Promoting urban consultation in public policy

Start Date: April ,1 2009
End Date: November ,1 2010
Location: Lebanon
Consultant: Majal

Promoting Urban Consultation in Public Policy


America-Mideast Educational & Training Services

Lebanese Transparency Association

Urban projects have seldom been successful in Lebanon. The Government's approach is largely to be held responsible for this. Within an obsolete legal framework, the Government has usually acted unilaterally, with little - if any - appeal to the population.

In this context, the SDATL of 2005 (Schéma Directeur d'Aménagement du Territoire Libanais) - the only national master plan ever carried out in Lebanon was first seen as a promising initiative. However, at completion, no effort had been made to bring public participation and democratic practices into the renewed legal framework.

In many countries, public consultation has long been recognized as good practice in urban policy, and included in the legal framework. In the USA for example, Federal law requires that a Public Participation Plan be created that affords the public a "reasonable opportunity to participate in and comment on" urban projects. The French Urban Planning Code - upon which the Lebanese one was originally shaped - states that "associating inhabitants, local NGOs and every person concerned" is required throughout the development of any public planning project.

To date, no such official guidelines exist in the Lebanese urban planning law currently in force, which dates back to 1983. Although the latter was slightly modified by the law 646 of December 2004, no reference to the public consultation was added. However, Chapter 28 of Agenda 21[1] identifies local authorities as the sphere of governance closest to the people, and calls upon all local authorities to consult with their communities.

MAJAL, in association with LTA (Lebanese Transparency Association) hereby propose a lobbying campaign for legislative reform to insert the principle of public consultation in urban planning law in Lebanon. Specifically, two practices will be promoted:

Participation: collecting the opinion of local communities during the elaboration of urban interventions and plans.

Cooperation: involving both private owners and the concerned civil society in the decision-making in urban planning.

It is believed that a renewal of the Lebanese legal framework along these lines will strongly contribute to building a culture of transparency and accountability in urban policy.

In essence, the proposed activity consists of empowering the Lebanese public and the civil society with legal tools to inquire into urban projects, influence decision-making, and hold authorities accountable.

It is believed that making public participation a legal obligation can not only encourage the expression of public opinion, but also promote a culture of transparency inside administrations. It will provide to the public a better view into the ways urban projects are staffed and conducted; and in reaction to this, the authorities are expected to adopt less bureaucratic approaches.

A well-covered campaign can bring about those changes and contribute to real democratic progress in Lebanon.

[1] The Agenda 21, which was agreed upon at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (the Rio Earth Summit) is a program that provides a framework for implementing sustainable development.

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