“You are against corruption? Prove it!”
That challenge is the slogan of “Dod el-Fasad” (“Against Corruption”), a public-awareness campaign led by Saint-Joseph University of Beirut and the Lebanese Association for Taxpayers’ Rights that is putting young people at the head of a fight for more transparent and functional state.
Several students in the campaign have been traveling throughout the country since the beginning of the year, trying to get as many people as possible to sign the “Anti-Corruption Declaration.” The declaration, composed of ten key principles, aims at “protecting the interests of the country within the framework of a solid social contract based on trust, fairness, and transparency.”
More than 7,000 people, including several well-known journalists, athletes and politicians, have signed the declaration so far.
“The campaign’s goal is not to get signatures and expose them to the media, but rather to get the commitment of every Lebanese to take action,” said Pascal Monin, project manager and director of the university’s Observatory of Civil Service and Good Governance. “It is an act of citizenship that pushes every individual to assume his or her responsibilities in the fight against corruption.”
“The campaign’s goal is not to get signatures and expose them to the media, but rather to get the commitment of every Lebanese citizen to take action.”Pascal Monin
Project manager and director of the university’s Observatory of Civil Service and Good Governance
Corruption and Economic Crisis
Corruption has been singled out by many local and international organizations as a major cause for the country’s economic crisis. Indeed, Lebanon ranked 149th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.
The financial crisis has caused a massive devaluation of the Lebanese pound and plunged nearly three-quarters of the population below the poverty line, according to new report from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. (See two related articles, “Lebanon’s Double Crisis Crushes Both Students and Universities” and “For Many Universities in Lebanon, Survival May Be at Stake.”)
The Beirut port blast in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people and caused more than $10 billion in material damage, was also seen as a symbol of the corruption and impunity that plague the administration and the public sector. (See a related article, “Beirut Blast Cripples an Educational and Cultural Capital.”)
“Over the past 30 years, corruption has become a widespread practice,” said Monin. “It even entered our national culture. This rampant corruption that has led us to economic collapse now threatens the very existence of our country.”
However, there are no indications of a strong political will to fight corruption. Parliament adopted a comprehensive legislative framework aimed at fighting this phenomenon in September 2020. One year later, the National Anti-Corruption Committee has still not been formed.
“We need to inform young citizens about their rights and improve the existing legislation until it meets international standards.”Lynn Sader
A student involved in the campaign
A new government formed this month, more than a year after the previous government resigned, offers some hope that leaders can attract more foreign aid and negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package. But reforms to stem corruption are a pre-condition for both of those efforts, and it remains to be seen if politicians across the country’s elaborate, sectarian-based power-sharing system can agree to enact them. (See a related article, “In Lebanon, Sect Vs. Sect Turns Into People Vs. Politicians.”)
The aim of the Dod el-Fasad campaign, Monin said, “is to create an anti-corruption movement with youth at its head.”
Making Student Voices Heard
The campaign has generated a lot of enthusiasm among Saint-Joseph students, who see it as a way to make their voices heard on such a central issue.
According to Patricia Abi Mansour, a law student, the initiative has given her the opportunity to take concrete action to save her country. “We need to talk about this issue, since many young citizens don’t even know what corruption is,” she said.
The campaign also organizes bootcamps and conferences for school and university students.
While many citizens are sinking into political apathy and collective depression in the absence of perspective, the Dod el-Fasad campaign instead places the citizen at the heart of the process.
“People are hopeless and don’t see how change can happen,” Abi Mansour said. “But we were the ones who voted for these corrupt politicians, and we can put an end to corruption by refusing to take part in this system.”
“People are hopeless and don’t see how change can happen. But we were the ones who voted for these corrupt politicians, and we can put an end to corruption by refusing to take part in this system.”Patricia Abi Mansour
A law student
Action and empowerment are the key words of the initiative, which strive to inform citizens about the tools they can use to fight corruption, and the measures which should be taken at the national level to protect the rights of citizens.
“The Parliament issued a law to guarantee the right to information, it also formally removed the bank secrecy on state officials, but these laws are either not applied or badly conceived,” said Lynn Sader, another student involved in the campaign. “We need to inform young citizens about their rights and improve the existing legislation until it meets international standards.”
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Sader said many people at first were afraid to sign the declaration, “but they finally did, because everyone is aware that corruption and privilege have ruined our country.”