Chapter 10. Open government scan of selected Lebanese municipalities

The current context of Lebanon expressing an interest to adhere to the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (hereafter “the Recommendation”) and to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP) offers an opportunity to foster a new culture of open governance at the municipal as well as national level. Taking into account the commitment of the national government to promote open government principles and initiatives, two municipalities that have engaged in transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation efforts were selected to participate in a scan and capacity building exercise with the OECD. These municipalities are Byblos (known locally as “Jbeil”) and Shweir – Ain Sindyneh (referred to as “Shweir” hereafter). The objective of this scan is to review the institutional policy frameworks and open government practices and initiatives in the municipality in order to align them with OECD standards, increase their impact, and disseminate their best practices and lessons learned with other Lebanese municipalities. Open local authorities are also an important part of a country’s transition from open government to open state.

The following open government scan was developed on the basis of the OECD survey of open government in Byblos and Shweir, as well as interviews with the mayors, councillors, municipal administration and local civil society in September 2019 and February 2019.

The OECD defines open government as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth” (OECD, 2017[1]). These four principles are enshrined in the Recommendation and can be defined as follows:

  • Transparency refers to “the disclosure and subsequent accessibility of relevant government data and information” (OECD, 2016[2]).

  • Integrity is the “consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritising the public interests in the public sector” (OECD, 2017[55]).

  • Accountability refers to the “government’s responsibility and duty to inform its citizens about the decisions it makes, as well as to provide an account of the activities and performance of the entire government and its officials” (OECD, 2016[2]).

  • Stakeholder participation refers to “ all the ways in which stakeholders can be involved in the policy cycle and in service design and delivery, including:

    • Information: An initial level of participation characterised by a one-way relationship in which the government produces and delivers information to stakeholders. It covers both on-demand provision of information and “proactive” measures by the government to disseminate information.

    • Consultation: A more advanced level of participation that entails a two-way relationship in which stakeholders provide feedback to the government and vice versa. It is based on the prior definition of the issue for which views are being sought and requires the provision of relevant information, in addition to feedback on the outcomes of the process.

    • Engagement: When stakeholders are given the opportunity and the necessary resources (e.g. information, data and digital tools) to collaborate during all phases of the policy cycle and in the service design and delivery” (OECD, 2017[1]).

Local administrations are central to initiatives for more transparent, accountable and participatory governance. They are an essential interface for citizens to be in contact with public policies and services, which has resulted in many of the most innovative approaches to open government coming from cities, regions or provinces. As they are responsible for delivering public services, such as road maintenance, sanitation and policing, local governments form the most immediate relationships between public administrations and citizens. This was outlined in the OECD report “Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward”:

The proximity of citizens and the state spurs engagement, but also shapes citizens’ perception about the government. Thus, it is not surprising that cities, regions or provinces have, in the last decades, been places for citizen engagement. The demands for greater engagement of citizens in urban planning date back to the 60/70s. Innovative and interactive approaches to involve citizens in policy making arose in parallel with the decentralisation efforts by many countries from the 1970s and consisted of transferring authority, responsibility and resources from the national government to lower governmental levels, to better respond to citizens’ needs and demands” (OECD, 2016[2]).

To achieve successful reforms, local authorities must first adopt a new culture of governance that promotes the four open government principles. This requires strong political will and enabling institutions and a consistent whole-of-government approach, as well as the necessary human, financial and technical resources and a forward-looking attitude to promote innovation and apply digital tools.

This chapter will assess open government policies and initiatives in Shweir and Byblos across the three pillars of the OECD’s Recommendation on Open Government: the enabling environment, implementation and the way ahead (Figure 10.1). The first pillar regards the strategic, legal and regulatory frameworks; human, financial and technical resources; and open government literacy. The second pillar focuses on the implementation frameworks necessary to carry out open government initiatives and practices, including the co-ordination mechanisms across government, monitoring and evaluation, communication, access to information, and stakeholder participation processes. The third pillar concerns the most forward-looking aspects of the open government agenda, public sector innovation, and includes digital tools and open government data and the idea of moving towards an “open state” where all public institutions – not just government – have an open government culture and practices in place.

The following sections provide the context regarding the mandate of municipalities in Lebanon, the state of play of decentralisation reforms and an overview of open government principles at a local level.

Lebanon is a unitary state and its public administration is organised into three levels: central administration, deconcentrated administration (8 governorates and 26 districts) and decentralised administration (1 138 municipalities and 57 municipal unions) (Figure 10.2).

The central administration refers to the president, prime minister, Council of Ministers and ministers, as well as ministries and central councils with administrative powers. Executive authority is centralised and the central public administration plays a key role in Lebanon’s governance.

In many countries where power is centralised, there is a deconcentrated system to lessen the central government’s administrative burden and to bring decision making closer to citizens in economic, social, education and /or health affairs. In Lebanon, territories are divided into geographical units called governorates, and the state’s administrative authority is extended to central administration representatives who have decision-making authority regarding local affairs. There are eight governorates in Lebanon: Akkar: Baalbek-Hermel, Beirut, Beqaa, Mount Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, North Lebanon and South Lebanon.

Governorates are divided into 26 districts (called qadas), with the exception of the Beirut governorate, which is not sub-divided. These are smaller geographical units where decision-making power on behalf of central government is granted to district commissioners.

The governorates and districts form the upper and lower deconcentrated tiers of the central government respectively. They are therefore not legal entities as they represent the central government, constituting an integral part of the Ministry of Interior and Municipality (MOIM), which is responsible for policies related to the governorates, districts, municipalities, municipal unions1 and villages (Democracy Reporting International, 2017[56]; The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, 2015[57]).

Lebanon has one decentralised tier of administration, which is comprised of 1 138 municipalities and 57 municipal unions. Three-quarters (75%) of municipalities are part of a municipal union (Democracy Reporting International, 2017[56]). These local units are defined by geographical areas and are governed by elected councils, which have legal powers related to citizens’ affairs at the local level. Lebanese citizens are registered to vote in the location of their family’s origin, meaning that many people do not vote where they reside. This underlines the need to have strong stakeholder participation policies in place at the municipal level to bring citizens closer to government and provide them with an opportunity to influence local public decisions.

The elected council holds the policy-making power, while the mayor (elected by the councillors) holds a chief executive role and chairs the executive authority.2 Article 47 of the Municipal Act (1977) sets out a broad range of duties for municipalities: “Each work of public character or interest in the municipal area falls within the scope of the municipal council’s competence.” However, conflicting legislative texts, administrative and fiscal blockages, and heavy central government control limit municipalities’ autonomy (Democracy Reporting International, 2017[56]; Democracy Reporting International, 2019[58]). As in some OECD countries, municipalities are responsible for providing local services such as street cleaning; road tarmacking; public lighting; street signs; urban planning; selected aspects of healthcare, education, and social affairs; sometimes public order; and wastewater management and water drainage (OECD/UCLG, 2016[59]).

Municipality funding comes from the Independent Municipal Fund (IMF) and from local taxes. The IMF is an intergovernmental grant system that transfers taxes and fees from central to local governments. The central government distributes the funds based on a formula outlined in Decree 1917 of 1979. Article 87 of the Municipal Act states that “the revenues and common allowances of all municipalities shall be deposited in trust in an independent municipal fund at the Ministry of Interior”. The amount allocated to each municipality is calculated as follows: 60% based on the registered population and 40% based on direct revenues collected in the previous two years (Atallah, 2011[60]). On average, 36% of municipalities’ revenue comes from the IMF and the rest is raised through local taxes (Mourad and Piron, 2016[61]).

The groundwork for decentralisation was laid in the Ta’if Agreement3 in 1989, which set out “extensive administrative decentralisation” to foster “even development” between different Lebanese regions (Democracy Reporting International, 2017[56]). The agreement was integrated into the Constitution in 1990, mandating a comprehensive decentralisation reform. There have been numerous attempts to adopt a new legal framework for decentralisation since 1991, none of which have yet been adopted. The most recent of these was the draft Administrative Decentralisation Bill in 2014, championed by the former Minister of the Interior and Municipalities, Ziyad Baroud (Box 10.1).

As outlined above, the draft bill includes numerous propositions that enhance the open government principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation. It introduces innovations that Lebanese civil society has been advocating for many years related to digital government, increased transparency, institutionalised civic participation and scrutiny, electoral reform, as well as greater administrative and financial autonomy. However, it does not mention municipalities or their legal framework, nor does it mention reform of the municipal electoral system regarding the ability of residents to vote. At the time of writing, the draft Administrative Decentralisation Bill has not been adopted.

The open government principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and participation are enshrined, although not always explicitly, in the Municipal Act of 1977. Article 45 states the right of voters or interested parties to obtain copies of the municipal decisions that may be disclosed to the public. Article 55 stipulates that council decisions that are in force and serve a public interest must be posted on the door of the municipal premises. Furthermore, Article 76 states that decisions of public character issued by the head of the executive authority (the mayor) must be posted on the municipal council’s door. However, the Municipal Act also includes clauses that go against the open government principles, notably Article 35 which states that municipal council sessions are held in secrecy.

More recently, the Right of Access to Information Law (2017) requires central institutions and municipalities to publish all public administrative documents (decisions, budgets, annual accounts and tenders), create special websites for this purpose, and reply to access to information (ATI) requests. More details about the implementation status of this law are available in Chapter 3.

The legal and regulatory frameworks for local governance in Lebanon do not require local authorities to engage with and consult citizens in decision making, public policy making and planning. However, Democracy Reporting International’s (DRI) recent survey in Lebanon shows that half of municipal unions do engage in participation (Democracy Reporting International, 2019[58]), although information about participation at the level of municipalities is missing. DRI and the Lebanese Transparency Association are carrying out numerous pilot projects and capacity building activities on participation in municipalities across Lebanon.

The principles of open government could be strengthened at the municipal level through legal amendments to the Municipal Act and the draft Administrative Decentralisation Bill by requiring councils to open their sessions, declassify their session reports, and making it binding to publish council decisions. Moreover, introducing amendments to establish mandatory stakeholder participation could ensure that citizens are consulted and engaged regularly in planning, infrastructure and other local public policy decisions.

Byblos is the largest city in the Mount Lebanon governorate and is situated around 40 km to the north of Beirut along the coast. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its structures that are testimony to the beginnings of the Phoenician civilisation and is known as being one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, with evidence of communities occupying the site for at least 8 000 years.

The municipality’s inhabitants are predominantly Christian, mostly Maronite, with a minority of Shia Muslims. There are no data available about the population age breakdown. Byblos is home to professional schools of the Lebanese American University, and its economy relies heavily on tourism due to its ancient port, Phoenician, Roman, and Crusader ruins, beaches, and surrounding mountains. Given its proximity to Beirut, some inhabitants commute to work in the capital.

Shweir is a municipality in the Matn region of Mount Lebanon, 30 km from Beirut. It comprises the towns of Dhour Shweir and Ain Sindyaneh. According to interviews with the municipality, as of May 2019 it has a population of 6 000 in the peak summer season, and a population of around 4 500 the rest of the year. The vast majority of Shweir’s population are of working age (between 20 and 65 Table 10.1), and there are a significant number of immigrants (estimated at around 30% of the overall population, although as there are no precise figures the overall population estimate excludes immigrants), mostly from Syria.

The economy revolves around summer tourism, commerce and banking. Many people work in and commute to Beirut daily. Shweir is not part of a municipality union; however, there is informal exchange between the mayors of Shweir and neighbouring municipalities about common issues, such as security and local events.

In order to create a framework for all open government reforms and to align related efforts in a municipality, the OECD recommends the development of an open government strategy. According to a definition in the Recommendation, “an open government strategy (is) a document that defines the open government agenda … [and] includes key open government initiatives, together with short, medium and long-term goals and indicators” (OECD, 2017[1]). Such a strategy can help to ensure that open government initiatives reinforce each other and are implemented in a way that contributes to a shared vision and common objectives. It should include high-level political commitments, as well as specific, delivery oriented commitments.

If co-created with stakeholders, an open government strategy has the potential to impact on all of local government’s functions and activities, and improve the relationship between government and society. OECD data show that despite many notable open government practices at national and subnational levels in OECD countries, a consistent approach to designing and implementing open government policies and initiatives through an official strategy is often lacking.

There are numerous open government initiatives underway in Byblos and Shweir that could be included in such a strategy. These are discussed in greater detail over the course of this chapter and are summarised in Box 10.2 below.

These are important efforts and demonstrate strong political will and leadership to advance open government reforms at the municipal level. They cover all four open government principles and include many practices that could be replicated across the country. At the moment, these good practices remain disparate open government initiatives and, while they are part of the mayor’s strategic vision, they are not enshrined in a strategy. They are largely dependent on the political commitment and leadership of the current mayor and council.

The municipalities of Byblos and Shweir could consider developing their own open government strategies to institutionalise their open government practices, articulate their vision, establish clear objectives, and embed the principles of open government in all areas of the municipality. This is the case in a number of OECD countries, such as the city of Edmonton in Canada (see Box 10.3). Having a strategy in place would also help to enable a long-term approach and enshrine an open government culture in Byblos and Shweir, bringing the residents and stakeholders of each municipality together around the same vision. It would also help to ensure that open government initiatives are conducted to achieve wider objectives, for instance inclusive growth, strengthened democracy or increased public trust in government.

As outlined in the OECD Recommendation on Open Government (OECD, 2017[1]), to reach its full potential, an open government strategy should be developed with an inclusive process that results in “buy-in” from key actors in and outside of government. It is therefore important to involve all relevant stakeholders, especially citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs). In OECD countries, the types of actors involved include: government institutions, citizens, migrant communities, organised civil society, academic institutions, media/journalists, organised professional groups, international organisations and the Open Government Partnership Support Unit (OECD, 2019[16]).

Successfully implementing open government practices and developing an open government strategy depend on a solid institutional framework. In OECD countries, analyses demonstrate the value of dedicated structures to co-ordinate open government initiatives to ensure their consistency, complementarity and relevance (OECD, 2016[2]).

Byblos has a formalised administrative structure, as outlined in Figure 10.3. The municipality president oversees the council and all administrative departments (secretariat, finance, administration, engineering, police, health, culture and tourism). The secretariat department oversees the press department, and the engineering department oversees various other teams, such as works, cleaning and public gardens. Responsibilities that relate to open government principles are shared between the secretariat, finance, administration and tourism departments in particular. The head of tourism manages the municipality’s website and the secretariat handles social media and traditional press relations. These two teams are in regular contact with the finance and administrative departments to communicate any important news and budget information to the public. As of September 2019, no one is specifically tasked with managing access to information (ATI) requests, nor is anyone responsible for stakeholder and citizen participation.

The municipality of Shweir has a formalised administrative structure, as outlined in Figure 10.5. Scale of participatory practices: Levels of stakeholder participation. As the chief executive of the council, the mayor oversees the head of police, head of media, head of administration and head of finance. As it is a small municipality, the head of the administrative department is also charged with open government related issues, such as access to information, including answering ATI requests, and citizen participation. Horizontal co-ordination on some open government issues is well established: the head of media works with the head of administration on public communication efforts, and they also co-ordinate with the finance department regarding publicising budgetary information.

In some OECD municipalities there is an office responsible for participation that co-ordinates all participation initiatives, produces an overarching document to define their characteristics, and provides incentives for public officials to organise activities and for citizens to participate in them (OECD, 2016[2]). Byblos could consider establishing such an office, or an open government office with slightly broader responsibilities, such as responding to ATI requests. For a small municipality the size of Shweir, an adapted proposal is for the municipality to outline the objectives, characteristics and principles of stakeholder participation in its open government strategy, specifying who is responsible for implementation and monitoring. This could ensure that open government responsibilities are part of the official tasks/terms of reference of specific roles within the administration.

The OECD survey asked the two municipalities whether they exchange with other municipalities about good open government practices and whether they co-ordinate or collaborate with other municipalities on open government issues. In both cases, Byblos and Shweir indicated that they do not yet collaborate with other Lebanese municipalities on these issues; however, interviews with key members of the two municipalities identified a desire to foster such an exchange. Establishing a network of municipalities for open government could enable Byblos, Shweir and other municipalities to learn about good practices and to potentially share resources for related initiatives. The Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), as the national ministry taking the lead on the open government agenda, could help to foster the establishment and co-ordination of such a network.

The impact of open government strategies and initiatives equally depends on having well-trained human resources and sufficient funds (OECD, 2019[34]). As such, the OECD Recommendation on Open Government calls on governments to implement reforms by “providing public officials… with adequate human, financial and technical resources, while promoting a supportive organisational culture” (OECD, 2017[1]). For instance, good public communication requires the technical skills to use different channels and clear language, as well as a strategic understanding of how communication can be used to leverage stakeholder participation. Interacting with citizens requires negotiation or mediation skills. Implementing the 2017 Right of Access to Information Law requires training in what this law entails. Civil servants also need to be aware and informed about the benefits that having an open government strategy and related initiatives can bring.

The OECD Recommendation on Public Service Leadership and Capability stresses the importance of skills to turn political visions into high-quality services that improve citizens’ lives (OECD, 2019[34]). The OECD Report, “Skills for a High Performing Civil Service”, introduced a new framework for the skills that civil servants require today (OECD, 2017[33]). One of the four pillars identified in this report regards service delivery and citizen engagement, which are both particularly relevant for local government. The report summarises the skills needed as:

  • Professional: Traditional building blocks of service and engagement skills including professionals with expertise in public relations, communications, marketing, consultation, facilitation, service delivery, conflict resolution, community development and outreach.

  • Strategic: The use of engagement skills to achieve specific outcomes to inform, for example better targeted interventions, or nudge public behaviour towards desirable outcomes, such as healthier eating habits or smoking reduction.

  • Innovative: The application of innovation skills to engagement in order to expand and redesign the tools themselves through, for example, co-creation, prototyping, social media, crowdsourcing, challenge prizes, ethnography, opinion research and data, branding, behavioural insights, digital service environments, and user data analytics.

Shweir municipality has taken a number of steps to provide training to all staff, not just those with responsibility for open government-related tasks, on transparency, integrity, emotional intelligence and interaction with citizens, as well as technical capacities to utilise the new information technology (IT) system. According to interviews with administrative staff, the aim of these capacity building activities has been to ensure the same quality of service delivery to everybody, without discrimination. OMSAR has also provided training to the municipality on implementing the Right of Access to Information Law. No such training has taken place in Byblos at the time of writing in early 2020, but this would be encouraged. Further training in both municipalities, in particular regarding the innovative skills listed above which are related to the implementation of open government initiatives, could also benefit the municipality’s ability to involve citizens more closely in its decision making, projects, and public service design and delivery.

The OECD survey indicates that insufficient funding is one of the most significant challenges that both Byblos and Shweir face in implementing open government policies and initiatives. Respondents from Byblos also highlighted the lack of a clear separation of responsibilities between levels of governance, and respondents from Shweir acknowledged the lack of a requirement for open government reforms.

According to interviews with the president, mayor, council members and administrative staff in both municipalities, project funding from central government is not always predictable, and projects often stop part way through as a result. This is in line with the findings of numerous reports which highlight that transfers from the Independent Municipal Fund (IMF) are often late from one year to the next and are not delivered on a fixed schedule, meaning that municipalities often do not know when they will receive additional funds (Atallah, 2011[60]; Mourad and Piron, 2016[61]; Democracy Reporting International, 2018[63]; 2017[56]).

One third (35%) of Shweir municipality’s budget comes from the national government through the IMF, while the remaining 65% comes from municipality taxes, which is a common funding structure in Lebanese municipalities (Mourad and Piron, 2016[61]). The municipality is responsible for the finances related to projects undertaken entirely by the municipality. When projects are co-ordinated by central government, however, the higher level is accountable, including for the procurement process. In these latter instances, central government informs the municipality, which plays a monitoring role. Interviews conducted underlined how these power-sharing arrangements limit the ability of municipalities to have full control over their open government policies regarding budget transparency and stakeholder involvement in budget decision making.

The municipality of Shweir also tries to implement open government principles through initiatives that are made possible by donations in kind. Interviews with council members conveyed that their proactive approach to seeking donations involves promoting a specific project, contacting well-off individuals and businesses in the community for their support, and, if donations are received, following their transparency procedures for disclosure. For instance, in response to such a call, a local cement company might donate concrete for a new building. The municipality follows an informal set of rules to ensure transparency with its citizens and the central government regarding donations. It provides a detailed description of the donation, involving its nature and its cost, on the municipality’s website and its social media accounts, notably its Facebook page. However, this practice is not a legal requirement, and the municipality could consider embedding it as a provision in an open government strategy.

Shweir municipality also co-operates with CSOs and seeks citizen involvement to deliver some of its projects. Such an approach follows some trends underway in OECD countries to innovate public service delivery through co-production, referring to the direct involvement of individual users and citizens in public service planning and delivery (OECD, 2011). For example, in 2017 when the municipality wanted to establish a centralised low-cost medical assistance centre in Shweir, it established a public-civil partnership with CSOs and involved citizens in co-delivery. After asking and being granted permission from the Ministry of Health, the municipality established a new primary health clinic with the support of two health-related CSOs and citizen volunteers. The municipality and CSOs financed the building maintenance and supplies, the CSOs are paying the salaries of two nurses, and six citizens who live in the municipality volunteer as doctors. Such a public-civil partnership for public service delivery demonstrates that Shweir already has some advanced participatory practices underway, which could be expanded to other areas of service provision within its competencies. They could also be an inspiration for Byblos and other municipalities.

  • Co-create an open government strategy for Byblos and Shweir with relevant stakeholders. The president or mayor and elected representatives could, together with citizens, CSOs and other relevant stakeholders, identify the priorities in the areas of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation. Such a strategy could include a vision, objectives and initiatives to be undertaken, as well as a set of monitoring and evaluation metrics that could allow for an impact assessment. Developing an open government strategy could help to enshrine the municipality’s current culture of openness, thus ensuring its sustainability. It would also help ensure that citizens and stakeholders share the same vision.

  • Foster exchange with other Lebanese municipalities for the exchange of good practice on open government efforts. Establishing stronger links could help enable the spread of good open government practices and initiatives in Lebanon, as well as a sharing of resources. OMSAR could help establish and co-ordinate such a network.

  • Provide training and capacity building activities to strengthen the skills required to implement open government initiatives in both municipalities. In Byblos, training for all staff, similar to the one already conducted in Shweir, would be encouraged to cover transparency, integrity, emotional intelligence and interaction with citizens, as well as technical capacities to ensure that all staff have the same capacities to the use the IT system and social media. Training in both municipalities to strengthen awareness and knowledge of how to implement the Right of Access to Information law would also be helpful. Capacity building activities for key staff responsible for open government activities could cover topics such as co-creation, prototyping, crowdsourcing, challenge prizes, ethnography, opinion research and data, audience insights, branding, behavioural insights, digital service environments, and user data analytics. Such training could enhance the scope and quality of open government initiatives in the municipalities.

  • In Byblos, assign responsibilities to an individual or office for the handling of ATI requests and for stakeholder and citizen participation. There is currently no individual or office specifically responsible for these important open government functions. Given the size of the municipality one person would probably be sufficient. However, an individual or office with this responsibility would help to ensure that the municipality is implementing the ATI law and is conducting regular and meaningful stakeholder and citizen participation initiatives to inform its work. This would lead to better policies and strengthen the relationship between the municipality representatives and administration and its citizens.

  • Continue and expand the use of public-civic partnerships for the co-delivery of public services in Shweir, and consider doing so in Byblos. The new low-cost health centre in Shweir, established with CSOs and run with the help of volunteer doctors, demonstrates the municipality’s capacity to use innovative methods to deliver better and more inclusive public services. This approach could be extended to other areas of service provision and could serve as inspiration to Byblos and other municipalities.

The second pillar of open government regards implementation frameworks, which are the ways in which open government principles are put into action. These entail: transparency and access to information policies, public communication strategies, stakeholder participation processes, and monitoring and evaluation systems.

The right to access government information is important as a foundation for open government at the local level as well as at the central level. Articles 45, 55 and 76 of the Municipal Act (1977) enshrine the principle of transparency to some extent. This has been strengthened with the recently passed Right of Access to Information Law (2017), which also applies to municipalities. Even though these legal instruments are in place, Lebanese municipalities publish only 10% of information related to their budget decisions, and fewer than 12% of municipal unions have a favourable opinion of the Right of Access to Information Law, according to a 2017 survey by Democracy Reporting International.

In Byblos, budgets are published on the Baladyati app for residents and on the municipality’s Facebook page. In Shweir, there is a long tradition of transparency in the municipality, where budgets have been publicly posted since at least 1982, when the current head of finance took the post. However, the budget in both municipalities is published in a PDF format, which creates difficulties for analysis. It is common practice in OECD countries to publish the budget in an open data format – for instance, as a downloadable Excel document. Provision 7 of the OECD Recommendation on Open Government specifies that the format should be “free of cost, available in an open and non-proprietary machine-readable format, easy to find, understand, use and reuse, and disseminated through a multi-channel approach, to be prioritised in consultation with stakeholders” (OECD, 2017[1]). The majority of OECD countries (28) provide the approved budget and 24 provide the executive budget proposal at the national level in an open data format (OECD, 2019[40]). Byblos and Shweir could consider making the detailed budget more easily accessible and searchable for citizens and businesses by publishing it in an open data format.

Budget documents are often long and technically complex documents. By explaining and reporting budgets simply and clearly the government can enable better citizen and business understanding of the budget. In many OECD countries, governments publish a citizen’s guide, sometimes called a citizen’s budget, to explain the objective and impact of the budget in plain language. As of 2018, citizen’s guides, in one form or another, are produced in 23 OECD countries (OECD, 2019[40]). According to the 2018 OECD Budget Practices and Procedures Survey results, they are most often published for the approved budget and the executive budget proposal (14 OECD countries for each). The Lebanese government also published a citizen’s guide to the budget in 2018 and 2019 (Bissat, 2019[64]). To make the budget more accessible to its citizens and businesses, Shweir municipality could consider developing a citizen’s guide to the approved budget. The OECD has developed relevant guidelines to help in this regard: “Producing a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget: Why? What and How?” (Petrie and Shields, 2010[65]).

One example of what a citizen’s guide looks like is the UK’s 2018 budget, when the government published a simple breakdown of “24 things you need to know” (GOV.UK, 2018[66]). Each year when UK residents submit their tax returns, they also receive a table and a graphical pie chart breakdown of how their tax money was spent. Every resident receives this automatically. At the local level, the city of Brussels publishes a visual guide to the annual budget every year, which could serve as inspiration for Shweir on how to strengthen their budget transparency practices (Ville de Bruxelles, 2019[67]).

Another important open government practice in Shweir, in place since 2010, is the publication of the council’s minutes of decisions on the municipality building, website and Facebook page. The latter has allowed the sharing of information to become more interactive, as citizens have asked about the rationale for certain council decisions on the platform, thus allowing for initial dialogue. This information is not published in Byblos at the time of writing in early 2020.

In both municipalities, the council publishes information about ongoing projects in the municipality and their status of completion, as well as the municipal plans and strategy. To ensure that this practice continues, municipalities could embed the approach to publishing information about projects, and subsequently about how citizens can participate in or offer feedback/complaints about council decisions, into their respective open government strategies.

In Shweir, where there is a specific person in the administration responsible for ATI requests, the municipality has responded to such requests in a timely manner. As discussed in the previous section, Byblos could assign responsibilities for ATI to an individual or office in the municipality to ensure that such requests are promptly handled and responded to.

Finally, procurement transparency is a key element of an open government agenda. According to interviews with council and civil society members, the procurement process in Shweir is considered transparent. For small local projects costing below USD 5 000, the municipality contacts two to three contractors who are required to bid, although this information is not published. Above this amount there is an open bidding process required by law. A tender is distributed on the municipality’s webpage and on the front of the municipality building and is open for 30 days. The public can attend the town hall on the day the bids are opened and discussed by the mayor and the council. The municipality chooses the lowest bid that still meets the required technical evaluation of the project.

The OECD Recommendation (OECD, 2017[1]) identifies strategic public communication as a key pillar of an open government agenda that can promote transparency, enable participation and ensure accountability. However, fewer than 2% of commitments included in Open Government Partnership (OGP) action plans across the world are related to media and communication (OECD, 2016[2]).

Byblos has appointed a head of press and media who is responsible for public communication efforts in the form of updating the municipality’s website, managing relationships with traditional media (TV, radio and newspapers), managing the municipality’s Facebook activity and covering events. There is daily activity on Facebook and the head of media is promoting two-way communication by reacting and responding to citizens’ comments on its posts.

In Shweir, the municipality is making strong and strategic use of communication campaigns and digital tools to promote open government principles and two-way communication with its citizens. Shweir’s head of media is responsible for public communication efforts. Her responsibilities include updating the municipality’s website and social media, covering events, and co-ordinating with key media (TV, radio and newspapers).

In both municipalities, public communication efforts could be strengthened through the development of a strategy for communicating open government initiatives. Existing good practices, such as awareness-raising campaigns and the publication of key information in bulletins and official documents, on the municipality’s website, and on social media, are to be encouraged. Embedding these good practices into a public communication strategy as part of an overarching open government strategy could help ensure that they become systematic and that they support wider objectives.

Byblos and Shweir’s Facebook pages are particularly active. The municipalities post updates about council decisions and social events, mostly with posts featuring photos or videos. Shweir also livestreams meetings.

The municipality of Shweir has shared some of its social media engagement metrics for analysis. These were not available for Byblos. As of February 2019, the average post reach per month is 98 000 views, the average post engagement is 68 000 and the average number of new page likes is 346 (Table 10.2). Facebook is an important communication channel given its prevalence in Lebanon. As of May 2019, Shweir municipality’s page has 8 800 likes, which suggests that the municipality is also engaging a significant proportion of emigrants, visitors and diaspora, since the population is only 5 000 residents during the peak summer months and around 1 500 the rest of the year.

The municipality of Shweir has also began to engage on Twitter, although it only has 33 followers on this platform as of September 2019. However, this is unsurprising given the low penetration rate of Twitter (10%) compared to Facebook (78%) in Lebanon (, 2020[46]). Shweir is equally active on Instagram, with 443 posts and 1 575 followers as of May 2019.

Beyond these measures of public communication, overarching objectives of what the councils would like to achieve through their communication could be set. The OECD guide on “Communicating Open Government” (OECD, 2019[68]) suggests establishing specific objectives that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. For example, an objective could be to encourage a cultural change in favour of open government principles. Key performance indicators for such an objective could include an increase in the number of citizens signing up for a particular participation initiative and an increase in the number of institutions using open data platforms. The guide also explains why and how to set targets and milestones, set responsibilities, identify audiences, and develop key messages.

Regarding other communication channels, Byblos’s head of media is in charge of press releases and managing relationships with journalists from TV, radio and newspapers to ensure coverage. The municipality’s website features a news section that highlights some of this coverage. Shweir’s activity to engage traditional media sources is somewhat limited. Radio, TV and newspapers are not used to communicate about open government initiatives, which raises an important question regarding the digital divide. According to interviews with the municipality’s head of media, there is a high level of certainty that the vast majority, if not all, of Shweir’s residents are on Facebook and WhatsApp. Even if true, this does not necessarily mean that everybody is an active user of the platform. A diversified approach to public communication could help alleviate the potential digital divide and ensure that a wider audience is being reached and engaged.

In terms of other digital communication tools, Shweir could consider finalising the maintenance of its website and making use of it to proactively share relevant information. Byblos’s website could be a source of inspiration. For both municipalities, another key outreach tool could be a citizen newsletter, which are an effective way of keeping residents up to date with municipality activities, projects and updates directly, reducing the need to seek out information. The city of Barcelona, for example, also offers its newsletter via the messaging app, Telegram, as more and more people use their mobile phones to find and receive information (see Box 10.4).

As outlined in the OECD Recommendation (OECD, 2017[1]), the concept of participation refers to a scale of participatory practices that range from information to engagement, with citizens’ involvement and influence increasing at each level (Figure 10.5).

Byblos and Shweir both have numerous examples of good practice regarding the first level of participation: information. The municipalities proactively share information and there is a two-way communication approach, as described in previous sections. The main element Byblos and Shweir could consider improving is access to municipal council sessions. Opening these sessions to the public is a common practice in the local authorities of OECD countries, and allows citizens and the press to follow municipal decisions closely (OECD, 2019[16]). However, in Lebanon, Article 35 of the Municipal Act (1977) stipulates that “Municipal Council sessions are held in secrecy”. There is a potential way to overcome this challenge, as the same article also adds that “the President [Mayor] of the Municipality shall be entitled to convene any employee or person to the sessions of the Municipal Council and to listen to him”. While the law prevents the councils from publishing minutes or broadcasting the sessions, it does allow the possibility of the mayor extending an invitation to all residents to attend the council meetings in person.

Regarding consultation, both municipalities also have numerous good practices in place, such as open door sessions and consultations for municipal, infrastructure and urban planning projects, both common practice in municipalities in OECD countries. To bring citizens closer to the council, in Byblos the president holds regular open door sessions, although the days and hours are not specified and this does not extend to councillors. In Shweir, the mayor holds open door sessions daily from 9am-12pm, and all councillors spend 2-3 hours daily at the municipality where they are open to meeting with citizens. According to interviews with the president, mayor, councillors and citizens in both municipalities, residents stop by every day during this period to discuss a wide range of issues.

In Shweir, the council also engages with stakeholders through a combination of these open door sessions, town hall meetings and Facebook posts where citizens are able to post their feedback. The consultations are currently targeted at citizens and could also be expanded to include other actors such as civil society organisations (CSOs,) trade unions, private companies, media/journalists and minority groups, such as the sizeable Syrian immigrant community. Moreover, to demonstrate to stakeholders how their input informs council decisions or how they are being implemented, a feedback loop between citizens and the municipality could be established and enshrined in the open government strategy.

Byblos identified four challenges of implementing stakeholder and citizen participation initiatives through the OECD survey: insufficient funding, insufficient incentives for public officials to implement stakeholder participation initiatives, insufficient citizen interest to participate, and interested parties are not sufficiently informed about participation opportunities. These challenges shed some light on the municipality’s limited stakeholder and citizen participation initiatives thus far, which have been largely limited to information sharing and one-way consultations, without attempts at more innovative approaches or two-way engagement.

In Shweir, two main challenges for stakeholder and citizen participation were identified: a lack of adequate information among staff about different participation processes, and insufficient funding. As part of its co-operation with Shweir, the OECD conducted a three-day capacity-building workshop on innovative citizen participation practices in May 2019, with a peer from Belgium and two experts in the field from Belgium and Poland. The workshop was attended by the mayor, members of the municipal council, administrative staff and civil society. This workshop provided an introduction to participation more broadly and focused in-depth on deliberative processes, therefore addressing the question of how to engage representative groups of citizens in a process of facilitated learning and deliberation in order to allow citizens to develop informed recommendations. Many other forms of stakeholder and citizen participation were not covered in depth.

A similar workshop will take place in the municipality of Byblos in 2020, which could help to encourage the municipality to identify how it could better incentivise councillors and public servants to use stakeholder and citizen participation practices to improve policies and strengthen the relationship with inhabitants.

Beyond this capacity building, both municipalities could benefit from training on different forms of stakeholder participation, such as participatory budgeting, which is particularly relevant at the local level. The Participatory Budgeting Project states that “Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives people real power over real money.” (Participatory Budgeting Project, 2020[70]). PB started in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 and has since spread to 3 000 cities across the world (Participatory Budgeting Project, 2020[70]). It is a method that allows citizens to practice democracy and counter corruption as it introduces checks and monitoring by citizens. A 2019 World Bank study has also found that participatory budgeting and participatory institutions can improve governments’ balance sheets as they increase citizens’ willingness to pay taxes (Peixoto, Touchton and Wampler, 2019[71]). While PB practices vary across the world in their specifics, they usually follow a certain set of steps, according to the Participatory Budgeting Project:

  1. 1. Process design: A steering committee that represents the community develops the rules and engagement plan.

  2. 2. Brainstorm ideas: Through meetings and online tools, residents share and discuss ideas for projects.

  3. 3. Develop proposals: Volunteer “budget delegates” develop the ideas into feasible proposals.

  4. 4. Vote: Residents vote on the proposals that most service the community’s needs.

  5. 5. Fund winning projects: The government or institution funds and implements the winning ideas.” (Participatory Budgeting Project, 2020[70])

Byblos and Shweir could benefit from learning more in-depth about participatory budgeting processes through a training programme adapted for PB in small municipalities. However, as outlined in the previous section, with only a small proportion of the municipality’s budget being raised directly through taxes, and the unreliability of funding from the national level, participatory budgeting might be a more salient option if the currently debated Decentralisation Bill becomes law, granting municipalities greater autonomy over their finances. This bill could also help contribute to resolving the issue of insufficient funding for stakeholder participation.

To address the challenges that the municipalities face, developing a participation charter that enshrines the principles, objectives and procedures for citizen participation in Byblos and Shweir could help to ensure that these practices are embedded. This charter could also establish a procedure for systematically providing feedback to participants in consultations. It is common practice in OECD countries to co-create this charter with citizens, civil society and stakeholders. As there is no legal requirement in Lebanon for the government, at any level, to consult or engage citizens in its policy making and decision making, creating such a charter could be one way of putting such a commitment in place, inspiring other municipalities to follow suit. For example, the Charter of Lyon helps to establish a common set of principles, objectives and a vision, setting out the rights and obligations of the municipality and citizens (Box 10.5).

The third level of stakeholder participation, engagement, could also be strengthened in both municipalities. Consultations as currently carried out contain no obligation to inform citizens of the final outcome and tend to be top-down. Opening greater opportunities for citizens to influence decision making through methods of co-production and co-decision, where there is a balanced sharing of power between decision makers and stakeholders, could improve the quality of input that the municipalities receive from stakeholders and ensure that information comes from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.

This could be in the form of creating opportunities for everyday people in the municipalities to be able to provide informed recommendations on policy issues and projects. Deliberative processes are particularly well-suited for achieving this goal as they are designed to take a representative group of people, provide them with the time and resources to become informed and weigh all sides of an issue, and to develop concrete recommendations within the constraints of what is feasible for the public authority (OECD, 2020[73]; Chwalisz, 2017[74]; Gerwin, 2018[75]) (Box 10.6). However, deliberative processes are not the only option, participatory budgeting, mentioned earlier in this section, is also an example of such engagement.

The final key aspect of open government implementing frameworks are monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. These are essential for elaborating sound and robust public policies, ensuring that they achieve their intended goals and objectives, helping to identify the challenges involved, and providing possible solutions to overcome them. Provision 5 of the OECD Recommendation outlines three aspects needed to develop and implement monitoring, evaluation and learning mechanisms for open government strategies and initiatives:

  1. 1. “Identifying institutional actors to be in charge of collecting and disseminating up-to-date and reliable information and data in an open format.

  2. 2. Developing comparable indicators to measure processes, outputs, outcomes and impact in collaboration with stakeholders.

  3. 3. Fostering a culture of monitoring, evaluation and learning among public officials by increasing their capacity to regularly conduct exercises for these purposes in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.” (OECD, 2017[1])

Monitoring and evaluation are complementary, although they are two distinct practices with diverse dynamics and goals. Policy monitoring refers to a continuous procedure of systematic data collection on specific indicators that allows policy makers and stakeholders to have access to information regarding the process and achievements of ongoing policy initiatives and/or the use of allocated finances (OECD, 2016[2]). Monitoring is important for planning and operational decision making as it provides evidence for performance management and can help identify implementation problems, delays or bottlenecks. It can also contribute to strengthening accountability regarding the use of resources, the outputs of a given policy initiative, or the efficiency and effectiveness of internal management processes (OECD, 2017[1]).

Policy evaluation refers to the structured and independent assessment of the design, implementation and/or results of a completed, ongoing or future policy initiative. The objective is to define the relevance and completion of policy goals and to assess various dimensions of a specific policy, such as its efficiency, effectiveness, impact or sustainability (OECD, 2016[2]). Evaluation serves three main purposes: 1) it allows policy makers to learn and understand why and how a policy was successful or not; 2) it allows for strategic decision making by illuminating the links between decisions and outcomes; and 3) it promotes accountability as it provides stakeholders with information regarding whether or not the government’s efforts are leading to expected results (OECD, 2017[1]). At the national level, 86% of OECD countries monitor and 59% evaluate open government initiatives (OECD, 2017[79]).

M&E systems could be established for each of the implementing frameworks outlined in this section. This would require the municipality to identify an institutional actor or individual in the administration responsible for collecting and disseminating updated and reliable information in an open format. It would also necessitate the development of comparable indicators to measure processes, outputs, outcomes and impact in collaboration with stakeholders. For these recommendations to be successful, it is crucial to foster a culture of monitoring, evaluation and learning among public officials. Once ongoing monitoring is in place, the municipality could consider an evaluation of its open government initiatives to assess how open government improves policy outcomes and impacts.

For instance, measuring the extent to which citizens use their rights to access information could be one way of keeping track of transparency. An example of how this is implemented elsewhere is in the Australian state of New South Wales (Box 10.7). Measuring the number of access to information requests, waiting time and response given is one example of how implementation of the Right of Access to Information Law can be monitored and evaluated, although a high number of requests does not necessarily mean that there is a great deal of transparency, nor does having few requests mean that information is being made available proactively.

Regarding communication, the municipality of Shweir is already measuring its social media engagement, which is a crucial element for understanding impact. This could also become a practice in Byblos. Both municipalities could also consider collecting more systematic data about their two-way communication to get a sense of what percentage of their communication is one-way information and what percentage is a two-way dialogue with citizens.

For stakeholder participation, collecting metrics regarding the number of participants and the level of input into a consultation, as well as the demographics of participants, could help the municipalities better understand which voices are being heard and not being heard, thus highlighting the potential need for targeted efforts to reach certain parts of the populations. This could also enable the municipalities to establish greater legitimacy for decisions taken, where a link can be drawn to the representativeness of the input received from citizens. Beyond monitoring the process, it is also important to monitor the outcomes and the impact of stakeholder participation initiatives on the desired goals, such as an improved policy or project, or increased trust in government.

  1. Publish the budget in open data format at the municipal level. The Recommendation says that data could be published in a format that is “free of cost, available in an open and non-proprietary machine-readable format, easy to find, understand, use and reuse, and disseminated through a multi-channel approach, to be prioritised in consultation with stakeholders” (OECD, 2017[1]). In the case of the budget, each municipality could publish a downloadable Excel file that would allow citizens and businesses to easily search the budget and carry out calculations, as well as foster greater accountability of the municipality.

  2. Create a citizen’s guide to the budget that is automatically sent to all residents by e-mail and social media, and is available as a leaflet at the municipality. Transforming the key elements of the budgets into graphical representations and explanations that are easy to understand by all people would help ensure the budget is more accessible to citizens, stakeholders and businesses. By sending it out automatically to residents by e-mail or social message (such as WhatsApp or Telegram, for example), the municipality would be proactively sharing information rather than waiting for citizens to come to the municipality building or its website/Facebook page searching for information. To avoid a digital divide, and as not all citizens are necessarily active online, Byblos and Shweir could also consider making the citizens’ guide to the budget available as a leaflet at the municipality building.

  3. Incorporate a public communication strategy into the overarching open government strategy. Evidence suggests that the current administrations in both municipalities communicate well about their respective open government initiatives and measure levels of engagement, but that these practices could be reinforced by a formal strategy. Including these practices in an open government strategy could help to systematise them.

  4. Systematically publish information about local projects (e.g. indoor sports facility, the budget, etc.). The practice for sharing information in both municipalities is currently ad hoc. The municipalities could develop a set of guidelines that ensure all information for every local project is always published on its website and social media pages, detailing which information needs to be shared with the public.

  5. Extend communication beyond social media and develop audience insights. The municipalities’ use of social media to communicate, particularly on Facebook, is already excellent, generating high levels of engagement and two-way dialogue. Utilising other forms of communication in addition could widen the reach. Keeping the official website up to date is also important. Another method of communication, which is common in many OECD municipalities, is to develop a citizen newsletter that brings the municipality’s news and information directly to citizens by e-mail or social messaging. In Shweir, adding a media strategy to increase TV, radio and newspaper audiences could help to ensure that the municipality is also reaching residents who are not active online. In both municipalities, developing analysis regarding audience insights could help the municipalities to better understand which types of residents they are reaching through which communication channels in order to develop a more targeted approach that could help Byblos and Shweir reach more people and increase stakeholder and citizen participation. Understanding audience motivations, perceptions and expectations are key for effective and strategic public communication.

  6. Create a charter of openness and participation that includes guidelines for stakeholder and citizen participation. As there are currently no guidelines, regulations or legislation mandating citizen participation and engagement in Lebanon, developing such a charter, which is common in OECD countries, could help to institutionalise the good practices already underway in Byblos and Shweir. The guidelines could set out the principles and objectives of involving citizens more in policy making and could establish methods of citizen participation. They could also ensure that monitoring and evaluation of citizen involvement occurs, keeping track of how many people participate in deliberations and consultations about each issue, as well as their representativeness of the wider community. The guidelines could outline indicators to help measure the outcomes and impact of stakeholder and citizen participation initiatives on policies and services.

  7. Institutionalise stakeholder and citizen participation in infrastructure and urban planning projects. To embed the municipalities’ practice of holding open door sessions and meetings regarding infrastructure and urban planning projects, guidelines could be developed as part of a charter of openness and participation that could take these practices further, outlining in what instances they should be required, for example. If the municipalities choose not to develop a charter, then developing a set of guidelines for stakeholder and citizen participation that are enshrined in the open government strategy would be useful and set an example for other municipalities.

  8. Develop monitoring and evaluation guidelines for open government initiatives at the municipal level. These guidelines could detail the monitoring and evaluation requirements set out in an open government strategy in each municipality. They could identify the institutional actor or individual within the municipality responsible for collecting and disseminating updated and reliable information and data in an open format. The guidelines could also entail the indicators that should be used to measure processes, outputs, outcomes and impact. For example, for stakeholder and citizen participation it could include monitoring the number of participants, their demographics and the feedback loop; and for transparency and access to information it could include metrics on access to information requests.

The way ahead refers to how the open government agenda can move beyond the frameworks, institutions and initiatives related to the enabling environment and implementation frameworks outlined in the previous two sections. It refers to public sector innovation, digital tools and open government data, and moving towards the notion of an “open state” (OECD, 2016[2]; 2017[1]). In Byblos and Shweir, there are already a number of initiatives heading in this direction. The municipalities have been proactive in disclosing information such as tax administration and budgets, as well as publishing council minutes (in Shweir) and other information digitally since 2002.

Both municipalities have a mobile application called Baladiyati, where citizens can access information, public services and submit complaints. In Shweir, a digital archiving system is under construction with the support of the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR). A geographical information system (GIS) is also available, with 70 linked layers of data that allow for more analytical decision making regarding issues such as planning and new infrastructure. Furthermore, council resolutions are livestreamed on Facebook, and social media are used to communicate about social events, decisions taken and responses to citizens’ complaints. Byblos could consider undertaking similar initiatives of digital archiving, establishing a GIS system, and livestreaming council resolutions on social media.

The next steps for both municipalities could be to consider how to incorporate more advanced consultation and engagement opportunities into the functionality of the app, or to use another application for these purposes. Some examples from OECD countries include the Government of Jersey’s chatbot consultations with Apptivism, Barcelona’s use of the free open-source participatory democracy platform Decidim, and Madrid’s free open-source platform Consul. Consul has also demonstrated how online and deliberative forms of engagement can work well together, since the online platform has been complemented by a recently inaugurated Observatory of the City. The deliberative processes outlined in the previous section are also examples of more advanced engagement methods. The OECD report, “Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions: Catching the Deliberative Wave” (OECD, 2020[73]) covers this approach in more depth, analysing almost 300 case studies from around the world to better understand the principles of good practice and how such processes can be embedded into the policy cycle. Other examples of innovative citizen participation mechanisms can be viewed on the OECD’s Toolkit and Case Study Navigator on Open Government (OECD, 2020[81]).

  • Introduce cutting-edge citizen participation practices that involve stakeholders more directly in public decision making. The municipalities of Byblos and Shweir are currently undertaking good practices for information and consultation. The next steps to consider could be to implement more advanced citizen participation processes for engagement – which means involving stakeholders more directly as partners in policy making and public decision making. This could take the form of deliberative processes or advanced tools for online participation, for instance.

  • Expand the functionality of mobile apps to allow for greater citizen participation. One way that Byblos and Shweir could implement the recommendation regarding cutting-edge citizen participation could be to expand the functionality of the mobile application to include the ability for citizens to participate in consultations (which is a two-way process), beyond the ability to submit complaints. Another option could be to utilise one of the free, open-source platforms available for this purpose online.

  • Continue the data archive process in co-ordination with OMSAR in Shweir, and begin it in Byblos, alongside the development of a GIS system. The municipalities could ensure that data are in an open format which is easily downloadable, searchable and shareable, as per the OECD’s Recommendation on Open Government (OECD, 2017[1]).

  • To support a broader open state agenda, consider creating a mechanism through which municipalities and OMSAR can collaborate and share good practices. Such a mechanism can take the form of a mixed commission with representatives from all levels of government, including at both the local and national levels. Likewise, the group could horizontally convene both government and non-governmental stakeholders across ministries and sectors.

1 Municipal unions are sometimes called municipal federations.

2 The municipality of Beirut is an exception. The government-appointed Governor of Beirut chairs the executive authority and the mayor of Beirut is responsible for policy making alongside the councillors. From a legal perspective, Beirut’s mayor has the same powers as the councillors, but in practice, he is also the leader and spokesperson of the elected council (Democracy Reporting International, 2017[56]).

3 The Ta’if Agreement ended the civil war in Lebanon. It was negotiated in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia in September 1989 and approved by the Lebanese parliament on 4 November 1989. The full text is available here:


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