Analysis

The Development of Civil Society in Lebanon from the Ottoman Empire to the XXIst century: A driver of political changes?

30 December 2011

Civil Society (also called « third sector ») in Lebanon is certainly one of the most active in the Middle East. Alhtough the civil society. in Lebanon has its roots as far as the sixteenth century during the period of the Princedom of Mount Lebanon (Abou Assi, 2006) the real development of this phenomenon has started during the second part of the Nineteenth century (Karam, 2006, Bennett 1996). The development of Lebanese civil society can be divided into four phases, each marked with noteworthy characteristics

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Bilan – rétrospective 2011

 

Un  regard en arrière sur l’année 2011 confirme qu’elle restera certainement gravée dans les annales, au même titre que ne l’a été l’année charnière 1989. Même si on ne peut encore parler de réel changement de paradigme dans le monde arabe, il ne fait aucun doute que la donne a changé dans la région.

Nous ne reviendrons pas sur les événements en tant que tels, que nos éditoriaux tout au long de l’année ont essayé de relater et de commenter. Nous essaierons davantage de faire un bilan de cette année et de ses conséquences non seulement pour la région, mais aussi sur les relations que l’Europe entretient avec la Méditerranée.

Si certaines choses ont déjà changé en 2011, il va sans dire que le principal reste à faire. Nous passerons dès lors en revue non seulement les acquis, mais également les défis que présente cette nouvelle donne régionale.

Des acquis…

Les acquis engrangés en 2011 sont nombreux. Il est important de les souligner pour savoir la base sur laquelle il est possible d’avancer. Ces acquis sont à analyser sous différentes perspectives. Ici, nous choisissons une perspective géographique, afin de mettre en relief les possibilités d’évolution au niveau des relations euro-arabes.

Côté sud

Les situations au Sud sont encore très diverses. Entre la Tunisie, engagée d’un pas décidé sur le chemin de la transition, la Syrie luttant dans un combat quotidien pour y avoir droit et l’Arabie Saoudite qui en semble encore loin, les situations politiques dans le monde arabe tout comme les défis qui s’y posent sont différents d’une situation à l’autre même s’ils ont une inspiration commune.

Une autre chose qui semble désormais acquise : la population n’a plus peur. Le peuple a pris conscience qu’il était la source du pouvoir, et qu’il pouvait donc remettre ce dernier en question. Qu’est-ce finalement qu’un dictateur sans peuple qui lui obéit ? Cette prise de conscience est précieuse et doit être entretenue pour maintenir les acquis démocratiques.

Enfin, il est possible aujourd’hui d’affirmer qu’un processus est lancé. Et même la route vers la démocratie sera sans nul doute longue et difficile, les retours en arrière ne semblent plus envisageables.

Côté nord

Les Européens ont suivi comme beaucoup d’autres, les événements dans le monde arabe. Personne ne s’attendait, en Europe comme ailleurs,  à ce souffle démocratique arabe. Et même si certaines voix peu avisées semblaient effrayées par ce changement, il semble avant tout avoir changé les perceptions des Européens vis-à-vis de leurs voisins du Sud.

Côté société civile européenne – en relation le monde arabe, l’enthousiasme a marqué les premiers temps des révoltes. A rapidement suivi, un intense travail d’information, de sensibilisation de la population et des politiques sur les opportunités qu’offrait ce  « printemps arabe ». C’est pourtant avec beaucoup de frustrations et de déceptions que se termine l’année 2011. En effet, si l’UE a tenté quelques réformes en surface de sa politique, elle n’a pas encore eu le courage de la revoir en profondeur.

Néanmoins, et ce pour continuer à parler d’acquis, le monde arabe continue de poser question et semble désormais tenir une place incontournable dans l’agenda de l’UE et de ses Etats membres. L’effort continue, et il est doit être encouragé.

Et des défis

Les acquis ne sont pas légions, mais semblent solides. Ils posent désormais un socle sur lequel vont désormais se poser une série de défis.

Le défi démocratique arabe

Comme souligné plus haut, les situations sont diverses entre les pays ayant enclenché un véritable processus démocratique et ceux qui n’en connaissent encore que des « hoquets ». Néanmoins la dynamique est lancée.

Pour certains le défi est encore très précis, il s’agit de mettre fin à l’ancien régime. Cette question se pose premièrement pour la Syrie, qui compte encore chaque de nombreux morts. Mais elle se pose aussi en Egypte, où malgré le départ de Moubarak, l’armée participe encore de l’ancien système et s’oppose à la bonne marche du processus démocratique.

Autre défi : les récentes élections en Tunisie, en Egypte et au Maroc ont amené des partis islamistes au pouvoir. Principales organisations d’opposition des années précédentes, les structures de ces partis leur ont permis de remporter haut la main le jeu électoral, et cela au détriment des initiateurs des révoltes, souvent jeunes et de tendance laïque. Ces forces vont donc devoir jouer ensemble le jeu démocratique. L’exemple de la Tunisie est à ce titre très important puisqu’il est le plus abouti des transitions démocratiques en cours.

Le Maroc représentera également un test important puisqu’il est le premier pays à se réformer sans connaitre de réelle révolte. Son succès pourrait guider d’autres monarchies arabes comme la Jordanie, voire l’Arabie Saoudite ou le Qatar.

 

Un défi également lancé à l’Europe

Comme on l’a souligné plus haut, le défi démocratique arabe se pose également à l’UE. Encore frileuse vis-à-vis des changements qui s’opèrent dans son voisinage sud, il est nécessaire que l’Europe en saisisse toutes les opportunités.

SI l’UE doit changer de politique dans le monde arabe, ce n’est pas par logique altruiste, mais bien parce que c’est dans l’intérêt de sa propre stabilité et prospérité. Mais il faut pour cela dépasser la logique du court terme qui incite à penser en termes de sécurité et de profits économiques immédiats.  En quelque sorte, il est nécessaire de revenir au programme de Barcelone afin de construire avec la Méditerranée « un espace de prospérité partagée ».  A cette fin, l’UE doit prendre la mesure des changements et réorganiser sa politique de manière courageuse et cohérente, soutenant les pays en transition et poussant – sans ingérence – ceux qui ne l’ont pas encore fait à l’entamer.

L’arrivée au pouvoir de partis islamistes en Tunisie, en Egypte et au Maroc est des défis principaux qui se poseront l’année prochaine à la politique de l’UE vis-à-vis du monde arabe.  Suite à l’enthousiasme européen face aux révoltes populaires arabes, ce développement ravive les vieilles craintes d’une menace islamiste anti-occidentale. Des craintes qui réutilisent finalement la grille de compréhension longtemps véhiculée par les dictateurs comme Moubarak ou Ben Ali.

L’Europe doit donc faire l’effort d’un changement de perception, qui passe obligatoirement par une meilleure connaissance du monde arabe mais également par respect des valeurs démocratiques et de droits de l’homme sur lesquelles elle s’est elle-même fondée.

Le conflit israélo-palestinien

Le printemps arabe a pu faire oublier la primauté de la résolution de ce conflit pour la région. Avec les premières révoltes arabes, beaucoup de Palestiniens ont du ressentir un sentiment mitigé : une joie certes que les choses changent, mais aussi une déception de voir l’Occident soutenir les peuples en lutte, alors qu’il n’a jamais clairement appuyé la lutte du peuple palestinien pour l’autodétermination.

Saisissant leur part de chance dans le changement de contexte régional, Mahmoud Abbas a néanmoins présenté une requête de reconnaissance de l’Etat palestinien à l’ONU. Cette demande paraissait facilement acceptable par une Union Européenne dont l’objectif a toujours été la création d’un Etat palestinien à côté d’Israël. Mais non, la demande de Mahmoud Abbas n’a pas reçu le soutien européen. L’UE, frileuse une fois de plus, n’a pas réussi à se mettre d’accord, ni à se distancer des Etats-Unis.

Alors certaines puissances européennes, soucieuses de rester en bons termes avec les Etat arabes en mutation, ont trouvé des solutions de rechange, comme la reconnaissance de la Palestine à l’UNESCO. Mais à quoi rime une reconnaissance dans un organe de l’ONU et le refus de cette même reconnaissance au sein des Nations-Unies elles-mêmes ?

De la même manière qu’elle semble jusqu’ici être passée à côté des révoltes arabes, la politique étrangère européenne n’a pas fait ses preuves sur la question de Palestine. Loin de là. Et pourtant la question est centrale dans la région. D’une part, elle représente le point d’achoppement de la plupart des tentatives de rassemblement méditerranéen. D’autre part, elle est l’exemple principal de la politique de deux poids deux mesures menée depuis trop longtemps par l’UE.

En définitive, même si les espoirs sont maigres de voir se développer une politique européenne courageuse et cohérente vis-à-vis du monde arabe, il est toujours permis d’espérer. Car au-delà du développement politique des sociétés arabes, ce sont également les valeurs fondatrices de nos sociétés qui sont en jeu dans les événements qui secouent les sociétés en transformation dans le sud Méditerranéen.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée

 

Retrospective 2011

 

Looking back over the year 2011 confirms that it will certainly remain etched in the annals in the same way than has been the pivotal year 1989. While we cannot yet talk about real paradigm shift in the Arab world, there is no doubt the deal has changed in the region.

We will not return to the events as such, that our editorials throughout the years have tried to relate and comment. We will try to assess this year and its consequences not only for the region, but also for the relations between Europe and the Mediterranean.

If some things have changed in 2011, it goes without saying that the principal is still to be done. We will therefore review not only the achievements but also the challenges of this new regional deal.

 

Achievements

The gains of 2011 are numerous. It is important to emphasize them to know the basis on which it is possible to move forward. These achievements could be analyzed from different perspectives. Here, we choose a geographical perspective, to highlight the development of opportunities for the Euro-Arab relations.

For the South

The situations in the South are still very different. Between Tunisia, engaged with a firm step on the path of transition, Syria fighting a daily battle to reach it and Saudi Arabia that seems far away from it, the political situations in the Arab world as well as the challenges that are posed are different from one situation to another even if they have a common inspiration.

Another thing that seems now gained: the population is no longer afraid. The people realized that it was the source of the power, and could therefore put it in question. What is ultimately a dictator without the people who obey him? This awareness is valuable and must be maintained to sustain democratic gains.

Finally, it is now possible to assert that a process is initiated. There is no doubt that the road to democracy will be long and difficult, but setbacks do not seem to be possible anymore.

For the North

The Europeans have followed as many others, the events in the Arab world. No one expected, in Europe as elsewhere, this Arab democratic breath. And even if some ill-advised voices seemed frightened by this change, it seems primarily to have changed the perceptions of Europeans vis-à-vis their southern neighbors.

European civil society – the one in relation to the Arab world, enthusiasm marked the early days of riots. But was quickly followed by an intense work of information and awareness raising of the general public and the politics on the opportunities offered by the « Arab spring ». Yet 2011 is ending with many frustrations and disappointments. While the EU has attempted some light of its policy, it has not yet had the courage to review it in depth.

However, for continuing to speak of achievements, the Arab world remains a big challenge, and now seems to hold an essential place in the agenda of the EU and its member states. The effort continues, and it should be encouraged.

And challenges

The gains are not legion, but appear solid. They now pose a foundation on which will now be posed a series of challenges.

The Arab democratic challenge

As noted above, the situations are different between countries that initiated a true democratic process and the ones that are only witnessing signs of it. However the dynamics is started.

For some people, the challenge is still very precise; they have to defeat the old regime. This question is first the one of Syria, which still counts many deaths each day. But it also arises in Egypt, where despite the departure of Mubarak, the military is still a remaining part of the old regime and opposes the functioning of the democratic process.

Another challenge lays in the recent elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco that led Islamist parties to power. As being the main opposition organizations in previous years, the structures of these parties has enabled them to win the election game, and this to the detriment of the initiators of the rebellion, often young and from a secular trend. These forces have to play the democratic game  all together. The example of Tunisia as such is very important because it is the most successful democratic transitions in progress.

Morocco, also represent an important test because it is the first country to reform without knowing a real uprising. Its success could lead other Arab monarchies like Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Qatar on the same path.

Also a challenge that Europe faces

As noted above, the Arab Democratic challenge also arises in the EU. Still cautious vis-à-vis the changes taking place in its south neighborhood, it is necessary for Europe to seize the opportunities it is offering.

If the EU must change its policy in the Arab world, it is not in a altruistic logic, but because it is in its own interest of stability and prosperity. But this requires more than a short-term logic that pushes to think in terms of safety and immediate economic benefits. In a way, it is necessary to return to Barcelona program to build with the Mediterranean « an area of ​​shared prosperity ». To this end, the EU must take the measure of change and reorganize its policy in a courageous and consistent way, to supporting the transition and to push – without interfering – those who have not yet initiated it to begin.

The election of Islamist parties in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco are the main challenges that will arise next year in EU policy towards the Arab world. Following the European enthusiasm for Arab popular uprisings, this development has revived old fears of anti-Western Islamist threat. And this concern finally re-uses the grid of understanding conveyed by the dictators like Mubarak or Ben Ali.

Europe must make the effort to change its perceptions, which must pass by a better understanding of the Arab world but also by respect for democratic values ​​and human rights on which it has been itself based.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Arab Spring could have made forget the importance of the resolution of this conflict for the region. With the first Arab revolts, many Palestinians felt mixed feelings: a joy that things are changing of course, but also a disappointment that the Western powers support the struggling peoples, while they never clearly supported the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Seizing a share of luck with the changing regional context, Mahmoud Abbas has nevertheless made a motion to ask for the recognition of the Palestinian state at the UN. This request could have been easy to be accepted by a European Union whose aim has always been the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But no, the request of Mahmoud Abbas has not received the European support. The EU, chilly once again, failed to agree or to distance itself from the United States.

Anxious to remain on good terms with the Arab states in transition, some European powers have found alternatives, such as recognition of Palestine to UNESCO. But what is a recognition in an organ of the UN and the denial of that recognition within the United Nations themselves?

In the same way it seems to have mismanaged the Arab spring, European foreign policy has not proven itself able to manage the question of Palestine. Yet the issue is central for the region. On the one hand, it is the sticking point of most attempts to rally the Mediterranean countries. On the other hand, it is the main example of the policy of double standards too long led by the EU.

 

Ultimately, though hopes are slim to see the development of a coherent and courageous European policy vis-à-vis the Arab world, there is always some hope. Beyond the political development of Arab societies, it is also the founding values ​​of our societies that are involved in the events that are shaking the changing societies in the South Mediterranean.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée

 

by Geoffroy d’Aspremont

Project Manager at the MEDEA Institute

Civil Society (also called « third sector ») in Lebanon is certainly one of the most active in the Middle East. Alhtough the civil society. in Lebanon has its roots as far as the sixteenth century during the period of the Princedom of Mount Lebanon (Abou Assi, 2006) the real development of this phenomenon has started during the second part of the Nineteenth century (Karam, 2006, Bennett 1996). The development of Lebanese civil society can be divided into four phases, each marked with noteworthy characteristics: The first phase runs from the Ottoman Empire, through the French Mandate, the early years of Independence until 1958. During that period, associations were given a legal structure. The 1909 law was established to organise the rapidly increasing number of associations being established at the turn of the century. Most civil society organisations (CSO) had a religious basis and were inspired by religion to aid the needy and the poor. During The second period from 1958 and 1975, non-sectarian associations adopting non confessional and non-political agendas were established. Palestinians refugees and Palestinian Liberation Organisation also developed its own “civil society” during that period. The third one is the civil war (from 1975 to 1990). Governmental agencies were totally paralyzed and civil society became more active in order to compensate for the absence of a strong central government, but it did so in the presence of strong militias. This period also saw the emergence of more coordination among CSOs. The last period is the post war era. As military actions settled down, CSOs began to perceive their role as complementary to that of the government and experienced new changes increased awareness, self-consciousness. Moreover, globalization has also managed to introduce a set of principles, such as participatory democracy, sustainable development, good governance, transparency and accountability into Lebanon civil society.

Civil Society in Lebanon has always been flourishing and very active and its development in Lebanon must be understood through two characteristics of the country: the confessional diversity and the state weakness. Today, with the public’s general distrust of political parties and the weakness of state’s institutions, more is expected from civil society. With a move away from traditional structures and perceptions, towards a new vision of Lebanon and its place in the world along with an abolition of the present confessional system, there is thus an opportunity for civil society to lead the move towards the Lebanon of the future. The movement must be slow and the path will not be smooth.

From the XIX century to 1958: the supremacy of the community-based model.

The development of a civil society during the nineteen century and the first half of the twentieth century be understood during the nineteenth century within the political structures of the Lebanese society such as community organisations, administration, and integration‘s policies established by the Ottoman Empire (such as the Emirate[1], the Qa’imaqamiyya[2], the Mutasarraifiyya[3]) or foreign interventions. Moreover, at the time of the Industrial revolution in Europe, A renaissance movement in the Arab world – the “nahda” – was a time of intellectual, politic and ideological reborn.

The associative movement in Lebanon emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in that context. This new type of associative mobilisation was generated by new social and economic trends due to a willingness of modernisation and economic development but was firstly community and family based. Associations were therefore at the origin, a place to defend cultural, political or social interests. Each group tried to impose, through associative action, its own identity, synonymous with independence or allegiance, particularly in the context of the Ottoman Empire in its last decades.

The development of the associative sector during this period was high and characterized by the establishment of charitable associations created for the family or the community. This development is partly due to the different regimes that where established in Lebanon and especially during the Mutasarraifiyya, and to the lack of state social policy. Furthermore, the Mutasarraifiyya system had hallowed the community system by giving them more autonomy. European powers had also had an influence on the associations by claiming themselves the protectors of certain communities and by helping them to create their own associations (Corm 1992).

The only law ruling associations that Lebanon has ever known was elaborated during this period. This Law of 1909 issued by Ottoman authorities still regulates the formation of associations. This law defines an association as “A body composed of several people who unite their information and efforts in a permanent fashion and the goal of it is not to divide profit (Section 1). The creation of an association does not need permission, but under Article 6 of this law, it should inform the authorities (Article 2). Therefore, the law says that any “association” informs authorities of its existence and no permits or licenses are needed to form an association. However, Associations for the “promotion of Arab Nationalism” are illegal. Police are given the right to attend meetings of any association so long as they have an official order from the Ministry of Police in Istanbul (Elbayar 2005, 18). This law offered the legal framework for the creation of most confessional associations in Lebanon.

Associations that emerged under the Ottoman domination were actives in charity, education, and healthcare. They were initiated firstly by religious communities and, in less extend by foreign powers and the Ottoman Empire.  Besides these charitable associations, more political movements were also created. Indeed, the associative movement formed at this time a laboratory for ideas, for debate that will create the political parties and trade unions. It is worth noting that during this period, associations were created in urban areas.

Two political ideas were developed at this time regarding the integration to the Ottoman Empire: on the one hand, more devolution and recognition of Arabs ‘rights and on the other hand, independence and French protectorate. At the end of the Ottoman domination were also developing some non-religious associations that did not survive the independence because of their elitism and their independence vis-à-vis religious communities (Karam 2006).

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, The French protectorate, which created the State of “Grand Lebanon” in 1920, offered the Maronite community the predomination on a larger territory than the Emirate of Mount Lebanon. France institutionalises community division. Registers of birth, marriage and deaths mention religious affiliation.

The 1926 constitution was based on the French constitution of 1875 (Corm, 2005). Article 9 guarantees that public job are divided proportionally among religious groups and article 10 guarantees the independence of education. A 1936 decree states that only the “historical religions”, 17 in total, are recognized by the state. The French Protectorate did not change the legal situation for associations in Lebanon. However, it is worth noting that during this period many political parties and trade unions were created.

The Independence and the national act of 1943 sanctified the religious community-based system by establishing a unique political system, known as “confessionalism”, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities (Corm, 2005). In the agreement, Christian’s communities accept to relinquish foreign protections and Muslims give up reattaching the country to Syria. The society is composed of 17 recognized religious groups, each with a certain autonomy regarding the personal status issues. The political system was designed to reflect the mosaic of the society, in such way that no single group can dominate the others but rather divide political power and public posts proportionally among these confessional groups. However, the national act establishes Maronites and Sunni domination on the political system. Article 13 of the National Constitution guarantees freedom of meeting and freedom of association within the framework of the law.

The 1909 Law on associations is maintained and new political parties are created, such as the National Block in 1943 or the Progress Socialist party in 1949. A census realized in 1958 demonstrates the development of the associative sector in Lebanon. While there were fifty actives associations at the end of the fourties, more than three hundreds were created between 45 and 1959 to reach the number 405 association registered, an increase of 41 percent (Bennett 1996).

In conclusion, during this period, a pattern of associations emerges and operates in a personalized way, clientelistic, in a community setting. These main objectives are to serve in the field of education and health while the state is absent or at least not prominent in those fields. According to Karam (2006, 51), even thought this can seem anachronistic, a kind of “civil society” emerges therefore in Lebanon in a context of state formation and foreign influences. Some large associations such as the YMCA, created in 1869 and the Makassed – Sunni associations created at the same period – are still active today.

From 1958 to 1975

In 1958, community tensions aroused and violence erupted. This crisis demonstrates the fragility of the 1943 national pact and the deep malfunctioning in the social and economical system. New progressive movements, mainly Arabs nationalist in favour of Nasser’s United Arab Republic, took arms against the policies of President Camille Chamoun. They were opposed to his proximity with the United States and his alignment to Eisenhower doctrine (Karam, 2006, 54) as well as his domestic policy that did not allocate wealth equally.

A new president, Fouad Chéhab was elected and started reforming the country. He carried out an administrative, social and economic reform that aimed to divert Lebanese allegiance from community to the state of Lebanon. On the economic sphere, He established a social development plan that would ensure a better redistribution of wealth. He also created schools of public administrations that would create a new generation of public servant that would serve the state instead of their own community.

This period changed the Lebanese society and the associative landscape. While existing associations continued to grow, the reforms caused upheaval of traditional structures of associations. New associations were created thanks to the social development plan. These reforms have resulted in the way some associations worked. They broke with charity to focus on projects whose objectives focused on social justice, citizen participation, development and administrative decentralization for rural areas. The example of the Lebanese Social Movement (LSM) demonstrates the cooperation between associations and public administrations (Karam 2006, 56). The development of civil society during that period was linked to the apparition of a middle class in Lebanon (Karam, 2006, 57), a consequence of the reforms and a better access to education. At this time were for instance created student associations and socio-cultural centers in different regions of the country (Karam, 2006, 58).

The Law of 1909 on legal status of associations and political parties in Lebanon was questioned during that period. The government proposed a reform of the law in 1971 which was opposed by certain parties such as the Democratic Party or the Progressive Socialist Party. Eventually, no proposal was adopted by the government regarding the 1909 law.

This second period was thus characterized by a new scheme of associative action where associations were associated with public authority for project development and by a new kind of associations that can be classified as trans-community associations. Good examples are given by the Mouvement Social or the Secours Populaire Libanais that were created in the sixties and seventies and worked for social development outside community structures.

 

The PLO arrival in Lebanon and Palestinian civil society.

In 1969, The Cairo Agreement signed between the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) enabled Palestinians to establish for the first time separate and independent political, social, economic, educational, cultural and legal institutions. Initially growth was limited, but after Black September in Jordan and the establishment of PLO in Beirut, There was a rapid growth of Palestinian institution-building that became quickly a state within the state (Suleiman, 1997).

The growth of the Palestinian institutions peaked just before the PLO left. Lebanon in 1982, and had relied throughout on its protection. Most of the institutions established after 1969 had either been directly affiliated to the PLO or had been sponsored and supported by it. After the departure of the PLO from Lebanon and the abrogation of the Cairo Agreement by the Lebanese government, most PLO institutions closed, and the services of those which remain, such as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), have been greatly reduced.

However, due to the dynamism of the Palestinian community in Lebanon and its experience in developing its survival mechanisms independently, a few Palestinian NGOs which had been registered as NGOs under Lebanese legislation before 1982 have adapted to the new circumstances and in some cases regained or even enhanced their role. New NGOs have also emerged, especially since the 1986-87 war of the camps (Suleimann, 1997)

There are two main types of NGOs active in the Palestinian community in Lebanon, each requiring a special license: NGOs licensed by means of an attestation and declaration granted by the Ministry of the Interior, and foreign NGOs operating in Lebanon which obtain a license by means of a presidential decree. A third type, comprising religious organizations affiliated to the Muslim Waqf[4], need not be licensed by the Ministry of Interior, but may work by means of a ‘legal deed’ given by a Muslim court directly under the Prime Minister’s office.

‘Palestinian NGOs’ receive no aid from the Lebanese Government, and 20 per cent or less of their funding from local resources. They are thus heavily dependent on foreign sources. Their projects are supported by a wide range of NGOs in Europe, Canada, the Middle East and the Far East.

The war period (1975-1990): new role for civil society

The fifteen years civil-war in Lebanon has wreaked havoc competencies, nature and the field of action of associations. Because of new urgent imperatives, associations converted their activities, taking over the state on a local or community base. New Trans community associations occurred at that time as well as associations operating nationally or regionally. First international NGOs also entered in the arena.

The war added to the community division a geographical that made any transnational or transcommunity action impossible. Because of the community withdrawal and the ineffectiveness of the state, and beside militias, some associations were created to overcome shortcomings of the state. They developed their activities in the vacuum left by the state and received considerable financial means from Western Countries (Slaiby 1994).

Thanks to the services offered (for instance, the treatment of wounded, help given to displaced persons, rebuilding of destroyed houses,…) and their direct contact with the population, associations were given credibility and legitimacy.  Trans community associations such as the LSM had difficulty to maintain their activities in a system dominated by militias. Cultural activities, social and economic development were mainly given up in order to meet the most urgent needs of the population while militias always tried to hamper their work and action.

In this context, coordination between associations started to emerge. In the mid eighties The LSM started participating to the establishment of a national coordination of projects. This coordination became in the late eighties the Lebanese NGO Network that gathered really different associations such as the LSM, the Makassed, Amel Association, Caritas, Terre des homes, le Secours Populaire Libanais,… Its aim was to promote development associations as main actors in the post war period.

In 1988, another umbrella association was created: The Lebanese NGO Forum (LNF) that was funded and supported by international organizations and gathered ten Lebanese associations and organizations such as the YMCA, the Lebanese Federation of Health Care, and organizations from the different religious communities (Bennett, 1996). Many new associations were also created during war. a joint Lebanses government and UNICEF studies show that 1587 were registered in 1980, though it is not clear how many of these were active (Bennett, 1996) and a report of the World Bank calculated that 550 new associations were registered from 1980 to 1990 (Traboulsi 2001).

Post war period

On 23 October 1989, under the auspices of the Arab League, the Taef Agreement was signed in Saudi Arabia. The agreement put an end to 17 years of civil war in Lebanon. Lebanon was in ruins. A quarter of the population has been displaced and one fifth of the population, often the most educated and dynamics fled the country. Maronite community loses its predomination for Chia and Sunni communities.

At the beginning of the nineties, According to Bennett (1996) civil society’s organizations presents in Lebanon could be classified into five categories:

Religious charitable welfare institutions are often long-established (pre-independence) organizations. They often hold considerable influence within their community and may have institutions throughout the country? Their political outreach may also be considerable and their welfare activities mainly concentrate on education, orphans, medical services,…

Confessionals organizations emerged during the war in absence of central services. They provided assistance in the form of relief, medical care, school and shelter to distressed and displaced families.

Local and Specialized NGOs those activities usually involve one or two programmes within a defined geographical area. Their activities concentrate on development, education, elderly…

Major National NGOs deal with health, disability, relief, vocational training, and child welfare. These organizations emerged during the war and the decline of public social services thanks to foreign sources of fund. Some of these organizations are still well established, backed by support committees and state funding; other with the decline of foreign funding, have collapsed.

Finally International NGOs, particularly during the war, established offices in Lebanon and either became operational themselves or served as funding channels to indigenous NGOs. In some cases the agency became ostensibly ‘localised’, i.e. run entirely by national staff and occasionally registered as a national entity.

Nevertheless, new kind of NGOs and civil society organizations with different aims started to emerge in the post war period. The causes defended by these new associations are more related to human rights, public liberties, political rights or ecology. Unlike confessional organizations, they are more based on the notion of citizenship and defend common goods and collective national interest. These new “civil organizations” are made up of young educated and urban people who have an interest in politics.

These organizations can be defined at civil movement for two reasons. First, these organizations were able to create a common network through the organization of collective campaigns. For Instance, during the Israeli operation “grapes of wrath” in 1996, thanks to the initiative of the APAC (Association pour une action civile) and the Al-Mouwatin (“The Citizen”) Association, they  played a key role in the Mass gathering supporting Lebanon survival (Karam 2007) by promoting the role of civil society to demonstrate national unity and resistance to Israeli aggression”[5]. Their capacity to act was demonstrated through their campaign for the organisation of municipal election in 2005, or through the movement for the adoption of a law on civil servant (Karam 2007). Second, this movement can be considered as “civilian” because it contributes to the emergence of a political identity that distances itself from religious or militia involvement.

The developments in 2005 and their aftermath have led to additional complications. The assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, the eruption of the ‘Upheaval for Independence’ and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon promise changes in all spheres and at all levels within the country. With an increase in the level of citizens’ participation and engagement, civil society was actually quite active during these events. Public actions were to a large extent spontaneous, but civil society actors were still able to mobilize quite a large number of people. Even some social welfare CSOs were drawn into this political mobilization.

The Israeli invasion of 2006 created a new form of “civilian resistance” (Karam 2007) in a country where the notion “of citizenship” or “civic spirit” is always questioned. Indeed, new forms of national collective and non violent actions took place besides the armed resistance of the Hezbollah. However, this mobilization against the invasion was not homogeneous: alongside confessional organizations and political parties, youth “civilian” associations that were created during the last years of the war or during the nineties were also part of the mobilization.

In recent years, Lebanese civil society has experienced even more changes. These changes were partly spurred by changes witnessed in the international economic, social, cultural and political arenas. The increased awareness, self-consciousness and knowledge, resulting from an international environment that deems the individual civic, political, human, economic, social and cultural rights to be irrefutable and indivisible universal rights, could be cited as proof of such a transformation. This was also the result of a more proactive civil society.

Along with the changes, globalization has also managed to introduce a set of principles, such as participatory democracy, sustainable development, good governance, transparency and accountability into Lebanon.

Today, Civil Society organisations are mainly funded by international donors (37%), Private Donors (33%) and through membership fees (15%) while the State contributes to less than 5% in their funding in Lebanon. Too many of them rely therefore too much on international donors and some only exist in order to receive international funds without having any development program or precise objectives. Finally, apart from large confessional CSOs or international NGOs, many CSOs lack professionalism and structuration, employing too many volunteers.

In such a context, the expectations of civil society have led to the resurgence of civil society and its vigorous role as an active catalyst for change, through the promotion of democracy, human rights, rule of law and social justice. CSOs are counted on to be the forces of sound modernization and change in society and are expected to monitor the work and performance of the public and private sectors. These organizations are actually the nodal points of democracy in Lebanon. As a result of the activities and consciousness of this sector, the state has frequently been forced to withdraw regulations and practices that hinder the freedom and democratic rights of citizens and that place restrictions on civil society.

Conclusion

The building of a civil society in Lebanon had always been linked to the confessional diversity and the weakness of the state. Many civil society organization are still sectarian in nature, reflecting Lebanon‘s division into recognized religious communities.  The six or seven major Christian, Druze, Muslim communities offered many of the material resources for organizing Lebanon’s rich associational life. Each sect in a sense created its own civil society. Nevertheless, many professional associations and environmental, advocacy, women’s group that cross confessional lines and favor the integration of a national Lebanese civil society also exist.

The outbreak of the civil war was the turning point in the Lebanese civil society cycle and in the country’s history. However the end of the civil war proclaimed a new era for civil society to which civil society is still striving to adapt.

The last events since 2005 demonstrate the emergence of new circles of political power within the country and revealed changes within the civil society arena. With the public’s general distrust of political parties, more is expected from civil society. There is an opportunity for civil society to lead the move towards the Lebanon of the future.  Divisions in the country need to be fully addressed, and the abrogation of political confessionalism will need thorough planning and extensive national dialogue.

 

[1] The Lebanese Emirate was first established under the Ottoman Empire by the Maan dynasty of Druze. This dynasty was replaced in 1669 by the Chéhab one, Muslims converted to Maronite Catholic until interconfessional massacres of 1841

[2] The Qa-imaqamiyya system (1841-1861) was established after the 1841 massacres and divided the Mount Lebanon in a Maronite and a Druze prefecture. A confessional structure replaced the old feudal one.

[3] After new interconfessionals massacres in 1860, This new system gave more local autonomy to communities and prefigure the national pact of 1943.

[4] Muslim Walf, known as Wakf-alal-aulad is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically denoting a building or plot of land for Muslim religious or charitable purposes.

[5] slogans chanted by the militants during the day gathering organized for peace April 18, 1996 (Karam, 2006)

Bibliography

Abou Assi, Kaldhoun (2006) Civicus civil society index report for the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut, IMTI, 174p.

Bennett, Jon (1996). “Lebanon: The Lebanese NGO Forum and the Reconstruction of Civil Society, 1989-93,” in Meeting Needs: NGO Coordination in Practice. London: Earthscan Publications, Inc., 118-144p.

Corm, Georges (1992) Liban; Les guerres de l’Europe et de l’Orient (1840-1992) Paris, La Decouverte, 437p.

Corm, Georges (2005) Le Liban Contemporain : Histoire et société, Paris: La Decouverte, 342p.

Dagher, Carole (2000): Bring Down the Walls: Lebanon’s Post-War Challenge, New York: Palgrave Publishers, 272p.

Elbayar, Kareem (2005) NGO Laws in selected Arab States   International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law,   7:4 , 3-27p.

El Khazen, Farid (2000): The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 1967-1976, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

 Karam, Karam (2007) Resistances civiles? In Mermier, Franck, Picard, Elizabeth  Le Liban, une guerre de trente-trois jours, Paris :  La Découverte, 51-60

 Karam, Karam (2006) Le mouvement civil au Liban. Revendications, protestations et mobilisations associatives dans l’après-guerre. Paris : Editions Karthala, 361p.

 Suleiman,Jaber (1997) Palestinians in Lebanon and the Role of Non-Gouvernmental Organisations Journal of Refugees studies, 10:3, 397-410p.

 Slaiby, Ghassan (1994) Les actions collectives de résistance civile à la guerre In Kiwan Fadia (eds.) Le Liban aujourd’hui, Beyrouth, CERMOC, 73-87p.

 Traboulsi Omar (2001) Mapping and Review of Lebanese NGOs, World Bank Poverty Note – Lebanon


 

Opinion

Le Printemps arabe entre promesses et peurs

19 décembre 2011

La bourrasque qui a arraché Ben Ali de Tunisie de son piédestal, le 14 janvier 2011, n’arrête pas de souffler sur le monde arabe. Ainsi, les arabes, humiliés, indignés et en colère,  se soulèvent. La Tunisie a enclenché le mouvement, imparable et irréversible. Le monde entier a été surpris par ce brutal surgissement de cet élan révolutionnaire. Surprise d’autant plus forte que la rupture intervient au sein d’un monde arabe, longtemps perçu, comme réfractaire à la vague démocratique. Un an après ce spectacle enthousiasmant de peuples arabes, enfin debout, faire un bilan est prématuré. Car nous sommes encore dans la phase de l’élan révolutionnaire et non dans celle de l’état démocratique.

Lire la suite

 

par le Professeur Bichara Khader

CERMAC, UCL

La bourrasque qui a arraché Ben Ali de Tunisie de son piédestal, le 14 janvier 2011, n’arrête pas de souffler sur le monde arabe. En Egypte, Moubarak, est contraint à la démission et est déféré, sur une civière, devant un tribunal national. Kadhafi, le Guide fantasque de Libye, blessé, est sommairement exécuté, emportant, dans sa tombe, des secrets bien embarrassants pour les occidentaux. Ali Saleh, au Yémen, s’est résolu à accepter le plan du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe qui l’enjoint de se retirer. En Syrie, le régime ba’thiste, autiste, agite des épouvantails de guerres communautaires et d’instabilité régionale, mais  il est aux abois. A Bahrain, la monarchie sunnite, contestée par la majorité chiite de la population, ne tient que grâce à la protection de l’Arabie Saoudite qui craint un ras de marée chiite et au soutien des Etats-Unis qui  ont, dans ce pays, la plus grande base navale  américaine dans le Golfe. En Jordanie,  le Monarque Hachémite, fait et défait les gouvernements affichant une volonté de lutte contre la corruption, mais sans calmer les manifestants. Au Maroc,  le Roi amortit le choc en annonçant quelques modifications constitutionnelles. L’Algérie, échaudée par la guerre civile des années 90, vit à l’abri de l’armée et des pétrodollars. Les pays du Golfe achètent le silence de leurs populations par de généreux subsides et des emplois publics.

Ainsi, les arabes, humiliés, indignés et en colère,  se soulèvent. La Tunisie a enclenché le mouvement, imparable et irréversible. Pendant trop longtemps, «  la Tunisie des plages avait totalement occulté la Tunisie des rages ».   Révoltes, soulèvements, révolutions, convulsions, peu importe la sémantique car dans l’histoire contemporaine du Monde arabe, il y aura désormais l’avant et l’après 2011. Est-ce un effet domino ? Est-ce un effet contagion ?  Peut-être pas. Certainement un effet d’exemplarité, un effet de démonstration. Les situations des pays arabes sont différentes sur le plan social, économique, politique, géographique, et sur le plan des alliances extérieures. Mais le mal est commun et structurel : brèche énorme entre les déshérités et les repus, fatigue de populations jeunes de régimes vieillissants et corrompus, qui  non seulement  ont fait voler en éclats, le rêve de sauver la Palestine des griffes de l’occupation, mais se sont révélés politiquement ineptes et économiquement  incapables de nourrir leurs populations et de leur ouvrir un horizon d’espérance. Tenaillés par le manque et l’oppression, les jeunes arabes ont fini par briser le mur de la peur derrière lequel se protègent les dictateurs.

Le monde entier a été surpris par ce brutal surgissement de cet élan révolutionnaire. Surprise d’autant plus forte que la rupture intervient au sein d’un monde arabe, longtemps perçu, comme réfractaire à la vague démocratique, rétif au changement au point que ce monde était devenu, pour beaucoup d’occidentaux, une  source de perplexité permanente, presque une sorte d’anomalie historique.

Un an après ce spectacle enthousiasmant de peuples arabes, enfin debout, faire un bilan est prématuré. Car nous sommes encore dans la phase de l’élan révolutionnaire et non dans celle de l’état démocratique. Et le passage de l’une à l’autre n’est pas dénué de périls, d’hypothèques, de contraintes, de risques. Les jeunes ont déboulonné des présidents : le changement de régime est une autre paire de manches. Changer de régime  signifie enraciner la démocratie et l’Etat de droit, bousculer les mentalités, diffuser la culture démocratique qui ne se limite pas à l’exercice électoral.

Nous sommes dans une période de transition. Et les transitions ne se ressemblent pas nécessairement. La Tunisie, pays homogène, doté d’une petite armée nationale et d’un passé de lutte contre la dictature, la transition se fait en douceur. Les islamistes d’Ennahhda sont sortis vainqueurs des urnes. Rien d’étonnant, c’est le parti des « torturés  et des exilés du régime », c’est un parti qui est proche du peuple disposant de milliers de mosquées qui sont autant de tribunes électorales, et c’est un parti crédité d’une image d’honnêteté et qui tient un discours identitaire dans un pays majoritairement croyant et fier de son islamité. Pourquoi s’en inquiéter ? Il faut d’abord  se réjouir que les tunisiens ont  pu voter, pour la première fois, librement. Les islamistes devront s’adapter aux contraintes du pays, notamment économiques, se montrer accommodants et pragmatiques, pour répondre aux besoins de la population. Bref, ils devront tenir un discours moins idéologique. A défaut, ils perdront tout leur crédit. Comme dit le proverbe arabe «  fil maydan, tchouf el foursan » :c’est au champ de course que se révèle le bon cavalier. Une chose est certaine, la Tunisie réunit toutes les conditions pour réussir et si la révolution tunisienne est, d’aventure,  confisquée, détournée, récupérée ou pervertie, il n’y aura aucun espoir que la démocratie s’enracine ailleurs.

En Egypte, la situation s’est compliquée avec le Conseil militaire qui multiplie les errements : maintien de l’Etat d’urgence, jugements de manifestants devant des tribunaux militaires, manœuvres dilatoires dans le procès de Mubarak, volonté d’empêcher le contrôle du gouvernement sur «  le budget de l’armée » et finalement répression sanglante. Un pharaonisme politique est en train de se mettre en place, à l’instigation de l’armée. A cette mauvaise nouvelle s’ajoute une autre : la percée électorale, non pas des Frères musulmans, dont le parti «  Justice et liberté » a raflé plus de 40 % des voix dans les deux premiers tous électoraux, mais des salafistes qui réalisent le 2ème meilleur score électoral. Or  ceux-là constituent un réel danger pour la cohésion de l’Egypte, la cohabitation des communautés religieuses, le décollage économique et les libertés générales. Certes il sera difficile que les Frères Musulmans et les Salafistes forment un gouvernement, à eux seuls. Ni les égyptiens, ni l’armée, ni les Frères musulmans, ni le monde extérieur ne le souhaitent. Mais les deux groupes joueront un rôle important dans la rédaction de la Constitution qui pourrait rogner sur les acquis des femmes et des minorités.

La Libye est un pays hors norme. Libéré avec l’aide de l’Otan, il doit d’abord cicatriser ses blessures, s’engager dans une justice transitionnelle, mettre sur pied un corps de police et une armée dignes de ce nom, dépasser les clivages régionaux et les divisions tribales, bref construire un Etat, en commençant  par les fondations. Des heurts entre factions et des règlements de comptes sont encore possibles. Le gouvernement semble sur les bons rails : il ne manque ni de volonté, ni de moyens dans un pays disposant des plus grandes réserves de pétrole de toute l’Afrique. Mais une démocratie «  à l’anglaise » en Libye demeure une vue de l’esprit.

Ailleurs, au Yémen, la géographie du pays, les clivages tribaux, les intérêts géostratégiques des acteurs régionaux (l’Arabie Saoudite) et internationaux «  les Etats-Unis », donneront à la transition «  démocratique » une coloration particulière, mais pas nécessairement une stabilité immédiate.

Les douleurs d’accouchement démocratique se poursuivront dans les autres pays. Une chose est sûre : on ne peut sortir le bébé démocratique des entrailles des dictatures par césarienne, à coups de bistouri, comme les Américains ont voulu faire en Irak. La démocratie exige une maturation culturelle et beaucoup de patience, de débats, de compromis, de  sagesse. Mais les incertitudes de la transition seront légion et  peuvent assombrir le chemin car  si les peuples font l’histoire, ils ne savent pas l’histoire qu’ils font.

 

La toute jeune démocratie tunisienne fait ses premiers pas sous le regard intransigeant des Tunisiens, lassés par des décennies d’immobilisme et qui ont besoin de véritables changements. Le chemin vers la démocratie n’est jamais sans embûche. La bataille pour un projet de société oppose frontalement les laïcs aux islamistes, les démocrates acharnés aux partisans du consensus.

Après avoir adopté une « petite Constitution » la semaine dernière, les membres de l’Assemblée constituante tunisienne viennent de choisir un nouveau président, Moncef Marzouki et un nouveau chef de gouvernement, Hamadi Jebali, vient d’être désigné. L’adoption de la mini-Constitution par l’Assemblée constituante, issue des urnes le 23 octobre dernier, n’a pas été sans heurts et le choix de Marzouki a également été sévèrement critiqué.

Les sit-ins quotidiens devant le palais du Bardo, siège de l’Assemblée constituante, témoignent du climat de méfiance présent au sein de la population tunisienne. Les manifestants dénoncent le « coup d’Etat démocratique » d’Ennahda et parlent de retour à l’absolutisme. Ils semblent beaucoup moins enthousiastes que les Occidentaux qui applaudissent des deux mains la jeune démocratie tunisienne pleine de promesses.

Qu’en est-il réellement des avancées politiques en cours en Tunisie ? Est-ce qu’il s’agit de faire un pas en avant pour deux pas en arrière ?

La « petite Constitution » qui vient d’être adoptée est censée organiser, de façon provisoire, le fonctionnement des pouvoirs publics. Malgré la large victoire d’Ennahda aux élections d’octobre dernier, le parti islamiste va gouverner au sein d’une coalition tripartite avec le Congrès pour la République et Ettakatol. L’adoption de cette Constitution, adoptée à une large majorité, a été sévèrement critiquée par la société civile et les partis d’opposition qui y voient un non-respect de l’équilibre des pouvoirs et un danger pour la démocratie en construction.

L’article 10 a fait l’objet de vifs débats, alors que le chef du gouvernement y était omnipotent dans le texte de départ, il perd quelques prérogatives dans la version négociée. Le texte adopté reste tout de même très favorable aux objectifs de départ d’Ennahda, qui renforce sa position déjà dominante. La quasi-totalité des pouvoirs sont conférés au gouvernement formé par le parti majoritaire. La seule concession faite par Ennahda a été d’abaisser le seuil pour le vote d’une motion de censure des deux tiers à la majorité simple. Le chef du gouvernement est de fait indélogeable grâce au soutien d’Ennahda et de ses alliances, il en est de même pour le Président de la République et le Président de l’Assemblée constituante qu’on ne peut déloger qu’à une majorité des deux tiers. Le fait qu’Ennahda s’approprie l’ensemble des portes-feuilles clés (le ministère de l’intérieur, les affaires étrangères et la justice) ne fait que confirmer la mainmise du parti islamiste sur le système politique tunisien.

Le Président ne semble, quant à lui, jouer qu’un rôle honorifique. Marzouki est considéré par l’opposition comme un pantin d’Ennahda. Ses récentes déclarations maladroites n’ont pas contribué à assurer sa crédibilité, il a par exemple été accusé de stigmatiser les femmes non-voilées lors de son premier discours officiel en les désignant de safirat, terme à connotation péjorative désignant des femmes ne répondant pas aux exigences religieuses.

Un des enjeux clés en Tunisie et dans l’ensemble des pays arabes en transition est le redressement économique pour répondre aux attentes de ces peuples. Hormis des déclarations visant à rassurer les investisseurs étrangers, Ennahda ne semble pas avoir de plan bien ficelé pour assurer aux Tunisiens la justice économique qu’ils réclament. Il est question de développer l’économie solidaire mais le financement des projets est encore bien flou. Au niveau politique, les choses ne sont pas plus claires, les Tunisiens attendent un projet de société complet et un strict respect des principes démocratiques. L’omnipotence d’un parti et le non-respect de l’équilibre des pouvoirs ne sont pas censés faire partie du plan. Les premiers pas de la démocratie tunisienne peuvent être hésitants mais doivent demeurer prudents au risque de remettre en cause les acquis de la révolution.

Dalila Bernard

 

 

The fledgling Tunisian democracy is taking its first steps under the watchful eye of the Tunisians, weary from decades of stagnation and in need for real change. The path to democracy is not without pitfalls. The battle for a social project frontally opposes seculars to Islamists, eager democrats to the supporters of the consensus.

After adopting a « little constitution » last week, members of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia come to choose a new president, Marzouki and a new head of government, Hamadi Jebali, has been appointed. The adoption of the mini-constitution by the Constituent Assembly, after the polls on October 23, has not been smooth and the choice of Marzouki has been severely criticized.

The daily sit-ins in front of the Bardo palace, the seat of the Constituent Assembly, testify to the present climate of distrust among the Tunisian population. The demonstrators denounced the « democratic coup » of Ennahda and are talking about the comeback to absolutism. They seem much less enthusiastic than Westerners who applaud with both hands the young Tunisian democracy full of promises.

What are exactly the political changes taking place in Tunisia? Is it about taking one step forward, two steps back?

The « small constitution » that just has been adopted is intended to organize, on an interim basis, the functioning of government. Despite the landslide victory of Ennahda during October’s elections, the Islamist party will govern in a three-party coalition with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. The adoption of this Constitution, by a large majority, was severely criticized by civil society and opposition parties who see it as a breach of the balance of power and a threat to democracy under construction.

The Article 10 has been the subject of heated debate, while the head of government was omnipotent in the original text, it loses some powers in the negotiated version. The text adopted is still very favorable to the initial objectives of Ennahda, which strengthens its already dominant position. Almost all of the powers vested in the government formed by the majority party. The only concession made by Ennahda was to lower the threshold for passing a censure motion two-thirds to a simple majority. The head of government is in fact entrenched with the support of Ennahda and its alliances, it is the same for the President of the Republic and President of the Constituent Assembly that can only be removed with a majority of two-thirds. The fact that Ennahda appropriated all key ministerial portofolios (the Interior Ministery, Foreign Affairs and Justice) only confirms the takeover of the Islamist party in the Tunisian political system.

The President seems, as for him, to play only a ceremonial role. Marzouki is regarded by the opposition as a puppet of Ennahda. His recent statements did not contribute to ensure its credibility, for example, he was accused of stigmatizing unveiled women in his first official speech by designating them as safirat, which is a pejorative term denoting women that do not meet religious requirements.

One of the key issues in Tunisia and in all Arab countries in transition is the economic recovery to meet the needs of these people. Apart from statements to reassure foreign investors, Ennahda does not seem to have a well-crafted plan to ensure the economic justice that Tunisians demand. It is about developing the social economy but the funding of projects is still unclear. At the political level, things are clearer, Tunisians expect a complete social project and a strict adherence to democratic principles. The omnipotence of the party and the failure of checks and balances are not supposed to be part of the plan. The first steps of the Tunisian democracy may be hesitant but they must remain cautious at the risk of calling into question the achievements of the revolution.

 

Dalila Bernard

 

–         Le bilan de la répression en Syrie s’élève à 5 000 morts selon l’ONU – Le Monde – 12/12/2011

« Probablement plus » de 5 000 personnes ont été tuées dans la répression des manifestations en Syrie, selon une dernière estimation donnée, lundi 12 décembre, par la haut-commissaire aux droits de l’homme de l’ONU, Navi Pillay. « Les enfants n’ont pas été épargnés. Les forces de l’Etat ont négligé les droits des enfants lors de leurs agissements pour réduire au silence la dissidence », a assuré Mme Pillay. Le Conseil de sécurité n’arrive pas à se mettre d’accord sur une résolution qui condamnerait la répression dans le pays. Un double veto, russe et chinois, a torpillé le 4 octobre un projet en ce sens.

–       Les activistes libyens exigent la transparence de la part du Conseil national de transition ( Libyan activists demand transparency from National Transitional Council) – The Guardian – 13/12/2011

Anti-government activists have set up a tent city in the eastern city of Benghazi in a second day of demonstrations against Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council. The protest camp sprang up in the city’s Maidan al-Shagara (Tree Square) after thousands of people joined demonstrations in Benghazi and Tripoli to demand transparency from the interim government. The protesters are calling for the NTC, led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Muammar Gaddafi’s former justice minister, to make its membership and voting decisions public. Protesters say they are concerned that the NTC may not meet its promise to hold elections in June next year, given the absence of work on compiling an election register or any announcements on the format of the new assembly.

–         La responsabilité de l’opposition syrienne ( The Responsibility of the Syrian Opposition ) – Dar Alhayat – 13/12/2011

Alors que la crise syrienne et que le conflit sectaire s’intensifient entre les différentes composantes de la société, l’étendue de la responsabilité – de toutes les différentes factions de l’opposition syrienne pour le bien de l’avenir du pays de – devient plus cruciale. Ceci se produit dans le cadre d’une tentative par le régime de faire croire qu’il a finalement découvert les avantages de l’opposition interne mais qu’il craint toujours l’opposition externe. Le régime accuse en outre l’opposition extérieure d’être motivée par des d’intérêts occidentaux (en particulier les Américains et Turcs).

–         Les Egyptiens se rendent aux urnes alors que la rivalité entre les partis est à son apogée ( Egyptians head to polls as party rivalry sharpens ) – Financial Times – 14/12/2011

Des millions d’Egyptiens se sont rendus aux urnes mercredi pour la deuxième étape des premières élections législatives post-révolutionnaires du pays , ce vote s’annonce comme une bataille entre les partis islamistes qui se battent pour le soutien des pauvres et pieux du pays. À certains bureaux de vote, le nombre d’électeurs semble avoir chuté par rapport à la première étape le mois dernier. Le suspens est moins présent depuis que les partis islamistes ont remporté 65 pour cent des voix au premier tour,et il y a peu de raisons de croire qu’ils s’en tireraient très différemment dans les deux autres étapes.

–          Algérie : une loi pour empêcher les associations d’intervenir dans les affaires de l’État – Jeune Afrique – 14/12/2011

Après une nouvelle loi sur les partis politique voté la semaine dernière, les députés algériens ont adopté mardi 13 décembre une loi qui soumet notamment les associations à caractère « religieux » à un « régime spécial ». L’opposition, qui voit dans cette réforme un renforcement de l’hégémonie étatique sur la société civile a vu la quasi-totalité de ses amendements, qui visaient à réclamer plus d’autonomie d’action et moins de « mesures bureaucratiques », rejetés.

 

–         The results of the crackdown in Syria amounted to 5 000 dead according to the UN ( Le bilan de la répression en Syrie s’élève à 5 000 morts selon l’ONU ) – Le Monde – 12/12/2011

« Probably more » of 5000 people were killed in the repression of demonstrations in Syria, according to a recent estimate given Monday, December 12, by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, Navi Pillay. « Children were not spared. The state forces have neglected the rights of children in their actions to reduce dissent into silence , » assured Ms. Pillay. The Security Council fails to agree on a resolution condemning the repression in the country. A double veto, Russia and China, torpedoed October 4 a project in this direction.

–        Libyan activists demand transparency from National Transitional Council – The Guardian – 13/12/2011

Anti-government activists have set up a tent city in the eastern city of Benghazi in a second day of demonstrations against Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council. The protest camp sprang up in the city’s Maidan al-Shagara (Tree Square) after thousands of people joined demonstrations in Benghazi and Tripoli to demand transparency from the interim government. The protesters are calling for the NTC, led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Muammar Gaddafi’s former justice minister, to make its membership and voting decisions public. Protesters say they are concerned that the NTC may not meet its promise to hold elections in June next year, given the absence of work on compiling an election register or any announcements on the format of the new assembly.

–        The Responsibility of the Syrian Opposition – Dar Alhayat – 13/12/2011

As the Syrian crisis deepens and as the sectarian conflict intensifies among the various components of society, the extent of the responsibility – that should be held by all the different factions of the Syrian opposition for the sake of the country’s future of – becomes more crucial. This is taking place as part of an attempt to suggest that the regime has finally discovered the advantages of the internal opposition, but that fears the so-called external opposition. The regime further accuses the external opposition of deriving its power from Western interests (the American and Turkish ones specifically!)

–        Egyptians head to polls as party rivalry sharpens – Financial Times – 14/12/2011

Millions of Egyptians headed to the polls Wednesday for the second stage of the country’s first post-revolutionary parliamentary elections, a vote shaping up as a battle between increasingly antagonistic Islamist parties vying for the support of the country’s poor and pious. At some polling stations, the number of voters appeared to have fallen from the first stage late last month. Some of the drama had also seeped out of the elections after Islamist parties won 65 per cent of the vote in the first round, and there was little reason to suspect they would fare much differently in the remaining two stages.

–        Algeria: a law to prevent associations to intervene in state affairs ( Algérie : une loi pour empêcher les associations d’intervenir dans les affaires de l’État ) – Jeune Afrique – 14/12/2011

After a new law on political parties voted last week, the Algerian MPs adopted a law Tuesday, December 13 which subjects « religious » associations to a « special regime ». The opposition, which sees in this reform the strengthening of the state hegemony over a state-civil society, has seen almost all of its amendments, which sought to claim more autonomy of action and less « bureaucratic measures, » rejected .