Around the world, governments are facing increasingly complex challenges, including persistently low levels of public trust, rising economic and financial instability, and social fragmentation and polarisation. Meanwhile, citizens are becoming more vocal, particularly given the amplifying effect of digital technologies, and their expectations are growing for a more transparent and accountable public sector and better public services. These issues are especially relevant in Lebanon, where regional turmoil, political instability and sluggish economic growth have posed considerable obstacles.

Open government represents a changed understanding of the role of the state in a modern society that aligns with an underlying shift in the policy-making context. The OECD defines it as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”. More and more countries have begun to introduce open government reforms as a catalyst for attaining broader policy goals such as improving democracy, fostering inclusive growth and increasing trust. However, beyond the intrinsic value of open government principles, the implementation of open government strategies and initiatives can also help improve processes and outcomes across the full spectrum of public policy.

For several years, successive Lebanese governments have taken steps to establish a national open government agenda; however, the context has been challenging. In particular, large-scale demonstrations erupted in October 2019, bringing about the resignation of the government. At the same time, the country has also been weathering a severe financial crisis, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, putting further strains on scarce human and financial resources. Most recently, the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut has underlined a number of public sector governance failures that must be addressed in order to rebuild trust between the citizens and the state. Although this context presents significant challenges for the new government, it also provides an opportunity and strong incentive to restore public trust through open government reforms. Accordingly, a focus on opening up the government is not only timely, but also in demand.

Against this background, the OECD Open Government Scan of Lebanon aims to support the government’s efforts to build more transparent, participatory, and accountable institutions that can restore citizens’ trust and promote inclusive growth. It analyses priority areas of reform in line with the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government and provides concrete suggestions for further embedding the principles and practices of open government in policy-making cycles and evaluating their impacts. Ultimately, this analysis can serve as the foundation to define and pursue a whole-of-government vision for a more open government in Lebanon.

This Open Government Scan of Lebanon benefits from ongoing support and dialogue with successive Lebanese governments and the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), which has over the past years taken steps towards establishing a national open government agenda in Lebanon. This continuous commitment was initially affirmed by former Minister May Chidiac, who formally announced OMSAR’s engagement in this process as well as the Government’s intent to work towards adhering to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government and joining the Open Government Partnership, during a high-level conference co-organised with the OECD and under the patronage of the Prime Minister in June 2019.

This commitment has been re-affirmed at the beginning of 2020 by Minister Demianos Kattar, who subsequently expressed Lebanon’s commitment to continue its joint work with the OECD in pursuit of an open government agenda for a more transparent, participatory, responsive, and trustworthy public administration. Building on these steps, the findings of this analysis have benefitted from the extensive review by OMSAR and from discussions with several representatives of relevant Lebanese institutions and civil society organisations as well as international organisations active in the promotion of good governance reforms Lebanon (i.e. OGP, UNDP, World Bank) and peer reviewers from Canada and Italy.

The data collection for this report and its drafting were finalised before the explosion in the port of Beirut and the ensuing government crisis. However, Lebanese public institutions had the opportunity to review its findings during the month of August 2020 and confirmed the validity of its recommendations. The OECD is currently working with OMSAR to develop an action plan to implement them.

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