After the end of the civil war the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung complemented its prior work on socio-economic topics with questions concerning the peaceful coexistence of the different Lebanese religious entities in one unified state. From the FES’s perspective this is seen a necessary intermediate step in order to develop a comprehensive democratic and participatory set-up of society and political institutions. Thus, the FES tries in close collaboration with partners in civil society, media, science and politics to accompany Lebanese stakeholders who contest the role of religious identities within the state affairs and who want to foster cross-confessional opinion formation.
To this end the FES also supports young professionals and future decision makers in developing a political thinking going beyond confessional boundaries and encourages them to engage in cross-confessional networks. The idea is to strengthen a diverse and plural competition of ideas in the country.
The focus of this program line of FES's work in Lebanon is to transform the Lebanese democratic mindset from sectarian into competing programmatic ideas. State institutions and political players have to be pushed towards a national discourse on issues such as welfare and its social distribution, as well as safety and security for all citizens in order to establish an inclusive form of society. Instead of simply criticizing the current state of affairs, we want to encourage the Lebanese to shift the focus towards future developments and hold political decision makers accountable for their actions and suggestions – regardless if these actions turn out to be good or bad.
FES engages with partners who share our approach trying to establish politics beyond confessional divisions. Areas of interest in this thematic field are trade unions movements, the granting of social security and equal rights for all citizens before the law including personal status law and Human security. Lately, a special focus was put on women’s participation in the political structure as they are substantially overlooked in the current set-up.
Lebanon is a country largely dominated by the importance of its capital Beirut especially on the economic and political levels. This policy has taken roots in a consensual approach enforced across the whole country which prevents non-capital based citizens from participating in their local communities’ decisions that have become highly centralized far away from the source of civic engagement. At the same time this rather abstract policy formation contributes to a lack of trust in marginalized areas that ironically include urban cities such as Tripoli, Saida, Baalbek or Nabatieh.
To enable communities to administer financial resources independently may be a means to counter these problems tackling at the same time efficiently exaggerated expectation on the capital. FES wishes to encourage these local communities and initiatives to enter into a phase of managing their own fate. This will enrich the nation on all levels as all the citizens will contribute and benefit from the exchange of applied experiences and ideas. FES Lebanon tries to cooperate with initiatives who intend to strengthen local governance and pursue the idea of subsidiarity.