AFKAR Program team participated in a workshop on "The status of civil sector freedom and partnerships", organized by the Arab NGO Network for Development, in cooperation with the National Union of NGOs, Issam Fares Institute for Public Relation International Affairs, as well as the Social Movement and Lebanon Support Center. AFKAR program manager, Youmna Chacar Ghorayeb, gave a detailed presentation on the partnership charter between the public sector and civil society, in the framework of the civil society support program AFKAR 3, issued from the partnership platform implemented by the program during its activities, including representatives from public sector and the civil society, who participated in the program from 2004 to 2018.
Recommendations and steps
The workshop aimed to come up with recommendations and steps to strengthen the partnership with civil society in Lebanon. First, a definition of the partnership criteria and its current situation was given, based on several studies prepared previously. As well, at the beginning, the workshop focused on the explanation of the political and societal framework of these partnerships. Successive interventions highlighted the direct partnerships between the government and the lebanese civil society, and presented the most important challenges facing this society. The workshop resulted in the implementation of a follow-up committee for communication, in which the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (AFKAR Program) will participate, along with the Arab NGO Network for Development, the National Union of NGOs contracted with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
The most relevant recommendations were : the activation of consultative institutions such as the Economic and Social Council, the development of mechanisms to ensure partnership in policy-making, the importance of civil society in the institutional, professional and specialization fields, building civil society capacities on public policies and issues, and adopting a human rights approach based on human rights principles.
Partnership as per AFKAR experience
In the context of the workshop, Mrs. Ghorayeb stressed on the evolution of the partnership path, which was adopted by AFKAR in its three phases. It started from the cooperation between the government authority and the civil society on a specific issue, through the partnership implementation within the drafting of laws, amended or implemented laws, aiming to involve the civil society in public policies. Within AFKAR 3, this partnership was perceptible into the planning phase of the program, taking into consideration the civil society needs, problems and suggestions. With the implementation of the projects, the program focused on the legal frameworks and the coordination with the relevant government authorities and local authorities. Besides, the training courses targeted both sectors. The most relevant step was to build a strategy for public sector and civil society dialogue based on public policies. As a result, a dialogue and partnership platform including representatives of AFKAR organizations and representatives of ministries was established. The platform is based on two documents: the citizen charter and the partnership charter.
The partnership charter is a reference framework aiming to reach common attitudes and behaviors, in order to protect the citizens rights and to determine the milestones for improving the quality of public services and enhancing citizen participation in public affairs. It is based on the fact that the partnership is a translation of the social contract to promote citizenship and common features. The Charter refutes the criterias for strengthening partnership, observes compliance with international standards, sets the conditions for the participation of organizations, and provides the most important tools. These include the application of the right of access to information.
Ministry of Social Affairs experience
The former Director General of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Mrs. Neemat Kanaan, presented the history of the relationship between the Lebanese state and the private sector organizations. " Based on my long experience, one of these two sectors can not work alone and it can not reach the required success." She also talked about the history of social work in Lebanon, the cooperation between the two sectors, the interest of social recovery and their separation during the war. She detailed the experience of establishing the Ministry of Social Affairs, based on the integration plan between the two sectors on the basis of partnership and on the social promotion plan.
Dr. Nasser Yassin, director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, summarized the survey conducted at the American University about the types of participants. It was identified in ten ministries, including the Ministry of Administrative Reform. He focused on five types of partnerships: developing service contracts due to the flexibility of the private sector, providing financial contributions to youth and sports clubs, soliciting projects and ideas in the Ministry of Administrative Reform, through competition within AFKAR program, providing non-financial aids and cooperation, not related to contracts through specific consultations. He pointed to the weaknesses in these partnerships and summarized the weakness of monitoring and evaluation, the point of view of the official sector, which is influenced by the mistake of what civil society activities in Lebanon, the lack of regulatory frameworks and in the follow up contracts procdure, the absence of regulatory frameworks for each association and finally the lack of authority.Dr. Jamil Moawad focused on the importance of moving from the concept of participation to the concept of real partnership. He stressed the necessity of preserving the production of knowledge among civil society. As well, he requested the civil society to work on public policies.