

 

The Civic Influence Hub (CIH) resumed its ‘Morning Dialogues’ series and hosted its ninth session at the Gefinor Rotana Hotel in Hamra.  The event gathered a distinguished group of participants including civil society activists, legal and constitutional experts, cultural and intellectual figures, retired judges and officers, media professionals, and academics, as well as the President and board members of the CIH.

The meeting was convened under the title “Lebanon the State of Citizenship: Economic Recovery, Financial Stability and Social Justice” to emphasize the urgent need to tackle the financial, economic, and social crises affecting the resilience of the Lebanese people.

Event Proceedings

The meeting, broadcasted live on CIH’s social media platforms, commenced with the Lebanese national anthem and a welcoming remark by journalist Denise Rahme Fakhry. This was followed by two documentaries: one introducing the work of the Civic Influence Hub and the other summarizing the eighth Morning Dialogue titled “Lebanon, the State of Citizenship and National Participation with the Diaspora”.

El Khalil’s Remarks

The President of the Civic Influence Hub (CIH) Mr. Faysal El Khalil delivered a speech, stating: ‘Today, as we gather, Lebanon is facing a state of imbalance across all constitutional, sovereign, administrative, judicial, financial, economic, and social dimensions. While this imbalance may appear arbitrary to some, we perceive it as a deliberate attempt to redefine Lebanon’s civilization and identity. It’s a challenge we are committed to addressing peacefully and decisively, despite the obstacles. The Civic Influence Hub thus remains committed to continue the fight for building a state of citizenship, grounded in the principles of freedom, sovereignty, justice, and communal coexistence, as outlined in our original constitution of 1926”.

El Khalil further added “The financial, economic, and social crises are destroying our nation and weakening the resilience of the Lebanese people. There appears to be no imminent determination in sight to address economic recovery and restore dignity to our daughters and sons. In fact, solutions exist, but the will to act is lacking. Therefore, we should continually work together towards a sound governance built on accountability and transparency. This, indeed, is the essence of the matter.”

Tabbara’s Remarks

Then, lawyer Iman Tabbara, addressed the challenges of citizenship and presented key inquiries during the session, emphasizing “the historical diversity in traditions and approaches to citizenship, leading to diverse interpretations of this concept.” She noted, “The predominant understanding of citizenship typically centers on the legal connection between individuals and the state, where citizens fulfill specific duties to the state in exchange for the assurance of protection of their fundamental interests.” Based on this, she mentioned, “The nexus between individuals and citizenship encompasses four fundamental dimensions: the political-legal, cultural, social, and economic.”

Tabbara further highlighted that “while the Lebanese constitution delineates the definition and dimensions of citizenship, the concept has been undermined by political sectarianism, a pressing issue that requires urgent attention since it should be considered a political priority. Tabbara addressed in her remarks certain complexities where “the Lebanese state imposes its laws on its citizens across all domains and treats them equally, yet does not recognize them as citizens unless they identify with their sect.” Regarding the economic dimension, she mentioned, “The Lebanese economy is expected to be free but has turned into capitalist and thus transformed into an oligarchy.” She also highlighted that “the principle of social justice has often been regarded solely as a political principle, as though it has no bearing on the economy or economic justice.

Tabbara cautioned against the constitutional ambiguity compounded by political interventions and manipulation of the state’s affairs and emphasized that “citizenship extends beyond legal provisions in constitutions; it is instead a practical behavior applied in real-life situations. “She concluded by advocating for “thorough debates and discussions to establish a new economic strategy, in light of the government’s recent adoption of “the National Social Protection Strategy”, despite its nearly century-long delay.”

Hayek’s remarks

Following that, Mr. Ziad Hayek intervened, highlighting the interconnectedness of economic development and the pursuit of social justice. He emphasized that “these goals are not mutually exclusive and are influenced by political, security, and external factors. He stressed that just as a state cannot prosper without a strong economy and a fair society, it is also erroneous to believe that economic and social dynamics exist in isolation from their broader surroundings. In fact, both dynamics are interdependent. In fact, attempting to revive the Lebanese economy and achieve social justice is futile as long as the government fails to reclaim sovereignty on various levels: managing the presence of Syrian refugees, controlling the use of weapons across its territory, and implementing structural reforms, along with certain constitutional amendments, to address the flawed governance system”.

Hayek added “If I was asked to talk about the socio-economic aspect exclusively, while neglecting other dimensions, I will affirm that partial approaches are no longer viable. Therefore, adopting a long-term reform framework requires a strong leadership invested in sustainable and equitable growth embraced by the Lebanese people with conviction. He emphasized that “dwelling on the past without advocating for change hinders progress; if the strategies we’ve employed thus far were effective, we wouldn’t be facing our current challenges. Thus, it’s essential to acknowledge that conventional technical approaches fall short in a nation like Lebanon, as has been proven by the IMF’s traditional stance during our financial collapse. In fact, many have embraced the International Monetary Fund’s policies, uncertain if they are suitable for the Lebanese case, with its dual currencies, the lira and the dollar.”

Hayek continued his remarks by referring to a detailed and comprehensive plan he presented with his colleague Gérard Charvet to address the financial crisis and transform it from a disaster into an opportunity. The plan involves converting dollar deposits into long-term bank certificates tradable on the Beirut Stock Exchange, aiming to achieve several objectives such as avoiding bank insolvency declarations, securing liquidity for depositors, and injecting billions of dollars into the Beirut Stock Exchange, which is considered a crucial step towards establishing genuine financial markets. However, Hayek mentioned, “this opportunity has been lost today, and it is necessary to move forward with what is possible. Instead of contemplating a plan for financial recovery, we should work on developing a plan to revive the economy as a whole, indirectly compensating dollar depositors by improving opportunities for asset restructuring, business growth, and job creation for them and their communities.”

Hayek further criticized the economic plans previously pursued by the government since “they were tailored to specific interests. He explained that “the Paris 1, 2, and 3 agreements relied on pledges to secure donor approval, the McKinsey plan lacked consideration for the country’s social realities, and the investment program accompanying the CEDRE conference included unnecessary projects requested by political parties for their own agendas.” Hence, he advocated for “a fresh opportunity to develop a comprehensive economic plan that not only focuses on economic aspects but also integrates closely with the social dimension. Growth and human well-being are measured not only by GDP but also by living standards and other components of national security. Hence, it’s imperative to embrace a bold approach to this plan, free from past constraints”. Hayek stressed the plan’s reliance on “two fundamental pillars: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the strategic level, and the implementation of a social market approach at the operational level.” He pointed out that “Lebanon, among the 190 countries signing the Sustainable Development Goals agreement in 2015, has yet to fully integrate them as the cornerstone of a comprehensive socio-economic development plan.”
Hayek also presented several policy recommendations for Lebanon’s socio-economic recovery plan. These include restructuring the banking sector, revising the records of the Central Bank of Lebanon, and securing a symbolic agreement with the International Monetary Fund to restore some financial confidence lost when Lebanon ceased payments on its debts instead of rescheduling them. Additionally, the plan advocates prioritizing electricity and solar energy production, involving telecommunications and electricity sectors, and establishing regulatory bodies to prevent monopolies. It also proposes placing all public institutions in a credit fund for restructuring, addressing the state’s debt, strengthening public debt management authority, investing in infrastructure, and discontinuing arbitrary subsidies. Furthermore, the plan recommends establishing specialized economic zones to promote decentralization and the development of governorates, as well as negotiating with European countries to enhance trade conditions within the context of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Finally, he suggested utilizing gold reserves for investment purposes”.

Hayek concluded by emphasizing “the crucial role of tax justice and transparency in achieving social justice,” while strongly criticizing the government’s reliance on “imposing indirect taxes to offset revenue deficits.” Consequently, he stressed the need to “design and enforce progressive income taxes and transparency measures to curb tax evasion, in an attempt to revive the middle class.”

 

Civic Influence Hub

Media Office

Beirut, April 24,2024