Lebanese Legislation Monitor

Antoine Messarra (dir.), Lebanese Legislation Monitor: Bridging the Gap Between Legislators and Civil Society, Beirut, Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace, in cooperation with National Endowment for Democracy, Librairie Orientale, 2005, 552 p. (in Arabic, with summary in English and French)

The book published by the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace includes the proceedings of four seminars held by the Foundation in cooperation with Tripoli 's cultural Movement, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Zahle, and the Cultural Movement in Antelias. These seminars aimed at studying the legislations currently examined by the Chamber of Deputies, the Council of Ministers and public administrations (Dir.Antoine Messarra, Lebanese Legislation Monitor: Bridging the Gap Between Legislators and Civil Society, Beirut , Librairie Orientale, 2005, 552 p.)

The forward reads: “The Lebanese Legislation Monitor was established for practical and applied communication between legislators and civil society as concerns legislation to avoid that it be served all ready to the people. The latter ought to feel concerned and share in the making of this legislation endowing it with legitimacy, thus increasing its chances to be enforced. Laws that are not highly legitimate – i.e. accepted by the people – deviate when applied or are not applied at all or are enforced through strength, which implies a high administrative and judicial cost in order to ensure application and sanction infringements.”

The introduction reads: “Those who are basically concerned by legislations are the people, all the people. If a legislation is in favor of a given social category, the latter ought to ensure that the prerogatives and guarantees endowed upon them through this legislation be transmitted to all the society. The democratic aspect of any legislation does not only result from the Chamber of Deputies; MPs and ministers ought to assume the major responsibility of informing, encouraging initiative-taking, inciting debate before and during the study of laws and their approval. Legislation requires a methodology as concerns public information, follow-up, and communication between legislators and civil society.”

The following people contributed to the coordination of the seminars: Tony George Atallah, Paul Morcos, Muhammad Misri, Therese Hatem Douaihi.

Legislation and its conformity with principles of human Rights

The book includes more than fifty papers (Robert Ghanim, Ibrahim Traboulsi, Salah Honein, Walid Idu, Antoine Zakhia Sfeir, Denise Gebara Khoury, Ahmad Lakis, Ma'mun Adra, Tariq Ziyade, Ahmad Sinjaqdar, Ghada Ibrahim, Edmond Jrayssati, Toufiq Rashid Hindi, Antoine Elias Saliba, Abbas Halabi, Ali Ahmad Darwish, Dalal Salhab...).

One can deduce six important observations from the debates and researches: a lack of social and economic legislations, the publication of legislations that come from highly influential political centers, the weak support of civil society to legislative work, the disproportion between laws decrees issued by the government and proposals made by MPs, the absence – sometimes – of motives, and the lack of application mechanisms for many laws.

It is said in the book that the aim is to ensure the civil society's support to MPs who advocate people's cause; the civil society ought to have an efficient and active role in the writing of legislations, which will set up a new pattern of dialogue and debate around day-to-day matters.

Five Main Goals

The five main goals of the Program “Lebanese Legislation Monitor: Bridging the Gap Between Legislators and Civil Society” (2005-2007) are:

1. Advocating democracy and Human Rights : this is by looking for ways that purify Lebanese legislations from articles that may blemish the democratic quality of laws, and by putting forward suggestions in order to purify a given legislation from any violations of human Rights and democracy.

2. MPs and civil society : one of the bases of the Program is that it is a frame of cooperation and mutual support as concerns highly crucial matters in the work of MPs and the government – i.e. legislative work.

3. Network building : a network of MPs, civil societies, media, in order to efficiently apply the recommendations of the Monitor as concerns legislative matters.

4. Developing democratic culture and culture in terms of the rule of law : this is through support to a culture based on the reading of laws from the perspective of democratic and human Rights principles, not only through bureaucratic organization and tax levying.

5. Reference: the Program aims at becoming a reference as concerns democratic analysis or application.

More than twenty proposals

The major MPs who take part in the Program include: Robert Ghanem, Salah Honein, Walid Idu, Muhammad Qabbani, Ahmad Fatfat, Serge Torsarkissian, Nicolas Fattush, Ghassan Mukhayber, Muhammad Safadi, Qaysar Mu'awwad, Yusuf Maalouf, etc.

The activities of the Program in its first year were about more than twenty draft laws and proposals namely: military service (Robert Iskandar Ghanim, etc.), presidential prerogatives and the amendment of the Constitution (Salah Honein), penal laws (Walid Idu), the chart of pedestrians (Muhammad Qabbani), immigration (Serge Torsarkissian), law of procedure (Muhammad Safadi), legislation procedures (Ghassan Mukhaybir, Ibrahim Trabulsi), social security (Qaysar Mu'awwad), settlement of the infringing coastal properties (Ahmad Laqis), the payment of the traders' debts in installments (Ma'mun Adrah), the organization of the Judges' Fund and the Schools' Fund (Tariq Ziyade and Ahmad Sinjaqdar), social and economic legislations (Ali Ahmad Darwish). The fourth chapter is entirely about ‘minimal standards of the electoral law' (Antoine Sayf, Antoine Messarra, Abbas Halabi, Toni Atallah, Paul Murqus, Dalal Salhab).

The Program activities will be pursued in 2005; a fifth seminar was held in cooperation with the Cultural Movement in Tripoli , on February 12, 2005. A sixth seminar was held in Saida-Majdelyoun in cooperation with the National Council for Childhood in June 2005.