Decentralisation has become the topic of the hour in Lebanon. It is time that diverse expertise and scientific knowledge is channelled to design policies that ensure good governance and improved public service provision by local authorities.
Continuing to build and consolidate elements for a successful decentralisation in Lebanon, DRI convened journalists, academic and experts to assess the prospects of decentralisation reform in the wake of the May 2018 parliamentary elections and draw up recommendations for the way ahead. The meeting on 25 July 2018, held by DRI as part the consortium “Al-Idara bi-Mahalla”, focused on waste management, public safety, transparency and citizen participation. With journalists, we looked at ways to frame the media discourse on decentralisation to reach out to more citizens and better advocate for a reform of such complexity. With academics, we worked on transforming existing knowledge materials into practical proposals that feed into the management of each sector.
Figure 1: Focus group on Transparency and Citizen Participation
The following challenges were identified:
Academics pitched in existing research that could be reflected in bills or serve as knowledge support to existing laws, while journalists benefited from this exercise to write stronger articles on decentralisation.
“In our work we cover how municipalities provide or don’t provide public services, but today we understood better the deeper problems behind these questions. Today’s presentation added a layer to future trainings and coverage and this is of great benefit to us at Maharat Foundation”. Hussein El-Shareef, Project Coordinator and Media Trainer at Maharat Foundation, a Lebanese NGO working on freedom of expression and media development
Figure 2: Focus group on Solid Waste Management
Urban planner and activist Abir Saksouk shared his perspective on the state of citizen participation:
“There is an absence of legal guarantees for transparency and engagement of citizens in decision-making. However, even when laws are put forth, there is a problem in their implementation and a good illustration for that is the Access to Information law. This stems from the lack of understanding of what transparency and access to information truly mean, which requires more awareness-raising”. Abir Saksouk, Urban Planner
DRI will follow-up with journalists and academics to increase cooperation between the different actors involved in each sector, in order to create a more facts-based and concrete public debate on decentralisation and public services.