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H.E. Minister Inaya Ezzedine
H.E. MP Bahya Hariri,
H.E. Minister Salim Al Sayegh
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to be present today at this launching event which brings together civil society and government representatives in an area that is of particular importance to the European Union: “Support to civil society”.
This program, AFKAR, is not only an EU program that funds development projects. It is much more than that. AFKAR aims at creating space for exchange and dialogue among CSOs, academics and government representatives. We believe that civil society can play an important role in ensuring good governance if included in any decision-making process. And this is exactly what the PAACT can help further.
In any democratic state, the role of civil society is of great importance. Civil society provides alternative perspectives, civil society enriches the debate, civil society points the finger at deficiencies, and sometimes civil society even fills gaps left by the public institutions by delivering important services to citizens.
Let me be very clear: In the EU, we do not consider CSOs only as service providers. Quite contrary, we aim at having civil society in a position to participate in policy making and legislative processes. And we think that civil society should be a watchdog, a watchdog to closely monitor the proper implementation of existing laws and regulations. They must be able to do that through direct participation and not only a voice on the backstage. We believe that the government must look at civil society as “partners for development” and not as competitors. And that is why welcome the strong focus on governance in the new Government’s program which we assume also includes a strong involvement of civil society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are all fully aware of the numerous obstacles that hinder the development of civil society organizations in Lebanon. A recent mapping of civil society organizations in Lebanon concluded that there are still political, legal and socioeconomic challenges impeding a more influential role for Civil Society Organisations in the country. The mapping also clearly showed that more work needs to be done by Lebanese civil society organizations themselves to overcome their own challenges. such as coordination difficulties, adopting a common language, cooperation between organisations that work on the same topic or in the same sector. These issues are not only "Lebanese", but frequent in Europe and everywhere else in the world. With all these weaknesses identified, we call for a new mind-set which helps civil society and governments to see each other as complementary partners, not as opponents.
The EU is fully committed to do what we can to strengthen Civil Society Organisations in Lebanon. Support to civil society is one of our core objectives and we will continue our support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to applaud the efforts of Hariri Foundation and its team in working tirelessly to support civil society in Lebanon. I wish you and your partner, La Sagesse University, a lot of success for your project. I would also like to thank the Ministry of Administrative Reform as well as Minister Ezzedine for our good cooperation on the AFKAR program.