Civil society busts you in your email

Hey friends, did you know that “civil society” invites you to attend a march that will take place on the 13th of April from the Mar Mikhael Church in Chiyah to Martyr’s Square in downtown? The objective is to remember the ‘martyrs’ who died during the CIVIL (i.e. clan VS clan of people calling themselves Lebanese) war.

I just got the press release by email. That’s another thing “civil society” can do in Lebanon, it can reach any ‘citizen’ inside the country without having to ask for his email. But that’s not my main point here. My point rather is actually made up of several sub-points:

1- Who the hell is civil society? Some day, we will need a dedicated person to do a genealogy of this term, especially through its use in post-colonial societies.

2- Why on the Arabic press release it is signed “civil society” whereas on the English one there is no signature. Why on the English press it is “civil society organizations invite you to” whereas on the Arabic one it is “civil society invites you to”? Maybe because in Arabic we are required to believe that such an abstract and absurd concept exist somehow floating, transcending, our miserable lives, whereas in English, we’re pragmatic enough to know these are just a bunch of organization that are trying to mobilize people into identifying to some aspect of what would be called the common “Lebanese experience”.

3- What’s really nice about this event is that once on Martyr’s square, amidst the security guards, military personnel, secret service rascals of all creed, we will have a television (don’t bother mentioning which one) that will broadcast a “host various journalists to discuss the themes of suffering, heroism, and hope”. Great, more journalistic stupid rants in an overall moralizing discourse, that’s what we need. Seriously sometimes I miss the priests, sheikhs, or what we commonly refer to as “religious” figures.

4- But what’s really even nicer, is that the television broadcast “will close with a joint prayer with representatives from Lebanon’s religious communities and will be transmitted simultaneously by all the television networks”. Isn’t that cute? it reminds me of Gebran Tueni (grand racist and right wing frustrated individual)’s slogan (that he must have rehearsed for days in his office before pronouncing it during the successive theatrical and pathetic speeches of March 14) that says something like” We swear to God, Muslims and Christians that we will stand by our nation Lebanon”. The bottom line is: Make sure that Confessionalism is something to rest upon, to pray upon, to praise, to worthy, in order to achieve peace. Good luck.

If someone needs the press release please let me know. I can email it.


15 Replies to “Civil society busts you in your email”

  1. I went to a presentation by a big civil society player once. He started by stating that sectarianism was the big problem and that he was working hard to erradicate it once and for all.

    He immediately switched to a secret survey he had commissioned that clearly showed that there are much more christians and sunni then people think and much less shi’a…

    Civl society is an interesting concept, it just does not exist in Lebanon.


  2. It does exist, if you take account of all the NGO’s that work there to try to insure that are better rights for the left out : the ones I know about are working on reforestation, on helping the agriculture sector in Lebanon (to market their goods), protection of architectural heritage (like downtown against solidere), of jewish rights (like for instance the ones protesting a while ago agaisnt the destruction of the Maghen Avraham in Wadi bou jmil), gay rights (there has been a trial against them because of what they defend but they won it), and also one for civil marriage. How about also michel elefteriades who’s working on the debt we have ?
    All these are examples of civil societies that do exist in lebanon and work their ass off even if they seem invisible because people need to look for them instead of simply reading the regular media that doesn’t cover them. There is much info on one simple place : facebook. The simplest place to start from is a group called “ngo’s working in lebanon” which is very dynamic.


    PS Bechir, can you please email the post ?

  3. S,

    Lebanon must have the highest NGO per inhabitant rate this side of the Milky Way. Great individuals working their behinds off as you correctly point out. The country is awash in good intentions.

    Everyone I know, myself included, is involved. The problem is that we are fragmented like the rest of the country. I find it impossible to have a group of NGOs working together for a common goal. There are all mom and pop type of operations with localized and limited impact.

    1,ooo NGOs do not amount to a civil society.


  4. True, but if it’s a little better organized and more communicated, then it should be able to work eventually. Basically, by the way, I see no other solution for Lebanon. Not even Bechir’s islamic state. The “most religious” political group in Leb, which is Hezbollah, participated in the siniora gov. That for me alone is a proof that imagining someday a group of politicians forming a gouv and actually having the intention of making it work without being corrupt is pure bullshit. The only solution is people themselves. I think that group on facebook (ngo’s working in leb) is actually good, even if it’s nothing much yet. They actually send emails every now and then and try to meet (different NGO’s) to share ‘best practices’ & stuff.


  5. NGO’s are becoming lucrative institutions. Why share the funding when you can have it all to yourself? I hear gossip about how corrupted that sector is becoming and I tend to believe what I hear. “One shot” actions with no long term repercussions are flourishing. It looks like a trend to me; and the lack of organization multiplies the number of similar “useless” actions. (just like that walk mentioned in the post)
    Is it based on previous situation analysis? Do we have programs that does not treat social issues in a shallow way?
    Very few NGO programs approaches core problems before they tackle apparent symptoms of that problem…

    Then again, this is a very generic point of view and I’m not an expert.

    (bechir! very interesting blog! found you through P415. And by the way, I did not know you were a contributor to “les niouzes”. héhé. will be coming back. keep up)

  6. I agree with anonymous. There are plenty of non-governmental organizations that work toward worthy goals in Lebanon. The sad thing is that they are all affected in one way or another by the political situation (even if their work is not at all of a political nature). at the onset, most of these organizations have to take the place of the state itself, where it is absent, filling in a gaping void.

    this is not to mention cases where the ministry of social affairs works “collaboratively” with NGOs yet continually falls short of offering what little it DOES have to give for reasons also going back to the political situation. i’ve visited small, ill-equipped, and deteriorating “ministry of social affairs” offices across the country where barely-paid employees have lamented about their lack of ability to help NGOs for these very reasons.

    many more examples to add to anonymous’s list that deserve recognition: NGOs working toward finding homes for street children, offering services to abused migrant workers, offering support for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, support for the elderly, offering support for families of the disappeared of the civil war, those who help to improve meager conditions in prisons, etc.

    pseudo-political movements which come together to lobby for abstract “a-political” [as they insist] causes, using thousands of dollars coming from abroad, are something else and don’t deserve to be in the same category of the aforementioned.

    Civil society (if we are to use the terminology, i understand B why you find it problematic) is fragmented. for example: There are foundations for human rights who “care” about lebanese detainees in syrian prisons, and there are those who “care” for their own political motives [in line with March 14 syria-bashing]. the differentiation should be made.

  7. The bigger problem is how NGOs are tied into either the dominant discourse, or the capitalist economy. Look up a board of directors of any NGO–how many are former CEOs of oil companies? How many are Christian evangelists? A good book on the subject is Humanitarian Imperialism….

  8. Euh… Daniel, I think you are confusing your part of the world with ours, unless you think, like many europeans and americans, that everything in the Occident is transposable to the ME and other DIFFERENT parts of the world.


  9. Bech,

    this is an email from the group I wrote about earlier “NGO’s working in Lebanon” about a group called “Aie serve”. Felt it would be interesting to pass it on. Also another thing, since u’re in Leb, it would be easy for you to check them out, they say they meet at t marbouta on saturdays 5:30 p.m. :

    “Hi Fellows,

    Its been a while since I last sent a message from this group to update everyone on whats been going on. So here it comes.

    1 – We are in the process of planning a major training camp this summer for around 40 students from 7 different schools. We already have worked on a preliminary program, got trainers, set some activities, did a budget study, worked on some details, sent the proposal for funding, and working on contacting hosts for the camp and the schools. If you can assist in finding a place to hold a camp during July please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    2 – We are collaborating wth Cedars for Care on a nation wide beach cleaning campaign called Big Blue (or Al Azrak Al Kabeer for those who may know it in Arabic). It is an annual event and this will be the 10th year so we will make sure it is a big success and we’re already contacting volunteers from different universities, ngos and friends to assist in the preparation, contacting schools to participate, taking photos of the coast line before the cleaning, logistics and much much more… If you would like to assist in this campaign’s preparation or participating in the actual beach cleaning as a group/ngo/individual don’t hesitate to contact me.

    3 – We are collaborating with IBSAR – AUB and they are working on preparing a 2 sessions workshop on environmental awareness and biodiversity for the school AAB that we have been implementing the Aie Serve clubs at.

    4 – We are collaborating with the Red Cross clubs at AUB on training their volunteers and implementing 2 workshops. First one is on Verbal Violence and the second will be on Democracy. This is in the scope of Aie Serve on spreading its core values(Tolerance, Respect and Love) with emphasis on good communication skills and critical thinking. The training for the Red Cross volunteers is today at 1:00 pm at AUB and the actual workshop will be implemented in a school at Bliss street for 52 schools students.

    5 – We are collaborating with Dr. Dany Obeid a professor of Horticulture in USJ on preparing the long promised Honey Making workshops in the Nmeireih village. Things are taking shape quite fast, we have submitted a questionare for the village to get to know more how many honey-making-villagers they have and other related details to sculpt the needed workshops accordingly.

    6 – Last but not least, we are in the process of LEGALIZING Aie Serve. We are working on all the needed paper work, will be meeting with consultants and member from the Aie Serve Advisory Board to discuss the need legal papers and their implications. We are still seeking an office, and have contacted some people who may assist us in finding a decent place for free or for a very feasible price. When Aie Serve gets its license(hopefully) we’ll be able to get down to work much more seriously and with much more support from so many different NGOs, trainers, funding organizations and whoever we deal with. So cross your fingers and wish us the best of luck to get things done properly, quickly and successfully. PS: If you can assist in finding an office, even its just temporarily to get the registration we will appreciate it alot.

    That is all for now, if you feel you are interested in assisting one way or another or you’d like to be part of this rapidly growing, professional group don’t hesitate to join us in our weekly meetings every Saturday at 5:30 pm at Hamra in Ta-Marbouta Cafe.

    We might be changing the venue of our meetings or time according the will of the core team and the load of work.

    Best of regards for everyone,

    PS: If you’d like to join us in our meeting this week kindly inform me before hand so that we can estimate how many attendees we have. All are welcome!


    Respect, Love and Tolerance!

  10. Euh I’m not sure where you get this “your part of the world”. I live in Beirut (I was born here) and have lived here for the past four years. I have worked with any number of local NGOs, and what I find most distressing is their aping of First World methodologies, or finetuning of their efforts based on outside funds. Due to this they are unable to envision a world outside of a post-colonial mindset. “Civil society” and “neo-liberal economy” are mutually exclusive concepts.

  11. “your part of the world” referred to “how many are former CEOs of oil companies? How many are Christian evangelists?” where did you get that exactly ? And what NGO’s are you referring to ?


  12. Umm, another thing :
    “their aping of First World methodologies” lol
    What do you conceive as “First world methodologies”, and once that is defined as a bad thing, any suggestions for new methodologies ?


  13. From 8 to 22 February last year we made a second visit with D4net from the Netherlands to Lebanon. We wanted to speak to our contacts from our first visit in September 2006, and meet new people too. Our main questions were: how do the people on the ground see a way out of the political stalemate between government and opposition? What are the effects of the June war and the internal political struggle? Is a third way possible? What effect does the sectarian system have at present, and what are people’s thoughts on Lebanon in the light of international developments?
    In part one of this article we try to give an idea of the current situation in Lebanon on the basis of all the discussions we had and our own impressions. In part 2 we attempt to sketch out the conditions that could lead to more positive developments.

    From part 1:

    There is no civil structure present in Lebanon, for example of citizen’s groups and NGOs that have a clear plan or political stance aimed at social change. There is also hardly any personal space. Many NGOs are dependent on foreign donors who place conditions on grants, such as a prohibition on presenting a political profile. New groups are arising, but these mainly promote a moral message, for example: no violence, no civil war.

    Furthermore, there is currently a great deal of division that makes a third way impossible. There is no organisational or conceptual framework that can bring the civil groups together.

    From part two:

    To achieve a genuine change in Lebanon requires a union of forces from civil society, a union in the form of a network.
    The network must be broad and challenging, and express the hope for all Lebanese that ‘society will be changed by us in the time to come’. It must also articulate a vision of how much is possible if Lebanon changes: how everyone will benefit.
    Even if it seems no more than a drop in the ocean now, a start has to be made somewhere: not immediately looking at the achievability of the ultimate goal, but getting involved in how you want to live, instead of how you are forced to live.

    A condition for all this is that there must be a recognition that there is a communal problem that can only be solved communally. A broad group of people from various backgrounds and social positions must acknowledge this, and express their will as citizens to take a communal initiative.
    Starting from the situation as it is now, a number of aims can be formulated that everyone can relate to despite their great differences, aims where everyone can see that they are conditions for a real change. The means may be very diverse, as long as they are recognisable as a part of the general aim.
    The network must also map out a recognisable strategy, or multiple strategies, for achieving this aim. Ultimately the network can, through the activities that take place within it, form a political force to change society.

    You can read the whole article on:


    D4net is a basic democratic action, research and publishing organisation. Truly independent in a financial and political way fom any gouverment or political party.

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