Under the high patronage of the Lebanese Minister of State for Administrative Reform, H.E. Dr. Inaya Ezzeddine, the Political Science Department at Haigazian University organized a panel discussion entitled, “The Challenges of Reforming Lebanon’s Public Administration”, which took place on Friday, the 2nd of February, 2018, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the University Auditorium. Many NGO and civil society representatives, specialists in the field, academicians and students were in attendance.
The seminar opened with the welcoming words of the Coordinator of the Political Science Department, Dr. Maximilian Felsch, who considered Public Administration more than an academic discipline, as it affects the lives of citizens, and moreover, on the national level, as Lebanon faces a significant deal of challenges on the administrative level, ranging from public deficit, to recurrent governmental crises, to the sectarian fabric of the state.
In her address, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Arda Ekmekji, questioned the unsuccessful advancement of administrative reform, relaying it partly to the Lebanese system itself and partly to the Lebanese citizen. Ekmekji shared with the audience the mission of Haigazian University in preparing good citizens for the future, which is translated in offering courses in Active Citizenship, Just and Fair Elections, Economic Justice, in addition to students’ activities that promoted awareness on the topic.
University President, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian emphasized on the fact that reform should start by oneself rather that by the other. “To consider myself, my group, my institution in need for reform is where one starts,” Haidostian noted. He then introduced Minister Ezzeddine, acknowledging her trustworthiness, seriousness and scientific approach towards her tasks and initiatives within the ministry. Upon inviting her to stage, Haidostian presented her with a replica of the quill on the University’s shield, which incorporates its motto truth, freedom and service, as an appreciation gesture.
In her keynote speech, Minister Inaya Ezzeddine highly praised the role Haigazian University is playing in prioritizing the human dimension by preparing its students to be of service to Lebanon. She considered this vocation as a source of inspiration for public administration. “Members of the public administration should see themselves as activists, and bear in mind that the government is in fact owned by its citizens. We must follow the example that Haigazian University has established by proclaiming its edifice the property of the community”, Ezzeddine noted.
Covering the challenges faced by the Lebanese public administration, Ezzeddine listed the most important ones: the incessant political instability, limited financial resources, shortage of statistics and reliable data for decision making, absence of human resources strategy which affects on recruitment, selection, induction training and promotion of public sector employees, obsolete rules and regulations which are negatively reflected on procedures, organizational structures and reporting mechanisms, weakness of control bodies and mechanisms, and dispersed decision-making process in the country.
Ezzeddine suggested radical transformation measures as remedy, which is centered on developing a strategy for “digital transformation”, considering it as an utmost necessity for citizenship, transparency, democracy and reduction in corruption.
Three panelists partook in the discussion of the challenges faced by Lebanon’s Public Administration.
Mr. Samer Hankir, consultant at the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), presented the reform challenges faced by the ministry, namely in the political decision making process, endorsement of the draft laws and the implementation of the reform projects.
Mr. Rein Nieland, Head of Cooperation for Lebanon from the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, shared the European Union’s perspective, discussing the partnership priorities between the EU and Lebanon. Nieland put significant importance on the concepts of good governance and the rule of law, emphasizing on the efforts of the EU in strengthening the democratic function in Lebanon, supporting the local authorities, civil society and the judicial system, in addition to institutional capacity building.
Dr. Hassan Krayem, the Governance Programme Manager at the UNDP Lebanon, presented a quick historical overview of the Lebanese Public Administration, from its establishment in the late 50’s with President Fouad Chehab, covering the years of civil war, till the establishment of the OMSAR in the 90’s with late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Krayem emphasized on the main challenges that hinder the reform strategies and implementation, such as lack of strategy, organizational structure, absence of Human Resources Management, weak performance evaluation and lack of political support.
A rich interactive session of Q&A followed the panel that was moderated by Ms. Gaelle Zavzavadjian, instructor in the Political Science Department, allowing the audience to raise their thoughts and questions regarding the topic.
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