Lebanon and the head of a non-governmental organization, Kamel Muhanna, denounce “charitable works”

How do we distinguish between institutions that work in the interest of the country and hunters of “false glory”?
Reflecting the emergence of civil society, the new book by Dr. Kamel Muhanna, president of the main Lebanese NGO Amel, could become a key reference for the emergence of a civil conscience in Lebanon.

Civil society emerges from the traditional or communal society that is based primarily on family, province, tribe, and clan, and is centered around ties of blood, religious and ethnic affiliation, and heritage. On the other hand, civil society institutions represent society in its diversity. They consider democratic expression an essential means of consolidating their ideas and experiences in the political, economic, health, social and cultural fields, and directing the new generation towards the struggle for justice and human rights.

The “dismantling” of civil society

Thus, Dr. Muhanna deconstructs the traditional concept of civil society, recalling that it is above all an arena in which the forces of change interact in all fields, whether political, economic or social. By producing a national discourse and strategy in favor of human rights, it opens the way towards citizenship and democracy.

Through global changes and developments in the Arab world and in Lebanon, civil society has become a space for freedom and an instrument of democracy, imagined by some, and seen as an import from the West or even a puppet of the state. Others are, and are sometimes criticized for, their paternalistic approach.

For his part, doubts d. Muhanna in his ability to formulate and develop public policy in the absence of civic culture, and denounces his lack of transparency and vision. In addition, the syndicalist world sometimes turns to philanthropy and thus constitutes, through its only financial perspective, a brake on the idea of ​​citizenship.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the concept of “civil society” deviated and developed outside the scope of the question of the state. But as Dr. Muhanna reminds us, there is no civil society without a state, and national unity necessarily requires close cooperation between individuals, society and the state. In addition, some Arab intellectuals have exploited the syndicate world for political purposes, to compensate for the defeats inflicted on the nationalist and leftist currents. Maintaining true independence from political parties while having a detailed understanding of the country’s political and economic structures is undoubtedly the main challenge for societies rushing towards change. Thus, the Arab society is in dire need of the concept of a democratic political society, because its democracy is still far from the world.

The only fertile land, democratic culture

Criticizing the proliferation of associations that attract, under a remarkable slogan, foreign donations to fund minority projects or a political movement, Kamel Muhanna states that NGOs should aim above all at the development of citizenship. These abuses contributed to tarnishing the image of the union world, especially among the people involved in the protest movements in Lebanon. However, a distinction must be made between organizations seeking fame and local grassroots associations, which also advocate the creation of a democratic society.
Dr. Muhanna, who is also the general coordinator of Lebanese NGOs, stresses the importance of developing partnerships within Lebanese civil society, as well as promoting egalitarian cooperation and rejecting colonialism between local and Western NGOs. Also, in a new approach and against traditional dynamics, Amal International has chosen to extend an outstretched hand from the south to the north, by sharing its experience, in order to jointly contribute to a more equitable and humane building. .

As Kamel Muhanna points out, “We have always been committed to establishing just relations, without subordination, between North and South, as well as to fighting double standards, which are particularly present in human relations. Therefore we are committed to the just causes of the peoples of the world, starting with the Palestinian cause. Far from limiting our work to speeches. On the misery of the world in the great hotels, we work daily side by side with the working classes and the weak. The author continues: “While the gap between North and South is widening every day, we struggle tirelessly for the equitable distribution of wealth, against increasing poverty and the accompanying phenomena of marginalization. to her. »

Dr. warns. Muhanna the reader from any social, tribal or clan withdrawal, which he considers to be increasing in the Arab world at the expense of national affiliation.

Thus the author calls for the demolition of these castles by relying on democracy, which alone can open the way to social reconstruction and mean aspiration to a better future. The concept of democracy must also be strengthened within civil society, which should constitute a model and a driving force for society, by placing the principles of participation, recognition and citizenship at the heart of its work. The strengthening of the state must go in the direction of a just state that governs and balances the balance of power within society with respect to the fundamental rights of every citizen; As the author reminds us, the state should be at the service of society and society should be represented within the state.

Praise volunteer work

Dr. confirmed. Muhanna is that national political parties, voluntary organizations, and the work of uniting democratic forces are an integral part of the forces of change in civil society. In his book, he returns to a basic link in civil society: voluntary work. He explains that it is difficult for society to progress and become civilized without volunteering, which is one of the components of civil society, and it allows everyone to build their personality and self-confidence, and establish the concept of commitment to teamwork or to the implementation of professional projects.

The author concludes by calling on civil society structures in Lebanon to participate in the bitter reality that Lebanon is experiencing, especially since October 17, 2019, and to face difficulties by searching for a rational, non-sectarian vision of possible solutions. It is also necessary to get rid of any negative and destructive state of mind, and to get used to respecting the multiple authorities, from home to society.

It is about putting an end to the culture of negative thinking in Lebanese society. Thus, “reform from below” becomes a factor of “change from above”.

BOX: Some suggestions to get rid of civil society

Presented by Dr. Muhanna offers several proposals to activate the role of civil society
Adopting a stimulating global development vision. The slogan “Think Global, Act Local” has become the first commandment of sustainable development;
– Building a national consensus on the philosophy of comprehensive development in the Arab countries, through the formulation of a new social contract between the government, the private sector and the civil sector, within the framework of a tripartite partnership, with the aim of better mobilizing the capabilities of the company. ;
Considering civil society organizations as an essential partner for the government, on the basis of dialogue, consultation, coordination and cooperation, without replacing the role of the state;
Involving women and youth in the design and implementation of development programmes;
Giving priority to self-financing sources to ensure the greatest degree of independence towards donors for civil society organizations. It is also about finding a mechanism to ensure transparency of funding sources and local mutual accountability to build trust and avoid suspicious funding.

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