Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL) in collaboration with UNDP organized a joint workshop, on February 12, 2018, that was hosted at AUB to discuss the latest developments on the national scene in relation to a topic that has attracted exponential attention in Lebanon over the recent period, namely the fight against corruption in Lebanon in the context of UNDP’s “Anti-Corruption and Integrity in the Arab Countries” project.

The event featured a high power panel, including Minister Inaya Ezzeddine, Minister of State for Administrative Reform; Judge Mohamad Mortada, Representative of the Justice System; Ms. Sana El Attar, Representative of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform; and Mr. Nehman Abi Antoun, Representative of the Ministry of Anti-Corruption.

The panel was moderated by Mr. Arkan El Seblani, Chief Technical Advisor and Manager of the Regional Project on Anti-Corruption and Integrity in the Arab Countries, and the introduction was facilitated by Ms. Hasmig Khoury, representative of Bank Audi, which is a founding member of the Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL).

Mrs. Hasmig Khoury, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank Audi, welcomed the guests and made factual statements to set the context, mentioning that every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes globally while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP.  She also mentioned that Lebanon ranks very poorly on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which classifies countries by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys, with Lebanon featuring in 2016 as the 136th most corrupt country in the context of a total pool of 176 countries.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all sectors and slow down national development. It affects prosperity; respect for basic human rights; provision of services such as education and health care; and productive employment. No country, region or community is immune,” revealed Ms. Hasmig Khoury

Mr. Arkan El Seblani provided a historical context, stating that Lebanon was one of the countries that openly spoke about corruption in the media in the years of independence and also during the civil war, when the subject was still a taboo in this part of the world.

Minister Ezzeddine commented in turn that corruption has clearly become an issue of national concern with almost crisis proportions and that we need to address and fight by taking action and not just by posting ads or commercials. It is a serious and urgent matter. We need to address this in a highly responsible way and analyze the situation with a realistic approach and perspective.”

Judge Mortada suggested that acknowledging the status quo while trying to address it through raising awareness and taking incremental measures is a strategy that can work in the fight against corruption. However this necessitates strong political will and the government should have a real intention to change by reducing existing levels of corruption. He affirmed, “It is a long haul effort.”

Abi Antoun added that “the lack of trust between the people and the government is a fertile ground for corruption to thrive. People’s silence will give the corrupted a platform to flourish.  Hence we need to speak and break the silence.”

The panel was followed by an interesting discussion with members of GCNL exchanging views and input on best strategies to address corruption in the Lebanese context at this point in time. GCNL recommended to the Minister and UNDP to include some of its members as representatives of the private sector to provide input on the national Anti-Corruption Strategy being championed by UNDP in collaboration with the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reforms.