Eighty-one percent of Lebanese business owners and managers believe the level of corruption in the country has increased over the past two years, and another 11 percent believe it has at least stayed the same. Nearly all (97 percent) recognize that this is a problem. These are among the more eye-opening results of a new nationwide survey conducted by CIPE partner the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) which is informing the next chapter in the work of the Lebanese Anti-Bribery Network (LABN).
The LABN was established by LTA in 2008, with CIPE support, as a multi-stakeholder network of professionals dedicated to researching issues related to bribery in Lebanon, raising public awareness, and encouraging public officials to take measures to curb corruption. The LABN has published two works to help the private sector in the fight against corruption – a “Code of Ethics and Whistleblower Procedure for Small and Medium Enterprises” and a “You’re Being Audited” guide to the public audit process. The LABN also released several research papers on bribery and corruption in specific sectors, including electricity, taxation, and construction.
On June 27, 2013, LTA and CIPE held a LABN workshop to explore the latest data on corruption in Lebanon and develop a strategy for collective action. Among the more than 40 participants at the event were company executives, civil society activists, and government officials. CIPE’s Senior Knowledge Manager, Dr. Kim Bettcher, presented a variety of private sector-led collective action models for the group’s consideration.
The survey revealed that corruption is not confined to any one sector in Lebanon, nor can it be fought by any one constituency alone. LABN is unique in Lebanon in that it brings together unlikely partners to advance an anti-corruption agenda – grassroots and high-level stakeholders; government officials and business leaders; civil society groups and the media. Through their collective action, the members of the LABN aim to fundamentally transform the way the private and public sectors and civil society relate to each other in Lebanon. Only together can these diverse constituencies develop a sustainable strategy and effective techniques to curb endemic corruption in the country.
Based on the results of the national survey and the group’s strategic priorities, the LABN will be developing a plan of action in the coming months to take the fight against corruption in Lebanon to the next level. Through a series of focused initiates, LABN will demonstrate the tremendous potential of private sector-led collective action in bringing about a more just and inclusive society.
While the results of the survey may seem discouraging at first blush, the LABN views them in a more optimistic light. In contrast to a previous survey conducted in 2010, private sector leaders are now more aware of corruption at all levels of society and are willing to speak out against it. Simply put, corruption is no longer taboo in Lebanon. LABN is poised to harness the private sector’s frustration in the form of collective action to advance constructive proposals for reform.
Stephen Rosenlund is a Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.