Tag Archives: Lebanon

Decentralization for Better Public Services in Lebanon

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The executive director of  Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), Sami Atallah, was recently on MTV, a Lebanese independent media channel, to discuss the importance of decentralization and local governance. During the interview, Atallah argued that instead of relying on the central government, the public should advocate for and expect their local municipalities to deliver goods and services.  CIPE is supporting LCPS to help achieve this objective, including strengthening the internal grant transfer system in Lebanon.

Watch Atallah’s interview (in Arabic) from 29:40 onward.

Lifelong Entrepreneurship Learning Initiative Takes Root in Lebanon

By Rami Shamma and Stephen Rosenlund

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From the start of Lebanon’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA), with the support of CIPE, has been actively advancing the tenets of entrepreneurship across various segments of Lebanese society.

DPNA and CIPE have been implementing an entrepreneurship education project in Lebanon since 2006 under the Entrance to Enterprise / Fostering Free Enterprise in Youth banners. Within the past two years, DPNA has worked closely with the Ministry of Education’s Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD) to make high-quality entrepreneurship education available to all high school students in Lebanon. Most recently, and in conjunction with GEW 2013, DPNA has worked with the ministry to roll out a national strategy for Life-Long Entrepreneurial Learning that will reach children and adults at all levels of education. This approach also supports and encourages civil society organizations, along with public and private sector institutions, to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within Lebanese society.

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Crowdfunding’s Potential for Entrepreneurs in Emerging Markets

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Last year Leen Sadder of Beruit, Lebanon had an idea to create an organic and biodegradable alternative to Western-style teeth cleansing. Called Miswak, this twig of the Salvadora persica tree has been used for teeth cleaning throughout the Middle East and Asia for millennia. Leen recognized the sustainability of eliminating both the toothbrush and paste and its application for the developing world. She created a crowdfunding campaign on Lebanon-based crowdfunding platform Zoomaal and within weeks raised over $18,000 from 301 backers — 104 percent of her target — along with 4,400 likes on Facebook and 573 tweets. This bought her money, market validation, and media attention. She is now in production. This idea that would never have seen “likes” or funding from banks or venture capitalists.  Enter the alternative world of startup and small business financing, called crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a simple but transformative concept.  An entrepreneur proposes a business, charitable, or creative project on a crowdfunding website. If convinced, tens, hundreds or even thousands of individuals commit relatively small amounts of capital to support the idea. Taken together, these contributions may be significant enough to turn the idea into a commercial reality. This industry is still in its infancy, but it topped $3 billion in transactions in 2012 and may top $5 billion by the end of this year.

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Lebanon’s Development for People and Nature Association Marks Ten-Year Anniversary

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CIPE’s greatest strengths come from its partners. I am privileged to work every day with courageous individuals and organizations across the Middle East (and the world), who share our democratic values and want to help their communities achieve new freedoms and opportunity. Among them is the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA) of Lebanon, with whom CIPE has been partnered since 2006. I wrote recently about our work with DPNA, in the midst of challenging times, on CIPE’s Community of Young Entrepreneurs Blog.

Yesterday, DPNA celebrated ten years since its establishment. CIPE is honored to have played a role in DPNA’s work over much of its history. DPNA is a highly ambitious and dynamic organization. Its programs range from environmental initiatives, to humanitarian assistance, to reforming the entrepreneurship ecosystem – the field in which our cooperation is focused.

With CIPE’s support, DPNA is helping Lebanon’s youth turn their entrepreneurial ambitions into reality and become productive members of civil society through various education, training, and mentorship initiatives. As part of a national coalition to reform the Lebanese educational system, DPNA is ensuring that the principles of entrepreneurship are included in curricula at all levels of school. These are impressive feats for a small NGO from southern Lebanon.

On behalf of all of us at CIPE, congratulations to our friends at DPNA on this tremendous milestone, and best wishes for another ten years of even greater success!

Stephen Rosenlund is Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa & CIPE.

Thinking Outside the Box: Political Reality TV in Lebanon and the West Bank

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As changes continue to unfold in Egypt, young activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are trying to translate street power into actual political capital. On July 4th, the Egyptian military met with the youth leaders of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement to lay out a political roadmap following President Morsi’s ouster. But for the youth to be politically engaged throughout this crucial period, they will need to find innovative ways to channel their passion into stable and effective participation in the normal political processes of democracy. On his brief visit to Washington, DC, an Egyptian youth activist coined the term “democratic entrepreneurship.” What he envisioned has already manifested itself in Lebanon and Palestine, where two democratic entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant idea: political reality TV shows.

Al-Za‘im (the Leader) in Lebanon and Al-Ra‘is (the President) in the West Bank are two pioneering TV programs that resemble a reality-singing competition, like American Idol, with a political twist. Whereas the participants on American Idol are aspiring singers, the contestants of Al-Za‘im and Al-Ra‘is are young aspiring politicians who must complete challenges that range from giving one-minute speeches to implementing projects at the municipal level. The judges are business celebrities, well-known journalists, and political leaders, who offer immediate feedback based on their professional experiences. At the end of the day, the audience has the power to decide who gets to move on to the next round.

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A Collective Action Approach to Combating Bribery in Lebanon

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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.

Lebanon’s Biggest Stumbling Block: Electoral Reform

I remember walking on Bliss St. outside of the American University of Beirut (AUB) on the day of Lebanon’s 2009 parliamentary elections. As young people chanted slogans and waved the flags of their favorite political parties, I thought to myself “what a healthy democratic system Lebanon has”. But, as a local saying aimed at AUB students goes, “ignorance is on Bliss [St.]”.

Lebanon is a remarkably complicated society with an equally complicated history and political system, so the latest round of discussions for electoral reform may confuse some (it sure does me), or seem of little consequence to others, but to a great extent the fate of Lebanon rests on whether it can reform the electoral process. In principle, the Lebanese Republic is a democracy, but Lebanon’s religious-based confessional system has a strong self-perpetuating mechanism that prevents significant political change through electoral contestation.

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