Breaking the curse of corruption in Lebanon
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      Karim Merhej

      • Lebanon is undergoing an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, due to the actions of the political class that has governed the country since the end of the civil war in the early 1990s. Throughout the years, under the governance of leaders made up of former warlords and wealthy businessmen, public funds were frequently plundered and the Lebanese state was used as a vehicle for extensive self-enrichment and patronage-distribution. This corruption, coupled with an absence of transparency and accountability, paved the way for the current collapse of the Lebanese state.
      • Signs of the state’s collapse began to emerge in the last few years, prompting the Lebanese government to solicit funds from the international community, which agreed to provide loans and grants under strict conditions – namely, the passing of structural reforms and anti-corruption measures to improve governance.
      • Against the backdrop of an unprecedented countrywide uprising, in recent years Lebanon’s political elites have enacted several anti-corruption laws and the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in an attempt to boost the country’s image on the international stage and to improve their own standing among their constituents.
      • These laws and this strategy, while commendable in theory, are unlikely to be effectively implemented. In short, one cannot expect a political class on whose watch corruption has proliferated – and which is responsible for the country’s current crisis – to appropriately implement anti-corruption measures and laws, and thus hold itself to account.
      • There are concerns that some of the anti-corruption laws – notably the 2020 Law on Illicit Enrichment – are being used to settle scores between members of the political class and garner praise among their constituents rather than out of a desire to reduce corruption.
      • However, with the ongoing collapse of the Lebanese state, as well as the attachment of stringent conditions on obtaining even the smallest amount of international assistance, momentum towards ushering in anti-corruption measures has been growing, particularly following the uprising that erupted in October 2019. Lebanon’s civil society has a chance to build on this momentum and exert pressure, domestically and internationally, to demand genuine anti-corruption measures and long-overdue accountability

      Middle East and North
      Africa Programme

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