ANTOINE MESSARRA
 
   
   
   
   
     
   
 
     
 




Observatoire de la démocratie au Liban

 

The programme “On the Look-Out for Democracy in Lebanon ” is a methodology frame of work with more than one hundred and fifty indicators to study four components of democracy: free and fair elections, a transparent and responsible government that answers to the legislative power, the respect of civil and political rights, and an active civil society. These four components are a pyramid-shaped diagram where each element is essential to its cohesion.

The programme is a quest for documents. The publishing of quarterly reports and more detailed works on the democratic process in Lebanon, field-surveys and seminars, in addition to a part about democratic learning at school and in universities, and in 2001-2002 about the right of any citizen to be informed.

The head of the E.U. delegation to Lebanon, Mr. Dimitris Kourkoulas underlines in the introduction: “The MEDA-Democracy programme is an intrinsic part of the new European policy for the Mediterranean area, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership established by the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Affairs ministers in Barcelona on November 27-28, 1995 – It's a common initiative to all 27 partners, 15 members of the E.U. and the 12 third-party Mediterranean States. [It's an] ambitions initiative that will mark history as the first attempt to create long-lasting and binding ties between the countries bordering the Mediterranean sea . The E.U. would not keep its prosperity and its integration [process] without the stability and prosperity of its closest neighbors. Pursuant to the Barcelona Conference, the European Parliament decided to create the Meda-Democracy programme that namely develops support to measures that promote democracy, the State of Law, civil and socio-economic rights and the protection of vulnerable groups”.

The General secretary of the Joseph and Laure Moghaizel Foundation, Mr. Fady Moghaizel stresses a double dimension, that of political participation ans social justice.

The history of the programme started, as far as I'm concerned, by talks with Laure Moghaizel in the beginning of 1997 to try and look-out for ways to maintain the Lebanese democratic heritage, one that is heavy for democratic militants and increases the responsibilities of human potential in Lebanon .

The programme is not only about – fundamental - field-work undertaken by university students and researchers. It leads to published quarterly works and reference books; but its main contribution is in strengthening work methods, encouraging action-oriented research strategies in order to ensure groups that will take over.

 

Implanting and Lebanization

Compared to the countries of the region Lebanon is characterized by a democratic heritage that is about managing pluralism, consensus and conflict, the struggle for freedoms and resistance. The aim is to implant and Lebanize democratic learning so that principles and standards become an integrated culture and a part of daily behaviours as regards the power, social sub-systems and relations between citizens and the power. It is sad to note a culture of subordination and frustration that does not favor democracy as a commitment and struggle by concerned citizens that take part in public matters and ask for accounts as to public interest.

Public life in Lebanon suffers from boundless sectarian division and extreme compromise. Everything is negotiable in the aftermath of war and the aftermath of peace in Lebanon without standards and according to the balance of power and nepotism. What can one do when the latter is hidden behind sectarianism?

Yet the tendency to compromise in public life has developed courage not to adapt to all circumstances but rather to decide whether to leave or to stay, to assume responsibilities instead of placing them in an equivocal agreement or a totalitarian consensus imposed from the top or a formal judicial debate.

 

Controversial Duality or Democracy Close at Hand?

“On the Look-Out for Democracy” goes beyond the dualistic and much controversial debate that has prevailed since the 1920's – although it is worn out and outmoded: unity/pluralism, secularism/sectarianism, Lebanization/Arabism, isolationism/nationalism, progressivism/reaction, etc.

The Preamble of the Constitution calls upon a debate about politics and governance in the light of the data, means and priorities, taking into consideration the citizens' worries and real life, their expectations and aspirations as well as the basic democratic and human rights principles.

The democratic process in this small multicommunity country requires a high level of scientific knowledge, of political wisdom and creativity. Interaction, good intentions and deeply-rooted traditions of sociability are not enough to revive and rationalize pluralism in Lebanon and to protect a peaceful management of the consensus-based system for lack of a State of law and a democratic culture at all levels of public life.

What ways are there to strengthen Lebanese democracy within both stability and change without occasional ruptures and violence? The State of law in of course the way but so is a renewed political elite with a wise and creative political imagination – because the State is not only a bureaucratic administration – and also a civil society always active and ready to use its citizenship in daily practices.

The political community that dominates power and uses nepotism transforms Lebanese-Syrian strategic interests to the advantage of both countries into a tutelage threatening Lebanese democracy and almost all fields of public life.

The book includes, among other things, a survey (Abdo Kahi and Suzanne Azar), analyses of the democratic process in the light of document and field research, (Issam Sleiman, Suleiman Takieddine, Joumana Ghorra Messarra, Wassef Haraké, Scarlett Haddad, Chaoukat Eshtay, Georges Assaf, Carole Dagher, Paul Khalifé, Tony Atallah, Hussein Maged, Ghassan Moukheiber, etc.), the results of several seminars on democratic education in schools and unviersities (Gisèle Khayyat Eid, Victor el-Kik, Roula Mikhail, Agnès Favier, etc.).

 

 

 
 
 

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