With a one-million-euro EU donation, the program was launched as a model project in January 2004 focusing on the consolidation of the State of Law and promotion of citizenship, the encouragement of dialogue and the support of marginalized groups. It laid the foundations for a modern approach to deal with civil society organizations by providing a new experience that goes beyond mere material support to NGOs reaching an active partnership between the civil society and the public sector, through the implementation of initiatives related to human rights issues and the establishment of dialogue platforms among those concerned by these issues.
At the practical level, AFKAR I supported 16 human rights projects selected based on a competitive and transparent request for proposals process, which is the method used by the program in the different selection phases for all the proposals reviewed by the program at later stages. The projects and initiatives, implemented by the concerned organizations by virtue of contracts signed with the Ministry of State for Administrative Reform, encompassed various areas of intervention and working methods. They included advocacy and awareness campaigns in different areas, namely: media coverage of elections, public safety (in driving), dialogue among the Lebanese groups on one hand and between the Lebanese and the Palestinians on the other hand, advocacy for women’s rights (in textbooks and in facing domestic violence), children’s rights (those subject to violence or convicted in juvenile prisons) and the rights of persons with disabilities.
The program sought to communicate with ministries and government institutions to facilitate the work of active organizations and was able to build a mechanism to ensure the integration of project implementation between public officials and civil society actors. It also allowed the creation of a database to study the situation of civil society organizations working in human rights and democracy and obtain a clear picture of their potentials and areas of work. The program, supported by technical assistance experts, also organized five workshops to build the capacities of organizations. The workshops delivered by local and foreign trainers focused on the organization of structures, communication, sound management, partnership and networking.
Furthermore, four seminars were held by the program with the participation of civil society actors and government officials on issues like democratic practices within institutions, the role of civil society organizations in dialogue, the ways to establish networks and partnerships, the implementation of the law on the rights of persons with disabilities and of the law on the protection of juveniles.