TUE 16 - 7 - 2019
Date: Sep 7, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
The future of a Greater Lebanon
Hiba Huneini

Sept. 1 is a major cornerstone in Lebanon’s history: It marks the inception of The State of Greater Lebanon. The transformation of the “Moutasarifiya” – or Mont Liban – saw Lebanon more than double its geographical territory – from 3,500 square kilometers to 10,452 – and, along with it, increase the diversity of its society.

A new home for the various social groups was created with the establishment, with a common identity as the people of Lebanon.

This year on Sept. 1, almost 100 years later, the National Initiative for the Centennial of Greater Lebanon organized a National Youth Conference under the slogan of “Lebanon’s Sea to all Lebanon,” under the patronage of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, with the participation of various local stakeholders.

Youth from across Lebanon (both from coastal regions and inland) convened in Sidon to discuss a new phase for Lebanon’s development, in light of the projects and donations pledged at the Conference Economique pour le Development par les Reformes avec les Entreprises, as well as the new oil and gas deposits discovered in Lebanon’s waters.

The conference used innovative and interactive discussion methodologies in three different locations in Sidon.

After the opening session held in Sidon Municipality building, participants moved by boat from the harbor to Sidon’s Al-Zireh island to discuss developmental priorities in the regions through a World Cafe methodology.

The closing session was organized in Khan al-Franj in order to present the results of the discussion using data analysis and visualization technologies.

In this way, youth were able to discuss and interact with representatives of national and local stakeholders in poignant settings – inland, on the coast and offshore – to highlight the importance of water resources in shaping the future of Lebanon.

Sidon Mayor Mr. Mohammad Saudi welcomed the Lebanese youth coming from across the country and expressed his pride that the youth were able to voice their concerns and opinions about Lebanon’s future.

Afterward, MP Bahia Hariri, president of the National Initiative for the Centennial of Greater Lebanon and representative of prime minister Hariri, announced the maritime borders will be added to Lebanon’s current territorial borders, increasing by 22,700 square kilometers Lebanon’s territory in line with that of Greater Lebanon, an area of 33,152 square kilometers.

She also granted youth the responsibility to set the developmental priorities and objectives in the short and long term for Lebanon, and motivated them to discuss and brainstorm on initiatives and programs that can be implemented between Sept. 1 2019 and Sept. 1 2020.

Hazar Caracalla, economic advisor to Saad Hariri, gave a comprehensive presentation on the CEDRE conference and Lebanon’s economic priorities to enhance political stability; strengthen military and security institutions; address social challenges; stimulate growth and create jobs – involving the private sector (amid a climate of a deficit of trust by the private sector in public institutions); and reduce the impact, especially economic, of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon.

Caracalla also explained the government’s vision of stability, growth and job creation presented at CEDRE based on four key principles: Sustaining financial stability; structural and sectorial reforms, implementation of the capital investment program; and developing the strategy of productive sectors.

Wissam Zahabi, who is a board member and head of economic and finance department in the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, gave an informative and detailed technical presentation on the oil and gas sector in Lebanon and its impact on the economy and job creation.

He also explained basic concepts and terms of the sector to the youth present, to better equip them to discuss and generate ideas on the issue.

The National Initiative for the Centennial of Greater Lebanon has been organizing a series of events and programs related to enhancing the mission of Lebanon as a center of knowledge, promoting sustainable development and supporting the move toward a citizen’s state.

This year, the conference aimed to trigger a national dialogue among youth on where Lebanon should be in the year 2020 – and establish goals that can help the country can achieve this vision.

The main purpose of youth engagement was and is to build a national consensus around the developmental objectives to be achieved in across Lebanon over the next two years.

These two years are as critical and as important as the final outcome itself – if not more.

Youth will only be able to celebrate Greater Lebanon in 2020 –with its new economic prospects, borders, and national projects – if structurally and effectively engaged to be the main driving force of this process.

Hiba Huneini is the manager of the youth and civic engagement program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email her at [email protected]

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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