The Impact of TOKTEN on Lebanon’s “Brain-drain”

"I seize the opportunity to thank the UNDP that gave me this opportunity through the TOKTEN program to share my experience with my fellow countrymen", stated Mr. Hadi El Khoury, Lebanese expatriate.

  • According to Mr. Hadi El-Khoury, “Winning the battle in the cyber security battlefield needs beyond technical skills and tools, solid cross-sector cooperation, and an intimate belief in the power of transversality”.

The TOKTEN concept is a global UNDP mechanism targeting expatriate nationals, who had migrated to other countries and achieved professional success abroad, mobilizing them to undertake short-term consultancies in their country of origin.

TOKTEN is based on a spirit of volunteerism, which means that the volunteers are not paid direct salaries.

In Lebanon, TOKTEN was launched in 2005 and it follows the global UNDP concept whose approach aids in reducing the effects of the “brain-drain”, with several advantages such as the shared Lebanese language and traditions, at a relatively low cost and speed of implementation.

In the last couple of years, TOKTEN was successful in implementing 14 initiatives and collaborating with several public institutions such as the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Public Health, the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Central Bank among others.

These initiatives aim to tackle different sectors such as the Food Safety, Cybersecurity, Financial Investigations, Crime Scene Investigations, IT governance in the banking sector, Women Empowerment, as well as the Medical guidelines.

In March of 2016, the TOKTEN project celebrated the international Women’s day  in cooperation with the Institute of Finance in the presence of two exceptional speakers, H.E. Dr. Ivonne Abdel Baki Former Ecuadorian Minister of Lebanese descent and H.E. Ms. Sigrid Kaag, UN Under Secretary General and Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Ms. Abdel Baki who was invited by the TOKTEN project urged women in Lebanon “to be in places where they can make a difference”.

On another level, following intense media coverage of food safety investigations and their subsequent non-compliant results, the Ministry of Industry in cooperation with TOKTEN implemented a plan to address food safety concerns through the training of inspectors and most importantly the development of “Good Manufacturing Practices: General Guidelines for the Lebanese Food Industries.” “We learned new standards and guidelines from a different perspective, and from now on we can start applying what we learned on inspections, investigation and compliance guidelines” said Pascale Bou Gharios, inspector from the Ministry of Economy and Trade.

The outcome of this initiative was confirmed by the Minister of Industry, Dr. Hussein Hajj Hassan’s own words: “We would like to express our full satisfaction with the results”.  In fact, this training should result in an increase of the level safety measures adopted by industries and subsequently an evident decrease in the cases of food poisoning.

Another significant initiative aimed at enhancing the capabilities of officers of the internal security forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces on cybersecurity through a series of workshops. In this context, the TOKTEN project also contributed to a conference on Financial Cybercrime, organized by the Lebanese Central Bank aiming at raising awareness of the banks on the numerous forms of attacks perpetrated and how to avoid vulnerabilities in the system, since prevention is most frequently the only deterrence to this type of crime growing at an exponential rate, and costing millions of losses to Lebanese companies and banks.

According to Mr. Hadi El-Khoury, “Winning the battle in the cyber security battlefield needs beyond technical skills and tools, solid cross-sector cooperation, and an intimate belief in the power of transversality”.  In effect, one training successfully introduced a Cyber Defense system, which was the result of interactions and engagement of the 18 trainees who all came from different units within the Lebanese Army.

The TOKTEN Project also organized an IT governance seminar in cooperation with the Lebanese Central Bank. This TOKTEN expert highlighted the importance of adopting IT governance in the banking sector.

In addition, for the past couple of years TOKTEN project has supported the investigative bodies in the Lebanese government by providing seminars and trainings focusing on financial and crime scene investigations. Attendants included enforcement bodies, judges, district attorney and concerned ministries. As per support for the medical sector, upon the request of the Ministry of Health, the TOKTEN project developed with the help of national and international committee of top surgeons, “National Orthopedic and Spine Implants Guidelines”.

The TOKTEN program prioritizes development needs, and continues to implement more projects which target priority issues in Lebanon that necessitate international expertise. This mechanism’s added value resides in its flexibility, the simplicity of its process, and custom made rapid responses to acute needs in the public sector through the expertise of expatriate professionals, aiming at supporting, complementing and strengthening the development process of Lebanon.


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