On the Occasion of the International Day of Democracy celebrated on September 15th every year, the United Nation Development Programme project at the Lebanese Parliament, in partnership with the Parliament, organized a conference on “Democratic Transitions in the Arab World and Their Impact on Lebanon" on Wednesday, 19th of September, at the Library of the New Parliament building in Downtown Beirut.
The objective of the conference was to raise and strengthen public awareness on Democracy and emphasize on its importance along with Development and the Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Head of the Youth and Sports Parliamentary Committee, MP Simon Abiramia, UNDP Country Director in Lebanon Mr. Luca Renda, representatives of Parliament, Youth and Women organizations, International Organizations, Youth representatives of political parties at Parliament, media and relevant experts attended the conference.
The conference tackled the underlying reasons behind these democratic transitions and their impact on Lebanon, prospects of democratic reform experiences in the Arab Spring revolutions, repercussions of these transitions on Women and Youth and the crisis of legislation and its relationship with democracy in Lebanon.
MP Abiramia spoke on behalf of Parliament and hoped that the changes in the Arab World do not afflict people’s demand for freedom, democracy and respect of Human Rights. He went on to say that “the democratic movements are legitimate and reflect the beliefs of people in Democracy represented by diversity and pluralism; which are crucial pillars for the development of society and the prosperity of nations and citizens.”
Mr. Renda stated that “Effective transformations from authoritarian rule to more participatory and equitable systems of governance take time. They require commitment to building trust between people and the state based on a fair social contract.” Mr. Renda quoted the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon; in his address on the International Day of Democracy this year by stating that “Inclusive dialogue is crucial. We must work to promote pluralism and protect the rights of minorities and the vulnerable. And women must be at the centre of efforts to build democratic futures... The voices of the young must also be heard and heeded…Let us develop a culture of civic participation to explore opportunities made possible by the new media…The United Nations is strongly committed to working with partners to develop global and local initiatives that elevate democracy education as an integral part of all education initiatives and as a component of long-term governance strategies”.
He then went over the work of UNDP with the Lebanese government, more particularly focusing on activities aiming at strengthening democracy implemented by UNDP’s project at the Lebanese Parliament.
In addition, surveys on the “opinions and expectations of citizens as to the roles of the Lebanese Parliament” were distributed to all attendees targeting specifically youth and women organizations, media and youth representatives of political parties at Parliament. The survey’s objective is to examine the perceptions and expectations of the aforementioned categories as to the legislative, oversight and representation functions of Parliament and the extent of citizen participation in parliamentary activities.
Relevant documents such as the Global Parliamentary Report, the conference’s background paper and agenda, the Universal Declaration of Democracy, UNDP fast facts and the message of the Secretary General on the International Day of Democracy were distributed to all participants.