Tag Archives: Lebanon

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 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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Trade Capacity Building and Private Sector Engagement

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By Kirby Bryan

For sustainable economic growth, developing countries must have the capacity to functionally interact with the global market. Much of the onus for building that capacity rests on a domestic commitment to reforms compatible with global trade. Many emerging markets have lofty aspirations that are unachievable given the current state of affairs, but are determined to rectify the situation. Access to foreign markets can cement reform efforts aimed at improving the local economy and sustaining economic growth.

In late February, the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) released a report from their Congressional Task Force on Trade Capacity Building (TCB) on “Opportunities in Strengthening Trade Assistance.” While the report focuses primarily on US efforts to improve the effectiveness and relevance of its TCB programs, it signals a shift in international engagement and understanding of the role trade plays on the growth of a developing economy.

The shift is also indicative of a growing global development trend toward incorporating the voice of the recipient country from the beginning stages of negotiations through agreement ratification. What is interesting about the current TCB discussions is the recognition by major players in the development world of including the knowledge and expertise of the private sector. Ultimately, it is the private sector in the developing and developed countries that will bear the fruits of economic growth and trade.

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The Entrepreneurship Café – Advancing Entrepreneurship, Lebanese-style

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By Rami Shamma and Stephen Rosenlund

The Lebanese have contributed to the Middle East (and for that matter the wider world) a renowned tradition of arts and design, which was no less evident than in the Development for People and Nature Association’s (DPNA’s) fourth consecutive year of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) programming. A leading GEW partner in Lebanon and longtime CIPE partner, DPNA used this year’s celebration of entrepreneurship as an opportunity to bring its new series of “Entrepreneurship Cafés” to Beirut.

With CIPE’s support, DPNA is hosting a series of six Entrepreneurship Cafés across Lebanon to identify the priorities of young people to build a culture of entrepreneurship and reform the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Lebanon. Unlike traditional roundtable-style workshops, these events are designed to evoke the free flow of ideas, candor, and creativity of Lebanon’s café culture. Each café brings together young people from the community to discuss various dimensions of the entrepreneurship ecosystem – personal, familial, financial, legal, societal, governmental, and media – and to identify solutions to the challenges they are facing.

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To Benefit from Energy Resources, Lebanon Needs Better Institutions, Not Just Greater Transparency

A map showing the offshore areas being opened to oil and gas exploration. The auctions have been repeatedly delayed.

A map showing the offshore areas being opened to oil and gas exploration. The auctions have been repeatedly delayed. (Photo: Deloitte)

By Sami Atallah

A paradox confronts countries endowed with oil and gas resources. Despite their riches, these countries tend to grow slower in the long term, have higher income inequality, be more corrupt and even become authoritarian. This, of course is not the fate of all such countries — many have managed to turn the oil curse into a blessing. Those that did had two things going for them: a high level of human capital and good institutions that upheld checks and balances on power.

Although Lebanon is well endowed with human capital, its institutions are generally weak. The Taef agreement redistributed power more equally across the three key institutions — the presidency, the parliament and the prime ministership — that are associated with the three dominant sects, and in many ways, undermined the political system.

For one, the executive authority became diffused to an extent that it is no longer obvious who is in charge. The members of the parliament seem less interested in legislating and holding executive authority accountable and more interested in providing services to constituents. The political parties have mastered the game of electoral survival by crafting election laws through redistricting and vote counting in ways that get them reelected with little to show for. They have resorted to clientelistic strategies of buying votes and providing services in return for political loyalty. Furthermore, the judiciary and the oversight agencies whose job it is to hold the government accountable were at best sidelined but most often intentionally weakened through political interventions or bureaucratic understaffing.

In sum, the political elite govern the country largely by the logic of dividing the spoils among themselves through illegal subcontracting of projects, violating tendering requirements, as well as contracting companies despite conflicts of interest. This has resulted in high levels of corruption, embezzlement, mismanagement and waste benefiting the political elite at the expense of the rest of the population.

It is against this backdrop that the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA), the body entrusted to govern the oil sector, came into being. Between November 2012 and August 2013, the LPA proceeded rather efficiently and with more transparency than most Lebanese institutions in approaching the sector. It held consultative meetings and workshops, and managed to lay the groundwork for the launch of the offshore licensing round. Now it is waiting on the government to pass the last decrees for the process to continue, and has found itself caught up in the Lebanese political mill with no clear way out of the deadlock.

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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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Citizens Work Together to Fight Corruption in Lebanon

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A lab technician went to the office of a public official to renew her work contract with a municipal laboratory in northern Lebanon. Several days after submitting her request, the official’s secretary invited her to come to his office. Hoping to finally receive his signature on her contract renewal, the young woman arrived at the office only to find that he wanted to get her alone behind closed doors, where he allegedly proceeded to make verbal and physical sexual advances on her.

She fled the scene and tried to see if she could get her contract renewed through another government department, which only referred her back to the same official. Having no other alternative, the young woman went back to the official’s office in January 2014, but this time she was prepared with a hidden camera to capture his behavior on video.

In the mountains of Chouf, residents of Brih and neighboring villages were displaced during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Their lands were subsequently occupied by other families and, rather than evacuating the lands and returning them to their original owners, the Ministry of Displaced Persons in Lebanon ran a program to offer compensation to the displaced.

But in 2014, although other villages had been paid, the former people of Brih still had not received their compensation. When they submitted a complaint to the Ministry, it claimed that the payment had been issued. But with residents presenting evidence that they had never received compensation, the question arose: where had the funds gone?

These are the types of cases that Lebanese citizens report to the Lebanese Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (LALAC), an initiative launched by the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) as part of its program with CIPE to combat corruption in 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 provides clients with legal advice on the process of vindicating their rights (short of providing representation in court) and tracks the progress of their cases.

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