Building Lebanon: NGOS do their bit

A summary of the work of international bodies in Lebanon during 2005

As Lebanon wraps up an extraordinary year of tragedy and hope, the world’s international bodies continue to execute their projects for the development and well being of Lebanon and its people. Executive looks at the achievements of some of Lebanon’s major NGOs in Lebanon as well as their plans and expectations for 2006.


During an active 2005, Greenpeace launched its “Peaceful Energy” campaign with a boat tour from Europe to the Mediterranean, stopping in Beirut. Debates were opened in 16 countries about the importance of tackling climate change and the need to switch to renewable sources of energy, such as the sun.

In 2006, Greenpeace Lebanon will run three campaigns in parallel around the Mediterranean, promoting investment in renewable energy. Greenpeace is also currently working on an Arab world media project, which should transform the office in Lebanon into an environmental media resource in the Middle East and Arab countries.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF aims to contribute to the national objectives of reducing the rates of infant mortality and mortality of children under five, with a special emphasis on the overall physical, cognitive, emotional and psychosocial development of young children within its childcare and development program.

The UNICEF’s learning program assists national efforts towards increasing enrolment, improving the quality of education, and decreasing school dropout rates. It played a key role in bringing the issue of increasing the age for free and compulsory education to parliamentary hearings in 2002. This year, UNICEF launched in partnership with the private sector the Adopt-A-School project that provides basic services as well as equipment, training and guidance to poor public schools.

In 2006, UNICEF wants to increase the number of schools in most deprived areas in Lebanon and shall be working on knowledge transfer and capacity building for teachers and administrators through orientation provided by leading private schools in Lebanon.

A program that continues from the year 2005 through to 2006, is the youth empowerment and protection program, which contributes to providing youth with skills and knowledge for the future. This program covers projects and studies on: national youth policy, situational assessment on children deprived of family care in Lebanon, children in need of protection from violence, exploitation and abuse in Lebanon, mine risk education, young offenders in Lebanon and HIV/AIDS programs.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

The UNDP Lebanon office works jointly with the Lebanese government within a Country Cooperation Framework (CCF), which outlines a joint national work plan for five to six years. The three main pillars are governance (including public sector reform; institutional development and e-government; fiscal reform; institutional development; and strengthening the structure of parliament), poverty reduction (including the re-integration of the displaced; post-conflict socio-economic rehabilitation of south Lebanon; and regional development in Akkar) and environmental and natural resource management. In its initiatives, UNDP integrates advocacy and the promotion of a national development dialogue; gender and development; youth participation; partnerships and resource mobilization; and management and support.

UNDP has recently started working alongside the Lebanese government on its Lebanese-driven National Commission on Electoral Law Reform. It has also been working on a project called Towards a National Dialogue on Corruption, which targets Lebanese administration and the judiciary and economy with the objective of strengthening transparency and accountability in public institutions in Lebanon. It is in the last stages of the launching of the National e-Strategy for Lebanon project, which aims to outline the roadmap required for a national e-society covering IT, infrastructure, institutional and legal frameworks and human resources. In 2006, the organization will also be finalizing its project supporting the judicial documentation and research center at the ministry of justice.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

With an objective to promote economic cooperation and regional integration through advocacy, research and advisory services, ESCWA in Lebanon published a study, External Debt Management in the ESCWA region in 2005.

ESCWA’s operational activities include the pilot project for post-conflict reconstruction in south Lebanon, in addition to a project on employment creation through the development of micro and small agro-industries in south Lebanon.

In 2005, ESCWA launched the Lebanese chapter of the Arab Integrated Water Resources Network (AWARENET) and advised the ministry of environment on strengthening the link between the national Environment Action Plan and the office of the prime minister. A presentation was made on Agenda 21 and the role of local authorities in implementing various projects for sustainable development.

Another study was issued titled, The Situation of the Handicrafts Industry: Needs and Challenges in Lebanon and Selected Arab Countries, and a sub-regional workshop was held in Chikka in Lebanon on Training Researchers in Local Community Development. ESCWA also advised the National Commission for Women on reporting on the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in addition to its initiatives on technology, employment and poverty alleviation.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Due to UNESCO’s key role in capacity building for education sectors and eradicating illiteracy worldwide, the United Nations General Assembly asked UNESCO to take on the role as coordinator for the United Nations Literacy Decade project (2003-2012), addressing deprived populations under the banner: Literacy for All: Voice for All, Learning for All.

The University Students for Literacy program emerged at the Arab Regional Conference on Higher Education as a means of extending the role of the university in community development. In Lebanon, the University of Balamand’s Faculty of Health Sciences, started collaborating with UNESCO on the concept of each university student giving at least one person an opportunity to acquire literacy.

The UNESCO office in Beirut has been working on three major projects: the establishment and institutionalization of comprehensive, decentralized Educational Decision Support Systems in Arab States; Focusing Resources for Effective School Health to enhance the quality and equity of education in the region; and HIV/AIDS preventive education.

In addition to its usual series of conferences, workshops, training courses and events; UNESCO in Lebanon has also started implementing a regional project on Multi-Purpose Community Learning Centers.” This project, to be implemented in Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian refugee camps, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Yemen, aims to promote human development; develop networks for education; build capacities; as well as act as a center for culture, education and information provision.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

With the goal of supporting the Lebanese government in meeting its population and development goals over the period of 2002 to 2006, UNFPA works to bridge regional gaps in access to basic social services; reform the education and health sectors; develop initiatives targeting youth; support the empowerment of women; protect the environment; collaborate with non-governmental organizations, the media and the private sector; foster aid coordination; and build national capacity in the management of social development initiatives.

UNFPA is the executing agency for the Integration of Population and Development in Planning and Programming. In the sub-programming area of Reproductive Health, UNFPA is working on the, integration of quality reproductive health services into primary health care. Here, essential services such as family planning, antenatal/postnatal care, adolescent reproductive health counseling, and the prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, including sexually transmitted diseases and HIV – will be included in 50 selected centers, in addition to the 150 centers supported under the previous program in all six governorates. Efforts will be made to reinforce women’s participation in decision-making about their fertility behavior, with emphasis on improving counseling services, education, communication activities and increasing male involvement.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

An organization that faces high demand yet relies exclusively on voluntary funding, UNRWA remains Lebanon’s sole agency for a large population that suffers unstable and unsanitary living conditions: the Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s general director, Richard Cook, however, informed Executive of promising developments. During the last 12 months, UNRWA conducted classroom improvement, life-quality and infrastructure projects. The European Commission funded UNRWA to execute a major infrastructure rehabilitation project, completed by the end of 2005, in five camps: Bourj al Shemali, Rashidieh, Mieh Mieh, Beddawi and Wavel. Funding is being sought for the rehabilitation of the remaining camps in 2006.

Last year also witnessed positive interaction with a cooperative Lebanese government. UNRWA started its five-year Medium Term Plan (2005-2009), which was devised “to restore the living conditions of Palestinian refugees to acceptable international standards and set them on the road to self reliance and sustainable human development.” An UNRWA university scholarship fund benefited 35 students in 2005.

A multi-million dollar educational project will be launched in the year 2006, providing more schools and better educational facilities. UNRWA will also cater to the training and needs of teachers, children with special needs, and school dropouts. Other projects include the Siblin Training Centre for the provision of job opportunities for young refugees. Upcoming projects include work on the Al-Bass Camp water supply and drainage system, as well as the rehabilitation of 144 shelters all over Lebanon. UNRWA continues to provide its core services of relief while fundraising for individual projects and medium term plans.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

In its work in Lebanon, USAID is currently working within its 2003-2005 strategy, which has been extended to 2007 for implementation and focuses on three strategic objectives:

1. Economic Opportunity: which focuses on strengthening: agribusiness and light agro-industry, information and communication technology and rural tourism. The program also supports the government for membership in the World Trade Organization and helps survivors of landmines and their families lead productive lives.

2. Through its governance objective, USAID works on building the capacity of local municipalities in managing resources efficiently and transparently, increasing the responsiveness of Parliament, as well as supporting civil society.

3. On the environmental level, USAID’s program focuses on increasing the use of appropriate environmental management practices, supporting waste management and improving participatory approaches in water management. Through its strategy over 2003 to 2007, USAID Lebanon will focus on expanding economic opportunities and investment through rural/urban integration in the major economic sectors as well as in “growth poles.” It will be accelerating economic reform by working on policy, legislation, and intellectual property rights to encourage trade and foreign investment.

It will strengthen foundations for governance by improving municipal services to Lebanese citizens; tackling issues such as transparency and accountability in government and privatization and e-government. Rural development and public-private partnerships are a priority within the Global Development Alliance.

USAID Lebanon projects are identified under 14 categories: irrigation, agricultural roads, potable water, community centers, health centers, sewage networks, schools, access roads, income generation, environment awareness, environment protection practices, reforestation, waste management and training.

World Bank

During the year 2005, the World Bank sponsored several initiatives in Lebanon, including the Managing Procurement and Logistics of HIV/AIDS Drugs and Related Supplies; Quality and Public/Private Partnership for Health Services, and opening a library for the South Lebanese Society for the Blind.

The portfolio in Lebanon for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (part of the World Bank Group) consists of seven projects for a total commitment amount of $321.82 million. They include projects on revenue enhancement and fiscal management technical assistance; education development; the first municipal infrastructure project; the community development project; the Baalbeck water and wastewater project; the urban transport development project, and the project for cultural heritage and urban development.

The International Finance Corporation continues to fund infrastructure enterprises. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency has received in the past decade more than 20 international applications for investment in Lebanon in the finance, infrastructure, telecommunications, and tourism sectors. It is performing a needs assessment for the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon.

The World Bank is working on a new initiative that empowers Lebanese youth to voice their views on governance issues. Shaping the Future is the theme of the Lebanon Development Marketplace competition and grant program for the year 2006; addressing pressing social, economic and political concerns of Lebanon’s youth.

The Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Lebanon (2005-2008) includes the following themes: elections and a youth parliament, accountability and transparency on a national level and local level, empowerment in political parties, empowerment in student councils, the anti-corruption network, Diaspora-to-homeland links, publications and media outreach.