Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lebanon Mountain Trail Association Annual Walk

The Lebanon Mountain Trail Association is organizing this April 2011 the long awaited annual thru-walk (3rd Edition).  A complete expedition on the Lebanon Mountain Trail, from Marjayoun to Qbaiyat, covering 440Km in 28 days!  Don't miss this annual opportunity to discover Lebanon in a unique way and support local communities.  For more information, contact the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association at +961 5 955 302. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Open Call for Papers on Lebanon

SAFADI FOUNDATION USA
LAUNCHES OPEN CALL FOR PAPERS ON LEBANON

Washington, DC, February 24, 2011 – The Safadi Foundation USA (SFUSA), The Program on Good Governance and Political Reform in the Arab World at the Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) announce an open call for papers on behalf of the Safadi-Stanford Initiative for Policy Innovation (SSIPI). SSIPI seeks policy-focused papers that provide clear and concise recommendations to the Lebanese authorities, the international donor community, and other regional groups. The objective of SSIPI is to promote new analysis on Lebanon. Qualified applicants have the academic freedom to choose a paper topic of their choice within the realm of economic development and entrepreneurship. Papers should include recommendations that address the linkages between economic development and institution building, security and civil peace, and other governance related issues. In addition, papers should reflect a deep understanding of the role of institutions and whether accelerated, more balanced economic growth, social and fiscal reforms, a particular process of economic development or new developing areas of entrepreneurialism, if any, could help in reducing the negative influences posed by confessionalism in the economy. Abstracts should be submitted according to the guidelines below. Upon review of the abstracts by an independent reviewing committee, a select group of scholars will be chosen to submit their full paper and compete for the title of Safadi scholar of the year. SSIPI will offer the Safadi scholar of the year the opportunity to develop a piece of research at CDDRL, led by Larry Diamond, as well as meet with strategic policy makers in Washington, DC. The scholar will have the chance to present their research at a policy conference in Washington, DC.

Requirements:
Deadline for one-page abstracts is March 31, 2011. Abstracts should be emailed to SSIPI.2011.Submissions@gmail.com. Please note “Abstract Submission” in subject of email. The selection committee warrants applicants from academia, the public and private sectors, and NGOs, either from Lebanon or abroad, who are working on economic development and entrepreneurship in Lebanon. Qualified candidates should hold a graduate degree from an accredited university. For more info please visit: http://cddrl.stanford.edu/research/safadistanford_initiative_for_policy_innovation/

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spotlight Series: The Animal Pride and Freedom Campaign

Animal rights activists are a growing part of Lebanon's civil society.  Although many in Lebanon might laugh away the notion in a country where full human rights have yet to be secured.  Regardless of your opinion on the issue, there is something to be said about the ability of a non-political issue like this to bring people together around a common concern and help build a concept of citizenship that transcends sectarian divides.

Some recent news on the issue:

Last week, animal lovers around the world were mortified by the news of Omega, a smoking 12 year-old chimp who was rescued from a zoo in Lebanon.  Click here to read more about Omega.   

And then last month, activists staged a protest outside a local pet shop.  Click here to read more about it

Developing Lebanon is pleased to be able to bring you another spotlight series with one of the lead organizers of this campaign: 

Spotlight Series: The Animal Pride and Freedom Campaign

Interview with Mrs. Soraya-Zattar Mouawad


1) Mrs. Mouawad, please tell us about the "Animal Pride and Freedom Campaign?" What is your mission? How do you plan to effectively introduce change to the ways animals are treated in Lebanon?

The Animal Pride and Freedom Campaign was launched two months ago. The group was created in response to the poor treatment and abuse violations of animals in Lebanon. Animals are thrown in cages in illegal pet shops with no concern for sanitation or hygiene. We hope to raise public awareness on the national and international levels to highlight the plight of innocent animals and the violations they face. We hope to encourage pet shop owners to become more cooperative and humane in their treatment of animals.

2) Does Lebanon currently have any laws or enforcement mechanisms pertaining to the protection of animal rights? If so, what are they? What does the Campaign propose to improve the situation? Are the violations you see happening because the law is insufficient or is it a question of enforcement or both? How can a new law ensure proper implementation and enforcement?

The current law is outdated and does not meet the demands of the current generation. We need a stronger law matched by better enforcement. A strong law will enable activists to hold pet shop owners accountable without feeling threatened. However, the law is only as good as the enforcement mechanisms that are in place. Unfortunately, corruption in Lebanon prevents proper enforcement and exotic animals are imported illegally into the country as a result. We have been trying to meet with the leadership from the Ministries of Agriculture and Interior. Until now we have been unsuccessful in fully gaining their attention. The campaign would like to see an end to the gross animal rights violations including, ending the illegal importation of exotic animals and the sadistic practice of dog-fighting. In addition, the campaign would like pet shops to no longer cage animals and make improvements in proper hygiene. It is important that any new law also mandate the implementation of quarantine for any animal entering Lebanese territory and that they have proper check-ups and documentation from legally registered veterinarians.

3) Do you have a draft of a new law? Are you working with any international NGOs to help improve advocacy efforts to influence Lebanese politicians? What is the best way to force Lebanese politicians to pay attention to this issue?

We are working on a draft law. We currently do not have the support of any international organizations but we are aware of their presence and interested in working with them to help boost and improve our capacity. It would be good to learn how this problem has been dealt with on a global level so that we can make improvements here at home. Domestic and international media coverage is critical to gaining attention. There needs to be more awareness of the problem first before having any kind of impact.

4) Are the Campaign volunteers and activist representative of Lebanon's sectarian diversity? Do you believe that bringing Lebanese civil society together around less political but equally important issues in Lebanon's development can play a role in national reconciliation?

We are a mixed group of volunteers representing Lebanon’s diversity. Lebanon is suffering from many internal and external political problems and the country has yet to successfully implement a national reconciliation process. Perhaps, by uniting around non-political issues that do not have sectarian sensitivities we can help start a process in building national consensus by Lebanese as citizens of a democratic state and not as religions.

5) Do you have an action plan to reach out to more Lebanese citizens?

We are currently working to educate children and teachers about the values and responsibilities in raising pets. They are not toys to be thrown away at the end of a summer vacation but they are a long-term commitment that should bring joy and happiness to many families. I am also an artist and working on organizing an art exhibit in collaboration with local environmentalist to reach out to more people.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Small Grants, Big Impact



Not one of us who have worked in international development cannot relate to this impact question.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mr. Internet, Tear Down That Wall!

The Aspen Institute held an event in Washington today entitled, "Digital Statecraft: Media, Broadcasting and the Internet as Instruments of Public Diplomacy in the Middle East." Elie Khoury, Chairman and CEO, Quantum Communications, a leading advertising and communications firm in the broader Middle East; and Chairman and CEO, M&C Saatchi, Middle East & North Africa made the trip from Beirut to discuss modern public diplomacy.

He led with a comparison of the Berlin Wall - a symbol of East-West divide for so many years - to today's East-West relations, though today's "East" is the Islamic world. On September 11, 2001, a wall of separation was erected that senselessly divides our species.

When talking about public diplomacy, we have to ask, are there enough tools to make it successful? Do these tools work with Islam? Do we have to wait another half century to see successful results? Does television reach enough people? Radio? The internet? Can Western media play a public diplomacy role?

Mr. Khoury said, "All can reach one, one can reach all."

Even with censorship, quality and pertinent information will eventually get to people thanks to new media. There are 65 million internet users in the MENA region despite the fact that only 1% of online content is in Arabic.

Khoury added that of all websites that are run in the Middle East, only 20% of them are related to Islam, contrary to what the West might think. He lamented that a few psychopaths (my word, not his) have hijacked Islam and use the Quran as a substitute for the Communist Manifesto. See, we all dream the "American dream," no matter what our nationality. You have to remember Americans come from everywhere else. Aside from a tiny minority, most human beings want control over their own destinies, a safe place to raise a family, and the freedom to pursue whatever makes them happy. But there is an imbalance in the world, between haves and have nots, and once when Adam Smith was the promise of having, then followed Marx, Lenin, and Nasr. Arab socialism failed the Arabs, and some have turned to radical Islam.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

New media, social media, whatever you would like to call it, gives us this amazing, amazing opportunity to skip government run public diplomacy and have direct interaction with each other. Isn't it time we start talking TO each other rather than passively-aggressively complaining about each other?

Ministry of Social Affairs Contracts with NGOs in Lebanon

توزيع مساهمات وزارة الشؤون للجمعيات الشريكة في 2009

نشرت مجلة الشهرية الصادرة عن الدولية للمعلومات في عددها رقم 83 لشهر أيلول 2010، تحقيقا حول وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية تضمن لمحة عن تاريخ تأسيس الوزارة ومهماتها، كما تطرق الى عقود الشراكة التي توقعها الوزارة مع هيئات المجتمع المحلي والوطني، وآلية إبرامها.

وأشار التحقيق الى ان موازنة الوزارة المذكورة بلغت 107.4 مليارات ليرة لبنانية خلال العام 2009، خصص المبلغ الأكبر منها (102.5 ليرة لبنانية) أي ما يشكل نسبة 95.5% كمساهمات لمشاريع اجتماعية موزعة كما يلي:

- 87 مليار ليرة للمؤسسات والجمعيات التي تتولى رعاية الأيتام والمعوزين والعجزة والمسنين والمعوقين، حيث تتقاضى كل مؤسسة مساهمة معينة لقاء كل معوز تتولى رعايته او تعليمه
- 4 مليارات ليرة لمشاريع الحماية من الانحراف
- 1 مليار ليرة مخصصات مشروع تأمين حقوق المعوقين
- 1 مليار ليرة نفقات المشاريع الإنمائية
- 600 مليون ليرة مساهمة لكاريتاس
- 300 مليون ليرة مساهمة لجمعية سعادة السماء
- 100 مليون ليرة مخصصات مشروع تحسين أحوال المعيشة
- 7.5 مليارات ليرة نفقات مشاريع اجتماعية وصحية بالاشتراك مع الجمعيات الأهلية

للإطلاع على جدول الجمعيات المستفيدة من أموال وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية وتوزعها الجغرافي، نرجو الولوج الى الرابط التالي
http://lkdg.org/webfm_send/29

via CRTDA

Friday, September 3, 2010

More great stuff from the Lebanese Transparency Association



This anti-corruption video is made by the Lebanese Advocacy and Legal Advice Center, an intiative of the Lebanese Transparency Association.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spotlight Series: Silat Wassel

SFUSA: Silat Wassal is using art as a tool for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Could you tell me a little bit about that? Are you focusing on a particular area? What is that area like?

Silat Wassel: We mainly have our activities in the north; right now we are taking part of a project called the Middle East Expedition (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) and soon we will work over all the Lebanese territories on the same website project. It aims to activate the dialogue between different sects of society through artistic, cultural, social and environmental activities. It also aims to create an atmosphere of non-violence through events and workshops with different age groups in marginalized communities.

SFUSA: I understand that you have just recently gotten NGO status, so you must be pretty new. Do you have a website? If not, do you have plans to establish one? It would be great to see some of the art even if we are across the ocean!

Silat Wassel: We are working on creating LNCA (Lebanese Network for Civic Achievements), a network that should be formed by youth NGOs working in the north and then maybe expand it to the other Casas of Lebanon.

Concerning the website, we are preparing to launch a big interactive website by the end of the summer. This website will be used by youth to create advocacy groups in their local governments, municipalities, etc.

SFUSA: Where did you get the idea for using art as a tool for conflict resolution?

Silat Wassel: I, myself, am an artist and two other members are also artists. We figured out ways to use art as a tool to fight violence, and we also do social training, capacity building, and public awareness workshops.

SFUSA: What do you envision for the future of your organization? Do you think the international community could do more to help peacebuilding projects in Lebanon?

Silat Wassel:The Together We Live project is a series of workshops to establish a culture of dialogue between youth of different backgrounds.

As for what could the international community do concerning the peace building projects, we think there should be some sort of sustainability in projects; for example, we trained for the past couple of years around 700 participants from all over the north on conflict management and citizenship, thus we had an idea that we should keep on seeing them and working with them and so we created an idea of (Center for Public Awareness (CPA).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Blackberry Eye for Lebanese Democracy?

Last week, the UAE and Saudi Arabia decided to block Blackberry services due to what they cited as security concerns. India, which had been considering such a move because Blackberry is what the Mumbai terrorists had used to communicate, decided against such a move. Blackberry’s encryption technology is such that users actually have privacy when communicating with Blackberry devices.

Both UAE and Saudi Arabia are non-democratic regimes and have strict censorship laws, so it is understandable that they would seek to block any communications service they can't intercept. It’s just quotidian life in most of the Arab world.

But Lebanon?

Today the Lebanese Telecommunications Ministry announced it would review Blackberry services over “security” fears. This comes on the day that the U.S. State Department released its 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism, in which seven designated terrorist organizations were mentioned along with Hezbollah.

Do we really believe these considerations are for “security” purposes?

The Blackberry “discussions” are just the latest in a series of anti-free speech developments in Lebanon. These include the recent passage of an e-transactions law that creates an all powerful governmental body to oversee internet transactions and the arrest of four people who posted anti-Sleiman messages on Facebook.

This is not to mention Lebanon’s woefully inadequate internet infrastructure, which also affects Blackberry information services. The government has paid lip service to infrastructure improvements, agreeing in principle to buying more bandwidth but somehow finding a way to keep that bandwidth from reaching people.

Yet, I find it difficult to believe the Lebanese government is motivated by the same authoritarian impulses of its UAE and Saudi counterparts. No, Lebanon may have just a shadow of a real democracy, but the Lebanese government is not really seeking to control the communications of its citizens. Rather, it seeks to control the flow of money resulting from its citizens needs and desires for information and communications technology. It does this by passing go and collecting its $200 again and again and again and again.

We can only hope Research In Motion, the company that makes Blackberry devices, does not cave in to non-democratic regimes across the world and alter their devices so that governments can monitor the lives of their citizens. We all know how Google, Yahoo, and other tech companies have succumbed to the dictatorial commands of such authoritarian regimes as China (fortunately, Google changed its mind early this year.) Hopefully in the Blackberry case, human rights will triumph over the Almighty Dollar.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spotlight Series: Blue Mission

Blue Mission is a Lebanese organization established for peace organization. In response to the Lebanese Civil War, sociologist and criminologist Sana El Bizri founded Blue Mission in order to realize an idea that stemmed from her determination to not give up on life in a society destroyed by war, but rather to change society by reviving the values of peace and humanity. El Bizri needed to overcome family tragedies that resulted from the war, and through these tragedies developed an idea that peace and education were the only sources that would allow people to build a prosperous future. This idea was realized with the founding of Blue Mission, which promotes peace through education, teacher training, and numerous human rights projects. The name “Blue Mission” refers to the color most psychologically associated with sources of calm and serenity, such a clear sky and a tranquil sea, and a lasting, common commitment among like-minded people to move an idea forward.

Unaffiliated with any specific political or religious group, Blue Mission states on its website that it is dedicated to “promoting empowerment of people in Lebanese society.” The key problems that the organization’s program addresses include violence in schools, domestic violence, unresolved conflict, disregard for human rights, disempowerment of women, lack of participation in community processes, and discrimination in all forms. Among the activities that Blue Mission performs in order to resolve these problems are training of teachers, awareness building and topical workshops, classes and activities in schools, and collaboration with other associations to organize nation-wide school events. These activities focus on providing youth throughout Lebanon and the Middle East with the values to “abhor war and embrace peace,” and with the skills to bring change to a war-torn society.

Recently, Blue Mission has initiated the “Ambassadors of Peace” program in Lebanon, a youth capacity building program called “From Village to Village,” and a project called “Saida Eco Neighborhood.” The “Ambassadors of Peace” program is a training curriculum adapted from Canada which Blue Mission has operated since 2002 partnered with Save the Children Sweden. Its curriculum provides conflict resolution training and focuses on the themes of non-violence, human rights, democratic practice, respect and anti-discrimination. “From Village to Village” is based in the cities of Bazouriyeh, Toura, and Maarake, providing training for youth leaders in leadership and project management, psychological support, IT development, and environmental and health awareness. “Saida Eco Neighborhood” involves environmental sustainability in the Saida municipality.

Blue Mission also has its own music band, which performs Lebanese popular and national songs.

All of these activities, plus many more as outlined on www.bluemission.org, are manifestations of Sana El Bizri and Blue Mission’s dedication to direct Lebanese society to that of peace and human rights through educational progress and human development.

Written by Safadi USA intern Helen Burns

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cyber Skeptic or Cyber Utopia? The Use of New Media in World Politics

Last week, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a live panel and webcast discussing the role of the new social media tools of cyberspace in contemporary political movements. Blogs and Bullets: Evaluating the Impact of New Media on Conflict focused mainly on last year’s Green Revolution response to the Iranian elections, but also discussed social media influence in Madagascar, Iraq, and the Southern Caucasus region. The panelists included American professionals and scholars of modern sociology and Middle Eastern studies, as well as bloggers from around the world. In a time where politically-minded Westerners praise modern internet-based social media techniques for spreading anti-authoritarian political dissent, the panelists highlighted its benefits while also calling attention to the disadvantages and negative uses of social media that often have been overlooked.

Alec Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation at the office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, introduced the topic of last year’s attempted “Green Revolution” in Iran and how it came to be dubbed a “Twitter Revolution” by many Americans. Ross articulated a divide, however, between optimists and pessimists regarding exactly how strong a role Twitter actually had taken during this Revolution. There were examples of a high volume of Tweets from Iran and of high turnout in protests on the streets that did not necessarily match up. One may make the case that Twitter had a higher impact on American perception of Iranians than on the Iranian protest movement itself. Mark Lynch, the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, supported this point by emphasizing the need to “look beyond coincidence. . . it is not a matter of Twitter on Tuesday, and overthrowing the government on Wednesday.” Although power and access to information have shown a strong relationship throughout history, Lynch argues that it is crucial to avoid allowing the Internet to replace actual, physical protesting. A modern protester cannot simply post a Tweet or a blog advocating a regime change and feel that the work is done. Additionally, this social media can be used for ill use, as Lynch sited Hezbollah’s use of email and anti-Israel video games. Panelist Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, stated that the Twitter use from Iran needed to be broken down and analyzed beyond simply the fact that it took place during the election protests. How many twitter uses were actually from Iran- dozens, or hundreds? Who were they? What were they actually saying? In fact, many of the Twitter users were actually posting in favor of Ahmadinejad. Lastly, who was talking to whom, and what were the relations between these people?

The international bloggers spoke from their own perspectives, revealing similar opinions. Analysis of social media often provides a skewed opinion and set of information when one is limited only to like-minded bloggers who speak English. Additionally, problems arise when one considers pro-regime blogging, monopolization of positions, and dissolution of the border between cyber war and real war. Golnaz Esfandiari, a blogger from Iran, agreed that the influence of Twitter was exaggerated, and a better way to access the actual thoughts of the Iranian youth was through Facebook. Panelist Onnik Krikorian of Armenia warned that “ . . .people get too excited about tools, they add everyone [too facebook], which is dangerous. Krikorian highlighted cyber “flame wars” between internet users of Armenia and Azerbaijan, in response to an audience contribution regarding similar internet hostility in the South Caucasus, between Georgia and Abkhazia. Jordanian panelist Naseem Tarawnah cited examples of social media’s negative use (extremist group Muslim Brotherhood using mobile devices to rapidly increase its followers) and its positive use (that this media, for what it’s worth, reveals what is already going on at the ground level). Mialy Andriamananjar of Madagascar mentioned that following the protests and unrest in her country, as the political situation underwent large-scale collapse, blog posts by individuals served to give warnings to civilians of local “danger zones” meant to be avoided.

Overall, the benefits of social media were not forgotten or discredited. The panelists warned, however, against disproportionately looking to Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere as the be-all, end-all path to freedom, and allowing internet communication replacing direct community involvement.

Written by Safadi USA intern Helen Burns

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Democracy is...human

What does democracy mean to you? Democracy is more than just ballot boxes, politicians, and foreign policies. Democracy is freedom, democracy is empowerment, democracy is humanity. The context of democracy may vary from country to country and culture to culture, but the basic tenets are universal.

Photo: Democracy is the coexistence of different religions, freedom to worship, freedom from worship, freedom to be an individual without having your religion required on an identity card.

From (many of) the same organizations who brought you the Democracy Video Challenge comes the Democracy Photo Challenge.
The Challenge

Take a photo that completes the phrase Democracy is… and share it with the world.

The Prize

Special exhibition of your photo at the United Nations and at galleries in New York and Los Angeles.

The Timeline

* July 7 – July 28 – Submit Photos
* July 28 – Submission Deadline, Midnight GMT
* Aug 19 – Online Voting Commences – International Photography Day
* Sept 15 – Winners Announcement – United Nations Day of Democracy

The Details

* You must be 18 or older to enter.
* Submissions must be original photographs (digital or analog) taken by the submitter.
* Contestants may enter anonymously.
Visit the website for more information and to see photo entries.

Here are some photos of mine that I could enter. With the exception of the last one, taken in Nicosia, Cyprus at the open border crossing, they were taken in Beirut.

Democracy is seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. It isn't easy. Getting people to cooperate for the greater good of society is a daunting task. Does democracy have its problems? Heck yes, a great number of them. But consider the alternatives: dictatorship, dictatorship, dictatorship. No matter what form a government claims to have - monarchy, communism, theocracy, fascism, sheikhdom, etc. - a dictatorship is a dictatorship is a dictatorship. Though there may be bumps along the way, democracy gives you the freedom to travel the road of life in your own vehicle (though speed limit signs may be posted so you don't endanger the lives of others.)

Democracy is information and access to it. Freedom of speech and press are essential components of democracies, as well as the right of people to peaceably assemble to exchange information. Transparency in government and access to public documents make a government of the people by the people for the people. In democracies, websites aren't blocked, and people aren't arrested for posting negative comments about a president on Facebook. A democracy facilitates access to information by ensuring people have access to technology through updated infrastructure, fair regulation over telecomms companies, and provision of access through public libraries, school equipment, and government websites that give the people transparent information.

Democracy is economic opportunity and empowerment, workplace safety laws, labor rights, unions, fair compensation, entrepreneurship, property rights, access to capital, strong institutions, private sector participation in policymaking, good governance, no corruption...Democracy doesn't discriminate against race or ethnicity or religion.

Democracy is hard work, yes, but in a democracy, there is no line on the horizon - the possibilities of life are endless!

Democracy allows people hope for the future.

Democracy is peace. The oft used phrase "democracies don't fight democracies" is true. Security, safety, peace of mind, these are the things that democracy brings. When people have control over their own destinies, when they have enough food to eat and a roof over their head and healthcare when they are sick, they tend to be content. Of course there are exceptions - there are always exceptions. It's called life. But generally, in stable, strong democracies, people enjoy their rights and tolerate the enjoyment of rights by others.


Democracy has gotten a bad rap for various reasons, and the whole West versus East mentality to which people on both sides of the Atlantic stubbornly cling has much to do with that. Look, democracy isn't perfect. Everyone knows that. No form of governing can be perfect, because it's people who do the governing, and we all know how flawed is the homosapiens species (and the sub-species politicus sapius is even more flawed than the average Joe or Yusef or Jose.) But I'll take a voice in things that affect my life over someone telling me how to live any and every day I am sipping that sweet, sweet oxygen that keeps us roaming this tiny rock we call Earth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spotlight Series: Bader Young Entrepreneurs

SFUSA: How long has Bader been operating in Lebanon? How did you get started?

Bader: Bader is a NGO established in 2006 by 40 top business leaders in the country. Bader is a-political and a-religious. Bader’s mission is to promote entrepreneurship in Lebanon with a focus on high-impact businesses. Bader covers the whole chain the entrepreneur goes through: from Education to Finance to Networking.

SFUSA: One of your objectives is to “develop tools for and promote entrepreneurship education to young Lebanese through Bader’s own initiatives and partnerships with educational institutions.” What sort of tools do you use to promote entrepreneurship education?

Bader: On the educational level we have:

Workshop program: we developed our own curriculum delivered in Arabic by highly professional lecturers over a period of 2.5 days. The objective of the workshop is to give the entrepreneurs the tools to prepare a business plan for financing purposes. We started in underprivileged area. We are trying to reach out for entrepreneurs where no-one is going. We have trained so far more than 60 entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will be coached and then expected to present their project for funding, which we can provide through our network of investors.

Mentorship program: Our mentorship program assigns one mentor to one entrepreneur for a period of 2 years (the most critical period in the life of a startup). We have gathered a pool of more than 20 mentors who have been trained. In parallel, the list of entrepreneurs interested in having a mentor is also growing.

Scholarship program: Thanks to the contribution of donors (a Bader member, Patchi, MENA capital, BBAC, Chalhoub Group, and Quantum), high merit students have received scholarship. From USD 36k in 2008, the program awarded more than USD 160k in 2009. We are currently receiving confirmation for our 2010 program.

Partnership with MIT: for the 3rd year, Bader is continuing its partnership with MIT Arab Business Plan Competition.

Deutsche Bank Award: Bader partnered with Deutsche Bank to launch 2 Creative Awards in Lebanon of €10,000 each to artists, craftspeople, designers and performers to start a business or carry out a project.

SFUSA: How do you go about connecting entrepreneurs with investors? Do you have a regular group of investors you continue to go to, or are you constantly looking for new ones? Who are your typical investors – are they Lebanese businesspeople? Lebanese diaspora abroad? International investors?

Bader: In 2009, Bader launched the first Lebanese Business Angel (LBA) network in Lebanon. The LBA facilitates the introduction of entrepreneurs to potential investors through presentations and other mechanisms. LBA consists of individual angel investors as well as institutions interested in financing privately held companies or ventures typically in a startup/early stage of development, based in Lebanon and in all sectors, pertaining they have a compelling value proposition and high added value, an innovative/creative product or service and the potential for regional and international reach.

Selection process: All executive summaries fitting the LBA criteria are considered for presentation at the screening committee. The screening committee will consider all filed and completed submissions and will inform selected companies before scheduling a meeting. Non-selected companies will also be informed and will receive standardized feedback from the screening committee. Selected companies will be invited to come and pitch in front of our angels/ investors in the investment committee. When an investor shows interest in any of the project, we arrange a meeting between both parties to start the negotiations.

SFUSA: What are you doing to promote your organization’s mission? I have been to your website but wonder – do you use social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, or a blog?

Bader: You can visit us on Facebook.
We also have a twitter account.

Visit Bader's website at http://www.baderlebanon.com.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Obama administration to focus on internal, local reform versus external regime change.

Today, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion of the progress made by the Obama Administration of addressing human rights in Arab countries. The panel, “Human Rights and Obama’s Policies in the Arab World,” demonstrated a consensus in favor of focusing on reform driven from within each nation versus external intervention and regime change, albeit revealing a disconnection between Washington and the Middle East regarding the effectiveness of government-based reforms.

The panelists each addressed human rights abuses that continue to occur in recent years, with a particular focus on Egypt and Yemen. The diverse audience was reminded of the recently arrested Egyptian bloggers, the police brutality against Khalid Said from an internet café, the torture of Egyptian woman Mona Thabet, the Kuwaiti man who was jailed for criticizing the Amir, and Yemen’s security challenges and lack of dialogue and equal opportunity. Secretary Michael Posner of the Human Rights bureau at the Department of State, highlighted the significance of joining the United Nations Human Rights Council, as it promotes a universal standard on human rights, and end to torture, and a commitment to helping societies from within. Additionally, Secretary Tamara Wittes of the Near Eastern Affairs bureau spoke of working with the Yemeni government to eliminate police brutality as well working with NGOs to develop a more meritocratic system less based on tribe and patronage and more based on the empowerment of local youth and adults.

Although the panelists from the region generally agreed with the long term goals of the Washington panelists, both Bahey el din Hassan of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights and Amal Basha of the Yemeni Embassy agreed that a large gap exists between what is written on paper in an agreement between the US and any Middle Eastern nation, and what actually occurs in reality. Firstly, the negative US contributions have taken a toll on credibility in the Middle East, even under the Obama administration. Hassan cited the current administration’s failure to investigate Israeli crimes in Gaza despite opposing continued Israeli settlements, and Basha mentioned American unconditional support to the Yemeni government in power. Both policies are examples that are perceived as negative by the resident population. Another point made by Basha was the fact that Yemen has five different institutions of “Security”, yet ongoing human rights violations and denial of the right of assembly have led citizens to feel less secure. Overall, the support for the Obama administration’s more locally-driven methods of engaging the people of the Arab world was unanimous, but skepticism remains regarding agreements made between governments.

Written by Safadi USA Intern Helen Burns

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spotlight Series: Association for Development of Rural Capacities

Developing Lebanon's Spotlight Series is back! Send your compliments to this week's spotlight, the Association for the Development of Rural Capacities!

The Association for the Development of Rural Capacities (ADR) was founded in 1996 as a Lebanese NGO having no political, religious, or familial affiliations. Its mission is to empower and integrate marginalized people living mainly in South Lebanon through sustainable economic and social development.

The objectives of ADR are:
  • Improve access to financial services, training, tools, and information.
  • Facilitate access to the labor market and develop income generating projects in rural and semi-urban communities.
  • Promote partnerships and decentralized cooperation.

ADR's cherished image is that of an institution with a team of professionals in the field of development economics. While recognizing the importance of relief and advocacy, ADR's focal theme is socio-economics and its primary means of intervention is through development with the spread of financial services, the dissemination of technical formation, diffusion of agricultural services, and support decentralized processes.

Working with street vendors, market workers, craftsmen, farmers, small entrepreneurs, women, youth, refugees, and local authorities and stakeholders from the most impoverished areas of Lebanon has strengthened ADR’s position as a leading developmental NGO in Lebanon.

Since its creation and through the continuous private and institutional support allowed ADR to design and implement projects according to the communities' wants and needs made available through its four key programs:
  • Micro Credit
  • Vocational Training
  • Agriculture
  • Social services & decentralized cooperation

ADR's values are:
  • Commitment to the principles of equity, gender equality, youth, environment, good governance, and social cohesion.
  • Commitment to poverty reduction through the dissemination of knowledge, technology and sources of empowerment.
  • Dedication to creating synergy between NGOs, donors, partners, volunteers, local civil societies and local authorities for the purpose of socio-economic sustainability.
  • Commitment to efficiency, transparency and accountability to ensure the implementation of international standards at every level of operations.
  • Commitment to micro-credit as a reliable, self sustainable financial service to alleviate poverty in Lebanon’s urban and rural areas.
  • Commitment to the expansion and improvement of education, vocational training and social conditions.
  • Commitment to agricultural advancement and innovation for financial, social and environmental sustainability.
  • Dedication to decentralized cooperation and good governance to promote development.
  • Commitment to the progress and solidarity within the Euro-Mediterranean partners.
  • Commitment to population assistance in the face of unforeseen circumstances, crises or economic change.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh the wonders of the world!



Once again the Jeita Grotto is up to become one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. You can vote on the Grotto among other natural wonders.

But I have to ask, does Lebanon deserve it?

I can already hear the blood boiling in the minds of some who read that question, but listen to this example: Lebanon is in danger of losing its UNESCO World Heritage status on the Qadisha Valley because of the way Lebanese treat the site. Not only has it become overdeveloped thanks in part to a lack of enforcement of building codes and development laws (and rampant corruption to boot), but garbage from family picnics is strewn across the area, showing an utter lack of respect for the area.

Qadisha is just one example of this. Uncontrolled and unplanned growth has ravished natural and historic sites across the country and has contributed to deforestation, inadequate sanitation and water networks, and the illegal exploitation of quarries and coastline. Even when licenses are secured, companies do not comply with their terms. Violations of building permits is the norm, which has resulted in the eradication of natural resources and the conversion of agricultural and forest land into unplanned built up areas.

These laws should be enforced. A 1999 report by the Ministry of Finance entitled “Programme for Financial Reform” acknowledged the damage inflicted on the country’s natural resources and the potential devastating consequences the country faces if this continues, yet a decade later the government has largely been ineffective in acting upon the findings of this and other reports.

And so I ask again - does Lebanon deserve to have the Jeita Grotto or other natural or historical sites on any kind of international awards list?

Well, yes. But it's going to take a lot of effort and changes in behavior to make sure these great places stay great. It's up to civil society to fight for the rule of law, combat corruption, and to raise public awareness about the consequences of over-development and littering.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Increasing the Effectiveness of U.S. Foreign Aid

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing last week entitled "Human Rights and Democracy Assistance: Increasing the Effectiveness of U.S. Foreign Aid."

Witnesses were:

Ms. Jennifer L. Windsor
Executive Director
Freedom House

Thomas Carothers, J.D.
Vice President for Studies
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Elisa Massimino, J.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Human Rights First
[Press Release on the Hearing]

The Honorable Lorne W. Craner
President
International Republican Institute
(Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 separated military and non-military aid, unified existing aid efforts, and established USAID. The United States government is in the process of reviewing and rewriting the act to make foreign assistance more effective.

The United States foreign assistance program really began after World War II when the U.S. funded reconstruction projects in Europe and Asia. The aftermath of the war saw the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. World War II ended 65 years ago, and foreign assistance programs and organizations have had a bumpy ride ever since, as most U.S. aid programs focused on fighting the spread of communism. The 1980s saw the creation of the National Endowment of Democracy and its four core institutes: National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Center for International Private Enterprise, and Solidarity Center. NED and its core institutes focused on fighting communism in Eastern Europe and Latin America during the eighties. When the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, there was much confusion in the foreign policy world, as no one knew what the future held. Francis Fukuyama even went as far as to proclaim the "end of history." Foreign assistance declined in importance in the nineties. September 11, 2001 changed that.

One of the major problems with the way foreign assistance is awarded - and this point was brought up by all of the panelists involved in the hearing - is that foreign governments, rather than people, have too much input into where foreign assistance goes. For example, President Obama’s engagement of the Mubarak regime in Egypt has not only alienated civil society activists who had received substantial amounts of democracy funding under the previous administration, but has resulted in the crackdown on, arrest of, and even murder of many of these activists. Governments that have well-organized lobbies, like the Jordanian government, receive more foreign assistance than those that do not. In the case of Lebanon, the factionalized nature of its political system adversely affects the country’s ability to lobby for funding and has kept US policymakers in the dark about what the country actually needs, causing these policymakers to focus almost exclusively on Hizbollah and Israel in any discussion that deals with Lebanon instead of on issues that could make a difference in the lives of the Lebanese people.

That guy who was President of the United States for eight years at the beginning of this century made democracy promotion a major part of his foreign policy, and civil society organizations across the globe reaped the benefits of increased funding. Now, civil society activists like Saad Eddin Ibrahim are criticizing the Obama administration for reducing funds for democracy promotion programs and giving control over foreign assistance funding to despots like Pharaoh Mubarak, who just renewed the Emergency Law. Saad points to elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Mauritania that took place in 2005-2006 as evidence that democracy promotion programs work.

Despite the best efforts of individuals like Ziad Baroud and Ghassan Moukheiber and of civil society organizations like LADE, political reform in Lebanon has been virtually non-existent. Very few seats in the 2009 parliamentary elections or the 2010 municipal elections were truly contested campaigns. Since gaining independence from France in 1943, the Lebanese political system has been characterized by sectarian division and corruption despite many attempts at reform. Until the confessional system is abolished, and it does not appear that will happen any time soon, the political system will continue to be just a shadow of a genuine democracy.

This doesn't mean that funding for political reform programs in Lebanon should cease. However, the focus should be on grassroots programs like NDI's Citizen Lebanon, which will help grow a new generation of active citizens who understand that real democracy is based on merit and competition, not wasta and corruption.

Grassroots programs, not large funding packages to governments, are the way to genuine reform. It remains to be seen how any rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act will change the way aid is dished out and how effective it will be. One thing is certain, though: without the input of actual civil society activists who are the beneficiaries of such assistance, foreign assistance programs will continue to have little sustainable impact.


Read Project on Middle East Democracy's notes on the hearing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Victory for Civil Society!

Safadi Foundation USA commends the decision by the Lebanese Parliament to postpone the vote on a draft E-transactions law. The postponement of this bill for one-month represents a victory to civil society organizations in Lebanon, who responded in an organized fashion to educate the public, politicians, and other relevant stakeholders about the possible implications of this legislation. The online campaign showed the effectiveness of social media as a popular and rising force. At the same time, the issue highlights the broader debate regarding the use of technology in advancing democratic freedoms and good governance.

The draft E-transactions law prompted concerns this week by civil society organizations and the private sector in Lebanon. If passed, the bill would have enforced unchecked regulatory measures on the internet that stifle democratic governance and reduce the country’s friendly business climate. For more info about this law please visit the Social Media Exchange website.

In addition, news about recent efforts by the Government of Lebanon to enforce a 2002 telecommunication law that bans VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) tools such as Skype represent a worrisome turning point and undermines Lebanon’s freedoms. Based on the reactions by Lebanese, it seems many did not even know that such modes of communication were illegal in the first place until the government installed equipment last week that blocks most VoIP programs.

The lesson learned is that public awareness, open debate, and comprehensive oversight by all stakeholders are vital to maintaining a healthy democratic government. The actions by the many groups who cooperated to get the word out about the E-Transactions law and other restrictive measures on internet freedom in Lebanon show that progress is indeed being made when it comes to strengthening the role of civil society groups in Lebanon.

Safadi Foundation USA hopes that parliament will play a positive role in engaging citizens and addressing their concerns so that a revised law is passed that reflects the open and competitive nature of Lebanon’s environment and entrepreneurial community.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Skype's the Limited, Part II



So it's true. The Lebanese government is set to pass a very bad e-transactions law that gives the government unchecked authority over e-commerce. Remember when we wondered if Lebanon would ever HAVE a government after it took ten thousand years to form one? Perhaps it'd be better if they'd never formed it.

Remember back when the old Phoenicians made the land now known as Lebanon the center of trade and commerce for the world? Ok, maybe not. That was a long time ago. (Some of the dinosaurs in the current government may remember...) The thing about Lebanon is that it has always been a center for trade. Commerce is why the country managed to survive its 15 year long suicide attempt. Commerce is why the country continues to function even as the government drowns in its own nepotism and corruption.

But allowing the monopolistic telecomms corporations and its governmental cronies to restrict the freedom of people to talk to each other is not commerce. It's corporate fascism at its finest.

This law runs contrary to every principle of democracy and free market economy to which Lebanon claims to adhere. Passing this law would be a major step backwards in the country's democratic development.

Around the interwebs:

SMEX says ACT NOW: Stop the E-transactions law.

Qifa Nabki's Missed Call Nation.

Lebanon is stifling your freedom: Daily Star article.

Maya Zankoul nails another one.

Beirut Spring

Identity Chef

Independence 05

Trella

Beirutiyat

Sarahilal

Jad Aoun

Stop the E-transactions law Facebook page.

Al-Akhbar article

Life in Slow Motion.

POMED

@stopthislaw Twitter account

We will keep you updated on the developments...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Skype's the Limited

Well now, this is disturbing. The Lebanese government seems intent on keeping Lebanon in the stone age when it comes to technology. This week, it activated equipment to block Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.

Congratulations, Lebanon! You join such healthy democratic societies as China and UAE who block VoIP.

While Skype is still functional at the moment, it is in violation of the telecomms law, and if the shortsighted telecomms policies are fully enforced, Skype could go at any time.

So, who benefits from this law, anyway? Why, it's none other than Alfa and MTC, which have a virtual monopoly on the telecomms market! And don't forget the government can collect all of those taxes that wouldn't be collected when people use VoIP for free or reduced rates!

And what do the Lebanese people think about all of this? Do they even know? Probably not. The Daily Star asks:
Where do civil society groups stand on this core issue? Are they still busy creating awareness about how to lobby local municipalities for water and decent roads? This is not necessarily a call for telecoms privatization, it is high time for a digital user protest and concerted lobbying efforts by consumers, entrepreneurs, and activists alike.
I found that second question odd. I mean, are they saying that water and decent roads are not worthwhile ventures?

The truth is, many Lebanese civil society organizations are not well-versed in the art of advocacy. How are they supposed to tackle such a convoluted issue as VoIP, when most people don't understand what is VoIP?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Municipal elections in South Lebanon



Independent coverage of municipal elections in South Lebanon from Hibr.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Take a break!

You are lying in bed still awake after two hours. Sleep will not come to you. Your boss has asked you to do something impossible at work; you know you will fail. You've been in a fight with your significant other and wonder if the two of you will break up. You just had a car accident after a truck full of goats drifted over the line and sideswiped you. Beiruti car horns light up the night, drivers unaware that honking does not get them there faster. Tick tock tick tock tick...

Get away from it all. Strap on your hiking boots and take advantage of Lebanon's natural beauty. Give your lungs a vacation from the pollution. It's time to be an ecotourist!

Where to start? Why not hike some of the 491km Lebanon Mountain Trail? Learn about Lebanon's literary history on the Baskinta Literary Trail. How about heading to the village of Ehmej to visit some of the feeder trails to the LMT and the new Forest Conservation Center? Need a trail guide? Check out organized hikes with Baldati or Esprit Nomade.

Ecotourism is a rapidly growing industry in Lebanon and has the potential to employ thousands of rural workers and create many new businesses in areas outside the urban glare of the nation's capital. And guess what? Trekking through the mountains is good for your health! So get out there! Live life! Enjoy Lebanon!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Live Lebanon connects Lebanese diaspora back to Lebanon