The Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment – Capacity Building (BALADI -CAP) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched its Civic Engagement for Democratic Governance (CEDG) component during an event held on Thursday July 14, 2106. CEDG is a two-year capacity-building component of the larger BALADI CAP program with a focus on strengthening the institutional capacities of municipalities, primarily in organizational development, financial management, information technology, and disaster management/contingency planning. With a strong emphasis on increased citizen engagement in public policy and decision-making, component activities will assist municipalities to make better decisions and deliver quality public services.
CEDG will work with 35 selected municipalities throughout Lebanon and is in the process of conducting a mapping of the various municipalities in order to identify a geographically diverse pool of municipality partners that will take part in CEDG’s Tailored Technical Assistance Program (TTAP). This mapping exercise will examine the capacity of municipalities to commit to the intensive TTAP capacity-building approach, including the number of full-time employees, municipal council members, active municipal committees, and overall budgets.
The event brought together presidents and municipal council representatives from 15 municipalities across Lebanon in order to provide them with detailed information about the program and gauge their interest in participating. Following introductory visits, a final list of CEDG municipality beneficiaries will be announced and implementation of the benchmark capacity assessments will begin.
“We hope one day we become an e-municipality, whereby everything becomes online. This will be a cornerstone to combating corruption, something which has sadly become all too familiar in Lebanon”, said Antoine Abu Younes, Vice President of the Zahle Maalka Municipality.
During his presentation, BALADI CAP’s Chief of Party, Dr. Fares El Zein, stressed the importance of the comprehensive approach the program applies during its interventions, including regular participatory benchmark capacity assessments, standard and specialized training workshops, on-the-job coaching and Community of Practice regional meetings. The tailored technical assistance and follow-up provided by BALADI-CAP’s municipal experts in improving the individual capacity of municipality staff will impact overall institutional performance, while ensuring the institutionalization and sustainability of the acquired skills within municipal institutions.
The presentation was followed by an active Question & Answer session where the attendees raised concerns and voiced challenges that they face at the municipal level, including those municipalities which are hosting a high concentration of Syrian refugees and the resulting impact on service delivery, resource management and security concerns. “Resource management is the single most important element to bring our municipality into the 21st century”, said Captain Marwan Al Aaawar, President of the Municipality of Qornayel. “We have invested in 25 young men and women by providing them with the necessary training and courses to become active members of the local police force, firefighters, etc.”
The discussion allowed for the exchange of information between municipalities and an overall consensus on the importance of CEDG in tackling these priority cross-cutting issues.