Photo: UNHCR/S. Malkawi

Several challenges hinder the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development in Lebanon. During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in September 2014 Lebanese President Tammam Salam identified the humanitarian issues caused by the Syrian refugee crisis as one of the greatest challenges to development. It is indeed a significant constraint; yet, one should note that Lebanon was facing a political and socio-economic crisis reflected by a high rate of unemployment and marginalized people, even before the Syrian crisis and the flood of refugees. Therefore, it is worth highlighting that the Syrian war shed light on the structural and systemic problems of Lebanon and aggravated them.

To date, Lebanon does not have a national strategy for sustainable development nor a national economic plan nor a poverty reduction strategy. According to the 2014 International Parliamentary Union Secretary General’s annual report: “the Lebanese Parliament reported that the Sustainable Development Initiative was in the agenda of the Public Work Committee between 2009-2010 period. The current political instabilities, however, forced the Parliament to shift its priorities.” The same report indicates that the Parliament has not been informed of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has not taken any steps to discuss them. 

Inequality’s unrelenting rise has been the subject of growing attention that has come, in the last few years, from unexpected quarters. As a recent example, an article appeared on the IMF’s Finance & Development journal, “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” put the spotlight on the negative effects that inequality has on the level and sustainability of growth. The article generated not only wide press coverage, but also a number of responses. Almost in sync with the article, the IMF felt the need to publish an interview with its Chief Economist, Mr. Maurice Obstfeld, clarifying that the policy rethink at the IMF did not represent revolution, but evolution. Needless to say, to many analysts who had closely followed IMF policies for years, the clarification was entirely unnecessary. In fact, critics were quick to comment that the article was only a mild departure from IMF doctrine, not reflected in actual IMF programs, and even reasserted points that continue to be the focus of contention such as the positive growth effects of trade liberalization, privatization and foreign direct investment. Nonetheless the article, reflected wider concern with inequality at an institution that until not long ago considered it an afterthought.

Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) held a seminar to discuss issues related to Business and Human Rights in the context of the Pilot Project for the Promotion of Social Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Region. 

In the context of the Pilot Project for the Promotion of Social Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Region (SOLiD), in partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and BUSINESSMED, ANND held a two day seminar in Beirut on 7 and 8 September 2016, to discuss issues related to Business and Human Rights.

Roberto Bissio, Social Watch Coordinator, joined the workshop participating in Session 1, The privet Sector and the New Development Paradigm - A Rights Based Perspective, Financing for Development from a Rights Based Approach (see his intervention below).

After more than five years, the conflict in Syria represents a catastrophic failure of the “international system” in terms of maintaining basic human rights (including the right to live), peace and stability. This system, including the UN as well as influential world states and organizations, has failed to reduce the escalation of conflict, let alone create effective mediation processes to reach a decent solution. Furthermore, many international and regional actors have fueled the conflict by providing political, military, logistic and financial support to the warring parties, investing in identity politics to deepen polarization and strengthening hostility and a spirit of revenge in their local affiliates.  The conflict has largely destroyed Syria’s economic structure, foundations and institutions, severely depleting resources and capital, human capital, social capital and economic governance. Economic priorities shifted as all subjugating powers reallocated resources to fuel violence and its related activities. This economic environment came along with the absence of rule of law, property rights, and accountability, in addition to a surge in corruption. It generated new actors and/or changed the behaviour of previous actors to be part of new rules of game: that of imposing hegemony by force and building new political economies to sustain the conflict. Effectiveness and equity, as goals of economic policy, have been diminished as the authorities sacrificed the core development goals and achievements to serve the new “development in reverse” dynamics.

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