The correlation between active local governance, efficient public service delivery and community resilience has grown significantly in Lebanon following the revival of municipal elections and the restoration of the role of local authorities in 1998. In this respect, the influx of Syrian refugees into various communities in the peripheral regions of Lebanon have imposed enormous challenges on municipalities and unions of municipalities. However, the creation of more than 350 new municipalities since 1998 has rendered municipalities smaller, inefficient, and more dependent on the central government and foreign funding to manage public affairs. As a result, it has also made the elected municipal councils vulnerable to political and sectarian pressures, without which most of the technical guidance and funding opportunities could not be transferred.
This study by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) discusses the state of play of local authorities throughout Lebanon and assesses their ability to effectively and efficiently deliver public services. This conclusion is based on a survey of 11 central government administrations and 209 municipalities across Lebanon’s 24 districts and 8 governorates conducted by DRI in 2018. DRI identified and evaluated the challenges facing local service delivery in three key policy areas and service sectors that are greatly important for the resilience and sustainability of the community nowadays, namely: solid waste management (SWM); public safety and the role of municipal police; transparency and citizen participation.
- Instead of following the principles of decentralisation, resilient and good governance, what all these services sectors have in common is that, on the one hand, local authorities lack a comprehensive and integrated legal framework and procedures. On the other hand, they exist in a centralised context, where they appear neglected actors, financially and administratively, by the central government. In Lebanese legislation, SWM is mostly the responsibility of local authorities. However, the infamous “waste crisis” of the summer of 2015 revealed the inefficiency of the government’s centralised SWM policies and created a momentum to re-involve local authorities in SWM.
- By the same token, driven by a growing need to enhance local security, the government has encouraged local authorities to establish and expand municipal police. However, the absence of a comprehensive law sometimes leaves the municipal police units at the discretionary powers of the mayor.
- Furthermore, as the government tier closest to the citizens, municipalities are a focal point to which citizens turn to propose or oppose projects and influence development choices affecting the community. In February 2017, the adoption of the ATI Law promised a step forward in the relationship between citizens and public administrations, including local ones, for greater government integrity and political accountability. Nevertheless, little progress has been made to implement the ATI law mostly because more than half of the municipalities surveyed were unaware of or unaffected by its provisions.
The survey data reveal three main factors hindering effective public service delivery. What are they and how can decentralisation improve local governance and public service delivery? Find out by downloading the survey results in English here and in Arabic here.
This publication was produced with the assistance of the German Foreign Office within the framework of DRI’s project “Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation in Lebanon – Phase II “. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of DRI and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the German Foreign Office.