Innovations in Government and Diplomacy
Sélim el Sayegh, Ph.D.
To prevent a diverse society from complete disruption and implosion, the need is to develop a new way to engage individuals, groups, and systems. Insistence on peace needs for all individuals is a good starting point; it will help develop their personal awareness of their own capacity to become peacemakers. Getting together in the framework of informal or formal groupings, such as think tanks or nongovernmental organizations, helps identify the potentialities of collective action to bring the necessary transformation from conflict-laden values to peaceful ones. These two concomitant shaping venues of decisions in society, namely, individual and collective, will have to be met by systemic development. This means that the decision-making level, be it political or economic, has to be ready to take responsibility at some point.
What I succeeded in doing in Lebanon was to engage the three tracks altogether. In my capacity of Minister of Social Affairs, I put as a key benchmark my strategy to build a Social Pact for Lebanon. The initiative was like a seed falling on fertile ground. The vibrant civil society was very active in advocacy, peace building, citizenship awareness, gender mainstreaming, State of Law defense, Education for all, Childhood protection, Inclusive politics, etc. However, the outcome of this activism remained limited in scope. The reason is related to the nature of the confessional political system that leaves little space for genuine transformation. The political elite became the spokespersons of the so-called interests of the cultural/religious groups composing the political spectrum of Lebanon. So whenever the winds of change started to whisper from afar, the walls of fear were immediately elevated to resist them.
In this context, the civil society became involved in an inconclusive battle between the sword and the shield. Against this background, I had to engage in a renewed dialogue with the civil society. Reframing the whole approach was a must. It means following the three tracks: systemic, collective and individual transformation.