The innovation is a new and comprehensive awareness program to apprise the public of the existing policy and legal framework in which they operate in Lebanon, through the mapping of existing laws and decrees, by topics and sectors. The aim is to understand the existing framework as a first step in working toward a just one. This empowers public officials and citizens with the right information to establish rule of law and accountability and to flag out gaps, inconsistencies and required reforms.
A well-established and just legal and policy framework is the foundation of an effective and well-functioning democratic society with a healthy ecosystem for people to prosper. It gives structure to the relationship between the state and the population, and define the parameters for legal conduct. It ensures that solid institutions and policies are built to help Lebanon tackle the most pressing development challenges and in turn help alter norms and behaviors that favor progressive development outcomes. Thus, understanding and establishing a sound and enabling policy and legal environment is particularly important as it impacts many other strategic pathways and lay the groundwork for an adequate rule of law.
In Lebanon, legislations and policies exist on paper but they will remain paper tigers if they do not result in changes in patterns and behavior and if they allow continuation of impunity. This is particularly evident because:
- Few if any of the key stakeholders are aware of their existence, have access to them or understand what they mean.
- Some of them are chaotic, deficient, inconsistent, and outdated-not meeting updated requirements.
- Most are complex, multi-layered and in many forms (laws, decrees, regulations, binding agreements etc).
- Many binding and non-binding provisions and recommendations of international conventions have not been incorporated in them.
- Regulators are ineffective and poorly resourced to force their implementation.
Thus, there is an urgent need to inform widely government officials and the public at large, give public officials the confidence to use the tools at hand, and empower citizens to exercise their rights and obligations, while at the same time encourage the creation of a healthy ecosystem for investment and reforms with a check and balance system.
The project provides a comprehensive, creative and simplified layout of existing legal and policy provisions in Lebanon, using people’s language, produced in visual and oral style through videos, displayed by series and per topic, in both Arabic and English. The objective is to create a participatory buy-in process, through which stakeholders understand, influence and share control over initiatives, decisions and resources that affect them. This is vital to the basic right of public information, public legitimacy, acceptability and enforcement of laws and to investment in new laws. It will provide useful comparison with international best practices, identify gaps and overlaps, highlight urgent attention and introduce necessary needed improvements, as well as catalogue constructive proposals for development and provide clarity in responsibilities and mandates to strengthen governance and accountability.
The first series that was implemented, but yet to be completed, was entitled “Anti-Corruption Framework in Lebanon” and comprised 12 episodes. It is the first among other series that will tackle different frameworks such as “Taxation Framework in Lebanon”, “Dispute Resolution Framework in Lebanon” etc. The methodology used was a comprehensive mapping and catalogue of applicable laws and core documents, for each topic, including multiple sources of law (regulations, acts, bylaws, policy procedures, and laws and decrees etc.), followed by a short and simple summary of the basic provisions of each to produce the video series in an interactive and straightforward manner with English subtitles to reach local residents as well as Lebanese diaspora.
Once the policy and legal environment has been reviewed, assessed and understood, and the policy and legal inventory is completed, through these series, it is useful to conduct an analysis of the gaps and opportunities to systematically determine policy and legal needs.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The innovation is unique, personalized and targeted. It stands out from the rest and makes the life of public officials and citizens easier. It converts data into knowledge and benefits, and brings together cross-cutting issues for efficiency and integrity. Many videos, tackling some laws and explaining policies, have been made before in infographic terms; however, none tackled a general inclusive framework, in various episodes highlighting different topics within that same framework.
Instead of searching across all laws and policies, if and when accessible, reading through several pages, and not clearly understanding the meaning behind the provisions; the features of the project has brought a comprehensive overview of these frameworks, explained personally, in people’s language, in a consequent manner. It reflects the available and the compatible, the accessible and the equitable, policy coherence and legal interoperability, as well as it optimizes value and resource.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The innovation is at the stage of implementation and evaluation. A first series of 12 episodes, entitled “Anti-Corruption Framework in Lebanon”, was implemented, but yet to be completed. It included the following topics:
- United Nations Convention against Corruption “UNCAC”
- Forensic Audit
- Law on Anti-Corruption in the Public Sector and the Establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Law of Assets and Interests Declaration and Punishment of Illicit Enrichment
- Right of Access to Public Information
- Law on Asset Recovery resulting from Corruption Crimes
- Law on Fighting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
- Bank Secrecy Law
- Law on Declaring the Cross-border Transportation of Money
- Ombudsman Law
An evaluation was conducted after this series, to assess the outcomes and flags out needs for the project to reach its intended results. This series is still to be completed while other new framework series need to be developed.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Many Members of parliament gave their inputs on existing laws and regulations, highlighting the needed frameworks to focus on. The compilation of the various laws and policies were made accessible by the official gazette at the directorate general of the Council of Ministers. Civil Society organizations and citizens contributed, indirectly, through websites including essential information of interest and by creating the opportunity for such a project via demands of rights and obligations.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The project affected many stakeholders. On the one hand, citizens, civil society organization and marginalized groups were better informed to shape their impact, exercise their rights and act as a critical check on government at all levels. It enabled them to understand the proper functions of the different sector actors in order to hold them accountable. On the other hand, justice actors and public officials were empowered to act.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The results and impacts of this innovation, measured by way of views and engagements with the videos and totaling around 150,000 reaches, are numerous and include:
- Compilation of the various instruments by topic in one place.
- Facilitation of planning and implementation within the context described.
- Instillation of understanding by the public of the existing framework
- Providing an enabling environment in which to operate.
- Defining roles and responsibilities within each framework
- Triggering of public officials to look out differently to existing frameworks
- Highlighting overlaps, gaps and red flags.
If the innovation is elaborated and other frameworks are put in place, this will provide an essential foundation for these laws and policies to be implemented and enforced. Understanding the various framework in which people operate, virtually allow them to obey laws, even when doing so contravenes their personal interests, and empower them to provide their social input.
Challenges and Failures
Two main challenges have been faced during the implementation of the project:
- Lack of human and financial resources: The innovation was launched by bootstrapping and investing my personal time, skills and financial resources. I did it with what I had at hand. I wanted to make a difference and I had the strategy and the vision; however, I lacked the big team and the money, so far, to take it to the next level and market it widely. The videos should not always feature the same person; but rather each framework should be introduced by a person.
- Collaboration: I had many collaborators, mainly Members of Parliament, but the main lack was not having the administration of the Lebanese parliament on board. So, the innovation ecosystem needs to improve.
However, these challenges can actually help, not hinder, the innovation performance as they are not barriers but rather encounters that can be addressed.
Conditions for Success
There are three main conditions for necessary success of an innovation:
- Leadership and guidance: which is existent in the case of our project through the right intentions, a clear direction that encourages collective effort to go forward and the right framework far from a rigid structure.
- Human and financial resources: which are our biggest challenges. However, we play our strengths, we innovate in areas where we know what we are doing.
- Personal values and motivation: we want to simplify something that’s complex and we need to change the game by playing our strengths and testing our ideas.
So far, the innovation has not been replicated to address similar problems. It has been used in an educational and awareness way to instill public curiosity, information and accountability and to challenge decision-makers. It has only been implemented for a specific framework, Anti-Corruption, and it should be further developed and be replicated to cover all other essential frameworks in Lebanon (from taxation, to dispute resolution, to sectorial-level framework etc.) However, there is much potential for it to be replicated in Lebanon and in other countries as well.
In Lebanon, it could be done by all levels of Government (legislative, executive, municipal, judiciary etc. ) to lay out the foundation of their structure and integral work. Other countries can also replicate it to assess, analyze and enhance their legal and policy frameworks. Replication can be good to validate and improve on this innovation and it should be incentivized.
- This experience triggered me to challenge myself and to think in new possibilities: to think of the Lebanese landscape being composed of different legal and policy frameworks, each addressing a sector or issue, mapped and compiled easily and tailored to the average citizen, which is the weakest stakeholder in the entire cycle of policymaking.
- The average citizen is the person of concern and being able to analyze and assess the challenges and protection gaps that affect it, was my integral approach.
- The project was not easy and I learned that I cannot do it alone. Tools and partners are needed as well as feedback and support.
- I always thought of innovation as doing new things, but I learned that it can also be about establishing a new way of working or a new culture. In my case, it is about creating human dynamics and participatory approaches to maintain an orderly and productive society, creating the conditions that enable a democratic society to develop and thrive.
This innovation created a special mindset in me. It helped me shift focus and develop a social enterprise, that cooperates with the public sector and civil society organization to fix power imbalance in society.
Willminds LLC was established in 2020 to solve problems of Justice accessibility, fairness and efficiency through innovative consulting and dispute resolution. Its mission is to work with all community sectors to enhance rule of law, turn conflicts into agreements and empower people to become agents of change. Its vision is to lead the balanced practice of human and state security.
This project was a groundwork for a new mindset about rules of law and social order. It reflects the fact that access to justice is not always about quantity (more court rooms, more staff, or more justice houses…) but rather also about quality in terms of changes and development of the legal and policy framework and better access to information among others.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
24 January 2023