Lebanon

Wicked Politics and Shaken Socio-Economy

Since 17 October 2019, Lebanon has been witnessing a massive wave of unprecedented nationwide protests, which are deemed tomarka new era in its history. These protests are motivated by the direct repercussions of the economic and monetary crisis on the Lebanese population, but are indeed rooted in a structurally flawed economic system and wicked political practices and corruption embraced by the successive governments for decades. The protests ar widespread across the country and remain non-sectarian, marking the biggest postwar civil movement, as the Lebanese people overcome their religious and political divergences and join forces in an attempt to achieve real change. This change was long awaited by the Lebanese, and the civil society specifically that has been for years trying to promote partnerships and engage in policy making at different levels, despite the lack of serious and effective channels.

Photo: UNHCR/F.Juez

The official Lebanese VNR report of 2018 blames the Syria crisis for the economic deficits that increased the debt, as well as for economic stagnation, the doubling of unemployment and worsening poverty rates. Yet, according to the alternative civil society report by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), “this exclusively negative narrative about Syrian refugees does not distinguish between the huge impact of the Syrian crisis/war on the economy and political situation in Lebanon, and the diversified impact of the presence of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This latter allowed financial flow of aids to increase, as well as the domestic consumption that produced around 1 -1.5 percent of GDP growth, and provided a cheap labour force that prevented the bankruptcy of many small businesses.”

Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) hosts an electronic platform to share information and reports on the progress in the implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development issued by CSOs in the Arab Region.

The right to food is a priority at the global level, and especially in the Arab region where countries with heightened armed conflicts as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Palestine suffer from severe malnutrition. And yet, conflicts are not the only reason behind the deterioration in the food situation, because it is primarily due to the social and economic policies adopted, as well as climate change and change in production and consumption patterns. In fact, these policies have had a significant impact on small producers and rural populations.

To better understand the setbacks for the right to food, the Arab Watch Report 2019 raises these concerns through 10 national and six regional papers, which all adopt an all-encompassing approach to the right to food and its aspects.

Lebanon presents an interesting case when it comes to social policy. In fact, when the developmental state model was being implemented all over the world, Lebanon was adamant in its laissez-faire economy. The developmental state has brought about welfare regimes and what was called welfare states in advanced capitalist economies in Europe. In parallel, except for a few years, Lebanon has opted for minimal state intervention in public policy, and social protection in general. This has been exacerbated in the reconstruction period where the private sector and non-state actors dominated the realms of social services and protection, such as health and education. In recent years, and with social protection gaining momentum on the international level, the discussion on social protection and social security resurfaced in Lebanon. This has been accentuated as studies and reports on alarming poverty rates, inequality and unemployment in the country became recurrent.

Lebanon participated in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018, presented its progress report towards achieving sustainable development, and had its Q&A session on July 18th, 2018, at the UN Headquarters in New York.

These comments, drafted by a group of civil society organizations, are intended as a contribution to the dialogue on the harmony between Lebanon’s international com­mitments to international institutions and donors, on one hand, and the achievement of SDGs, social justice, and equal­ity, on the other.

The experience of Voluntary National Reviews and of Civil Society shadow (or spotlight) reporting.
How it is key for meaningful participation and accountability

The side event "SDG Implementation at National Level: What’s the Point of National Reports?" was held on July 17 in New York, during the meeting of the High Level Political Forum of the UN. The debate focused on voluntary national reports (VNRs) and parallel “shadow” or “spotlight” reports generated by civil society organizations (CSOs) on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Photo: UNHCR/F.Juez

Achieving sustainable development in Lebanon requires addressing the root causes of Lebanon’s structural problems at political, economic and social levels and, additionally, to address the challenges presented by the huge influx of Syrian refugees in the country. The refugee crisis sheds light on the structural and systemic problems of Lebanon and aggravates them. In this context, the private sector, as in many other countries, must play an active role in achieving SDGs in Lebanon, along with other development actors. At the same time, they all should remain accountable for their contribution to sustainable development.

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