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Civil Society in Lebanon: The Implementation Trap

The term “civil society” generally refers to a variety of actors that are separate from the state. For this report, we adopt a broad definition of civil society, that considers it as the “realm that exists between the state, the market, and the individual” (Kingston, 2013:6). It hence encompasses formal and informal structures, community associations (jam’iyat ahlia) (Ben Nefissa, 2002: 12), non-governmental organisations, syndicates, cooperatives, faith based organisations, and trade unions, amongst others.

In Lebanon, civil society has played an important role throughout history and saw a significant rise during the Chehabist developmentalist era (1958-1964), with the creation of voluntary-run associations that sought to steer away from sectarian identities, while adopting broad development objectives. The Civil War period (1975-1990) witnessed a realignment of the modes of actions towards services and relief efforts. After the Civil War, the civil society sector continued expanding (Kingston, 2008: 1), with civil society organisations bolstering their modes of action to encompass human rights and advocacy efforts. Archives show that an average of 250 organisations was created per year in the early nineties, post civil war era (Karam Karam in Ben Nefissa, 2002: 58). Figures from Daleel Madani, suggest a peak in NGO creation after each of the – recurring – humanitarian crisis that the country witnesses. Hence, following the Israeli War on Lebanon in 2006 and the conflict in Syria in 2011, the associative sector saw a proliferation of new initiatives, campaigns, and organisations. An average of 50 registration requests to Daleel Madani’s Civil Society Directory are received on a monthly basis.

Lebanon is said to have the “most diverse and active civil society in the region” (Hawthorne, 2005: 89). However, and in a context of relative liberalism, social and policy change seems limited. This can lead to raise questions as to the effectiveness and impact of the sector. To what extent are the legal, political, and funding environments governing the work of these organisations enabling or constraining? Are civil society actors “trapped” in implementing roles, keeping them from efficiently addressing contextual needs and issues, and reaching their targeted populations, thus undermining their potential impact?... more

 (Civil Society Knowledge Center)

Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST)
Magenta Consultoría
Global Thinkers Forum
Odessa Law Academy
Giolli Cooperativa
AlHayat Center
Futuro Digitale
Jordan River Foundation
Global Fund for Children
UN Habitat
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