Supporting National Dialogue(s) and Consensus-Building in Lebanon

Conference Room of the Common Space Initiative in Beirut, Lebanon

The Berghof Foundation has been providing technical support to the National Dialogue in Lebanon since 2008. In the second half of 2009, the project helped establish the Common Space Initiative as a mechanism to support and complement the National Dialogue process by focusing on the root causes of the Lebanese conflict. By now, the Common Space Initiative has become a significant Lebanese-owned mechanism to address deep-rooted conflict in Lebanon through a process of dialogue, joint reflection and consensus-building. The overall aim of the support project is to contribute to an environment conducive to effective, sustainable and successful dialogue and negotiations in which the basic needs and interests of all Lebanese and their contingent parties are met.

Timeframe

2008 – 2014

Project Website

www.commonspaceinitiative.org

Conflict Setting

Lebanon has a rich tradition of peaceful co-existence between its diverse ethnic and sectarian groups (Sunni, Shia, Christian, Druze, etc.), but this diversity can easily be instrumentalised by political forces inside and outside the country. In 2008, after a series of violent clashes, the main Lebanese parties mandated the newly appointed President Suleiman to chair the National Dialogue process. This should provide a platform to discuss substantial issues that require unanimous consensus from the country’s political elite. While the National Dialogue sessions were often interrupted by political disagreement, in times of deep crises it has served as a crucial mechanism for conflict management (e.g. during the Gaza wars of 2008/9 and 2012 and during the current war in Syria).

While we continue to provide support to the National Dialogue process, in late 2009 we also helped establish the Common Space Initiative to address the root causes of Lebanon’s internal conflicts.

In close consultation with all the key stakeholders involved, the Common Space Initiative evolved into a support mechanism (and permanent dialogue forum) which directly supports institutions, ministries and other government bodies dealing with essential political, judicial and socio-economic reforms as well as the implementation of past agreements and political reconciliation.

Approach

The Common Space Initiative, located in the centre of Beirut (near the parliament) offers a venue for meetings and dialogue. It facilitates structured dialogues among policymakers, intellectuals, experts, civil society actors, stakeholders and individuals. It aims to create an environment conducive to national evolution. This is mainly achieved by enhancing public policy debates, building expertise and common knowledge resources on key issues and collaborating among the concerned national parties.

The team consists of well-qualified and trained Lebanese researchers and project staff, assisted by an international senior advisor. In addition, the Common Space Initiative is supported by a group of very experienced Lebanese dialogue facilitators.

Aims & Outcomes

Key objectives are:

  • To support the Lebanese National Dialogue’s structures, mechanisms and committees,
  • To support problem-solving and consensus-building on essential policy issues,
  • To further develop and consolidate the Common Space Initiative and transfer it to a fully Lebanese-owned and sustainable structure and process to address deep-rooted conflict in Lebanon.

The Common Space Initiative provides new thinking and innovation in how to deal with deep-rooted and protracted conflict in Lebanon and supports key Lebanese actors in creating effective dialogue and reform processes.

It contributes significantly to public policy formation: For example, it facilitated expert groups on judicial, economic and political reforms and on Lebanese-Palestinian relations. They have also produced proposals for decision-making (hands-on proposals, draft laws, implementation mechanisms). Participation in the working groups is inclusive and generally high-level.

The Common Space Initiative also provides background studies, research, mappings and expert inputs. It facilitates dialogues as well as joint knowledge production based on transparent and mutually agreed-upon principles, criteria and procedures.

Key Actors

The Lebanese stakeholders - along with their respective constituencies - are at the centre of our activities in the National Dialogue process and constitutional reform processes. Next to the political parties and government institutions, we are also working with a number of selected NGOs.

We are working directly with the key advisors of the Presidential Office as well as high-level advisors from the Speakers’ and the Prime Minister’s offices. Our direct interlocutors in the dialogue fora are high-level representatives from the main Lebanese parties, Palestinian parties, representatives of the government and NGOs.

Regions

Based in Beirut, the Common Space Initiative offers support to all Lebanese stakeholders and regions. In the past few years, it additionally supported local efforts to ease the tensions in the northern city of Tripoli.

Partners

The Common Space Initiative was established in partnership with UNDP Lebanon and other Lebanese and international partners.

Funders

Core funding for the Common Space Initiative is provided by the Berghof Foundation, with financial support from the German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt). It also receives funding from donors such as UNDP/BCPR, the Danish and Norwegian Foreign Ministries and Lebanese governmental entities.

Support to the National Dialogue: Dealing with Natural Resources

Huge natural gas reserves were recently discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. But respective border demarcations are strongly contested between Israel and Lebanon. In order to offer policymakers political and legal options, the Common Space team provided a comprehensive research guide and a legal resource package. More information >

Knowledge-based Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Platform

Misperceptions, resentment, mutual fears and concerns still define today’s Lebanese-Palestinian relations. Convinced that continuous and positive Lebanese-Palestinian relations can create an essential safety net for Lebanon, the Common Space Initiative established a dialogue platform that supports and facilitates much-needed inclusive, knowledge-based Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue at the national and local levels. Among other support activities, a Lebanese Palestinian expert group was established and meets regularly to work on issues regarding policies and rights, organisational relationships and political, diplomatic and strategic issues.

  • Hannes Siebert: National Peace and Dialogue Structures. Strengthening the Immune System from Within Instead of Prescribing Antibiotics. 2012. Handbook Dialogue Series No. 10 - comment. PDF >