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Social Anthropology

Creating the conditions for the formation of a representative task-force to draft a National Sustainable Development Strategy in post-war Lebanon

A University of Manchester researcher led a UN team, in order to identify mechanisms to help Lebanon draw up plans for its National Sustainable Development Strategy.

Michelle Obeid

Dr Obeid brought together experts from many sectors to discuss the best ways to drive Lebanon’s strategic planning for sustainable development. Acting on her advice, the government created a taskforce to spearhead the work.

As a result Dr Obeid’s expertise, three steps were taken to create the conditions for a National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) in Lebanon.

  • Firstly, in the face of on-going political instability, Obeid recommended that an institutional mechanism be put in place so that development targets would not be ignored by changing administrations. In response, the Prime Minister’s office gave a pledge to create an official body.
  • Secondly, Obeid and a team of two UN organisations brought together representatives from 12 government ministries, three umbrella NGOs, the EU and three national environmental NGOs to consult on planning. This was to facilitate inter- and cross-sectoral dialogue among different stakeholders.
  • Thirdly, Obeid facilitated two consultation meetings with the same group of stakeholders on national priorities for sustainable development, including Lebanon’s position in discussions to be held at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (2012). At this time, the Prime Minister’s office identified the Ministry of Environment to be the host for a sustainable development and multi-sectoral taskforce.

Key quote

“… because of her expert grasp of development challenges and needs in Lebanon [Obeid] ensured that the technical support of the United Nations provided to the Lebanese [NSDS] process was prudent, appropriate and impactful.” (Sustainable Development Officer at the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs)

Our research

This project revolved around formal and informal interviews with key state and non-state actors, including low ranking civil servants and NGO members.

Key findings

  • Anthropological research on Lebanon revealed a strong desire among people to be involved in the making of the state, so sustainable planning must be inclusive.
  • Residents outside of the capital express desire to be actively involved in national politics at ‘the centre’.
  • Both academics and policymakers need to investigate the dynamics between global concepts such as ‘sustainable development’ and their local understandings which may vary even within the same country.
  • A unified NSDS must link the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – and ensure the convergence of all initiatives in these areas by different government ministries.

Key people