MUNICIPAL EMPOWERMENT AND RESILIENCE PROJECT (MERP)

Status: Active

Project duration: January 2019 – January 2022

Background

Nine years into the Syrian crisis, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world and remains at the forefront of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time (VASYR 2019).

The displacement crisis is putting tremendous pressure on the country’s services and resources, particularly at the local level. Municipalities and Unions of Municipalities (UoMs) are responsible for key services and play an important role in local economic development and in ensuring stability and safety in the community. Yet they have limited ability and resources to play these crucial roles and respond to the needs of local communities. This situation is further exacerbated by the current economic crisis and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Municipal Empowerment and Resilience Project is a joint initiative by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). The project is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MoIM) and funded by the European Union (EU), through its Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis. The project aims to strengthen the long-term resilience of subnational authorities in Lebanon as well as that of host communities and displaced persons affected by the crisis.

Key objectives

1. Subnational authorities will have enhanced capacities to engage in holistic, area-based planning and to consider different scenarios that respond to the needs of the host, refugee, and internally displaced person (IDP) populations.

2. Service delivery will be increasingly responsive and will generate more significant social stability outcomes based on the needs of the host, refugee, and IDP populations.

3. Subnational authorities will be empowered to facilitate local economic development and will have better access to municipal investment that will benefit the extension of public services and economic opportunities for the host, refugee and IDP populations.

The geographic area of interventions

District

# of Municipalities in the district

Targeted UoM

# of municipalities enrolled in the UoM

Tripoli

3

Urban Community Al-Fayhaa (UCF)

3

Matn

54

Federation of Municipalities of the Northern and Coastal Matn

33

Tyre

62

Union of Tyre Municipalities

55

 

Contribution in value by donor to UNDP: US$8,530,952

Contribution in value by donor to UN-Habitat: US$8,494,536.90

MERP news and announcements

Press release published 29 June 2020: Municipal Empowerment and Resilience Project activities launch in Lebanon

MERP Activities

The Municipal Empowerment and Resilience Project (MERP) aims at strengthening the capacity of municipalities to meet the needs of their communities. Therefore, the project has defined and developed a comprehensive set of activities and interventions to reach this strategic objective. Moreover, the Project recognizes that for local governments to succeed, all levels of society need to be involved.  Following this principle, the Project has selected activities that target national as well as local players and involve a wide range of stakeholders, including local community members, private sector as well as key decision makers.

The core activities of the MERP will include: national policy dialogue/advocacy; municipal finance; basic service and local economic development (LED) projects; capacity development and training; social stability; and community awareness raising/communication.  

1.      National policy dialogue/advocacy 

In order to ensure that stable, long term support for municipal governments in Lebanon remains in place at national level, after the Project comes to an end, MERP will recommend reform measures  to strengthen the capacity of the Directorate General of Local Administrations and Councils (DGLAC) within the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MoIM) and to enhance its support role to municipalities and Unions of Municipalities (UoMs). These recommendations will be proposed based on the findings of an assessment to be implemented in partnership with Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and will include short, medium and long-term actions for endorsement by MoIM and their implementation.

Meanwhile, in order to address the existing lack of coordination among various donors working on projects with municipalities in the country, MERP will work with the MoIM and DGLAC to develop a donor coordination mechanism. The enhanced coordination will prevent unnecessary duplication and competition in donor projects and help improve the selection of intervention themes and ensure the targeting of municipalities based on actual needs.

Lessons learned through MERP’s groundwork with municipalities on local governance, municipal finance, basic service delivery and local economic development will be documented and shared at national and regional levels, through dialogue sessions and various methods of formal and informal advocacy.

2.      Municipal finance  

Measures to support the provision of more effective, efficient, and transparent municipal finance services to their constituencies form a key aspect of the Project. While working to strengthen the public financial management practices of individual municipalities and to make them more accountable, these interventions also aim to inform and support reflection on municipal finance reform at the national level.

Towards this end, two support streams have been designed:

i. Supporting municipalities and unions lead on municipal procurement processes as per the requirement of the proposed new procurement law in partnership with the Institute of Finance of the Ministry of Finance through a holistic approach that combines classroom training and hands-on coaching for the procurement of municipal equipment through grants provided by the project.

ii. Strengthening municipal finance systems by implementing detailed municipal finance assessments in select UoMs and municipalities. The findings of these assessments will be used to inform the design and implementation of customized municipal finance solutions, with focus on public participation and transparency. The solutions proposed might include, for instance the introduction of financial management information systems (FMIS)  such as the creation of online tax payment systems, building the capacity of municipalities in public accounting and asset management and e-governances measures such as developing websites to publish municipal budget documents for greater transparency and accountability .

In tandem with the roll-out of these tools, MERP will conduct awareness-raising activities to ensure the buy-in and participation of local community members.

3.      Basic service and local economic development (LED) projects  

MERP will provide funding and support for a series of small, medium, and large-scale basic services and local economic development projects in selected municipalities.

Altogether, a total of 13 interventions are planned, including ten basic service/LED projects. Along with improving local infrastructure and the provision of essential services, these projects will, whenever possible, use the services of local contractors, providing local jobs and a sense of community ownership.

While the aim of these projects is to offset the impacts of the refugee crisis, the process of developing and implementing the interventions will also provide key opportunities to strengthen municipal systems and to generate on-the-ground evidence for policy reforms. The Project will adopt a gradual approach to local economic development grounded in area-based planning. This will imply i. empowering unions to acquire an intimate knowledge of their economic and social structure and its potential as first step through the implementation of “LED assessments”, ii. helping them engage in a dialogue with a wide range of state and non-state actors to build a local economic development vision and its associated goals and programs through strategic planning and iii. identify the optimal legal option(s) enabling unions and municipalities to enter into robust partnerships with the local private sector and LED actors.

This approach is expected to put the foundations for the mobilization of additional financing both by the unions and development partners including the Project to fund and implement prioritized LED programs developed by the unions and included in their strategic plans. 

4.      Capacity development and training 

MERP will provide both generalized and tailored training to the municipalities and UoMs participating in the Project.

The Project will support training modules for all municipalities and UoMs in the areas targeted by MERP, covering topics of general interest that might include, for instance, development of innovative basic service delivery/LED proposals, municipal revenues and taxation, asset management and public accounting, use of GIS technology in municipal finance, as well as timely issues such as the implementation of a new procurement law.

Meanwhile, municipalities selected for funding of basic service and LED projects will receive additional training tailored to their needs, following creation of individualized capacity development plans. MERP will contract specialized consultancy firm(s) to support hands-on coaching, mentoring and on the job training for these municipalities and UoMs.

At the national level, MERP will also provide mentoring and training for key DGLAC staff.

5.      Social stability mechanisms 

The Project will support social stability through the establishment of mediation units and by supporting UoM coordination in crisis response.

The mediation units, consisting of key UoM staff and officials, civil society groups and other local actors, will aim to reduce tensions and improve communication between different local stakeholders, including between municipalities/UoMs and businesses, civil society groups, and community members; between different municipal jurisdictions; between municipalities and UoMs; and between host communities and refugee populations. The units will receive ongoing support and guidance from the Centre Professionel de Mediation (CPM) of the Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth.

At the same time, MERP aims to empower UoMs to take a stronger coordination role in responding to crises, first by involving them more in the existing government coordination mechanisms and later empowering them to take a stronger direct coordination role by, for instance, hosting local meetings and developing UoM-level strategies to support crisis response.

6.      Awareness raising/communication 

Aware and engaged communities are key to the success of municipal initiatives and play an important role in keeping local governments accountable. For instance, the introduction of innovative public finance tools such as participatory budget processes and online tax payment systems require community awareness and buy-in for successful implementation.

Therefore, MERP will support targeted awareness raising campaigns to increase community members’ understanding of the role of municipalities as well as municipal processes and procedures and to engage communities in specific municipal activities/initiatives.

The communication tools will include development of a community feedback and complaints mechanism in conjunction with the implementation of basic services and LED projects.

 

 

 

 

Related Documents

Factsheet

Project Document

 

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