Tripoli was known as an economic hub competing with the capital of Beirut. Nowadays, the city’s reputation is associated with conflict, the absence of local development projects, and strained public services due to a large increase in population, including a high number of Palestinian and Syrian refugees. In addition, the city suffered from general neglect that the northern municipalities experienced from State institutions in Beirut. These and other issues were discussed in a townhall meeting in Tripoli on 27 June 2019, facilitated by DRI in collaboration with the Partnership Centre for Development and Democracy (PCDD) and the Women’s Section of Tayyar Al-Azm (Determination Movement). The event was attended by 60 representatives of municipalities, union of municipalities, syndicates and civil society. Participants concluded that national legislators should advocate a decentralised approach in managing public affairs to provide the necessary support to Tripoli. More powers should be transferred to local and regional authorities and to enhance public transparency, reduce poverty, improve people’s welfare and boost urban development.
The panelists, MP Samir Jisr, District President of Zgharta, Iman Al-Rafii, President of the Union of Municipalities of Fayhaa, Ahmad Qamareddine, Lina Alameddine, Director of PCDD, and André Sleiman, DRI Country Representative, discussed the challenges facing local authorities, especially the Municipal Council, under the current municipal laws and the role of decentralisation in addressing growing development needs.
Sleiman presented DRI’s recent national survey showing the deterioration in provision of public services in municipalities and municipal unions across Lebanon. He called on sustainable solutions to accelerate the work of municipal councils, such as increasing the number of employees in certain municipalities, improving citizen access to information to enhance transparency, and adopting a decentralised financial system to strengthen the municipalities capacities to address local needs.
MP Samir Jisr voiced his strong support for implementing administrative decentralisation in Lebanon founded on building blocks such as “elected municipal councils” which would have administrative and financial independence.
District President Iman Al-Rafii emphasised the need for greater municipal participation in local development planning to improve living conditions and boost Tripoli’s economy. She also called on oversight agencies to play a bigger role in fighting corruption and misuse of public funds in municipalities.
Participants engaged with panelists throughout the session and indicated issues with service delivery and misuse of public funds by the municipalities. Attendees also asked for more transparency in municipal budgeting and planning.
This meeting was part of DRI’s wider Idara bi Mahalla campaign to bring citizens and government together and build awareness of the practical impact decentralization can have on local development across Lebanon. This campaign is part of the project « Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation in Lebanon – Phase II », funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.