Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Organized jointly by the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), and the Public Governance Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in the framework of the MENA-OECD Governance Programme and in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, the National Workshop of Stakeholders For the Implementation of the Access to Information Law, brought together representatives of the Lebanese public administration, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, the media and private sector to consult on the draft national action plan for the implementation of the access to information law and discuss different activities on the issue.
The implementation of ATI law is recognized within the draft National Anti-Corruption Strategy as a pillar for transparency and accountability and one of the key outputs of its implementation plan. It also contributes to the achievements of UNCAC Articles 10 & 13 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the 16th in particular, peace justice and strong institutions that is. It will also support Lebanon in its efforts to adhere to the OECD Recommendation on Open Government and to become a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
In her opening remarks, Natasha Sarkis, Anti-corruption Officer at OMSAR/UNDP, stressed on the importance of passing such a law and how it feeds into achieving the SDGs. “It serves a number of purposes at the same time. It is of major concern both to us directly and to the ministry, indirectly. It is a basic human right and it helps in fighting corruption by enhancing transparency and accountability in the achievement of open government standards and supporting the implementation of the SDGs”.
“Our meeting today is meant to consolidate this track and to carry out a semi-final reading of the workplan in order to submit to the Technical Committee Against Corruption for approval and then to the Ministerial Committee for Combating Corruption to finally declare it,” she added.
In her speech, Gaelle Kibranian, Governance Programme Officer at UNDP, said that “we believe that today we are in front of an opportunity. Not only are we advancing in terms of implementing the access to information legislation, and the government is about to adopt the national anti-corruption strategy, but reforms of the procurement legislation and processes are being advanced, as well as progress on the adoption of a digital transformation strategy. As such, we should have a holistic lens and adopt a comprehensive approach. And, at UNDP we believe that our partnership with the organizations present today can push for this strategic line and that OMSAR’s mandate is conducive to it”. She also added that the fight against corruption should be maintained as an explicit national priority and that UNDP will engage with all stakeholders to advocate for the laws, deploy all our joint efforts to support public institutions, and most importantly sensitize, and directly involve citizens to make each and everyone of us a responsible citizen.
Imed Hazgui, President at the Access to Information Commission in Tunisia, concluded the opening remarks through sharing Tunisia’s experience after having established an authority in charge of complaints against persons denying access to information. He highlighted all the successes and challenges faced post the establishment. In the end, he hoped that “Lebanon will share the same experience”.
The event was then followed by a session on the overview of the ATI law, moderated by Ali Berro advisor at OMSAR/UNDP), former MP Ghassan Moukheiber, and Member of Parliament George Okeis. The session comprised an introduction to the main features of the access to information law, information on how it relates to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, and how it strengthens the implementation of UNCAC and supports the fulfillment of the SDGs as well as bringing Lebanon closer to OGP membership.
“This law is a strategic step in fighting corruption,” said George Okeis, adding that “information is the first and only key to the gateway to corruption”.
In the session that followed, moderators Charles Arbid, President of the Economic and Social Council of Lebanon alongside Assaad Thebian from the Gherbal Initiative, discussed how it can be ensured that all institutions acknowledge that the law applies to them and put in place the necessary procedures.
Met with great enthusiasm, the workshop was concluded by having four groups present their recommendations and suggestions to the plenary. Divided into four sections, the reports discussed information and training on ATI rights and procedures, tools to be provided (electronic platforms, effective filing systems, etc.), developing the regulatory and institutional setups, and eventually monitoring and enforcing the law’s application.