Author Archives: Stephen Rosenlund

Talking Trash in Lebanon

Photo: Lebanese Examiner

Photo: Lebanese Examiner (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

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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Building a Future for Syria’s Youth

My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.

Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.

For more insights from our visit, please be sure to read Peako’s recent post on the program.

Stephen Rosenlund is a Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE. Peako Jenkins is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

Getting Creative about Saying “No!” to Corruption in Lebanon

Graffiti art produced at LTA-LABN’s public rally held in the Beirut Souks, September 12, 2014.

Graffiti art produced at LTA-LABN’s public rally held in the Beirut Souks, September 12, 2014.

CIPE partner the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) recently wrapped up a banner month in its fight against corruption in Lebanon. CIPE’s partnership with LTA dates back over ten years, and since 2012 CIPE has been supporting LTA through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to strengthen the rule of law in Lebanon. Our approach has been not only to raise public awareness, but also to empower citizens to exercise their rights. This effort has been consolidated primarily through the Lebanese Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (LALAC) and the Lebanese Anti-Bribery Network (LABN), both of which are housed and managed by LTA.

LALAC operates centers in Beirut, Bekaa, and Nabatieh, which are staffed by attorneys and legal assistants who field complaints of corruption from citizens across Lebanon. Through LALAC, citizens can report corruption by calling the LALAC hotline, writing a letter or e-mail, or visiting one of three centers in person.

LALAC Legal Advisor Carol Sabty, LTA Grassroots Manager Said Issa, and the author (center) discuss LALAC’s capabilities in the fight against corruption during an outreach session with citizens in Kfardebian, Lebanon.

LALAC Legal Advisor Carol Sabty, LTA Grassroots Manager Said Issa, and the author (center) discuss LALAC’s capabilities in the fight against corruption during an outreach session with citizens in Kfardebian, Lebanon.

Since CIPE’s direct support for LALAC began approximately one year ago, LALAC has achieved an unprecedented level of activity. A total of 453 complaints have been made during that time, 277 of which directly relate to corruption. In 224 cases, LALAC has provided citizens (“clients”) with legal advice on the process of vindicating their rights (short of providing representation in court) and sought resolution with cognizant public institutions.

If LALAC were a law firm, it would be doing a brisk business. But LALAC doesn’t bill its clients. It exists to empower the victims of corruption as champions for reform and to hold public officials accountable. LALAC has already worked directly with more than 15 public institutions to achieve resolution of individual cases and achieved some notable successes. Moreover, LALAC is negotiating memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with numerous public sector entities to cooperate in resolving complaints of corruption – remarkable progress in a country where openly talking about corruption was taboo not long ago.

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Investing in Corporate Governance Practice in Palestine


Program Officer Stephen Rosenlund discusses best practices in corporate governance based on CIPE’s experience in the MENA region.

On September 9-10 in Ramallah, I had the privilege of participating in a CIPE-supported training workshop on corporate governance with the leaders and technical staff of nine Palestinian chambers of commerce from the West Bank. This was an unprecedented gathering organized by our partner the Palestine Governance Institute (PGI) and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture to activate the chambers as resources for their member firms on corporate governance matters.

The two-day training workshop immersed participants in applicable legal and regulatory frameworks, the role of oversight institutions, and best practices in corporate governance at the firm level. While the different requirements applicable to publicly traded and private companies were examined, presenters emphasized the imperative for all firms regardless of size or ownership structure to adopt sound corporate governance practices. Data from numerous studies show that investing in corporate governance is a good business decision that enhances the performance and sustainability of companies. In addition, it has a positive aggregate effect on society in the form of economic development.

Moreover, well-governed companies tend to act ethically — by resisting paying bribes, for example — and therefore reduce the amount of corruption in society. A private sector that has its own house in order is also better positioned to engage in dialogue with public officials to bring about needed policy, legal, and regulatory reforms that will improve the environment for business.

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The Gathering


With all due respect to CIPE’s other partners, surely the coolest workspace in the CIPE family today is located in Saida, Lebanon. The innovative space, called El Moltaqa (“The Gathering”), is the new home of the Development of People and Nature Association (DPNA). El Moltaqa is not merely an office for DPNA’s dedicated staff, it is a focal point for civic engagement in the community.

In its first decade of existence, DPNA has become a highly-respected convening authority for a range of local stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, public officials from the local and national levels, young activists, and others representing the diverse fabric of Lebanese society.

Unfortunately, that fabric is frayed due to a highly volatile geopolitical situation, which makes a place like El Moltaqa all the more vital. It is a sanctuary where people from every religion, sect, ethnicity, and political persuasion can feel safe. Through a rich array of cultural and educational offerings, El Moltaqa provides the community with a place to engage respectfully in democratic dialogue and debate about the most important issues of the day.

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Repairing a Shattered Syrian Economy in the Midst of War

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The common thread that unites all of CIPE’s partners around the world is their dedication to the principles of democracy rooted in private enterprise and free market economics. In all other respects, their diversity is remarkable and represents one of CIPE’s greatest sources of strength.

Ranging from the smallest of local business associations and youth groups to large chambers of commerce and some of the world’s most respected think tanks, our partners all work hard to advance freedom and secure new opportunity for their fellow citizens. They also operate under circumstances as varied and complex as the global geo-political landscape itself. Some of our partners work in conflict environments that require a particular blend of courage and creativity in order to advance their democratic objectives.

The current catastrophe in Syria certainly presents unique challenges to CIPE’s partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), an independent think tank formed in 2012 by business people from across Syria to inform the public policies that will be needed for the country to emerge from conflict and transition to democracy. It may sound starry-eyed to speak of peace and democracy with the war now in its fourth year, at a cost of more than 160,000 lives, over 2.8 million refugees, $143.8 billion in economic losses (as of the end of 2013), three-quarters of the population living in poverty, and incalculable social trauma.

However, SEF and the moderate business community it represents see no other alternative. Independent small and medium business people from across the country, representing the mosaic of religions and ethnicities for which Syria has long been renowned, are a unifying force with the potential to repair and rebuild a now shattered society.

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Addressing the 98 Percent: Supporting Reform Among Family Firms in the Palestinian Territories

pgi-cgMore than 98 percent of commercial entities in Palestine are not covered by existing corporate governance codes, which apply to companies listed on the Palestine Stock Exchange and commercial banks. Most of these are structured as family firms — whether in ownership or management — which creates special difficulties for corporate governance.

To address the thousands of family firms that form the heart and soul of the Palestinian private sector, CIPE partner the Palestine Governance Institute (PGI) recently published a Corporate Governance Manual for Family Firms (available in Arabic and English) with the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

This seminal publication — the first of its kind in Palestine — was informed by extensive consultations with local experts, family firms themselves, and other stakeholders including lawyers and academics.

PGI engaged in extensive outreach to the business community in developing these guidelines, including conducting a baseline assessment through interviews with over 100 owners and managers of family firms across the West Bank and Gaza.

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