- Citizen Lebanon -
Since February 2008 Hayya Bina, in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), has been conducting a civic education and advocacy program that aims to increase understanding among participants of democratic principles and the role of citizens and civil society in the formal, democratic decision making process; strengthen the participants’ ability to identify policies and issues in need of change and to organize and influence policy-making through advocacy and citizen action; and strengthen the capacity of CSOs to promote grassroots citizen participation in democratic political processes.
Through this program, Hayya Bina, in coordination with six other Lebanese NGOs (Baldati, CESMO, DPNA, LPHU, PPM, Shou’oun Janoubiah), is implementing a sustainable citizenship education and action program throughout Lebanon. Each NGO has skilled facilitators who are forming and conducting discussion group forums with selected groups of citizen participants over time.
Through these discussions, citizens learn about the principles and values of democracy and citizenship and gain the skills needed to solve problems in their local communities collectively, strategically and effectively.
Hayya Bina gathered a total of three teams, six facilitators, in each Qa'daa (district) of the North Bekaa Valley (Chmustar,Baalbeck and Hermel). Each team held an average of fourteen discussion groups, each with approximately fifteen citizen participants. These discussion groups were then transformed into civic action groups in the same regions. Throughout the duration of the program, these teams facilitated discussions about democratic principles and conducted civic advocacy training with at least 500 citizens.
The project’s target audience represents diverse confessional, geographic, gender, age, urban/rural and educational backgrounds:
After the 500 citizen participants in the three Bekaa districts finished the citizenship education sessions and successfully completed the first phase, our team led them through the civic advocacy phase.
Phase 1: Town Hall Meetings
Facilitators working in teams of two formed small discussion groups in every area and organized monthly meetings with each group. Each team was responsible for forming approximately 15 discussion groups.
This first phase of the program involved educating the previously established groups on democratic principles and processes. The curriculum was based on scientific focus group research on Lebanese citizens’ desire to gain knowledge of specific topics, detailed below:
Topic 1: Citizenship and citizens’ rights in a democracy Topic_1_-_Citizenship_in_Democracy.pdf
Topic 2: Constitution Topic_2-_Constitution.pdf
Topic 3: Rule of law and governance structure Topic_3-_Rule_of_Law_and_governance_structure.pdf
Topic 4: Political parties and pressure groups Topic_4-_Political_Parties_and_Pressure_Groups.pdf
Topic 5: Elections Topic_5-_Elections.pdf
Topic 6: Media Topic_6-_Media.pdf
Topic 7: Municipalities Topic_7-_Municipalities.pdf
At each meeting, team leaders facilitated discussion on each of the curriculum topics, aiming to build consensus on a new understanding through participatory debate. The emergence of common ground and common intensions among discussion group participants built confidence and creative energy within the group. This process of educated discussion was designed to change participants’ perceptions about what is possible.
Throughout this program, we coordinated with many well-known people in the area as well as efficient local organizations already present there. This feature helped the project building networks as well as empowering the youth who realized their ability to create a platform for multiple actors in the region.
Discussion group photos:
A- Baalbek team
B- Chmustar Team:
C- Hermel Team:
The second phase of the program is built on the knowledge base established in the first phase shaped through issue-specific, community-based advocacy training that will result in organized collective action that addresses the shared challenges of each community. Phase two is a continuation of the first phase, during which participants apply the information and skills they have acquired within their own communities
The action groups continually hold monthly meetings during which citizens apply the information and skills they’ve acquired within their own community, thus strengthening Lebanon’s struggling democracy.
The second phase training curriculum is flexible and participant-driven, based on the needs and priorities of each discussion group. In the three Bekaa districts, we have several ongoing short- and long-term advocacy campaigns. Our established groups are always very focused on the steps they undertake particularly because the campaigns they chose benefit their specific regions.
Participants interested in helping Baalbeck’s farmers properly use pesticides came together and formed aBaalbeck team. They decided the best approach to bring pesticides to the area was to first gage the community’s interest through a petition.
The facilitators and participants of the program raised awareness about the issue in Baalbeck and the surrounding towns and villages, and collected around eighty signatures on their petition. Then, on 20 August 2009, the facilitators and some group representatives went to the municipality of Baalbeck to present the petition. They met the head of the Baalbeck municipality, Mr Bassam Raad, and municipal committee chairs responsible for media relations and youth and sports.
Mr Raad was very cooperative, and he promised to start distributing pesticides soon. The petition was also entered into the municipality’s registry. After few weeks, the municipality started distributing pesticides throughout Baalbeck.
Chmustar has long faced a serious trash collection problem. The village was serviced by only one garbage truck that collected garbage only once every 10 days. Our team advocated a solution to ameliorate this problem by, at very least, getting more trucks to pass through the village more frequently.
Again the team decided to use a petition. They canvassed Chmustar’s citizens to assess their needs and planned to present their petition to the head of the municipality. While collecting signatures, the team discovered Chmustar’s residents also wanted a pesticide distribution program. The team collected some 50 signatures, and on 3 September 2009 they met with the head of the Chmustar municipality to present the petition.
The municipality was very understanding and cooperating with the group. The head of Chmustar’s municipality said he was ready to distribute pesticides at the beginning of spring. Concerning the garbage collection problem, the head of municipality said the village has two garbage trucks, but one needs to be fixed. He promised to personally intervene so it gets fixed quickly and also said he would try securing a third truck. Following the meeting, the group’s facilitators stayed in direct contact with the municipality.
Fixing the Taraya-Chmustar road
The often dilapidated state of roads in Lebanon is one of the major problems faced throughout the country, and the road connecting Taraya and Chmustar is particularly bad.
After many meetings with teachers in Chmustar’s public school, our team learned that the majority of its students come from Taraya. The team decided to pressure the municipality of Taraya to fix the approximately two-kilometer road that joins Chmustar and Taraya. Enhancing this road will reduce the traffic and car accidents, meaning students can get to and from school more quickly and more safely.
Teachers at the public school were instrumental in drafting the petition and collecting signatures. Our team could not have done this without them. The team’s goal was to get as many signatures as possible to put additional pressure on the municipality especially because the elections were scheduled for June 09.
While the process of drafting the petition, collecting signatures and presenting it to the head of the municipality was long, it ultimately succeeded. The municipality began fixing the road in November 09.
Preserving the Assi River
The Assi River is one of the most well known rivers in Lebanon. Located in Hermel, it is a tourist attraction offering beautiful views and sports such as rafting and kayaking. However, lax preservation efforts throughout the years have led put the fauna and flora in and around the river in a state near extinction.
Because we have had a team operating in the area since February 2008, we decided to start advocating on a national level to preserve the Assi River and environment surrounding it. Locally, this would benefit Hermel’s citizens, and it would also benefit the country as a whole.
Therefore our facilitators in the area, with the help of the citizens involved in the program, established a civil committee for the preservation of the Assi River, gathering participants from different groups and representatives of NGOs interested in working on this case.
The municipality of Hermel incorporated the idea our team worked on of preserving the Assi River into Hermel’s cultural festival, which takes place every year between the 1st and the 20 th of August, and so a special river preservation day was held on the 6th of August 09.
Numerous NGOs and volunteers participated in this event as well as the Committee for the Preservation of the Assi, the municipalities of Hermel and Chweghir, various sports clubs and local restaurant owners.
The event received courteous and considerate coverage from Lebanon’s various newspapers, televisions and radio stations.
To highlight the need of preserving the Assi river, and the environment in general, concerned parties distributed posters to Hermel’s restaurants and cafes. Our team is also producing a short documentary to highlight the challenges confronting the river and explore the best ways to preserve it.
Additionally, during the winter season, the team is working with local schools and organizations to organize indoor activities such as lectures and workshops.
--- In the press ( need to be uploaded directly to the website)
Hayya Bina has also been contemplating how to build on the positive results achieved through the Citizen Lebanon project. We have been working closely with the teams and the most active members of the discussion groups in an effort for them to form their own association called "Bekaa Lubnan". This is a crucial step in helping the participants from different regions to coalesce as a group. Not all discussion group participants are part of this structure, but the most active ones have found this a helpful tool in branding their advocacy work.
In the future, this structure will also be essential in helping participants acquire funding for larger advocacy projects and ensuring the sustainability of the project.
Program Manager: Christelle Abou Chabke
- Ali Hamieh
- Rouba Taha
- Chaymaa Abi Raad
- Faten Salman
- Hiam el Faqih
- Manal Medlej