Talking Trash in Lebanon

More than a week ago, the city of Beirut ceased trash collection when the landfill stopped accepting deliveries. It turns out the city’s biggest landfill is, well… full. Since then, the streets of this beautiful capital on the Mediterranean Sea have been filled with piles of garbage, rotting in the summer heat– 20,000 tons and counting. This creates obvious health hazards, and undercuts the city’s peak tourist season. Many residents are wearing masks to deal with the stench.

The Lebanese people are rightfully outraged. They see the garbage crisis as a manifestation of larger institutional failures. The country has been without a president for more than a year, and the parliament has extended its own mandate until 2017 without holding elections. The political deadlock breeds institutional paralysis, which in turn exacerbates corruption in a destructive cycle. Essential services like electricity, water, and, sure enough, waste removal are disrupted. CIPE’s longtime partner and Lebanon’s leading anti-corruption watchdog, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), is not sitting idly by.

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The Trillion-Dollar Question: Financing the Sustainable Development Goals

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After years of consultation, discussion, and debate, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that will guide development efforts for the foreseeable future are close to becoming a reality — meaning a global commitment to end poverty in all its forms everywhere and eliminating extreme poverty entirely by 2030. But one crucial question remains: how to pay for it all?

The Financing for Development (FfD) conference met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia earlier this month to try to reach an agreement on the right mix of development aid, taxes, loans, trade, and private investment to pay for the ambitious agenda set out in the SDGs, building on the failures and successes of the previous Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration.

Following the FfD conference, the Center for International Private Enterprise’s (CIPE) convened a panel of experts to reflect on the new SDG financing framework and outline important steps leading up to the summit in September where 193 heads of state will converge to ratify the goals.

Hosted by CIPE Executive Director John D. Sullivan, the panel featured Trevor Davies of KPMG, Christopher Jurgens of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Louise Kantrow of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Kamran M. Khan of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and Sarah Thorn of Walmart.

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Protest Movement Electrifies Armenian Civil Society

(Photo: BBC)

(Photo: BBC)

By Ann Mette Sander Nielsen

The Electric Yerevan protests began on June 19, when protesters gathered on the street to express their discontent with the local power company, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) and its planned 14 percent increase in electricity tariffs from August, the third price raise within the past two years, which would result in a more than 60 percent overall increase in electricity tariffs.

Public discontent was further aggravated by a report revealing evidence of gross corruption and mismanagement at the utility. The report exposed the extravagant lifestyle of the ENA management and revealed that the ENA has accumulated debt by overpaying suppliers and contractors.

On June 23, four days after the start of the protests, roughly 2,000 protesters gathered on Baghramyan Avenue to express their grievances with the ENA management. They were blocked by police forces, and in response the protesters sat down and spent the night there. They were forcibly dispersed by police water cannons and around 250 people were detained.

Images, video clips and anecdotes about excessive police force circulated on social media under the hashtag #ElectricYerevan. The next day, around 4,000 protesters showed up on Baghranyan Avenue, and a few days later, the number of protesters peaked at 20,000.

The organizers of the protests developed guidelines for the protests, including a no alcohol policy, mutual respect, and tidiness, and organized a general assembly consisting of civic initiatives and working groups open to the public with the aim of discussing issues related to the protests. In Armenia, like many other countries, social media has become the main tool for producing a counter narrative to the state-owned media outlets and has allowed the distribution of ideas and the coordination of action and attention of participants.

After two weeks of protests, the police showed restraint while clearing Baghranyan Avenue on July 6. Perhaps the Armenian authorities had understood that police violence would only attract additional protesters, as it did on June 23. The effect of social media and the loose and horizontal structure of the Electric Yerevan protests made it difficult for the Armenian authorities to dismantle.

A reason for the loose and informal structure of the protests can be found in the non-democratic context under which protesters are forced to operate in Armenia. People are afraid to lose their jobs if they participate in more organized movements. In Armenia here is a general mistrust of NGOs and social movement organizations, which are traditionally more structured and technocratic. Civic initiatives like Electric Yerevan are more consensus-based and horizontal in their decision-making process and therefore seek to distance themselves from the NGOs, relying instead on street protests, occupations, or more creative forms of protests.

In fact, over the past few years, protests by civic initiatives have been frequent. Although civic initiatives in Armenia usually address very specific issues, they symbolize the display of informed grievances concerning corruption, government mismanagement, and the absence of rule of law and democracy. The size of the Electric Yerevan protests made it different from the previous protests. Perhaps Electric Yerevan has given renewed power to Armenian civil society to make demands from its government.

Ann Mette Sander Nielsen is a Eurasia intern at CIPE.

Good Governance in Pakistan is Crucial for Greater Trade

Despite new export opportunities, Pakistan's textile factories are shutting down due to energy shortages. (Photo: Dawn)

Despite new export opportunities, Pakistan’s textile factories are shutting down due to energy shortages. (Photo: Dawn)

Huma Sattar was a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Successive governments in Pakistan have shown profound interest in increasing trade with the rest of the world by pursuing various trade and investment agreements. From a significant Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China signed in 2006 which will soon enter its second phase, to a trade and transit agreement with Afghanistan, as well as several free or preferential trade agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, Pakistan is also negotiating possibilities of trade agreements and cooperation with Turkey, Thailand, and the ASEAN region. The country is also part of the regional trade agreement South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) together with India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and other South Asian countries. Though the agreement is not yet fully operational, it is a source of much discourse and tremendous unrealized potential for all countries involved.

Pakistan’s trade has increased overall, going from $24 billion in 2003 to $72 billion in 2014, and opening Pakistan’s markets may be a positive indicator of some improvements in Pakistan’s economy.  From importing primarily oil and fuel products, Pakistan is now also importing machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, and industrial inputs. The industrial sector, particularly large scale manufacturing, witnessed a growth of about five percent in fiscal year 2014.

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Could Community-Based Weather Forecasting Help Defuse Conflict?

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Weather stations like this one in Australia provide information that is vital to agrarian economies. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Gracie Cook

While religious, sectarian, and geopolitical divisions in the world’s hotspots often make headlines, an even more basic driver of conflict is often overlooked: the weather.

In agrarian or water-scarce societies, changes in weather patterns lay the groundwork for resource conflicts between ethnic and religious groups, while severe weather events like drought can exacerbate existing social, economic, and political tensions, often boiling over into violence. While poor governance in conflict-afflicted societies too often turns bad weather into catastrophe, a greater role for the private sector in dealing with weather-related problems might just help prevent future outbreaks of violence.

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Gender Diversity on Pakistan’s Corporate Boards

When it comes to gender diversity, too many boards still look like this in 2015 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

When it comes to gender diversity, too many boards still look like this in 2015 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Corporate boards have historically been comprised mainly of men. However, a number of countries have begun imposing quotas for the number of women on the boards of publicly traded or state-owned companies — an idea that is now being considered as a European Union-wide rule. This is likely to compel businesses elsewhere in the world, including Pakistan, to consider the gender diversity of their own corporate boards.

According to the International Finance Corporation, just 13 percent of 303 companies surveyed in Pakistan in 2010 had more than one woman director — a sample that included publicly listed companies, large family-owned firms, and private, unlisted companies. 

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The Future of a Nation: A One Minute Look at Lebanon

"Corniche beirut" by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States - Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Corniche beirut” by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States – Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Elie Obeid

Lebanon, it’s that country in the Middle East that you sometimes miss while going through a map. Despite its small size, Lebanon enjoyed quite a reputation in the 1960s and early 1970s as being the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut, its capital, was known as the Paris of the Middle East due to the number of tourists it attracted and its role as a financial and trade hub for the region.

In recent years, however, Lebanon has been suffering from various social, political, economic problems. To discuss all these issues and possible solutions for them would require volumes so we’ll stick to economics this time with a little twist of politics. But before getting into that, how about we take a look at the numbers first.

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