An Open dialogue with Ms. Najat Vallaud Belkacem – WOFL Jordan

Ricardo Karam: The images tell the story of a French citizen of Arab origin, who entered the world of politics and became a minister at the age of thirty-four. She served as the Minister of Human Rights, a challenging role in a time when I believe that immigration is the biggest issue we face today. She imposed herself and decided, after five years and following her defeat in the parliamentary elections, to step away from the world of politics and embark on another journey, which is the realm of humanitarian services. Her world became a world of giving. Before we proceed, I want to mention that Najat, who is here with us today, her mum is in this room. Hello Miss, and a huge thanks goes to you. Your daughter is who she is because of you. You are where you are today. Definitely, it wasn’t an easy path, it was a path full of thorns, and for someone, who is originally from the Arab world to find and to impose herself and to become who you are today, doing politics, was it something you have thought of when you were young? Was it a vocation? Was it in your genes? How can you become eventually a politician? And how can we dream when we have no means to have access to that field and to be on the front lines of that specific field?


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Hi everyone, I’m so sorry not to speak Arabic. I was born in Morocco, so originally, I am from the Arabic world, but actually, I speak Amazigh, Berber language and not Arabic. Then, my second language was French, and then, German, and then, Spanish, and then English. So English, I’m going to try to speak well, but you understand that it’s not my first language. I would like to introduce this session, if you allow me by thanking really May Chidiac because May, I love you, you are such a source of inspiration for us. I think everyone in this room is full of admiration for you. That’s what I wanted to say. To come back to your question, well, when I was young, I think I really did not imagine that one day I could be a politician. It was something like totally crazy for me. As you said, I was born in Morocco, I arrived in France when I was four years  with my parents, I graduated in law at school. The only thing that I was dreaming of was being a writer in a house, you know, on the ocean, something like that because I really loved to read and to write, but after that, you know, politics is about something else than really vocation or, you know, what you have been learning at school, and so on. Politics. The only question you should ask yourself when it comes to politics is not did I dream of being president since the age of 13 or even am I the best technician, leader, orator in this neighborhood, in this university. No, I think it’s not the good question to ask yourself. The good question to ask yourself is what does my neighborhood or my university or my country stand to lose if I’m not there to defend it, you know, and to defend it by myself. I became involved in politics in 2002 because the national front so the extreme right in France made it to the second round of the French presidential elections, given my own history as a young girl, who arrived in France at the age of four with my older sister and mother, family that had always strived to avoid causing any problems to be accepted in this country, France. I couldn’t let this country risk falling into the hands of the extreme right, a populist force, whose sole trade was racism towards immigrants and the refusal to accept them as citizens of this nation. So, that was this idea that I could contribute to prevent the dismantling or progress or even contribute to positive change that made me be involved in politics. So, that is not a question of vocation or credential. Why do I say that? Because I have an advice for you, which is that if you ever feel that click within yourself, you know, you have to go and to be vocal. It can be in politics, it can be in NGOs, but if you feel this click that tells you that if you don’t act now, something will disappear that is very important for you in your community, then you should be involved.



  • Ricardo Karam: Ricardo Karam: Najat, you reminded me of a Lebanese novelist, a female, a Lebanese lady, Venus Khoury-Ghata. Venus Khoury-Ghata is now, I believe, 85 years old. She is still alive, she lives in Paris, and she had embraced fame all over, and her books were translated into more than 20 languages and the moment she went once to New York, and she saw her books on the vitrine of Barns and Nobles, she told herself: “Come on, you were a little girl coming from Bcharre, a small village in Lebanon, you used to play bare feet, and now, your books are in New York and sold at Barnes and Nobles. Wake up, girl! This is reality!” And she had made it. So, you know, sometimes, you know, you wake up at times, and you wonder, am I dreaming or am I living reality? So, do you think your life was a twist of fate, a struck of luck, or hard work, or all together?



  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: I think it was all together, you know, because it is a mix of, you know, you have to work because there are so many prejudices and stereotypes against people, who are different, and I was different, you know. The first time I was elected, you know, people were like she’s too young, she’s too foreign, too slim, too something to be elected as the others, and because they had this kind of prejudices against me, I felt that I had to work twice more than the others, you know, so I did a lot of efforts to show them that, you know, I was worth it. So, it’s a part of work, but it’s also a part of chance because, you know, so many things depend on the meetings rencontres que vous faites.


  • Ricardo Karam: the encounters.


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: the encounters that you do. The fact that on your way, you will find someone, who is going to inspire you, to help you, to give you some advices. That’s why today, as an adult, because I am an adult now, I spend a lot of hours in my life sharing experiences with students, and so on because it is very important to understand the codes of all of these worlds of politics and to help them, you know, better design how they could find their place.

– Ricard Karam: And most importantly, help them to dream. This is what life is about, to dream.

– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Dreaming is very important.

– Ricardo Karam: The RJ co-pilot just said that her mum nurtured her since her childhood, and she used to repeat to her that you are half of the world. She just said. Was your mum doing the same? Was she, you know, when feeding you with values, while encouraging you to become the woman you are today, did she ever tell you that you are half of the world, and you will become one day someone important my little girl or did it never happen?


– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: I think what my mum told me a lot when I was younger, and which was very important for me, two things. The first thing is that she showed me how important it was for women to be independent, you know, not to depend on someone else, you know, financially, and so on. She would have loved to study, and she didn’t because, you know, moral code this time, you know, you were married very young, and then, you did not have the opportunity to study. So, for her, it was very important that her children just succeed at school. And the second thing is that she was constantly telling me, you know, life has more imagination than you, than you do. That’s why, as you saw on the screen, I wrote a book a few years ago, and the title of the book is “life has more imagination than you can have.” Because it’s so true, but you need someone to tell you that, you need someone to tell you that, for instance, when you fail on something, sometimes you fail. I have been failing on some things. It’s a door that closes.


– Ricardo Karam: Others open.

– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: But this closed door allows the other doors to open because if these doors had been opened, the others would have closed. So, that’s very important to understand that things are never finished really, you have other opportunities to find ways.


– Ricardo Karam: While writing your autobiography, and the title you’ve given to your book, the word “imagination”, does it pertain to the dreams you had, to the mirage that never occurred, to what lies ahead, to what is imagination for you, is it something that is concrete, is it something that youcan really accomplish, is it something tangible, or is it something that flew in the air?


– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: I think imagination is about creativity, which

means that, I feel that we are, you know, all of us are not artists, but we can live our lives as if we were artists in a sense that, you know, we are here to create something, you know, and we should use every path, even every failure, to create something. Exactly the same as artists do, you know, I guess that the artists that you prefer are artists that have failed, and then because they have failed, you know, there is light inside them because they have learned things from these bad experiences, and there is such an intensity of emission, and so on.


– Ricardo Karam: It’s not failures. It is falls.


– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Yes, falls, exactly.


– Ricardo Karam: They encounter falls. Failure is big. It is life failure. We all have falls.


– Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Exactly, and inside the falls, the light is passing, you understand what I mean? Ok. So, I will say that, as artists, our life is made to be reinvented every day, so having imagination means that whatever happens in your life, you should have some drivers that make you imagine something else, start to gain something else, and so on.


  • Ricardo Karam: Self-confidence is a crucial issue and something we build up around the years of experiences, you are someone with self confidence and we can see through your pictures we can see that you are always present and you know how to impose yourself, how did you build up yourself confidence?


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Well actually self confidence is a very important topic, especially for the women because we lack confidence, it was not easy for me in France because the field of politics usually you find people with privilege, people who has been in rich families and have high culture capital so when you don’t have this kind of capital you lack of this self-confidence and you have to learn how to acquire and what is very interesting for me and what tricks is that you can really learn how to acquire self-confidence for instant when I started as a politician I was afraid to not find the good words, I was the spokes person for the presidential candidate Francois Hollande and then for the government so it was very important to me to know how to speak in the media and big meetings and I found that actually I didn’t have the right words during the day but I found the right words during the night when I was sleeping you know I was like you know this kind of Sensation okay because I was like oh I should have saved these and I understood that when I wake up I had to write what I was remembering of my dreams and weather and this word because it was my real voice my intimate voice and by writing this kind of expressions words and so on I loaded my internal Voice to come back and to be with me you know and you know to be my voice you know not to be like available to just try to simulate the others voices but to have my own my own voice this kind of trick that helps you to to be more self-confident.


  • Ricardo Karam: What was the most difficult and intimidating moment you went through?


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Actually you know I encountered immediately comments questioning my purpose in politics  I encountered attempts to confine me to Narrow categories and accusation of incompetence or illegitimacy and so as every woman I think really but I was not only a woman I was young woman coming from abroad and from a Muslim culture which was a topic so well the important thing for me was to understand that it’s because of this kind of differences that I was attacked but I have faced right of actual if you remember when I first I faced the irrational hatred baseless rumors about my intention my reforms as a minister for women’s rights but also has the Minister for education you have to remember that it was the first time that a woman was minister for education before that’s it was only men who were ministers of education so a lot of attacks I have been for instance portraited portrait like an ayatollah pink smell or Troublemaker in some newspaper from far right from extreme right but you know yeah and not a single debate concerning me escape some degree of fantasy around the idea that I was there to  Islamize France  yeah you know so my journey was not really easy that’s another lot of things.


  • Ricardo Karam: France has a diverse society with multicultural diversity and backgrounds how can the government strike a balance between fostering integration and preserving cultural identity.


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Well I think it’s a question of balance  because you know I am strike what’s right to me is the fact that you know in so many societies the politicians just want to polarize society you know you don’t need to pull a rice Society there was Society is enough polarized by itself you know and as a politician you should try to find the good tools and ways to depolarize society  and that  means find the ways to include people you know the ways for people to meet each other to encounter each other you know and not to live in separate levels and to answer your question I think it’s important to tell people that when they are living in a country even from abroad there are rules to respect and so on and the way and what is important in terms of institution and but at the same time keeping for instance your original language having the capacity for your children to learn it knowing you know what is your original country and it is so important for people to feel well it’s only a question of feeling well you know knowing as a one of our friends you know he said I’m originally from a Algeria and grew up in France for me Algeria is my mother and France my father and it’s true that when you are mixed when you have a mixed culture you you know it’s so uncomfortable to feel that you have to choose between the spirituals and I think that politicians not force you to imagine it’s a question of imagine ways of mixing everything that is diversity of the society.


  • Ricardo Karam: When you are in france you feel french and when you are in Morocco you feel that your Moroccan or I don’t know you feel that you are a citizen of the world.


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: Now I think yeah people recognize me in the streets actually now people do not bully me I just want to precise something I was talking when I was telling you about all the fights that I had when I was a politician and so on I was talking about the far right you know I am not talking about everyone in France actually I have to say that people in France like me a lot of them like me a lot so I was really lucky, I feel more French I’ve been living you know since I was four years old that’s my long age that’s my that’s the culture I’m living in that’s the country where my own children are born that’s I have like affection kind of affection for Morocco because it’s the country of my ancestors of my family when I see that you know the low is changing for instance there is a family you know about a woman’s rights and so on when it is positively evolving and so proud I’m so happy and when they’re troubles that I am you know worried and so I’m both.


  • Ricardo Karam: If you want to qualify your path your life with a sentence with the word which were given to this exciting life.


  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem: No Fatality


  • Ricardo Karam : Najat Thank you so much.

Read more: WOFL Jordan 2023 Welcome Notes Mrs. Maha Shair



Read more

Mr. Faisal Shuboul Minister of Government Communications, in the opening ceremony of WOFL Jordan

I am honored to deliver a speech at the opening of the sixth edition of the “Women on the Frontlines” conference organized by the May Chidiac Foundation. I convey to you the greetings and well wishes of the Prime Minister, and I wish you success and prosperity in your discussions. I welcome you to Amman, the jewel of capitals, the sanctuary of Arabs, the capital of tolerance, harmony, dialogue, and peace. I am delighted to welcome Dr. May Chidiac, who is keen on holding this annual meeting in Amman, bringing together women leaders in their second country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which values this gathering and celebrates every guest.

In this conference entitled “Women on the Frontlines,” I would like to emphasize that all decisions, legislations, and measures aimed at supporting and empowering women to be on the frontlines will not enable them to succeed unless they believe in themselves and their abilities. Moreover, the political and social environment must show sufficient respect for women and their role in society and public life.

Based on this belief and recognition of the Jordanian woman’s role, position, capabilities, and achievements, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has entered the beginning of its second century under the direct patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II, with three paths of modernization: political, economic, and administrative. Empowering women and enhancing their roles in various fields, as well as reducing the accumulated political, economic, and administrative gaps, are among the top priorities of these paths of modernization.

At the forefront of these efforts were the amendments made to the Jordanian constitution, which included rights for women. The most prominent addition was a paragraph to Article 6 stating, “The state ensures the empowerment and support of women to play an active role in building society, ensuring equal opportunities based on justice and fairness, and protecting them from all forms of violence and discrimination.”

In accordance with the royal directives and in response to the new constitutional provisions, the new laws, such as the Election Law for the House of Representatives, the Political Parties Law, the Local Administration Law, the Labor Law, and the Income Tax Law, have included rights for women aimed at supporting and empowering them in various aspects of life. The political impact will depend on the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be conducted based on the new election and party laws. Similarly, the results of the local elections, as stipulated by the Local Administration Law, will ensure that women are represented in municipal councils and governorate councils by no less than 25%.

On the administrative level of the government, this government has worked to enhance women’s empowerment in occupying advanced government administrative leadership positions. The number of women holding such positions has increased to 18 out of 97 positions, compared to only seven women in 2020 and 11 women in 2021.

As a member of the ministerial committee for women’s empowerment, chaired by Her Excellency our colleague Wafa Bani Mustafa, I would like to emphasize that the government is working according to a clear national strategy and in partnership with all sectors and institutions representing Jordanian women. This includes developing plans, programs, and measures to ensure a safe working environment for women without discrimination or marginalization. The strategy is supported by an inclusive media plan that responds to the new legislative achievements and advocates for women’s, children’s, and youth’s issues. It is important to highlight the role of local media outlets that consistently stood alongside women, their rights, and their fundamental role in development and nation-building.

In conclusion, we hope that our overall policies, legislation, and procedures will achieve the desired goals of women’s empowerment, which is inherently empowering for a secure, cohesive, and strong society in facing future challenges.

Read more: Khasawneh opens 6th ‘Women on Front Lines Conference’ in Jordan



Read more

WOFL Jordan 2023 Dr. May Chidiac Opening Speech

I would like to say a word stemming from the heart before I start with the official text.

First of all, the presence of His Excellency, the Jordanian Prime Minister, Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh, who prioritized us today with his presence and the speech he gave during this occasion, is a great honor to us.

Of course, we also welcome the representative of the Prime Minister, who will also give a speech in a bit, Minister of Government Communications Mr. Faisal Shuboul.

I welcome all friends, ambassadors, ministers, and Minister Manqoush who is the first Foreign Affairs Minister in Libya. I do not know whom else to welcome, but allow me to shed light on my friend Celine Abou Ghazale because a few days ago we were mourning the loss of her father, and yet, she insisted to be here today at the Conference since it is dear to her. I found this so touching, and I know how much this conference has become dear to both Jordanian and Lebanese hearts as well as the hearts of all participants from various regions.

I would also like to welcome Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses, Princess Basma, who will be participating with us in one of the panels, and HRH Princess Dina, whose presence is also very dear to us today.

I don’t want to be excluding anyone. There are also diplomats, Lebanon’s ambassador, and the Kuwaiti Charge D’affaires. I know there are many present here, I’m sorry if I cannot name everyone, but from my heart, my joy today is indescribable with my return to my second home, Jordan.

His Excellency the Jordanian Prime Minister Dr. Bisher Al Khasawneh, the representative of the Hashemite Government, Mr. Faisal Shuboul Minister of Government Communications.

Your Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,

Members of the Diplomatic field and Political, Economic, and Media Corps, and Security Entities,

Representatives of Civil Society and Women’s Organizations,


Dear friends, honorable attendees,


With great joy and indescribable excitement, we gather once again in Amman, where five previous conferences of “Women on the Front Line – MENA Chapter” provided a platform for inspiring women from the Arab region and the world. It is true that the pandemic forced our absence for two years in 2020 and 2021. However, our return last year, with the encouragement of friends in Jordan, who are strong supporters of women’s issues and rights, was much stronger. This has made this event a prestigious and highly anticipated milestone on the agenda of women’s events and activities.

It is a great honor today to stand once again on this podium to launch this conference in its sixth edition titled “Women on the Front Line – MENA Chapter – Jordan 2023.”

Our conference this year also, as it was last year, is held under the patronage of His Excellency Prime Minister Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh, who graced us with his presence in person and his participation in the opening activities of this Conference and to whom we extend our welcome and thanks yet again. I also take this opportunity to renew my greetings to His Majesty King Abdullah II, who never hesitates to support any step that enhances women’s empowerment and contributes to the advancement of their capabilities. I also extend my greetings to Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, who, as we witnessed earlier, was the first in providing her patronage to the first edition of the WOFL Jordan conference in 2016.

Undoubtedly, the climate of peaceful change that has begun to impose a new reality in the region is expected to ease the tensions that women have long paid the price for. However, the sparks of tension that are starting to subside on one front, as is the case in Yemen for example, do not take long to reignite in another country, as is the case in Sudan, erasing all the positive change that women, who participated in the revolution, achieved and their dream of a better future.

According to the report issued in the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women held in March of last year, violence and “deep-rooted discrimination” remain at the top of the challenges that hinder the advancement of Arab women.

According to a report by ESCWA issued earlier this year, the representation of women in legislative, executive, governmental, and local bodies, as well as in decision-making positions, continues to be disappointing.

Indeed, the active participation of women in popular movements in several Arab countries has been considered a first step towards changing societal culture and the derogatory view towards them. However, the election results that followed these movements were disappointing, as women did not achieve acceptable levels of representation except in countries that implement quota systems.

Therefore, the challenges remain significant, especially in societies where women are still marginalized due to traditional and social values, while courageous and proactive women emerge, defying stereotypes and making their presence known, influencing public opinion and making a difference.

I will go over some examples, but I will not go into them in detail since we’re short on time.

I will stop on a part we have certainly all followed.

What is occurring in Iran, for example, where Mahsa Amini was a source of inspiration for the Iranian protests. Her arrest by the regime and what is called the “morality police,” specifically due to improperly wearing the hijab, and her death in custody led to wide-scale demanding protests reaching a point where even high school girls protested and challenged the security police campaigns.

While Egyptian women continue to be absent from civil and criminal justice platform, we saw that outside Egypt, there is a lady, who took one of the highest positions in one of the most important American universities. However, what happened in Egypt recently is that Radwa Helmi Ahmed took the platform of the Administrative Court in Egypt as the first female judge to hold this position. The law did not prohibit this, but the prevailing custom made it exclusive to men.

Since we are talking about Egypt, allow me to welcome the Egyptian star, who also fought against the tyrannical rule in Egypt. At a certain stage, she was found in direct opposition to extremism, and she is the star, Elham Shahine.

To quickly continue, in Lebanon, for example, the number of female officers increased. The number of female members of parliaments increased, they were six and are now eight, so barely, but we still consider it something good.

In Saudi Arabia, women are achieving accomplishments in various fields, including medicine, commerce, education, transportation, and military ranks. Women have also begun to be largely appointed to political and diplomatic leadership positions.

In the United Arab Emirates, women are succeeding, especially in the field of space such as exploration and much else, and they have majorly advanced.

Among Jordanian women, what is remarkable, apart from their achievements inside Jordan, for example, on the global level, the Jordanian Khayla Musa won a seat on Crawley Borough Council in the United Kingdom as a member of the British Labour Party.

On the sports front, Ayah Al-Majali became the first Jordanian to participate in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with the Olympique Lyonnais women’s team. Additionally, Jordan won two awards at the “Fatima bint Mubarak” Awards for Women’s Sports in Abu Dhabi.

Tunisian tennis player Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon final, and it is the first time we ever see an Arab woman in tennis.

In Morocco, also on the sports front, it is a topic that is dear to Maha’s heart since she constantly runs in marathons. We have Bouchra Karboubi, who became the first female to officiate the final of the Throne Cup in Morocco. In other words, she was a referee in a football match. Therefore, there is remarkable progress in Arab countries.

I gave a couple of excerpts. These examples inspire a glimmer of hope for change, but they are not erasing the painful reality that women still experience worldwide. The rate of domestic violence remains high in countries like Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and even the Gulf states. More laws and practical measures are needed to put an end to all forms of gender-based violence, eliminate discrimination in personal status matters, and abolish male guardianship (to the men, who are with us today, excuse us), and the men that permit travelling in some Arab countries, let us dream with you.

And if we shift our attention to Afghanistan, the scene is heartbreaking. After women’s struggle and their fight for their rights, the Taliban has returned to banning women’s education and preventing them from working.

There are positive points, and there are negative points.

At the May Chidiac Foundation, through our annual programs and especially through the conference we are holding today, we renew our faith in women, who are capable of overcoming all barriers. We take a new step in our humble journey to support women, who are undoubtedly capable, like men and even more, of making decisions.

As the May Chidiac Foundation has accustomed you, we will share a program full of inspiring stories that open up numerous avenues to success with Her Excellency, the Minister, Najla Manqoush, and Her Excellency, the French Minister of Education, Najat Belkacem among other various stories.

We wish everyone a special and fruitful day with us.

Welcome, everyone, to the Women on the Front Lines MENA Chapter Jordan 2023.

Long live you! Long live the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! Long live the strong, resilient, mighty, free, shining, and talented Arab women, as they were, as they are today, and as they will always be.

Thank you.


read more: Khasawneh opens 6th ‘Women on Front Lines Conference’ in Jordan

Read more

Khasawneh opens 6th ‘Women on Front Lines Conference’ in Jordan

AMMAN — Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh on Monday said that Jordanian and Arab women have left a distinguished mark on their societies over the years.

“Women in our area have proven themselves, and have assumed very high positions, and surely left an important mark on their own societies,” Khasawneh said.

However, “our societies are still dominated by masculine ideologies that relics from the past,” Khasawneh told the gathering.

“We need to put such ideas behind us, and aim to keep empowering women in our societies,” the premier stressed.

Khasawneh’s remarks came during the sixth edition of the “Women on the Front Lines Conference (WOFL) — the Middle East North African Region Edition — Jordan 2023”.

Khasawneh acted as patron to the event, which was organised by the May Chidiac Foundation (MCF) in Amman.

The one-day event saw the participation of HRH Princess Basma Bint Ali, HH Princess Dina Mired, as well as prominent figures in the fields of politics, diplomacy, media, arts, economics and technology.

Minister of Government Communications Faisal Shboul presented the official speech on behalf of Khasawneh, and noted that all decisions, legislation and procedures aimed at empowering women to be on the front lines “will not enable them to win the bet if they do not believe in themselves and their abilities”.

The minister added that the political and social environment should reflect sufficient respect for women and their role in society and public life.

At the beginning of the second centenary of the Kingdom, and under the direct auspices of His Majesty King Abdullah, the Jordanian state entered the three paths of modernisation: political, economic and administrative, Shboul said.

“Empowering women and strengthening their role in various fields is at the forefront of the priorities of the modernisation paths,” the minister stressed.

Shboul added that the government, under Royal directives, made several legislative amendments to empower women and increase their political participation, including the Political Parties Law, which “is expected to boost women’s presence in Parliament”.

“We will have to wait and see the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be held on the basis of the new election and party laws,” Shboul pointed out.

Also addressing the conference was President of MCF, May Chidiac, who praised the Kingdom’s efforts to enable and encourage women’s participation in public life.

“There are many challenges facing women in some societies where women’s roles are still absent due to traditions and social values,” added Chidiac, who was a former Minister of State for Administrative Development in Lebanon.

“There is no doubt that the struggle of societies is necessary for women to obtain their full rights, bearing in mind that what is meant here is the struggle of women and men together,” Chidiac said.

“The road may still be long, but we believe in the victory of the truth in the end,” Chidiac added.

MCF Executive Board member and chair of the conference Maha Shair pointed out the “courage of Jordanian women who played a pivotal role in developing the economy, education and healthcare system, and who actively contributed to the promotion of peace and stability in the region”.

The WOFL MENA Chapter-Jordan 2023 aims to enable women and to encourage them in their pursuit towards accomplishing sustainable goals that serve the public and societal good in all its dimensions, in addition to shedding light on the stories of ladies and young women who have achieved multiple successes and left their distinguished marks on various sectors.

Read more

WOFL Jordan 2023 Welcome Notes Mrs. Maha Shair

It gives me great pleasure to stand once again here in Amman, representing the MCF Foundation and as the Chairperson of the WOFL Conference. I extend my greetings to the recipients of the “Path to Peace” award and the “Zayed Award for Human Fraternity” for the year 2022. And who else deserves these awards but His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein and Her Majesty Queen Rania Abdullah, who play their roles with utmost dedication to uphold and elevate the image of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and promote the role of Jordanian women in society and public affairs.

The year 2022 was remarkable for Jordan in terms of tourism prosperity on one hand and the outstanding achievements of its youth in various fields on the other hand. Whether in sports, arts, sciences, politics, or others, Jordanians, especially Jordanian women, left a distinct mark.

Speaking of the remarkable courage of Jordanian women, who have always been at the forefront of the struggle for their rights, development of their society, and contribution to progress, we see the importance of reminding ourselves: “Why Jordan?” Why did MCF choose Amman to host the Women on the Front Lines (WOFL) Conference in its Middle East edition? Simply? In appreciation of Jordanian women, who played a pivotal role in the development of the economy, education, and healthcare system. In appreciation of them, who have effectively contributed to promoting peace, stability in the region. They were at the forefront of combating terrorism and extremism. They played an essential role in fostering interfaith dialogue, and addressing the refugee crisis. They shattered stereotypes and proved that they are capable, like men, of facing all challenges with determination and courage. They have become a source of inspiration.

Today, in the sixth edition of our annual conference, we look forward to more stories and deeper experiences. We anticipate the participation of women from around the world who will share their experiences and the challenges they have faced in life with sincerity and transparency, both in this esteemed gathering and through live streaming on social media. These extraordinary women have fought against injustice and discrimination and have changed the reality.

And this time, we will listen to men as well…men who believe in women, value them, support them, and insist on their involvement in culture, media, art, and politics .Under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Jordan, Dr. Bisher Al-Khasawneh, we are pleased to announce the program for the sixth edition of the WOFL MENA CHAPTER-JORDAN conference, which includes the following:

We will begin with the first discussion through a special dialogue with Mrs. Najla Al-Mangoush, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya, the first Libyan female foreign minister and the fifth woman to hold this position in the Arab world.

In the field of politics and diplomacy, we will host a panel discussion with Her Excellencies: Dr. Nabeela Al-Mulla from Kuwait, the first diplomat from the Arab Gulf, Her Excellency the British Ambassador to Jordan, Bridget Brind, the Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the Middle East and North Africa, Princess Basma bint Ali, Her Excellency Haifa Jediea, Head of the Saudi Arabian Mission to the European Union, and Ambassador Mira Daher, the Lebanese Ambassador to Italy, via the application Zoom. We will then hear from the first French woman to serve as Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research, the French-Moroccan judge and politician, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, in a special dialogue.

Afterward, we will move on to a world that is now needed by every politician, diplomat, lawyer, and specialist in any field – the digital world and artificial intelligence. The second panel discussion will focus on the topic of CHATGPT, with the expertise of Dr. Rima Diab from Jordan, an artificial intelligence expert and advisor at Tesla and Galaxy Technology Foundation, Dr. Shurooq Amin, an artist from Kuwait, and from Lebanon, Dr. Manal Jalloul, an artificial intelligence consultant as well as Daniel Hatem, a financial advisor.

From the digital revolution to the social and political revolution, with women leading the protests, we will have another discussion table where we will listen to Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Middle East Magazine in New Lines Magazine, Rasha Al Aqeedi from Iraq, the political activist and National Coordinator of the taqaddom political party, Laury Haytayan from Lebanon, Tara Kangarlou, an Iranian writer and journalist specialized in Iranian and international affairs, and Rahela Sidiqi from Afghanistan, the founder and executive director of Rahela Association for Women’s Education in Afghanistan.

Finally, we will conclude by addressing women’s issues and shedding light on relevant social issues through art and creativity. In this dialogue, we will host Sadek Al-Sabah, the winner of the Lebanese National Cedar Medal and Chairman of Al-Sabah Brothers Company, who is considered one of the leading figures in the media industry in the Arab world. With him, we have the Syrian director Samer Al-Barkawi, who gained recognition for his work, especially in “Al Hayba,” and the Egyptian star Elham Shahine as well as Valérie Abou Chakra, the former Miss Lebanon.

Read more

الكلمةً الافتتاحية للدكتورة مي شدياق في مؤتمر “نساء على خطوط المواجهة” في نسخته السادسة

بفرحٍ كبير واندفاعٍ لا يوصَف، نلتقي  من جديد في عمّان، حيث شكّلت خمسةُ مؤتمراتٍ سابقة لـ”نساء على خطوط المواجهة في نسختها الشرق أوسطية”، منصّةً لنساء وسيدات مُلهمات من المنطقةِ العربية والعالم. صحيح أنّ الجائحة الصحيّة فرضت غيابَنا لعامين في 2020 و 2021، لكنّ عودَتَنا العامَ الماضي وبتحفيزٍ من الأصدقاء في الأردن، وهم من أشدّ الداعمين لقضايا المرأة وحقوقهِا، كانت أقوى بكثير، ما جعلَ من هذا الحدث محطةً مَرْموقةً مُنتظرة على جدولِ الأحداث والنشاطات النسائية

وإنّه لشرفٌ كبيرٌ اليوم، أنْ أقِفَ مُجدّدًا على هذا المِنبر لإطلاق مؤتمر “نساء على خطوط المواجهة” في نسخته الشرق أوسطية السادسة

ينعقدُ مؤتمرُنا هذه السنة أيضًا تحت رعاية ِ دولةِ رئيس مجلس الوزراء الاردني الأكرم د. بشر الخصاونة وله منّا التحيةَ والشُكر

واغتنم المناسبة لأجدِّد التحية لجلالة الملك عبدالله الثاني الذي لا يتأخّر عن دعم أي خطوة تُعلي من شأن المرأة، وتساهمُ في تمكينِ قدراتها وكذلك لعقيلتِه جلالة الملكة رانيا العبدالله، التي كانت السبّاقة في منحِ رعايتٍها  لمؤتمر WOFL Jordan  في نسختِه الأولى  عام 2016

لاشكّ أنّ مناخَ التغيير السلمي الذي بدأ يفرِضُ تلمُّسَ واقعٍ جديد في المنطقة من شأنِه أن يُخفِّفَ أجواءَ التشنّجِ التي لطالما دفعت المرأة ثمنَها إلاّ أنّ شرارات التوتّر التي تبدأُ تخمُدُ على إحدى الجبهات كما هو حاصلٌ في اليمن لا تلبثُ أن تعودَ لتشتعِلَ في دولةٍ أخرى كما هو الحال في السودان ناسفةً معها كلَّ الايجابيات التي حقّقتها النساءُ اللواتي شاركن في الثورةِ وحلِمنَ بغدٍ جديدٍ أفضل

وبحسب التقرير الصادر في الدورة السابعة والستين للجنةِ وضعِ المرأة التي انعقدت في شهر مارس آذار الماضي يبقى  العنفُ و”التمييزُ المتأصّل” على رأسِ التحديات التي تُعرقِلُ نهضةَ المرأةِ العربية

أما بحسب تقريرٍ لل  ESCWA الذي صَدَرَ مطلعَ هذا العام فما زال تمثيلُ المرأة في الهيئات التشريعية والتنفيذية، الحكومية والمحلية، وفي مواقع صنع القرار مخيِّباً للآمال

صحيحٌ أنَّ المشاركةَ الفاعلة للمرأة في الحراك الشعبي في عددٍ من البلدان العربية اعتُبرت خطوة أولى باتجاهِ تغييِر الثقافة المجتمعية والنظرة الدونِية تُجاهها إلا أنَّ نتائجَ الانتخابات التي أعقبت هذا الحراك جاءت مخيِّبة للآمال. فالمرأة لم تحقق نِسَبَ تمثيلٍ مقبولة، ما عدا في الدول التي تًطبِّق نظام الكوتا

إذاً، فإنّ التحدّيات تبقى كبيرة لاسيما في المجتمعات حيث لا زالت المرأة تُغَيَّبُ بسببِ تقاليد وقِيَم اجتماعية، في وقتٍ تبرزُ نساءٌ شُجاعات ومبادِرات/ قاوَمنَ لكسرِ الصُوَر النمطيّة، وإثباتِ حضورِهنّ فأثَّرْن بالرّأي العام وصَنَعْنَ الفرق

ففي أيران مثلاً، كانت مهسا أميني مصدرَ إلهامٍ للاحتجاجات الإيرانية… اعتقالُها من قِبَلِ النظامِ ومن ما يُسَمَّى بشرطةِ الأخلاق تحديدًا، على خلفيةِ ارتدائها الحجاب بشكلٍ غيرِ صحيح، ووفاتِها في الإعتقال، أدّيا إلى اندلاع تظاهراتٍ مطلبية واسعةِ النطاق/ وصلت الى احتجاجات فتيات في سنّ المدرسة الثانوية تحدّينَ حملات الشرطة الأمنية

وبينما لا تزال المرأة المصرية غائبة عن منصات القضاء المدني والجزائي، اعتلت رضوى حلمي أحمد، المصرية، منصةَ المحكمة الإدارية في مصر كأولِ قاضيةٍ تشغلُ هذا المنصب…  لم يكُنْ القانونُ يَمنعُ هذا الأمر، لكنَّ العرفَ الجاري جعله حكرًا على الرجال

في لبنان، للمرة الأولى تساوى عددُ الضابطاتِ الإناث مع عددِ الضباطِ الذكور بين المتخرِّجين في الكليةِ الحربية برتبة ملازم. كما سُجِّلَ ارتفاعٌ طفيف في عدد النساء اللواتي دخلن الندوة البرلمانية في الإنتخابات النيابية الأخيرة

في المملكة العربية السعودية، تُحَقِّقُ المرأة انجازاتٍ في مجالات عديدة منها الطب، التجارة والتعليم، والنقل والرتب العسكرية. كما بدأَ تعيين ُالنساء في مناصبَ قيادية سياسية ضمن مسيرةِ التطويرِ والتحديث واختيارِ الكفاءات لتحقيقِ رؤية المملكة 2030

دولة الإمارات المتحدة مستمرة بدعم المرأة ولعلَّ أكبرَ إنجاز لها كان عبر مساهمة الدكتورة سارة المعيني في بحوث الفضاء عبر إطلاق المستكشف “راشد” إلى سطح القمر،

حضور الأردنيات السياسي كان لافتًا على المستوى العالمي مع الأردنية خيلاء موسى التي فازت بعضوية بلدية كرولي البريطانية عن حزب العمال البريطاني؛  ورياضيا، كانت آية المجالي، أولَّ أردنية تُشاركُ في دوري أبطال أوروبا مع فريق أولومبياد الروماني للسيدات، كذلك فاز الأردن بجائزتين ضمن جوائز “فاطمة بنت مبارك” لرياضة المرأة في أبو ظبي

لاعبة كرة المضرب التونسية، أنس جابر، كانت أول عربية تصل إلى نهائي ويمبلدون، وأولَّ عربيةٍ على الإطلاق تحتلًّ المركزَ الثاني في تصنيفِ اللاعبات المحترفات

أمّا في المغرب، فأصبحت بشرى الكربوبي أولَّ حاكمةٍ في كرة القدم تُديرُ نهائي كأس العرش في المغرب، في سابقة من نوعها في العالم العربي

في موازاة إنجازات المرأة العربية هناك نقاط ضوء عديدة لصالح المرأة نستقيها من سائر أنحاء العالم  

من وينيت زاراي من زيمبابوي التي حازت على جائزة الأمم التحدة لحفظ السلام لعملها مع البعثة في جنوب السودان وجهودِها لمناصرة المساواة بين الجِنسيْن

الى عازفة الكمان المكسيكية مارثا كوروزو، التي قادت وألهمت مجموعة من حوالي 17.000 ناشط بيئي محلي، مُكَرِّسين حمايةَ منطقة سييرا غوردا النائية والجميلة

هذه النساء وغيرُهن من المبادِرات، وإنْ كُنَّ تبعثنَ ولو القليل من الأمل بالتغيير لا تمحينَ واقعًا أليمًا لا تزال تعيشُه النساء والسيدات في العالم… إذْ لا تزال نسبةُ جرائمِ القتل الأُسَرِية مرتفعة/ كما في الاردن والعراق وحتى لبنان ودول الخليج  حيث من المطلوب المزيد من القوانين والإجراءات العملية لوضعِ حدٍّ لكلِّ أشكال العنف القائم على النوع الإجتماعي وإلغاء التمييز على صعيد الأحوال الشخصية، وإنهاء ولاية أمر الرجل والإذن بالسفر، إلخ

وإذا انتقلنا الى أفغانستان المشهدُ يُدمي القلب إذ بعد عشرين عاماً من صراع المرأة ونضالِها لتحصيل حقوقها عادت حركة طالبان لحظر تعليم النساء ومنعِهنَّ من العمل

بالطبع لا يمكننا تقديمُ واقعٍ شاملٍ تفصيليٍّ لوضع المرأة بصورةٍ إجمالية  نظرا لضيق الوقت، لكنّنا أصرّينا على سردِ بعض المبادرات التي تجسّد أهميّة نضال المجتمعات حتّى نيل المرأة كاملَ حقوقِها، ونقصد هنا نضالَ المرأةِ والرجلِ معًا… الرجل المؤمن بشريكتِه في المجتمع

ما أخْبَرْنا عنهُ من انجازاتٍ حققتها المرأة أو صعوباتٍ تواجهها ليس إلا تأكيد على أننا على الطريق الصحيح وإن كان الدرب لا يزال طويلًا، إلّا أننا مؤمنون بانتصار الحقّ في نهاية المطاف

ونحن في مؤسسة مي شدياق، وعبر برامجنا السنوية، ومن خلال المؤتمر الذي نعقدُه اليوم خصوصًا، نُجدّدُ ايمانَنا بالمرأةِ القادرة على تخطّي كلِّ الحواجز، فنخطو خطوةً جديدةً في مسيرتِنا المتواضعة لدعمِ المرأةِ، القادرة بالتأكيد كما الرجل وأكثر، على صنعِ القرار

Read more

Renewing Lebanon’s Political and Economic Structures Policy Brief


Lebanon is going through an acute economic, financial, political and health crises that are endangering its population, plunging them into poverty and threatening their well-being. In this respect, National and International guest speakers in eleven panels and two fireside talks not only provided useful information about what went wrong in Lebanon but also recommended some policies in response to the multifaceted crisis, the country is facing. These policies can serve as an action plan to avoid the country’s free fall. In this respect, the present report summarizes the deliberations and provides the path to recovery.


Everything! According to the panelists, the crisis in Lebanon started as a debt crisis, became a banking crisis, turned into an economic one, and ended up as a social and humanitarian crisis. While the financial and economic crisis is likely to rank in the top 3 most severe crises episodes; the social impact of the crisis was catastrophic as more than half of the population is below the national poverty line. The crisis collapsed the most basic public services, mainly the electricity, sanitation, and education. The meltdown or “Depression” shacked all institutions, while it is currently putting unprecedented pressure on the sole institution that is left, as putting at risk the Lebanese armed forces (LAF).

The panels allowed us to discuss and examine the multi political, economic, financial, social, and humanitarian levels. According to the guest speakers, they revealed the following:

I- On the political level:

In all panels, the guest speakers agreed that the political situation that has led to complete chaos in managing the country, is a mix of internal and external factors.

A- The internal factors

The internal factors are related to anti-governance, corruption, religious, and sectarian power- sharing structure issues. According to Ms. Mona Yacoubian, Senior Advisor at USIP, these factors are linked to the fact that the Lebanese government not only lacks the political will, but that it completely refuses to undertake the necessary reforms that can prevent the country from going out of the multi-level crises.

The country was paralyzed since the Civil War to the post-civil war, to the Syrian hegemony, and to the post Syrian hegemony. To Mr. Paul Salem, President of the Middle East Institute, the state

lost its sovereignty in the late 1960s to the PLO during the Civil War and after the war to the Syrians and Hezbollah. It became a state without the basic building blocks of what a state should be. It had never been able to control its borders, its territory and its sovereignty, which helped the quick collapse in the last two years. As a matter of fact, when the war ended, a new government was forged to pave the way for sectarian warlords to become the country’s political leaders as argued by Ms. Nada Abdelsater, founder & managing Partner of Abdelsater – Abusamra & Associates. In short, the political class who created a tailored confessional system, based on consensus, broke the country.

The problem according to Ms. Maha Yahya, director of the Malcom H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East center, is that there was no accountability at the end of the Civil War; even worse, many of those who were accountable found themselves in positions of power. As for Mr. Amer Bisat, managing director & Head of sovereign and emerging Markets(alpha), Blackrock New York, the problem is that we are still moving on, as if nothing has happened, not even the port explosion, which is completely unacceptable.

For Ms. Rachel Dore-Weeks, Head of UN Women in Lebanon, it should be admitted that Lebanon is suffering from a governance crisis that is not accidental, but as a “man-made” one, as argued by Mr. Nasser Saidi, economist, and former Minister of Economy and Industry. Part of this governance crisis derives from a governance system built on exclusion, whereas the only real place where inclusion hit records is the confessional one.

While preaching for democracy and the rule by the people, the political power-sharing deal, called the Taif agreement, had been divided between the self-dealing elite and the patronage-based system. To Mr. Hussein El-Achi, attorney, and Secretary General at Minteshreen, this sharing system is called kleptocracy; more, vitocracy. It is based on institutional sabotage and appointments of public servants within the administration, covered by Hezbollah who is deeply implicated in corruption. Corruption, that caused the Port of Beirut explosion and the entry of ammonium nitrates, as argued by Mr. Saadeddine El-Khatib, Secretary of the Beirut Bar Association. The same corruption, that transformed the port into a piggy bank to finance the electoral campaigns of the ruling gang in Lebanon, under the hegemony of the armed Iran’s ally, the Hezbollah proxy, who is the main player in Lebanon, according to Mr. Riad Kobaissi, Head of the investigative Unit at Al Jadeed News. The Hezbollah who has the monopoly of force and the dramatic influence over the Lebanese Affairs, according to Mr. Paul Salem in panel 1. Whereas, since 2018, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was forbidden from recruiting fresh blood and new personnel, for three consecutive years, because of the budget law in 2018, despite what the LAF demonstrated in Fajer Al Jouroud; which weakened and degraded its ability to function, according to Brigadier General Ziad El Hachem, LAF former deputy chief of staff for planning.

B- The external factors

The external factors are mostly related to the influence of the constant interference from neighboring states such as Syria, Israel and Iran. For our guest speakers, they are also related to the nuclear agreement with Iran and the delisting of the Revolutionary Guard (the IRGC) as a terrorist organization. In panel 9, Mr. Sami Nader, economist, Middle Eastern affairs analyst, and former advisor to Lebanon’s Minister of labor, stressed that the delisting would have a direct impact on Lebanon and on the region because, in a way, it is legitimizing the Hezbollah, who is on the one side an integrated part of the Revolutionary Guard, and on the other, the party who is in charge and in control in Lebanon on behalf of Iran. A potential final agreement will inevitably reflect on the countries of the region, especially on geostrategic countries with a future which hinges on how conflicts between world powers play out. But, for Mr. Tarek Mitri, former government Minister and former director of the Issam Fares Institute on Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, who seems more optimistic, the effects of lifting some of the economic sanctions on Iran would be beneficial, as Iran will abandon its negative behavior and its destabilizing regional policy.

On their side, the West, Europe, and the United States, are doing their best to help Lebanon, its economic reform and recovery, and its Army to preserve the country’s stability. To Ms. Rana Abtar, Senior correspondent at El Sharq Awsat, there is a great reliance on the current French administration to solve the crisis. To Mr. Jospeh Bahout, director at the Issam Fares Institute for public policy and international affairs, and a former nonresident fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program”, the American policy in Syria has one title, the “Al-Tanf Crossing”, who controls it, and who controls the entry of Iranian weapons through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon. He is convinced that two different perspectives characterize the American strategic review. During Trump’s term, the strategy considered that if Lebanon collapses, it will take on its way the Hezbollah. While during the Biden administration, there was a different interpretation: Lebanon’s collapse can contribute to Hezbollah’s access to power. To Ms. Hanin Ghaddar, Friedmann fellow at the Washington Institute, the collapse has nothing to do with the US, but the US role and policy in the region can affect the country.

Mr. Sami Nader also argued that the turn of events in Ukraine had played a negative role on changing the conditions of the Iranian deal and on changing the position of one major stakeholder, which is Russia. He said and we quote: “Russia would not be happy to see this deal signed, despite all what is said. It won’t be happy to see Iranian oil flooding into the market. And this will weaken a very strong card that they have in that sense. Secondly, it defocuses U.S attention from the Middle East. So today, the priority for Washington is dealing with this crisis, then dealing with China’s rising power. Therefore, we’re seeing a growing concern among the traditional American allies, who are keeping a distance from Washington regarding this. So, it is a bit surprising in the diplomatic dynamic in the last days to see America’s traditional allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel- getting together without America. This is because they have a common position when it

comes to the Iranian deal and the possible threat that it will not deal with strategic issues,but would be restricted to the nuclear ones”.

In parallel, while Mr. Tarek Mitri, former government Minister and former director of the Issam Fares Institute on public policy and international affairs at the AUB, stressed that the region is not a priority anymore for the American foreign policy in the post-withdrawal from Afghanistan; Mr. Andrew Tabler, Martin J. Gross fellow in the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute, argued that there has been a de-prioritization of the Middle East in the American foreign policy. He said and we quote: ‘There has been de-prioritization of the Middle East in American foreign policy. But overall, in the Democratic party, there’s also been a de-prioritization of foreign policy in general, while foreign policy is the thing that’s weighing the most upon the Democratic party at this point. There’s a lot of concern about President Biden’s grip on power, and particularly the grip on a divided democratic party. And those divisions are being exacerbated by what we see in Afghanistan, and, in what we see in Ukraine.”

However, and according to Mr. Ohannes Geukjian, Chairperson of the political studies & public administration department at the American University of Beirut: “The American policy and the making of American foreign policy are not only in the hands of the President of the United States. There is a Congress. And in the midterm elections, the Democrats lost the large majority in it”.

There’s a lot of concern about the next step since the United States is not calming its allies in the region regarding the strategic role of the Vienna agreement and will not be able to, says Ms. Randa Slim- Senior fellow and director at the Middle East Institute and fellow of the SAIS foreign policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University-, especially that many of the Biden’s Administration figures, who are holdovers from the Obama Administration, are not trusted by the region. The region politics are more and more driven by regional actors such as Russia, turkey, Israel, the GCC countries, who are driven by their own respective calculus, and their own decision-making processes. The problem for Lebanon is the maritime borders that is directly and indirectly related to the Vienna Talks, the negotiations with Israel and the possible deal with the IMF, because the major player on the ground is Hezbollah. And all the above problems are related to the relationship between Tehran and Washington.

It is to note here that the Gulf countries, used to always be alongside Lebanon, which is not currently the case, as stated by Mr. Paul Salem. But, as argued by Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein – Senior Vice President and distinguished Senior fellow on U.S. diplomacy at MEI and former principal Deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs between 2013 and 2016 under President Obama-, the Biden administration is working very closely with partners, such as France, Saudi Arabia, the GCC and others, to put together an international consensus on how to address economic and territorial integrity and  sovereignty  issues, and  support urgently needed

macroeconomic and structural reforms in Lebanon.

Furthermore, according to Mr. Pierre Duquesne, who served since September 2020, as the French Ambassador in charge of coordinating international support to Lebanon and as the manager of the implementation of the CEDRE conference resolutions; the Ukraine war is not changing the nature of the crisis, but its degree and its gravity. It reinforced the structural weaknesses of the Lebanese economic model, the financial disorder, and the volatility of the currency, dependency to imports in general, and the extensive role of the imported fossil fuels for production of energy.

In a holistic approach, the political context through which the Lebanese crisis needs to be managed is almost non- existent, which led to the economic collapse.

II-                On the Economic, Banking, financial level

Following the 1975 and 1990 civil war, successive governments piled up debt with little to show for their spending binge, resulting in a financial collapse that the World Bank has said could rank among the world’s worst recession in over 150 years. Since 2019, poverty has dramatically increased with the local currency plummeting to a fraction of its pre-crisis value. The result has been severe inflation and unemployment, putting the cost of basic living out of reach for thousands of people, and resulting in severe social and humanitarian needs. State bankruptcy led to a breakdown in public services. The service-oriented economy backboned by banks was paralyzed, while the country was driven to bankruptcy by a handful of sectarian politicians.

To Mr. Amer Bisat, managing director & Head of sovereign and emerging markets(alpha), Blackrock New York, the economic crisis is just as traumatic as any other political shock that the country has faced, including the civil war and the port explosion on the 4th of August 2020. The country is currently witnessing a massive loss of wealth and brain drain. To Ms. Hanin Ghaddar, Friedmann fellow at the Washington Institute, the country is collapsing due to internal reasons related to corruption. In short, the economic disaster is tied into impunity and not being able to address justice for the last thirty-one years. Right now, Lebanon is going through Whiplash, (as an analogy), in echo to Ms. Maha Yahya, Director of Malcom H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center. “The country who was once considered as a middle-income country is not even a very low, low, low income one anymore. The shock to the system is huge and it is changing the very identity of the country”, she said.

Mr. Nasser Saidi, economist and former Minister of Economy and Industry, cited the different economic grave “man-made” problems, the country is facing:

  • The deliberate policy of avoiding reforms by the ruling elite.
  • The rampant corruption that was enabled by a system who was supposed to be borrowing to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure but didn’t. Instead, it eroded trust, weakened the democracy, and further exacerbated the crisis.
  • The bursting results of a Ponzi scheme, that is the responsibility of the central bank, who borrowed increasingly, to protect an overvalued Lebanese pound, which increased the debts,

increased the fiscal deficits, and the burden on the government due to higher and higher interest rates over time.

  • The result of the overvalued exchange rate that run larger and larger current account deficits. The exchange rate depreciation that affected the minimum wage that is running at $28 per month and led to an acute inequality in the income distribution. The peg that hurt sensitive groups: while the judge is currently earning around 187 dollars per month, the university professor is earning around 156 dollars per month, and the soldier 54 dollars per month.
  • The pegging of the exchange rate, a long-term policy pursued by the central bank, that allowed large consumption more than ability, leading to account deficits.
  • The shutdown of the banks in October and November 2019 that was the catalyst for the outburst. An unusual step that shattered public trust in the banking system. As a result, there was a bank run, which resulted in the suspension of payments and the freezing of deposits, both in Lebanese pounds and later in dollars, leaving the depositors unable to retrieve their rapidly depreciating funds.
  • The widespread corruption across ministries and industries most notably the ministry of energy which cost Lebanon more than $40 billion over the years (a substantial amount of the current debt).
  • The government default by $1.2 billion Eurobond, in 2020, that was the first sovereign default for the country.
  • But also, the vibrant results of the drug production and smuggling that is backed up by the Syrian regime and the Hezbollah, as described by Paul Salem in Panel 1.

All this led to:

  • A massive decline of GDP since 2018, which is about 58 percent in real terms.
  • The depreciation of the Lebanese pound by more than 85 percent.
  • A three-digit inflation that is running at an annual rate of 240 percent.
  • A food inflation that is running close to 480 percent.
  • Large fiscal deficits, resulting in a large accumulation of debt, running at over a 175 percent of GDP.

A broader view to be taken into consideration is the impact of the dependency to imports in general, and the extensive role of the imported fossil fuels for production of energy. In panel 3, Mr. Amos Hochstein- who currently serves as the Special Envoy and coordinator for International Energy Affairs and leads the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) at the U.S. Department of State- pointed that the energy situation in Lebanon reached an acute level, as the country is having rolling blackouts. There are only few hours of electricity per day, while “no economy and no country can begin to stabilize its economy or even begin to think about growth without stabilizing the energy market or without beginning to see a pathway for growing the number of hours of electricity towards a full day for homes and small businesses, as well as hospitals, airport, healthcare, and

food and water. They all require electricity, so this is the basics. If we can’t do this, then we can’t do almost anything else”. According to Mr. Amos Hochstein, “energy is important to Lebanon, to its people but also to the United States who cares about Lebanon and its people. The country is drowning because it doesn’t have its own resources or significant distribution and production through renewable energy. Reason why it is imperative to hold appropriate negotiations with Israel to finish the demarcation of the southern border”.

III-             On the Social level

According to the guest speakers, Lebanon is amid a rapidly escalating, unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is plunging the country deep into poverty and is threatening the population well-being, and their social welfare. The severe economic and financial crisis caused tremendous hardship for the people and the Syrian refugees, forcing an unprecedented number of them to rely on humanitarian assistance. The World Bank has described this crisis as one of the most severe globally since the mid-19th century. With the collapse of virtually all sectors of the economy, large segments of the people have lost their means of subsistence and access to essential services, including nutrition.

The joint Government-Central bank mismanagement led to severe social, educational, and health problems, whereas (i) 60% of the population is now considered poor while 70 to 80% of the population suffer from some sort of multi-dimensional poverty, as stressed by Ms. Maha Yahya.

  • Unemployment is soaring and running at 50%. (iii) The country is witnessing massive migration, the loss of its human capital, and the loss of its brilliant talents, which is a crime as stressed by Mr. Amer Bisat.

Humanitarian assistance is provided under two response plans: The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) and the Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The first one existed for the past ten years. It is addressing the host communities and is limited to 256 districts. The ERP, which is complementing the LCRP, addresses only the needs of the Lebanese and the migrants. Up till now, the LCRP is not supporting the Lebanese with the same amount and the same level of assistance, support, and protection as the refugees, because it was not actually formulated and developed for that. Another problem, according to Ms. Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, is that up till now, Lebanon is considered as a middle-income country. “Reason why there is very little funding, less than12% for the ERP, which decreases the humanitarian assistance, as the host community did not have the same needs that we see today, for food security, for access to health services, or for education”, as stated by Ms. Rochdi.

On the food security: What’s happening in Russia and Ukraine, is going to affect not only the security and the stability throughout the Middle East, but mainly the global supply of wheat off

the market, said Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein, Senior Vice President, and distinguished Senior Fellow on U.S. diplomacy at MEI. The problem is that we are starting to see malnutrition and non- access to water among Lebanese children, which is really the first time ever, as argued by Ms. Rochdi.

On the Health care sector: Lebanon’s healthcare system is disintegrating as the country is grappling with one of the worst economic crises in the world. In front of the shortages of medications, diesel and fuel, the authorities need to act immediately to avoid even worse consequences. The sector is suffering from harsh political interference preventing part of the population from adequate healthcare. MP. Ghassan Hasbani, former Deputy Prime Minister, and Former Minister of Health, stressed that the funds that were provided to improve the primary health care centers by the World Bank were halted by the successive Hezbollah Ministers because of a disagreement on transparency of distribution of funds through the Ministry of Health. Which is not the case.

On the education sector: Compounded crises have placed Lebanon’s education sector under severe strain. Amid internet dysfunction, power outages, transportation costs, covid-19 concerns and salary decrease, education became largely inefficient and inequitable. The increase in poverty rates led to an exodus of students from private to public schools. The lack of a clear strategy became a constant source of anxiety for both, the parents, and the unlucky generation.

On the gender equality: Some numbers should be introduced to shed light on another social issue related to gender gap and discrimination. For even though women were granted the right to vote back in 1953 in Lebanon, Ambassador Dorothy Shea stressed that the world economic Forum data ranked Lebanon 132nd out of 156 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index, 112 out of 155 countries worldwide in political empowerment, and 182 out of 190 with regards to women’s participation in Parliament as of April 2021. These numbers give a sense of the gravity of what ordinary Lebanese have been up against, as argued by the U.S. Ambassador. Well before the economic crisis compounded by the global pandemic of Covid, women and girls were already at a situation of disadvantage. The Beirut Port explosion of August 2020 had more severe impact on them, pushing a high percentage of girls to dropping out of school and to early childhood marriage. The barriers for women persist in the Lebanese society. They go from technical, to financial, to legal, to mental. To Ms. Loredana Teodorescu, Head of European and International Affairs at Istituto Luigi Sturzo, & President of Women in International Security (WISS) Italy, they are mostly linked to the mindset of the patriarchal mentality, culture, and biases, that will take time to change. They are also related to the political will, that exclude and prevent women from expressing their full potential. To Ms. May Chidiac, President of May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute and Former Minister, the male-dominated power prevents for instance, most of the 128 Lebanese parliamentarians from voting for a law or a quota that can lead to excluding themselves and leaving their space for women. This simple equation won’t work, because even though, some political parties make formal commitments to gender equality, they fall short of living them out, she said.


The economy contraction, the plummeting purchase power, the decline in well-being and the deterioration in living conditions in Lebanon have exacerbated national deficiencies and institutional weaknesses. In such an environment, there is a growing need for policy responses that can lower the obstacles. The country needs to urgently embark on a comprehensive reform agenda. The second part of the present report provides evidence-based solutions founded on the diagnostic of the different key challenges detected in all eleven panels and the two fireside talks. It proposes policy reform recommendations over the short, medium to long-terms.

In this respect, the second part of the report discusses seven Key interconnected strategic areas: 1) The rule of Law; 2) The course of the Parliamentary Elections; 3) The LAF and the Borders security; 4) The Economic and Financial Reforms; 5) The Energy Crisis; 6) The International Humanitarian aids; and 7) Women Mediation role in peace processes.

These recommendations for action tackle key challenges. Embracing and implementing them can benefit all citizens in Lebanon aiming for a more sustainable and better future. To reinvent the future, there is a strong need to focus on reducing the significant political and economic unrest that is exacerbating social polarization, undermining the national security, and eroding trust in government leaders. But, although trust in government has fallen, yet it is the government itself who must bear the political responsibility to solve the fundamental problems, achieve safety, and ensure democratic governance of citizen security. In this sense, our guest speakers were counting on the parliamentary elections 2022 to enhance accountability, encourage adherence of rules and regulations and ensure that the security activities are in line with democratic best practices.

  1. The rule of Law
Proven arbitrary after the Port of Beirut explosion, the rule of Law is to become effective and durable. Its four universal principles constitute the only framework that can build a country: accountability, just Law, open government, and accessible and impartial Law. If implemented, these pillars guarantee a reformed judiciary. The rest will follow.

Panel 3 stressed on the weak rule of Law and lack of good governance that are the core reasons behind the Port of Beirut explosion. To Mr. Riad Kobeissi, Aljadeed TV investigative journalist and one of the winners of the U.S. State Department 2021 International Anti- Corruption Champions Award, corruption is infiltrated into the customs, the administration of the Port of Beirut and the department of transportation. The Special Judge was notified 6 times, about the mafia logic who put a Captagon plant, next to 2,700 tons of ammonium, next to 30,000 tons of fireworks; yet no action was taken; leading the mixture to a massive “nuclear bomb”.

According to Mr. Saadeddine El-Khatib, Secretary of the Beirut Bar Association, the case of the Beirut port explosion was referred to the Higher Judicial Council who appointed two executive judges to lead the investigation. When Judge Tarek Bitar took the file, he led a domestic investigation, filed a lawsuit against some people he found guilty, and issued a stop warrant against others. Political interference coupled with long-standing failings of the judicial system made a credible and impartial investigation impossible. Obstructions, requests for response and requests for transfer of claim and the state-sharing requests delayed the investigation, in a country where the political sphere intervenes in everything, on a daily basis. To note that the forensic investigator never had an office, any assistance, large teamwork, or the financial capabilities or even the technical ones to report on how the crime happened and who brought the “Bomb”, in echo to Ms. Nada Abdelsater, founder & managing partner of Abdelsater – Abusamra & Associates – ASAS LAW.

To Mr. Ibrahim Najjar, Professor and Former Minister of Justice, according to the Lebanese law, investigator Tarek Bitar was required to release a presumptive decision at once, proceed with the investigation, take another partial decision, and then continue the investigation. He couldn’t and he won’t be able to, said Mr. Najjar, because the history of the judicial council had always been empty. Despite all gathered information, the judicial council had never been able to issue any rulings regarding, for instance, the assassination of President Bashir Gemayel, or elucidate the case of Sayyid Musa al-Sadr, and reach the truth. In this respect, there is an urgent need to implement the rule of Law to ensure the reign of a culture of respect for the state and the institutions. It will hence be mandatory:

  • To develop the Code of Criminal law Procedures in Lebanon, reconsider judicial formations, and reconsider how to release them, how to protect judges from politicians and how to re- educate public life in Lebanon.
  • To reform the Lebanese civil and administrative judiciaries. Without an independent judiciary, the country cannot escape the socioeconomic “Hell” in which it has been thrown in, by some political ruling elite.
  • To protect public funds, hold corrupt officials to account, and preserve citizens’ rights.
  • To go back to Article 20 of the Lebanese Constitution that guarantees that the judiciary is founded as an independent entity, subject only to the law.
  • To safeguard the independence of both the judiciary as an institution and of judges individually, judicial councils must be independent. Judges should be chosen by their peers and not by politicians, to ensuring that such councils will be acting in an objective, fair and independent manner.
  • Furthermore, foreign policies should help Lebanon. The US policy already considers the Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but more penalties should be imposed on the party leaders and supporters, in echo to Ms. Rana Abtar, Senior correspondent of Sharq Awsat. “The Biden administration should follow the Trump administration and counter more foreign policies,

related to corruption. After the Beirut explosion, sanctions should punish not only the Hezbollah, but also all corrupt Lebanese leaders.”

Moreover, for Mr. Saadeddine El-Khatib Khatib, Secretary of the Beirut Bar Association, the immunities of the deputies are not absolute. Like lawyers or employees, the deputy can be sued and pursued. Articles 60 and 70 of the constitution should be therefore made effective. Article 60 gives an exception only to the President of the Republic, and not to the Prime Minister or to the Ministers, while article 70 of the constitution doeـs not limit the trial of Ministers and Heads of government to the Supreme Council. It is possible for them to be tried before an ordinary court.

2-      The course of the Parliamentary Elections

Lebanon’s economic depression is “orchestrated by elite”, says World Bank. Change is needed to alter the governance model and practices in the country. Given Lebanon’s ongoing economic and social crises, is there any hope for change after the 2022 parliamentary elections?

A lot have been said in the panels concerning the parliamentary elections and the expected changes. To Mr. Hussein El-Achi, Attorney & Secretary General of Minteshreen, for instance, actual change starts by changing the social contract. To Ms. Maha Yahya, director of Malcom H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, the notion that change can happen through one set of elections is unlikely to happen.” It can happen, if there’s a military coup, but we are not going to have one’, she said. “Instead, a lot of different dynamics come into play in a country that is totally different from the US, where only two political parties run off against each other”. To Mr. Mohammad Chamseddine, researcher at International Company for information, the Lebanese electoral Law itself is against change. It divides the country to 15 uncomprehend districts, with no criterion.

According to Mr. Ziyad Baroud, Lawyer and managing partner at HBDT Law Firm and former Minister of Interior and Municipalities, we should not look at the consensus in a negative sense, and we should not accept the charter with the only principle of unanimity. “For example, all issues require two-thirds of the Council of Ministers. But the Charter in its limits says that when you vote by two-thirds, the decision to which everyone must be subject to, must be followed. I think that in Lebanon there are things like the paragraph in the Constitution that talks about coexistence that should not be subject to amendment. We could invent means to protect the meaning and message of Lebanon and at the same time make things easier for people. Citizens are the ones who pay a very high price today because of the economic and financial policies that have brought us to what we are experiencing”.

To Mr. Sam Menassa, writer and former executive director at La Maison Du Futur, sectarianism is still soaring, while the country is under guardianship authority and under occupation. He argued “that after the port explosion, and even though, French President Emmanuel Macron hold responsible the Lebanese people for electing the current members of the parliament”; Mr.

Menassa does not expect any big changes with the new elections, but the creation of a small opposition which will be even more internally fragmented. In a failed state scenario, all panelists, in panel 7, agreed that there is a need for:

  • Engaged citizens who should participate in the political process, protest the injustices, organize, and struggle and do not leave politics to the same politicians.
  • For a broader political culture that calls for change through the elections.
  • All parties should get involved and all voices should be heard. When former Prime Minister, Mr. Saad Hariri decided to withdraw from politics, he sent the wrong message to the Sunni community asking them not to get involved in the elections. Abstaining from voting leads to pay a huge price, says Mr. Joseph Gebeily, President of the Lebanese Information Center in the U.S.
  • To get into the habit of having public debates around policy choices, around a future vision for Lebanon, and around groups running for the elections based on programs, and not because of their belonging to a sectarian affiliation, or to political hereditary, or other.
  • To improve governance, representation, and policies against Hezbollah’s heavily armed backed by Iran, as Mr. Paul Salem, President of Middle East Institute proposed.
  • To reach out the new generations through social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, or Facebook, as suggested by Mr. Hussein El-Achi, attorney & the Secretary General of Minteshreen.
  • To stop the hate speech: To Ms. Najat Rochdi, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, the hate speech is growing in both the social and the normal media. It should end if we want to hold together such a fragmented and conflicting society and if we want for the elections to lead to something constructive and positive.
  • To install a better legal political environment, where Law dictates the structure, boundaries, rules, and processes, within which governmental action should take place. According to MP Georges Okais, the righteous, the competent, the brave, and the clean should not withdraw from the political work.
  • To keep the democratic face of Lebanon and preserve the constitutional democratic ” To unite the transformative power, which is a combination of several heterogenous groups to get stronger.
  • For the elections to be transparent, and for the freedom of the voter to be guaranteed.

According to the constitution, three articles 7, 11, and 21, ensure equivalence and non-difference between citizens. But the LAF are restricted and forbidden to vote, unlike the American soldiers who can, 48 hours before the day of the elections. Hence, Brigadier General (Ret) Ziad Elhachem suggested that those who guarantee the elections should be allowed to vote before the civilians.

3-      The LAF and the Borders security

The Lebanese army is very central to US policy in Lebanon. It is the only source of influence for the US in Lebanon since Bush’s term, as the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has managed to remain the only credible National Security actor. It is a cross-sectarian organization that enjoys broad popular support all throughout the country, north to south, and east to west. It is the sole legitimate defense provider in the country, and the sole remained institution in the country, states Colonel Robert Meine, U.S. Army Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché.

A Key component of the US Policy towards Lebanon: the security assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

A- As for the LAF

Although funding the LAF, during Mr. David Schenker’s tenure, had been controversial, because of the organization’s collusion with and penetration by Hezbollah, such support is nowadays a cornerstone of U.S. policy in Lebanon. The unstable balance between the LAF and Hezbollah showed that there will be not enough room for two preeminent military institutions. Therefore, Washington had reconsidered supporting the Lebanese army, yet the pressure is still there, argued Mr. Joseph Bahout, Director at Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, and International Affairs and a former nonresident fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program. To Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein, Senior Vice President of the MEI, the United States is keen to help strengthening the LAF to help them carry out their mission of safeguarding Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity. For Colonel Robert Meine, U.S. Army Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché, the US is supporting the LAF in their different several strategic, operational, and tactical needs, so that they do not collapse socially and economically. “But this does not mean a militarily support” as per Colonel Meine. A five-year security assistance roadmap and a capabilities development plan were developed to address the LAF strategic needs. Operations were sustained as needs such as fuel, food for soldiers, spare parts, and other were delivered to the LAF. 67 million dollars were offered to support the soldiers within the current economic crisis, to buy time for the Lebanese government to address needed reforms and to proceed with the IMF loan. 80% of these aids come from the US, while other subventions are provided by other countries including Britain and France. But what about the borders?

B- As for the Borders security Two Bottlenecks were found:

The first: After US-imposed Caesar Act, Hezbollah continues its operations to smuggle items, including those subsidized by the Central Bank, such as food, fuel, and medicine, into Syria via unofficial crossings it controls, even as the Lebanese people were going hungry. The LAF units along the land border in Syria are deploying some security measures but are still unwilling to stop the smuggling.

The Second: Other factors are at play between Lebanon and Israel, who have no agreed land border. The current demarcation is the “Blue Line” system, drawn by the UN in 2000, after Israel withdrawal from south Lebanon, to stop Hezbollah’s attacks against it.

The UNIFIL keeps in this course a strong relationship with the state of authority, as stated by Major General Stefano Del Col, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander before the end of his mission in Lebanon. It monitors what is happening in the south of Lebanon along to the blue line and reports any violations that occur. Moreover, the UNIFIL helps citizens and Lebanese farmers to cross the blue line and harvest the olive trees, that are, technically speaking, in the South part of the blue line; while it creates the stability for others to work on the maritime decisions. Therefore, there is a need to increase the dialogue between Lebanon and Israel to resolve the problems, including the problem of the maritime borders. According to Major General Stefano Del Col, citizens from both side of the blue line want to live in a peaceful way.

The question is: what is the size of Hezbollah which the United States is ready to accept? Especially that the Hezbollah matters to Washington, since it is an Iran proxy that poses threats to Israel.

According to the panelists, the negotiations’ objective that are taking place in Vienna, is to reconstitute the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is a very structured and limited agreement focused on Iran’s nuclear program. The success of the negotiations can give hope to Hezbollah to extend its influence and destabilize Lebanon’s security; but the Biden administration has adopted a sort of dual policies: one for the country, and another for Hezbollah. While the US is currently trying to rescue Lebanon and its army from failure, undercutting Hezbollah is its top priority. It has repeatedly sanctioned the Hezbollah and deprive it from its resources. The problem though is about the political class in Lebanon. in 2005, the Bush Administration compelled the Assad regime to abandon Lebanon all together. And today they’re back politically, through the Iran proxy.

In this respect, we quote Mr. Joel Rayburn, fellow at New America Foundation and visiting fellow at Hoover Institution, as he said that, “when Secretary Pompeo made his visit to Beirut in the spring of 2019, he went with an ultimatum to the Lebanese political class which was saying, listen, you guys must make a choice. You can’t continue to be political enablers of Hezbollah, to be in political alliances with Hezbollah, and then expect to be treated distinctly from Hezbollah when it comes to U.S sanctions and overall Quds Force. You can’t be friends with us and with Hezbollah when there’s this escalating confrontation between the Quds Force and Hezbollah on the one side, and

the U.S and its allies on the other, in the region. And I would say that the Lebanese political class didn’t respond to that ultimatum. And then six months later the financial meltdown happened. Essentially, when Secretary Pompeo had the lead for this file in Trump’s administration, he was saying that if you don’t dissociate yourself from Hezbollah politically, then we’re going to treat you as an enabler of Hezbollah and we’re going to start sanctioning you”.

In this context, Mr. Joseph Gebeily, President of the Lebanese Information Center in the U.S., said and we quote: “It is extremely urgent for all military weapons to be confined to the Lebanese state, to rebuild the Army, and to send appropriate messages to the civilians and to our citizens that the LAF are defending them”. He also said that since the Bush administration, the US decided to help securing Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and to work on the

implementation of the security council resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701, to disband all militias, control borders with Syria, and expand State Authority.

Mr. Robert Danin, Principal at Georgetown global strategies, and White House National Security Council, also expressed that it is extremely important for the Lebanese people to understand that, in these challenging times, if the United States seeks to support them with emergency preparedness, they also need to help themselves through conducting necessary reforms.

The problem is that for the last 40 years, not one government proposed a National Security strategy, upon Brigadier General (Ret) Ziad Elhachem; while there is an urgent need for the Minister of Defense to write a defense strategy, and for the LAF to write a military strategy, as the challenges are many. They go from the human resources (80000 troops, including officers, NCOs, soldiers, and their families), to the health care facilities, to training the personnel, to logistics, to assistance and sponsoring, according to the LAF Doctrine. For Colonel Robert Meine, U.S. Army Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché, even though the new trend is less human factor, more technology, computers, and unmanned drones; the US keeps on recruiting, educating, training, cultivating, and retaining the relevant personnel to strengthening the LAF. The main characteristics of the LAF, being strong leadership and selfless personnel, willingness to make sacrifices and decisive actions to better the organization.

4-      The Economic, banking and Financial Reforms

In John Maynard Keynes terms, Lebanese people still view their wealth and income in nominal dollar terms, based on false prosperity, rather than recognizing their real value, adjusted for inflation, in reference to Pierre Duquesne, Ambassador in charge of coordinating international support to Lebanon, CEDRE.

The crisis in Lebanon is a mix of a financial, quality, solvability and of a governance crisis. The untenable situation is multi-dimensional and complicated and is an accumulation of a lot of

mistakes: the unproductive economy, the dysfunctional electricity system, and the bursting of the excessive government borrowing, of the Ponzi scheme, of the destructive bubble of consumption and the massive and endemic corruption. The country is completely cut off from the rest of the world. There is drainage on all resources including reserves leading to a complete collapse, in a country that largely depends on imports. Everything is informal. The private sector is just providing basic services based on an informal economy and a cash-based economy.

The banking system lies at the core of the country’s economic, banking, and financial crisis. The bank deposits decreased (at the time of the panels) to $28 billion in reserves, including gold, with a banks’ balance sheets hole surpassing $83 billion. Nevertheless, the deliberate denial continues to be creating long-lasting scars on both the economy and the society. Therefore, and as proposed by the guest speakers in panel 8, Mr. Pierre Duquesne, Ambassador in charge of coordinating international support to Lebanon, CEDRE; Mr. Nasser Saidi, Economist and Former Minister of Economy and Industry; Mr. Camille Abou Sleiman, Former Minister of Labor, Capital markets specialist; MP Ghassan Hasbani, Member of the Lebanese Parliament, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Former Minister of Health; and Mr. Saad Sabrah, Country Head/ Senior Country Officer, IFC; there is an urgent need:

  • For all stakeholders to be aware of the value of the “pressing time”.
  • To stop spending the rest of the mandatory reserves for electoral purposes.
  • To work on a clear collaborative National political and economic plan that includes all stakeholders, the classical political elite, the economy elite, the think tankers, the new forces, and the whole population. The plan is meant to support the pressing needs of the people and to confront the challenges affecting their livelihoods.
  • To restructure the banking system, the Central Bank and the BDL, to rebuild the economy and get trust back. The restructuring can help the banking system regain its liquidity and solvency, operate with the international financing system, and preserve its relations with the correspondent banks. Around 50% of the banks need to be liquidated while mergers and acquisitions between banks should be designed. After decreasing the number of banks, and lifting banking secrecy, it would be of interest to follow the example of the Swiss National Bank, described as a joint-stock company, and convert the remaining reserves, into bank shares, known as “bail-in”. Voting shares will be then held by the public shareholders. The bottleneck though is that the laws concerning the bankruptcy and insolvency systems in Lebanon, are too old and not quite adapted to the situation. Laws need to get modernized. Not to forget, the obligation under the law, for the state, to recapitalize the Central Bank.
  • To restructure the debt to achieve short-term fiscal space, meet all the country’s current and future payment obligations and medium-term debt sustainability.
  • To implement a clear change monetary policy: (i) to abandon the fixed rate. (ii) to unify the exchange rates and move towards flexible rates. (iii) to control inflation (iv) to stop financing government and (v) to stop subsidies.
  • To implement a clear accountability and to start a forensic audit. To note that there are three interlinked balance sheets, resulting from the crisis: the government’s balance sheet, the banks, and the BDL’s balance sheet. More, to acknowledge the losses and give another chance to the Lazard Freres.
  • To implement a capital control law, to limit the risk of losing having attachments with the correspondent banks. Plus, all transferred capitals after October 19 should be brought back to the country, except those for medical emergency, students abroad and other similar exceptions.
  • To get an agreement, a kind of a contractual obligation, on the government and Parliament to do the reforms with the IMF before the elections; despite the negative experience with the implementation of the CEDRE program, for at least four reasons: (i) to regain confidence from all actors internationally, but also from the Lebanese people; (ii) to deliver financial and technical assistance to the country; (iii) to ensure a full fledge framework for reforms, linking them together; and (iv) because this would help get more funding .
  • And to fight corruption. As stated by Mr. Joseph Gebeily, President of the Lebanese Information Center in the U.S., the American Treasury had always stressed, during their visits to Lebanon, the need to fight corruption, and the need to go after the accounts of the politically exposed persons.

To sum up, the country urgently needs a political rescue plan that will eventually lead to the economic rescue plan.

5-      The Energy Crisis

A well-structured and swift reform of the electricity sector is critical to address the long-standing and compounding challenges of the electricity sector which is at the center of Lebanon’s economic and social recovery.

According to Mr. Amos Hochstein, Special Envoy, Bureau of Energy Resources, there are two ways, on the short-term, to solve the energy crisis in Lebanon: by bringing gas from Egypt, and by bringing electricity from Jordan. The agreement to pump Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria, is expected to help Lebanon boost its production in electricity and alleviate the impact of the crisis that paralyzed the country. It includes the provision of Lebanon with electric power from Jordan through the Syrian network at 150 Mega Watt for six hours from midnight till six in the morning or the rest of the day for 18 hours and at 250 Mega Watts. Mr. Walid Fayad, Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water, nevertheless, added a third way, since Iraq agreed to supply Lebanon with the fuel it needs, 400 to 500 megawatts, which constitutes the least amount possible to be able to maintain only basic facilities such as the harbor, airport, and hospitals.

The benefits of the first agreement are related, to Mr. Saleh Ali Hamed Al-Kharabsheh, Jordanian Minister of Energy & Mineral Resources, to its symbolism and messaging. First, it will help

Lebanon open new areas of cooperation between the brotherly countries. Second, the arrangement with the World Bank will become possible. However, even though Jordan and Syria transport Network became ready, these benefits will not include the normalization with Syria, as stressed by Mr. Amos Hochstein, since the Caesar Act sanctions will continue to be in place.

Moreover, mandatory actions should be taken:

  • To solve the energy crisis: there is an urgent need to explore the oil and gas resources on the medium-term. And there is a need to increase the share of renewables under a national plan on the long-term, as argued by both, Mr. Amos Hochstein, and Mr. Pierre Duquesne.
  • To keep the negotiations going on with Israel: The two sides should agree on a deal, but the United States does not need to be a part of that necessarily. The gaps should be narrowed to reach a resolution, so that Lebanon can get onto the business of exploration, get foreign direct investment in the country, boost the economic activity, and ultimately have its own two types of resources: the gas that can come from the ocean, and the sun and the wind as renewables.

“In 2016, there was a deal on the table between Lebanon and Israel. Had it been implemented then, or reached then, there would have been exploration, and today Lebanon would have been producing gas. The country would have had 24 hours of electricity. Israel, Jordan, and Egypt pay their domestic around 4-5 dollars, while Europe is paying 30$, almost times 10. That could have been Lebanon’s price”; to quote Mr. Amos Hochstein, Special Envoy, Bureau of Energy Resources.

To Mr. Hochstein, Lebanon should be willing to take the right steps in the energy sector, on the economic level, to do necessary reforms, and to build long lasting foundations. If done, then the

U.S. will be supportive, if not, it wouldn’t be the crisis that the US needs to solve, can solve, or should solve. On its part, the international community, and the tax bearers around the world, who are represented through the World Bank, are asking for reforms to finance the agreements. To expect a final approval of the World Bank, accounts of the institution electricity should be transparent, and tenders should be launched.

6-      The International Humanitarian aids

The impact of the economic and financial crisis is extremely devastating. Lebanese people are unwilling to afford basic expenses like food, health, electricity, water, internet, fuel, and education. A fish or a stick to catch the fish?

More pressure on the political decision-makers is required to get the political and economic reforms in place, but the problem right now is on how to ensure humanitarian aids, stressed MP Ghassan Hasbani, in panel 2. But to Mr. Ralph Tarraf, Ambassador of the European Union to

Lebanon, who has another opinion on the subject; it is now the right time to invest in small enterprises and medium enterprises (SMEs), to promote entrepreneurship, enhance employment, and reinitiate an economic cycle to empower people and help them not to fall into the mindset of a humanitarian assistance, because Lebanon is not at a Somalia or a Yemen level.

But with the devaluation of the currency, the economic stumbling, and the complete irresponsibility of the political decision-makers and as we are quickly approaching at an exponential speed towards a situation of famine and death, there is an urgent need to rush into the aid of the people directly, through aid agencies and NGOs, and other non-governmental entities, proposed MP. Ghassan Hasbani. Basic food supplies and medication need to be delivered directly to people and not through public channels and governments. Cash support and digital money can be placed in action in an audited and transparent manner and go directly to people in need the same way, as the Syrian refugees are getting them from UNHCR.

“It is feasible, said Ms. Najat Rochdi, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, aside one challenge, which is the challenge of coordination”. It takes everybody’s Goodwill, the willingness to be transparent, and to be accountable, to lead such humanitarian actions.

7-        Women Mediation role in peace processes.

Recognizing women’s equal political participation and presentation, is key to achieve sustainable development. It is about time to hear the voice of Women.

Evidence shows that inclusion of women can affect the peace process. In this regard, there is a need to increase women’s participation in the political scene. To build the foundations of a new Lebanon, a clear normative framework and clear commitments from the Security Council and other forms state are calling to support women’s leadership and women’s engagement in Lebanon amidst these moments of crisis, according to Ms. Rachel Dore-Weeks, Head of UN Women in Lebanon.

The form of leadership that most women have built so far has been around compromise, negotiation and listening. There is a need for a new equation to address urgent issues, and think through the problems the country is facing, which is the good old-fashioned politics of bringing in new voices and new leadership into Lebanon’s governance framework: The voice of women. In this context, there is an urgent need:

  • For a robust legal and normative framework, many international legal instruments, national and international policy commitments also best practices to support women inclusion in Lebanon, according to Ms. Loredana Teodorescu, Head of European and International Affairs at Istituto Luigi Sturzo and President of the WIIS. But to Ms. May Chidiac, the Former Minister

and President of MCF- Media Institute, it is not a question of Laws and the issue of new resolutions, but rather the problem is about the implementation of National Action Plans that seek women’s inclusion.

  • To change the mindset and the perspectives on women’s role in the peace-making community, for Ms. Loredana Teodorescu.
  • To essentializing woman’s role and skills, and to bring women to dialogue and political governance and peacebuilding. Women should be perceived as political actors.
  • To eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, the youth, and all the marginalized groups, for Ms. Rachel Dore-Weeks.
  • To facilitate women’s capacity-building, participation, and inclusion in political life.
  • To encourage awareness on the civic and political rights of persons with disabilities and empower them. The appointment of Ms. Sara Minkara, as Special Advisor on International Disability Rights from the U.S. Department of State, enhances the value-based human rights and demonstrates that women with disabilities can play a transformative role in leadership and individual empowerment.

In this respect, and according to Ambassador Dorothy Shea, the U.S. Embassy developed a variety of programs to build women’s leadership skills and critical thinking skills to help them find solutions to their problems. In education, the USAID scholars, is supporting multiple scholarships, of which 58% of the scholars are women. In partnership with Lebanese Civil Society Institutions, who are part of the fabric of your Society, the US embassy is offering a program called teaching women English and Entrepreneurship. USAID has also recently launched the Lebanese women Angel fund, the first of its kind in this country and in the region, to encourage female entrepreneurs. Moreover, the USAID is implementing a 1.5 million U.S. Dollars initiative through the women’s global development prosperity program to expand women’s presence in the labor force more generally. The first cohort of 62 entrepreneurs completed their training not long time ago. Another program is the Tech program that works to promote STEAM, the science, technology, engineering, arts, and Mathematics line of education and work among girls and women.

It is therefore, of added value, to quote Ambassador Shea, who said that: “Women’s contribution in leadership and decision-making should be the norm, not the exception. So let us start with education… and prepare the ground up, maybe in school elections for example, then in municipality elections, and so on and so forth. There will be barriers, some technical, some financial, and others mental …. So, I’m looking at what we can be doing as the U.S. Embassy to develop programs, for example, that encourage the participation of women and girls in a variety of programs to building leadership and critical thinking skills. Because that’s what we prize in our political leaders. We’ve all got problems in our communities. We expect our elected leaders to find solutions to those problems. So, we want to make sure that women as much as men, and the boys and girls who are going to grow up to be your future leaders in this country, develop those skills”.

In this context, women have important roles to perform. Their roles should be recognized in the social, political, economic, cultural, and religious spheres. Giving them the chance and empowering them can serve as tools for peace building.


This special project entitled “Renewing Lebanon’s political and economic structures”, was organized by the May Chidiac Foundation – Media Institute in cooperation with the Public Affairs Department of the American Embassy in Lebanon.

It mapped the challenges and the severe consequences of the multilevel economic, financial, and humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, compounded by the refugee crisis, the uprising of October 17 and the Beirut Port explosion. There is no doubt that the mix is threatening the population’s well-being, the economic development, the social welfare, and the national stability. It is intensifying the country’s fragility and fragmentation, and the depletion of its human and financial resources. And there is no doubt that corruption, sectarianism and confessionalism is putting the country at a breaking point. Therefore, it is about time to advocate for change as the country can be rescued only if some political, economic, and financial reforms are undertaken. The solutions could be painful but delaying them will only increase dislocation and place more burden on the country.

This report analyzed the current situations and recommended some policies that can avoid a worsening situation for the country. Collective governance, transparency, and the rule of Law can play an essential role to reinstate confidence. A National Strategy can reinforce the independence of the judiciary. Reinforcing the Law, reinforcing the army, and reviving a strong diverse Leadership can restore trust, increase investments, and lead to a better sustainable future. But it is for the Lebanese to decide what Lebanon they want!

Read more

Q and A with Rachel Dore-Weeks at WOFL 2022

Q and A interview with Rachel Dore-Weeks the Representative of UN Women in Lebanon extracted from opening panel of Women on the Front Lines 2022 conducted by Mirella Abou Khalil Journalist and reporter at MTV Lebanon.Q and A interview with Rachel Dore-Weeks the Representative of UN Women in Lebanon extracted from opening panel of Women on the Front Lines 2022 conducted by Mirella Abou Khalil Journalist and reporter at MTV Lebanon.

Read more

About Women on the Front Lines conference

Women on the Front Lines – Let’s Win an Optimistic & Sustainable Future Through Outstanding Leadership!

Read more

Meet Our President and Founder Dr. May Chidiac

 Dr. May Chidiac is the President and founder of May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute (MCF-MI), Head of GROUND-0 Beirut Relief Committee, May Chidiac is a veteran Journalist, an editor, a Radio Host and a news anchor since 1985 with a career spanning for more than 25 years. She fought for the freedom of the Lebanese people when few dared to speak up against the prevailing state of tyranny, through morning political shows. Six months after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Chidiac was attacked by a car bomb causing her to lose her left leg and arm. She returned to the TV screen in a prime-time political talk show called “With Audacity” from 2006 till 2009.

In parallel, Chidiac published an award-winning book: “Le Ciel M’attendra”, to be followed later on by another prized book “La Télévision Mise à Nu”. She obtained her PhD in “Sciences de L’Information et de la Communication” with high distinction from Université Panthéon -Paris II Assas and also continued her teaching career as Professor of Radio/ TV at Notre Dame University-Louaize till present.

She was also the Head of the Press Division at the Lebanese Embassy in Bern-Switzerland between 1989 and 1990. May Chidiac is the recipient of several Decorations and Medals including the “Chevalier de L’ordre de la Légion D’Honneur”, decorated by the Former President of the French Republic, Jacque Chirac in May 2007 at Elysee Palace, as well as the Medal of “Dame de L’ordre de Saint Gregoire- Le- Grand” awarded by Pope Francis in 2017, that she received by the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai in May 2018 at Bkerke.
Throughout her career, Chidiac received numerous international awards and prizes, of which: “Le Prix de la Francophonie pour la Liberté d’Expression”, and the “UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award”.

In October 2006, she was awarded the IWMF (International Women Media Foundation) “Courage in Journalism Award” delivered in Los Angeles, New York and Washington.In 2017 she was the recipient of “Minerva Anna Maria Mammoliti of Human Rights and Civil Rights Award presented in Rome.Dr Chidiac is the member and member of Jury of several organizations as well as vice president such as Member of the “High Panel for Peace and Dialogue of Cultures” UNESCO in 2010, was Honored as part of “She Made it” by the Museum of Television and Radio in 2007 in New York and the Vice president and Jury member of UNESCO for the award of Emir Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah for Empowering People with Disabilities through Digital Technologies since 2016.

She is the Member of Jury at the L’Association des Femmes Leaders Mondial de Monaco in 2017 and was the Moderator in the International Conference on Youth and Information and Communication Technologies Preventing Violent Extremism at Cyberspace UNESCO in Beirut the same year. May Chidiac was a participator in several forums and colloquiums throughout the years, she was the honorary speaker as one of the Guillermo Cano Awardees in Paris in 2006, a keynote speaker and Guest at the Women’s Forum at Deauville- France from 2007 till 2014, a key participant in the UNESCO Global Forum on Media and Gender in Thailand “Documenting Change/Empowering Media- Gender Mainstream in the Media Middle East Report in 2013 as well as an Honorary Guest and Lecturer at the University of Sydney on “The role of Women in The Media” in 2014. She was the participant in the Fourth World Conference on Women:

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: “Enhancing Women’s Share in Peace and Security at the 1325 UN Resolution-Vienna with the Request of the Austrian Parliament in 2015. In regards of the Foundation programs and the academia, Dr Chidiac as president of MCFMI has contributed through her foundation that is dedicated to training, research and educate on issues of Media, and democracy executed several projects on subjects such as GBV in collaboration with UNESCO and currently executing a similar project with UNWomen.

Some of the projects that MCF conducts highlighting women are Women on The Front Lines projects with panels such as “Women Fighters and Survivors of the Iraqi Conflict”, “Mother of Extremists: Stories and Recommendations” and Women of Honor” Heroines of Peace in Times of Conflict.” Politically, Dr. May Chidiac was designated Minister of State for the Administrative Reform in the government of His Excellency the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Saad Hariri.


  • “Le Ciel M’attendra” (Heaven Can Wait) in 2007 awarded the “Prix Vérité” in Le Cannet, France.
  • “La Television Mise à Nu” (Influence of politics on the television scene) in 2014. The book was awarded the “Phoenix Prize” for literature.

Awards and honors

On 27 October 2006 May Chidiac received one of the three Courage in Journalism Awards presented by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

In June 2006, she received the “CRANS Montana Foundation Award” for Freedom of Expression offered by his Royal Highness Prince Albert De Monaco, Monte Carlo.

On 3 May 2006, UNESCO awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to May Chidiac in recognition of her courage in defending and promoting freedom of the press.

In December 2007, May Chidiac was honored in the frame of “She Made It” by the Museum of Television and Radio, New York City.

In April 2006, she received an Honorary Award, presented by his Royal Highness Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

On 3 May 2007, the former French president, Jacques Chirac awarded May Chidiac the Legion of Honour at the Elysée Palace in Paris.Chirac described Chidiac as a “symbol of free speech in Lebanon.”

In March 2008, she was honored as a prominent and audacious figure in politics and journalism during the Olympe De Gouge event, at Montauban France. In December 2010, The “Prix Verité” (“Truth Prize”) was awarded to Chidiac for Le Ciel M’attendra in 2007 in La Ville de Cannet, Cannes, France.

In 2010, Chidiac was named one of the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Heroes.

Chidiac has participated in significant symposiums and colloquiums such as the UN’s Resolution 1325 Symposium in Vienna, the University of Sidney Ideas Talk, the International Press Institute Congress in South Africa and Jordan, UNESCO International Colloquium in Beirut, and UNESCO’s Global Forum on Media and Gender in Thailand, its former Regional Forum for Media Development, as well as its Symposium for Freedom of Expression.

In 2016, Chidiac was awarded with an honorary doctorate from the American University of Science and Technology.

Read more