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Training and dialogue in Beirut

Building projects partnerships with German municipalities at the network meeting

Sustainable energy for Lebanese municipalities

In October a two-day network meeting of 48 delegates from 19 Lebanese municipalities took place. The meeting was initiated by the Municipal Know-how for Host Communities in the Middle East (IKKN) programme. Held in Beirut, the meeting set out to provide training and dialogue for Lebanese municipalities, and strengthen project partnerships with German municipalities.

The slogan for day one was 'training'. Experts from the Lebanese ministries and non-governmental organisations held various presentations to inform participants on issues relevant to establishing a project partnership with a German municipality. Emile Azar, an expert in the water and energy sector, explained that within a project partnership it would be possible for instance to introduce sustainable energy production in the municipalities. He added that one way of saving energy would be to introduce solar-powered street lighting.

Six people are sitting at tables talking to each other
One of the topics they discussed was the introduction of renewable energy. Photo: Dory Abou Jaoude / DRI

Stronger rights of co-determination for women and youth

A woman is standing behind a table speaking into a microphone.
At the network meeting participants agreed to give women and young people a stronger role in municipal decision-making in the future. Photo: Dory Abou Jaoude / DRI

When Saleh Abou Mansour (Head of Jabal El Sheikh Municipalities Federation) first proposed enabling women and youth to play a stronger role in municipal decision-making, the applause he received was somewhat reserved. Following a discussion, however, Councillor Jabal El Sheikhs did indicate that he was willing to support the project. First steps toward greater participation by women and youth have already been taken. Selected recipients were sent an email calling on them to voluntarily organise themselves. Within a week, 100 young people, men and women from all sections of society, different religious groups and political spectrums, responded. To enable young people to perform voluntary work beyond just a short period, and make an effective and well-organised contribution at the municipal level, youth councils had already been elected in 2017 and 2019. It was also agreed that at least 30 per cent of the youth councillors had to be women. 'It makes sense to commit to environmental protection and renewable energy – but if women and young people are not involved it becomes pointless', said Mansour.

Ministries and enterprises

Projects for the future

In his presentation, Dr Marc Beyrouthy of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment addressed solid waste problems. 'Our attitude to waste production has to change. We need to avoid more waste, and separate the waste we do produce', he said. It would also be relatively straightforward for the municipalities themselves to take measures such as introducing reusable plastic bottles for a fee, or giving out small waste containers, he added.

'We need to plan for the long-term and build partnerships, as envisaged in SDG 17', said Ghassan Tayyoun from Zgharta-Ehden in northern Lebanon. In his presentation he referred to various activities to promote local economic development – ranging from the building of a pavement to the construction of a business park.

People sitting on chairs looking toward the podium in front of them.
View of the conference room when full. Photo: Dory Abou Jaoude / DRI
Municipal and project partnerships

Focus on the work of municipalities

On day two of the meeting participants discussed the topic of networking. Richard Hanna, Advisor at the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, held the first welcome address. He drew attention to the major fires that had broken out at several locations in Lebanon the previous night as a result of the heat, and possibly also arson. 'Right now we're doing everything to put the fires out', he informed the audience. In this presentation he emphasised the important work of municipalities: 'Municipal and project partnerships are an important topic for the future.' Minister of Interior Raya Haffar El Hassan was unable to attend the meeting due to the fires. Faten Abou Hassan, Director-General of Municipal Councils, stepped in to deputise for her. She too gave an assurance that her Ministry intended to support the project Finally, she listened carefully to the reports from the municipalities.

'In the future I'd like to see municipalities getting in touch with my Ministry more often. We will gladly provide administrative support for project partnerships with German municipalities', said Peter Farah, Advisor at the Ministry of Social Affairs, with a focus on job creation. Suzy Hoayer, Advisor at the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water, joined the discussion by Skype. She praised the work of the German municipalities in the water supply and sanitation sector. Her Ministry too, she said, was willing to support close cooperation with German municipalities. She pointed out that cooperation with NGOs might make sense on a case-by-case basis.

Improved opportunities for refugees to return

The German ambassador, Dr Georg Birgelen, mentioned the situation in Syria and discussed the opportunities for refugees to return: 'Refugees can only return when there is security, jobs, food, medical care and accommodation in Syria.' He added that there was still a long way to go before that is achieved. He went on to indicate that the German Government would support the Lebanese Government and Lebanese municipalities in coping with these major challenges. This support, he explained, would be provided multilaterally, bilaterally and through programmes such as 'Municipal Know-how for Host Communities in the Middle East (IKKN)'.

Following the welcomes addresses, Wencke Müller from the IKKN programme introduced the new project structure in Lebanon, and André Sleiman explained the procurement rules within the project partnerships.

A woman is talking to two men and a woman who is standing across the table from her.
Faten Abou El Hassan from the Minister of Interior in dialogue with Dr Christiane Gaehtgens (GIZ) and George Youssef, Mayor of Menjez. Photo: Dory Abou Jaoude / DRI
Looking ahead

Taking sufficient time to develop a project jointly

In the afternoon the participants formed breakout groups to discuss the challenges and practicalities of project work to date. Participants reported that from working together, so far they had learned how important it is to take enough time to get know each other, identify the common objectives and develop a project. They also noted that it is important for the municipalities to develop a shared understanding of what they intend to do together before actually embarking on a project. Moreover, they agreed that projects need to be planned by the municipalities involved themselves – which was a great advantage of the IKKN programme. This programme addresses the needs articulated by the Lebanese municipalities. Regarding the future project work, the actors promised to work transparently and to have the courage to point out when things are not going as planned.

The meeting was organised by the IKKN programme, with support from the Lebanon Country Office of Democracy Reporting International and GIZ in Lebanon.