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Lebanese Challenges: Citizenship and the State, Sovereignty and Foreign Policy

"Lebanon and the Policy Reform Challenges: Towards a Comprehensive Perspective"

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Conference Recap Video


On Monday, July 24, 2022, The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Civic Influence Hub jointly organized a dialogue conference titled “Lebanese Challenges: Citizenship and State, Sovereignty and Foreign Policy” at the Mövenpick Hotel in Beirut. The conference served as the closing event for five Expert Focus Group Sessions conducted through a partnership between KAS and CIH under the project "Lebanon and the Policy Reform Challenges: Towards a Comprehensive Perspective." The event was attended by 50 distinguished experts, as well as diplomats and media representatives.

The conference's goal was to address the critical challenges that Lebanon faces in its public policies, especially in terms of “the disruption of the establishment of a State of citizenship due to the failure to implement the constitution, as well as the fragility of successful sovereignty and the confusion in foreign policy.”

Inauguration and Opening Remarks

The conference was opened with the Lebanese and German national anthems, a moment of silence to mourn the lives of the victims of the Beirut port explosion, and a speech by Faisal El-Khalil, Head of the Civic Influence Hub. El-Khalil expressed gratitude for the partnership with KAS Lebanon in addressing problematic issues in Lebanon's public policy. Against the backdrop of the complexities that threaten Lebanon's identity and sovereignty, El-Khalil emphasized the importance of hope and cooperation in restoring the State, implementing the constitution, and upholding Lebanon's cultural and constitutional values.

Michael Bauer, the Head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in Lebanon, said in his opening speech that Lebanon is a land of unique beauty, and its people are distinguished by their resilience throughout history. Bauer emphasized the significance of citizenship and statehood as a defining factor in shaping the nation's future. The challenges encompassed the preservation of sovereignty amidst external influences and the complexities of Lebanon's foreign policy. Bauer concluded: “Lebanon must also ask itself the question of its identity with regard to its own role in the international community of states.”

Sessions on Citizenship, Memory, and Foreign Policy

The conference featured insightful sessions that delved into Lebanon's challenges. Hoda El Khatib Chalak and Dr. Hassan Mneimneh addressed the theme of "Lebanon and the State of Citizenship: Challenges in Collective Memory and Social Cohesion." The discussions revolved around the relationship between citizenship and collective memory, pointing out the importance of confronting Lebanon's complex history in order to forge a unified identity.

The following session, titled "Lebanon's Defense Strategy and Foreign Policy: Exploring Scenarios and Implications," featured Dr. Rayan Assaf and retired Brigadier General Khalil El Helou. Dr. Assaf advocated for Lebanon's disassociation from regional conflicts while focusing on the importance of neutrality. Brigadier General El Helou emphasized on the necessity of a robust central army and a comprehensive defense strategy to ensure Lebanon's stability and prevent external subversion.

Conclusion and Future Prospects

The conference reached its culmination with in-depth discussions concerning the implications of the raised issues. Firstly, there is a need to assess the viability of addressing the complex issues that were deliberated, considering Lebanon's unique situation as a state held hostage and existing outside the conventional constitutional framework. Secondly, the roles played by various community forces such as universities, civil society organizations, media, and expatriates, as well as reformist sovereign political factions within the parliament, were deliberated upon. These roles are pivotal in formulating a strategic roadmap for addressing the three core subjects: establishing a state based on principles of citizenship, defining a comprehensive defense policy, and shaping the foreign policy outlook. Lastly, deliberation encompassed the potential involvement of the Arab world and the international community in endorsing the choices made by the Lebanese people concerning the aforementioned issues, and to what extent such support might be extended.

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