Monday, October 25, 2010

UN disaster expert: Lebanon ill prepared to face future crisis

By Simona Sikimic
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanon is ill prepared in case of a long-overdue earthquake, or another large-scale disaster, a leading UN expert warned on Friday.

While the various response agencies, like the Lebanese Army, Civil Defense and Red Cross, are mostly adequate in their own right, the coordination between agencies is extremely poor and seriously inhibits Lebanon’s ability to react when disaster strikes, said disaster expert Zoubair Morched, leading the UN Development Fund’s (UNDP) regional strategy.

The High Relief Council, tasked with coordinating relief efforts, presently doesn’t function and this “missing” crucial link must be strengthened and reformed, he said.

The UNDP is currently undergoing a national risk evaluation, mapping out areas deemed the most vulnerable and deciphering how emergency services should respond in times of crisis. Conclusive findings, however, are not expected until the end of the year, with the hope that they will begin to make an administrative impact by mid 2011.

“Once we get the full plan we hope to bring it to the attentions of the premier and president and all the other political parties and get a broad agreement from them for a disaster strategy,” Morched told The Daily Star.

“The issue is political because it requires various different ministries to be strengthened, their roles expanded and for greater coordination to take place between them. This can be difficult, but it is our role to make people realize that the issue itself is not political and that disaster prevention is in everyone’s interest.”

Formulating a disaster strategy is a lengthy and complicated process which can, even in the best of cases, take decades. This, however, should not mitigate the need to implement effective plans because while disasters are often hard to avert, preparing for them can severely reduce the impact on the civilian population.

Ensuring that people can be evacuated quickly, that electricity and water supplies will continue to function, even if primary routes are destroyed or severely crippled, and that hospitals will be able to cope with a mass influx of people are all vital part of disaster response.

As demonstrated by the 2006 summer war with Israel, international response teams can be highly effective but they cannot compensate for the local first-line response. The first 24 hours in a rescue operation are often crucial and after two or three days after a disaster the chances of finding people still alive is significantly reduced, Morched said.

Although it is near impossible to predict when an earthquake will strike and what intensity it may be, Lebanon, and much of the region, rests at the crossroads of several tectonic plates, and despite being relatively seismically stable of late, historic trends indicate that large-scale tremors happen every 200 years or so.

Should one strike, the effects could be dire. The mass of the population is located in coastal areas, deemed to be most at risk, and the regular and open flouting of building regulation, as well as the preference for glass and other fragile materials mean many buildings may not be able to cope, explained Morched.

Most larger and public buildings are supposed to withstand quakes of magnitude 6 on the Richter Scale, but many hotels are not thought to be sturdy enough and it is not known what would happen if a larger quake struck the country.

Aside from quakes, Lebanon is also prone to, but unprepared for, flooding, tsunamis and wars. But unlike its neighbors, Lebanon is lucky in that it does not have to grapple with drought and its higher level of precipitation and forest cover, mean that this is not expected to become a major concern for at least the next decade, Morched said.

Nyanza garbage site to shut down within 3yrs

By Nasra Bishumba
New Timesimage

TO BE PHASED OUT; Children going through the garbage heap at Nyanza Landfill (File photo)

KIGALI - After almost two decades, the Nyanza landfill, Kigali’s sole garbage dumping site, will shut down within the next three years. According to Toshi Mito, the coordinator of the project that is working on the phase-out of the site, plans to set up a new landfill are in high gear.

The new site, assessed and approved by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) will be located about 2 km from the brick factory near Nyabarongo River, about 10 km west from Kigali city, Mito said.

According to Mito, the consulting firm that will design the new landfill will be selected at the end of this month, and a contract will be signed “hopefully this year”.

Plans to shift the landfill received a boost with the arrival of a German-based company, WAT, which showed interest in extracting methane gas from the site.

WAT is already doing business in Rwanda having put up solar panels that serve the electricity grid.

Experts from the University of Fukuoka Japan and those from Maine Germany (WAT) indicate that the Nyanza landfill can be renovated and the garbage reduced by covering it with soil to avoid the fires that rage from underneath.
The new site will cost US$3m, US$2.5m which will be footed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and another $ 500,000 By ‘the One Fund’.

The Minister for Lands and Environment early this year told members of the Lower Chamber of Parliament that the biggest challenge with phasing out of the Nyanza site was the fact that it receives indiscriminate waste, ranging from medical to solid and liquid waste.

The site receives at least 400 tonnes of waste everyday and estimates indicate that this could increase threefold in five years.

The project is being executed by Kigali City Council (KCC) and the Ministry of Infrastructure.


UNDP pilot project to identify flood risks, mitigating measures


The Daily Herald

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten infrastructure and Public Works officials will be beneficiaries of a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) pilot project that will identify flood risks and eventually facilitate the development of early warning systems for residents.

The St. Maarten Fire and Disaster Management Departments concluded a three-day workshop on Wednesday in which Alexander Vacher of the UNDP played a vital role in outlining the aspects of the five-million-euro project that is slated to be carried out in 11 Caribbean nations. The workshops were opened by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.

Also included in the workshops were management and personnel of the Ministry of VROMI. The flood risk study and its recommendations and scenarios will be carried out by Professor Zoran Voginic of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.

Head of the Department of New Works and Projects Kurt Ruan took the visiting team on site inspections of flood-prone areas, the Great Bay water outlet, pump stations and the floodgate structure.

Vacher explained that the risk information in the report would help Public Works officials in their decision-making process as it pertained to actions before a possible flooding scenario. The report will outline a number of scenarios or a library of models that can be pre-run and will indicate appropriate measures that should be taken in case of flooding. It is based on the premise that certain things can be forecast to enhance safety for residents.

Also included will be flood hazard maps, a tsunami/storm surge model, barometric data and analysis to assist with coping with sea surge. The recent flooding St. Maarten experienced has been attributed to the heavy sea surge that was generated by Tropical Storm Otto. As quickly as the pumps were pumping water out, the sea surge was pushing water inland, which contributed to the flooding situation.

The development of an early warning system was also high on the agenda for discussion. It was suggested that St. Maarten replicate a system Anguilla uses based on common alerting protocols and utilising existing facilities such as the early warning sirens.

A new, fully computerised system would automatically trigger Internet pop-ups, radio interruptions, SMS messages, etc., to warn the population of impending danger of flooding.

In terms of what he saw during his on-site inspections, Vacher said it was obvious that further development must be controlled and certain development projects were badly located, prompting the need for mitigating measures. He also noted that the capacity of the pumping station should be doubled. "It is never too late to force better infrastructure work. Risk can always increase," he said.

The compiling of the report will now be coordinated with officials of the Fire and Disaster Management Departments, who in turn will coordinate with other stakeholders.

Another 124 sickened after eating breakfast

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With the intoxication yesterday of 124 students in the city of Azua after they ate their school breakfast, the doubt increases regarding the quality of the foods that are served in the snacks and regarding the alleged sabotage against the program that the authorities have referred to.

With the students of the Profesor Angel Rivera School, of the La Bombita section of Azua, the total has climbed to over 200 cases of students affected so far this month.

The students were taken urgently to the Taiwan public hospital with stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea, symptoms that began to occur after drinking the breakfast milk that is distributed by Isura, in Azua, and is handled by the Cattlemen's Cooperative of the Southern Region.

The director of the hospital, Rafael Herasme Matos, said via telephone that the children are out of danger, and that they are waiting for the results of the clinical analysis that was carried out by the Department of Forensic Pathology to establish the real cause of the events.

Upon hearing of the new cases, the Minister of Education, Melanio {aredes, said that they will convene a meeting of the media directors in order to inform them regarding the strategy that he is going to follow in order to stop the situation.

For his part, the Vice-Minister of Education, Adalberto Martinez said that the first reports referred to 30 cases.

The numbers went up as the minutes passed, as well as the hysteria and worry of the parents and professors that, to hear tell of it from the director of the school, went to the hospital, to find out if any of the affected students was a son or a daughter, and others went to learn about the condition of their relatives.

Due to previous intoxications, before the start of the new school year, the Minister of Education requested the intervention of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Food Program, and the Pan American Health Organization to watch over the nutrition levels of the foods that are served in the school breakfast in order to guarantee that they have the adequate nutrition levels.

Commission travels to Azua

Under instruction of the Attorney General of the Republic Radhames Jimenez Peña, the commission that is investigating the cases of intoxications related to the school breakfast program went to Azua yesterday to find out about a case of intoxication that affected nearly 70 children. The commission is made up of assistant Attorneys General Frank Soto and Bolivar Sanchez as well as the prosecutors of the judicial districts of Santiago and Cotui, Yeni Berenice Reynoso and Garina Almonte.

The Attorney General appointed the prosecutor for Azua, Rafael Peña Brito to the commission.

Development On Decline For Struggling Countries

The Huffington Post

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At last month's U.N. summit, international leaders gathered to discuss the progress ofMillennium Development Goals. Many of the initiative's aims have been slowed by the global recession.

In an interview with NPR, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), proposes that the recession has negatively impacted developing countries in two ways:

"One, the donor countries clearly are not as well-heeled as they were...Secondly, the recession had an impact on poor countries...which had a big reliance on remittances from workers in North America or in's been tough-tough on families, tough on communities."

Listen to the report at

IGNOU to set up Local Governance centre

New Delhi, Oct 23 : Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) will be setting up the National ODL Centre for Local Governance for conducting research on problems and issues of local self-government institutions and design and develop appropriate multi-mode educational and training courses for members of the local self help bodies.

It is also expected that the multi-media package for elected members of Panchayats prepared under UNDP sponsored projects could be transferred to the above National Centre for offering a non-credit certificate programme to the Sarpanchs of Panchayats, initially in English and Hindi and subsequently in other languages.

Similarly other programmes including Diploma in Panchayat Level Development and Administration and Masters DegreeProgramme could also be expected to be developed under the Centre, said officials.

The task of education and capacity building for an equitable and just social and economic development is huge. It involves the involvement of grass roots level institutions in the development processes of the country.

The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments not only sought to correct this imbalance but also to endow these institutions with the strength and prestige associated with self-governance structures sanctified by the constitution itself.

The task involves coordinated approach for massive awareness generation, orientation and skill development of over 34 lakh elected representatives and about 20 lakh development functionaries.

Added to this is the vast number of elected and nominated members of the urban local bodies. Distance educationprovides an appropriate and cost-effective means to empower local communities.

The creation of the National ODL Centre for Local Governance will help in empowering millions of elected members of Panchayats, local bodies and other development functionaries in the country through appropriate educational and training programmes.

The Centre is also expected to facilitate sustenance of various activities which get generated from such projects such as Panchayati Raj Projects and capacity building of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PSIs) through multi-mode training interventions.

The Centre will also establish similar institutions in the country and internationally and serve as clearing house for information sharing.

It is expected that the proposed centre will facilate developing a clear vision and strategy to plan and provide for an appropriate educational and training intervention to meet the challenge of facilitating and expending the silent revolution expected to be brought about by the 73rd and 74th amendments of the constitution.

Lake Residents Seek Audience With Ban Ki-moon

More than 100 residents from Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake area gathered in front of the UNDP offices on Monday to request a meeting with the UN secretary-general on his upcoming visit.

Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive Wednesday for two days of official talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and others, and lake residents said Monday they hoped he could help resolve an ongoing dispute with development company Shukaku.

Residents said in a letter they wanted “to stop the forced eviction from their homes and lands.” UNDP officials accepted the request and said they would forward it to Ban's office.

“We want to meet Ban Ki-moon to help us be free of forced eviction,” lake resident Sam Vanna said Monday. “We need government development projects for a modern city, but we want to live in the Boeung Kak area.”

On his visit, Ban is expected to address ongoing issues with the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, and he is scheduled to visit the Tuol Sleng genocide Museum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ad Melkert survives Iraqi roadside bomb


A convoy carrying the UN's top envoy to Iraq has been hit by a roadside bomb, officials say.

Ad Melkert was unhurt, the UN said, but unconfirmed reports said a policeman died and three others were injured.

Iraqi police said the bomb hit the second-to-last vehicle in the convoy as it left the Shia holy city of Najaf, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

Mr Melkert had been in Najaf to meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, the UN said.

Mr Melkert, a Dutch politician, was appointed special representative for Iraq by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2009.

"The special representative was in the convoy. He is unhurt. He is fine," a UN spokeswoman said.

"We cannot speculate on what was the motive."

The convoy, made up of UN and police vehicles, had been on his way to the airport. The UN said Mr Melkert later returned safely to Baghdad.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says it is not clear if the attack targeted Mr Melkert or a police chief who was also in the convoy.

The attack comes as some Iraqis are looking to the UN to play a stronger role in breaking political deadlock in the country seven months after indecisive elections, our correspondent adds.

The UN scaled down its presence in Iraq following the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters in 2003.

The attack killed then-UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 staff members.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

UNDP Lebanon: - Propping up the State

By Sami Halabi on October 04, 2010
Lebanon limps on as the UNDP props up ailing ministries


During the civil war, when the residents of Lebanon would give directions, they could always rely on one landmark from which to guide visitors to their homes — the mountain of garbage that had built up in each neighborhood over the years of violence and absence of a functioning state. Today those mountains may be gone, but other remnants of those terrible years are still as pungent as the stench of rotting trash.

Propping up the State - Lebanon limps on as the UNDP props up ailing ministries

After the war ended, Lebanon’s public institutions were literally in a shambles. “We used to go to general directors of ministries and they would say to us, ‘before you talk to me about computers there is the window that needs fixing because the employees are freezing’,” says Nasser Israoui, project manager of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR).

Recognizing the dire need for reform, in 1992 an agreement was made between the Government of Lebanon and the UNDP to begin a joint partnership at the finance ministry, aimed at reforming the institution. The agreement was the start of what became known as the ‘UNDP program.’

As Executive went to press the program consisted of 67 projects, and is now influential across ministries and public administrations throughout Lebanon. Their activities range from clearing mines to drafting laws, effectively creating “a different executive arm that could provide policy formulation as well as policy implementation in key ministries,” says Hassan Krayem, policy specialist and portfolio manager of the governance program at the UNDP.

The expansion of the projects began at the Office of the Minister for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), which itself was created as a result of a needs assessment study of public administrations carried out in the mid-1990s by the Lebanese government with money from various donors.

At the time, in order to channel donor money for reforms, a UNDP unit was established at OMSAR. “It was supposed to play the role of a catalyst; this was the plan,” says Israoui, who doubles as the director of the technical cooperation unit at OMSAR. “Unfortunately, this did not take place.”

Ffat and dysfunctional government

Since the UNDP unit which today comprises around 40 percent of OMSAR’s staff — was created, the organizational structures at most ministries have not been made more efficient. Of the 18 new organizational structures proposed to ministries by OMSAR, only the environment and sports ministries have implemented them.

The UNDP governance department helped set up teams of observers for the municipal elections in May

The problem is that OMSAR has tiny teeth, if any. Unlike the other ministries, it was not created by any law but exists only as a legal entity through a vote of confidence it received from parliament and the budget it receives from the finance ministry. It cannot impose reform policies on public administrations nor can it, for instance, actually enter into ministries to review staff performance and then recommend they be promoted or fired. The only way OMSAR can effectively push through reform is if the minister, currently Hezbollah Member of Parliament Mohamad Fneish, takes the case to the cabinet that then, with a two-thirds majority, can impose reform on public institutions. That scenario has yet to occur.

UNDP yearly expenditure ($millions)

Without new organizational structures, ministries are subject to the haphazard dictates of whichever minister happens to be on the top of the pyramid — and there have been many, given the amount of times the cabinet has been reshuffled since the civil war. What this also means is that a review of salary structures is impossible, which has been identified by every person Executive interviewed for this article as one of, if not the largest, hurdle to civil service reform.

The lack of a proper organizational structure has also resulted in a bizarre situation in which ministries are bloated and over-staffed and yet, at the same time, chronically understaffed in key positions, and therefore they cannot fulfill the basic functions of their mandate. This does not look to be changing anytime soon because of the government’s apparent, yet unwritten, policy of halting new hires in public administration, with the exception of the security services and the army.

“You know that further employment is [essentially] not allowed,” says Israoui. “There is some but it is limited.”

According to a source at the UNDP who spoke on condition of anonymity, in the Lebanese civil service there are three levels of employees: those within the organizational structure, contracted employees and temporary workers. The first two categories are subject to the authority of the Civil Service Board (CSB), which regulates public sector employment and is independent of any ministry, including the labor ministry, but reports to the prime minister’s office. The temps, however, are not regulated by the CSB and are appointed by the ministry.

The issue is that, more often than not, the number of contractual workers and temps exceeds those required by the departments. This, in effect, results in staff employed at the ministries and in public administration without a position, receiving salaries paid for by the people who in turn suffer from inefficient public services.

UNDP staff man telephone ‘hotlines’ at the Ministry of Information to register voters’ complaints during the 2010 municipal elections in Lebanon

It’s an open secret that these ‘workers’ — many of whom do not do the jobs they were hired for — are often little more than political appointments, turning civil service bodies into patronage departments. For instance, the latest plan to reform the electricity sector in Lebanon noted that Electricité du Liban, the state-owned electricity company, “employs around 2,000 contractual and daily workers, many of whom are political appointees and unqualified workers.”

“If you want to recruit an effective team that can implement reforms, new policies and can speed up the delivery of services and so on… in the structure of the current state you need civil service reform, a new salary scale, new ethics and probably it will take years,” says Krayem with a half sigh.

Karim Makdisi, associate director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy (IFI) and assistant professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, suggests that Lebanon’s political class needs to be pragmatic about getting rid of the ineffectual workers they themselves hired.

“Between yourselves,” he says, as if speaking to the political patrons, “pay these guys off in a lump sum. If someone has been in a ministry for 10 years and was a political appointment, and they are not coming to the office, either fire them or figure it out.”

2009 expenditure by area of intervention in Lebanon

“It’s more than patronage; its control, its power,” Makdisi adds. “If you are [Prime Minister Saad] Hariri or [Parliamentary Speaker Nabih] Berri you come and you say ‘when you work for me, in or out of government, you are my guy, you are not a Lebanese government employee.’ As long as you have that mentality, all the reform business is nonsensical.”

The other civil service

Until the government gets its act together, the UNDP projects are continuing to do much of its work. The stated purpose of the projects is to fill specific gaps at the various ministries and public administrations, build their capacities, then pull out and let the government bodies do the work themselves. As yet they have not had the opportunity to pull out, effectively creating a counter-bureaucracy that circumvents the malfunctioning public institutions.

“We try to make sure that what we are providing [in terms of staff] is not available and could not be available because of the lack of civil service reform and the salary scale,” says Krayem, adding that “99 percent” of their staff is Lebanese, unlike most countries the UNDP works in. Though not universally true, UNDP staff tend to meet the qualifications of the high-level advisory positions they fill, and demand corresponding salaries.

As part of some of its projects, the UNDP ends up providing basic services to the public instead of the ministries or municipalities doing so. In collaboration with the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), headed by current Future Movement MP Samir el-Jisr, (which itself does much of the work the public works ministry should be responsible for), the UNDP has commissioned pavement repairs, purchased septic trucks, built storm water conduits and rehabilitated public parks.

According to the IFI’s Makdisi, when Rafiq Hariri came to power in the early 1990s he “consciously” created a counter-bureaucracy with teams of advisors and quasi-government institutions including the CDR and Solidere, to circumvent the inefficient and patronage-based state structure, but also to consolidate power.

As well as aiding ministries, UNDP also assists small enterprises on a macro level

“The logic at the time was too much red tape and too much Syrian influence and ‘I’m a businessman and just want to do my thing’. What happened over time is they replaced these teams with UNDP,” he says. “The creation of counter-bureaucracies has its logic up to a point. The problem is that at best, you are talking about a transitory period within which you are training your people so that they can take over within a plan. Those of us who cared to know at the time knew that it was not going to happen, and it didn’t.” The CDR was not available for comment.

“These UNDP projects have been criticized many times as parallel administrations,” says Mazen Hanna, economic adviser to the prime minister, who did not reject the idea outright but suggested that such criticism is politically motivated rather than rooted in actual opposition to the UNDP projects. “Most of the ministers that criticized UNDP projects did not criticize them when they became ministers. In the absence of a civil service reform overhaul the need for UNDP projects will always remain.”

Some of the projects that are ongoing are partnered with opposition ministers, but many — if not all — of the project documents are missing the opposition minister’s signature. This was the case with the “Country Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Demonstration Project for the Recovery of Lebanon” (CEDRO), that would in theory be signed by the opposition energy minister, but instead carries the signatures of only the UNDP and the CDR. In this case, the energy ministry is categorized under “other partners.”

What’s more, the financial scales are heavily tipped toward the projects in the ministries controlled by the ministers from the parliamentary majority, as well as the CDR. The most expensive project the UNDP carries out is at the finance ministry and is budgeted at $18.5 million, followed by a project aimed at increasing decentralization and strengthening strategic partnerships between municipalities of the North and the South, budgeted at $11 million through CDR, with another project at the Ministry of Economics and Trade rounding out the top three at $8.7 million.

How the deal works

Today, in order to start a UNDP program in a public administration, an agreement has to be made between the UNDP and the public body on what is to be done, how long the project will take, and who will pay for it. Depending on the public institution, the project must “reflect the policy of the national coordinator who is either the minister or eventually the CDR,” says Samir Nahas, senior economist at the UNDP project in the office of the prime minister.

Funding for projects comes from three sources: the government, international donors, and the UNDP itself. The amount of money spent has seen exponential growth, increasing by 4.6 times since 2004 and last year reaching $39.1 million. Of late the lion’s share of the money spent has come from “international donors,” who contributed $34.3 million last year.

The UNDP’s breakdown of the money individual government bodies have “committed” to projects since 2004 shows the Ministry of Finance has spent $20.50 million, the Ministry of Telecoms has spent $5.9 million, the Office of the Prime Minister spent some $3.1 million, CDR has $1.8 million, and the Ministry of Agriculture $100,000, totaling $31.4 million. But separate UNDP data for government contributions since 2004 pegs it at $27.7 million — a discrepancy of $3.7 million.

Spending on UNDP projects ($millions)

The reason for this, Krayem explains, is that much of the funding from ministries and government bodies comes through a maze of separate bilateral agreements with donors that are then funneled to the UNDP programs. Hence, figuring out how much the government is allocating from the national budget is nearly impossible to do without going into the books of every ministry to find out where all their donor money is coming from and going to.

Still, a closer look at the donor list reveals a strong connection between some UNDP projects and the prime minister’s private business interests. Solidere, for example, contributed $120,000 to the UNDP this year. Krayem explains that the money was an in-kind contribution for an environmental campaign, and as such insists that there is no conflict of interest. The “Institutional Support to the Ministry of Environment,” project began this year under Future Movement Minister Mohamad Rahal.

“Political affiliation is none of our business; we work with Berri or Hariri,” says Krayem who stressed that the UNDP is “apolitical, but not naive.”

…but for how long?

Politics aside, there is little doubt that Lebanon has benefited greatly from the expansion of UNDP projects. At the moment many of the projects are being evaluated to see whether they will be renewed, extended, changed or discarded at the end of the year. The projects include those at the finance ministry, the Ministry of Economics and Trade, poverty reduction at the ministry of social affairs, support to mine affected communities, support to the Lebanese parliament, strengthening the electoral process in Lebanon, and improving the performance of the justice ministry, among others.

While Hanna says it is unlikely UNDP projects will ever become larger than their affiliated public institutions, he believes that they will continue to grow at the same pace they have since 2004. Krayem disagrees, noting that thanks to the country’s economic growth and increasing per capita income, Lebanon could soon graduate to the UN designation of ‘net contributing country’ (NCC), which would make it ineligible for certain levels of developmental support. The UN press office in New York, however, said Lebanon’s case was “far from decided.”

“The argument has been made and sold to the UN that the developmental needs of Lebanon are not affected by the GDP growth because there are imbalances such as regional imbalances and so on,” says Hanna. Makdisi also agrees that the transition to NCC will have no effect. “We have a class of political elite who are very adept at building royal palaces and begging for money from abroad,” he quips.

Conditional love

“The problem is that the system is malignant and the UNDP are doing the minimum to keep it afloat and give it a certain respectability,” says Makdisi. Hanna adds: “You have this patient [Lebanon’s civil service], thank god you have this doctor because without this doctor this patient will die.”

One way to force the issue forward would be for the UNDP to offer further assistance on a conditional basis, but Nahas says it is not the UNDP’s job to impose reform on the government. “We cannot intervene if there is a director general or a staff that is not performing, this is their duty,” Krayem adds.

Without that reform the ministries and public administration bodies continue to work without a system to measure their output or effectiveness. Only the environment ministry and the public works ministry have taken on pilot programs to implement systems similar to the Key Performance Indicators used by the UNDP.

Ministries also do not have human resources (HR) departments, although a law has been proposed by OMSAR to implement HR departments in all ministries. As such, the only way that their performance can be evaluated is by the various ministers and heads of administrations. This runs contrary to the constitutional principle of administrative decentralization enshrined in the Taef Accord.

More fundamentally, what the Taef Accords also proposed was the implementation of a process to abolish political sectarianism. This has yet to happen and the ongoing sectarian division of the government hampers the creation of open, effective governing bodies.

“As long as I have Shia, Maronite, Sunni, Greek Orthodox and all the politicians and their interests, that’s it — you have a system that is essentially dysfunctional,” says Krayem. “You cannot imagine that your children will live in this system. But this is what I thought when I was young and I’m sure my father thought the same when he was young too.”