On June 6 and 7, 2022, The Lebanese Citizen Foundation, in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beirut and Saint Joseph University, launched its dialogue and discussion forum entitled “Lebanon, Looking Forward: an Inclusive Policy
Discussion Forum” aspiring to create a safe space for the participation and discussion of issues related to various public policy reforms from a community-focused perspective.
16 position papers were presented and discussed. The papers centered around various reform issues in several sectors in Lebanon. The forum hosted the Norwegian ambassador and a number of Norwegian diplomats, in addition to representatives from several European countries and embassies in Lebanon, along with a large number of specialists in several fields.
It is worth noting that the participation in this forum was also feasible through Zoom, where many university students and specialists participated and discussed their questions with the panelist.
The first day began with the Lebanese national anthem, followed by an opening speech by the President of the Institute of Political and Administrative Sciences, Dr. Karim Bitar, who himself welcomed the attendees and praised the efforts made by the association in cooperation with the Norwegian Embassy to introduce reforms in all sectors.
Afterwards, Mr. Alain Bifani, the president of the Lebanese Citizen Foundation, delivered his opening speech whereby he extended his gratitude to Saint Joseph University and the Royal Norwegian Embassy for their great contribution to the establishment and success of this activity. Mr. Bifani presented a general introduction to the panels of this forum and their sequence. Succeedingly, the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Martin Yttervik, welcomed the attendees and stressed the importance of this challenge, as it has a significant impact on the formulation of public policies for the possibility of Lebanon emerging from the crisis it is going through.
This forum constituted four main themes that spanned two full days. The first day included two major themes, including several dialogue sessions and discussions distributed among several topics. The first panel, under the title of “Justice and Rule of Law”, was chaired by Mr. Karim Daher and included four dialogue sessions and discussions during which the studies on the subject of this axis were presented.
The first session of the panel was with Dr. Wissam Lahham, who discussed “The Constitution, its Loopholes”, and the possibility of developing it in line with the Lebanese reality. Dr. Karim Bitar partook in the discussion of Dr Lahham’s paper, who in turn added his interventions. Both speakers openly discussed the subject with the audience and with the participants via Zoom.
Following Dr. Lahham’s session a dialogue session took place revolving around the “The Challenges of the Judiciary System” in Lebanon with the former Minister of Justice, Dr. Marie-Claude Negm, which emerged from the bitter reality facing the judicial body in Lebanon and proposed suggestions on how to develop and improve it.
This panel also included a presentation of a study prepared by Mr. Nizar Saghieh on the “Judiciary System” in Lebanon in cooperation with Dr. Miriam Mehanna, who was unable to attend the forum, where he exchanged views with Mr. Adel Nassar. Mr. Nassar emphasized the necessary and urgent reforms in this sector in hopes of utilizing Lebanon’s judiciary system.
The first panel concluded with a discussion of the political paper prepared by Dr. Rima Majd titled “What is so Deep about Deeply divided Societies? Dealing with Lebanon’s Sectarian System” concerned with the extent of the division in our society and how to avoid its repercussions. Mr. Samir Aita had an intervention in this regard in which he stressed the dangers of sectarian radicalization not only in society but also within public administrations.
It is worth noting that the dialogue sessions were moderated by Mr. Johnny El-Helou and Mr. Mazen Yachoui, who introduced all the authors and interlocutors who participated in this forum. The moderators led the discussions amongst the attendees on the college campus and the participants via Zoom.
The second panel opened with a speech by Mrs. Marie Grapstad, a Norwegian specialist in Lebanon, who chaired four dialogue sessions under the title “Optimizing Good Governance”. The beginning was with Dr. Dima de Clerk, who presented her paper “War Exiting Through Government Sponsored Reconciliation in Lebanon?”. Dr. de Clerck addressed the war exiting concern by presenting the barriers to reaching real reconciliations. Ms. Tracy Nehme intervened in this session to discuss with Dr. de Clerck how Lebanon’s state reconciliation policy has only served to worsen the sectarian divide and hatred between Druze and Christians.
Additionally, Dr. Mona Fawaz participated in her study through a recorded speech projected on the screen, constituting a description of “Urban Development” and the current reality of civil development and infrastructure in Lebanon. Ms. Abir Zaatari, the co-author of Dr. Fawaz’s paper was welcomed on stage to address questions from the audience.
As for the third session, presented by Dr. Ibrahim Warde, it dealt with the issue of “Corruption and Poor Governance”, through which he explained the extent of its roots and its impact on the process of sustainable and administrative development. The paper was discussed by Dr. Carole Alsharabati who proposed several solutions to contribute to the enhancement of civil society.
The first day concluded with a discussion session revolving around “Power and Environment”, presented by Dr. Rony Karam, an expert in this field, suggested sustainable solutions to the issue of alternative energy and its minimal cost in relation to the losses incurred by this sector since more than fifteen years ago. Mr. Albert Letayf, added his observations and opinions regarding the need to find funding resources and large areas for the possibility of proceeding with alternative means.
As for the second day, it also included two main panels, interspersed with several dialogue sessions, in which the prepared studies and position papers were presented and discussed with the audience on the university campus and with the participating attendees via Zoom.
As for the third axis, it was chaired by Mr. Khalil Dinguizli, under the title of “Re-engineering the Economy”, where Dr. Fadi Gemayell started the first session and discussed the study he conducted on “Industry and Citizenship”. Dr. Gemayel portrayed the extent to which the aforementioned parameters are related to each other. Mr. Damien Sorrell also participated in this session, whereby he conveyed his opinion and his expertise in this matter and contemplated the possibility of its application in Lebanon.
The agricultural sector also had an important share in these axes, as Dr. Riad Saadeh presented and discussed his study on the extent of the importance of the “Agricultural Sector in Lebanon and the reforms to be applied, as this sector contributes to improving the economic wheel in Lebanon. Dr. Saade’s presentation was followed by an intervention by Mrs. Soha Frame, who stressed the need for directing these reforms due to their importance on the financial status of individuals and families in Lebanon.
In addition to what was aforementioned, and under the title “The Engines of Lebanon’s Economy”, Dr. Ishac Diwan presented his study and discussed it with Dr. Wissam Harake through the Zoom application, through which they stressed the need to introduce economic reforms through well-thought-out and realistic plans.
This axis also touched on “The Future of the Financial Sector in Lebanon”, which was presented by Mr. Jean Riachi and discussed with Mr. Elie Geagea, who considered that our continuation in this way would inevitably lead to slipping into a deeper abyss. Mr. Riachi and Mr. Geagea proposed several steps and actions to be taken in order to overcome this obstacle.
Additionally, the Former interim governor of the Central Bank of Iceland, the expert Svein Harald Oygard , had an intervention in which he presented a detailed approach to the financial crisis experienced by the state of Iceland , explaining the situation and conveying the solutions that the Icelandic authorities took to restore stability and growth. Mr Oygard identified the main problems facing Iceland Including the financial and monetary sector in Lebanon and contemplated the possibility of implementing reforms in the Lebanese financial and monetary sector.
As for the fourth and final panel, under the title of “Enhancing Societal Welfare”, Dr. Ghassan Dibah chaired the last three sessions. The first session began with Mrs. Anne Marie Maila Afeiche, in which she presented her study on “Culture, Arts, and Heritage” through which she highlighted the importance of preserving cultural heritage. Mrs. Afeiche proposed developing policies, laws and international treaties to preserve the Lebanese culture. She was joined in the discussion by Mr. Nadim Chammas , who stressed on Mrs. Afeiche’s claim and urged the need to address this matter.
The issue of employment and migration had also a wide space in this session, where Dr. Rola Abi Habib El Khoury reviewed “Migration and Labor” in Arab and European countries compared to employment in Lebanon. Ms. Andre Wietor presented her intervention in this context , in which she emphasized the necessity of conducting public policies to preserve the Lebanese labor force.
With the conclusion of the second day of the ” Lebanon, Looking Forward ” forum, Dr. Mohammad Zbib presented his position paper that exposed the “Rising Inequalities” in the Lebanese society. Mr. Zbib addressed the increase in aperture in our society, especially with the intensification of the crisis. Mr. Adib Nehme shared his intervention through the Zoom, whereby he emphasized the need to reach sustainable solutions that contribute to restoring financial stability for individuals, especially for the middle and poor classes, which are increasing day by day.
It should be noted that all the position papers that were presented and discussed during this forum will be shared on the forum’s website https://llf.thecitizenfoundation.com.
The website welcomes everyone who wants to participate in expressing their opinion through commenting, intervening or noting their observations with regards to these policy papers. The aim is to design a comprehensive reform policy roadmap resulting from this forum to be later published and approved as a basic paper through which all the desired reforms will be implemented. The outreach of the roadmap will be then optimized to influence the public and policy discourse through launching awareness campaigns.