Prime Minister's Foreword

 
The Lebanese people have shown a high degree of national and social cohesion and solidarity, as they have rallied around their national state and its executive, legislative and judicial institutions to counter violent extremism which targets social peace and socioeconomic stability. The Government has entrusted an all- ministry national committee with developing a national and scientifically-based strategy in accordance with international standards to prevent violent extremism; and based on the premise that social cohesion and order within the framework of a modern, strong and just national state are the main deterrents to violent extremism.

Furthermore, a national definition of violent extremism that is inspired by the characteristics of the Lebanese reality has been developed and helps to further understand the role of and need for a national state.
The Government considers the unanimous adoption of the national strategy, at the Cabinet meeting on 27 March 2018 at Baabda Palace, a national achievement that reflects the will of the Lebanese people to protect their national unity and social and economic cohesion against the threats and risks of violent extremism.

The Government highly values the cooperation that culminated in the production of this strategy, including with the Office of the Resident Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Swiss Government, the National Initiative for the Centennial of Greater Lebanon and the international entities and institutions that have expressed their readiness to cooperate in the implementation of the strategy and the achievement of its national objectives.

Saad Hariri
President of the Council of Ministers

General Background

 
BACKGROUND ON THE REALITY OF VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN LEBANON
Lebanon is living amidst a regional and international environment tormented by conflicts and intra-state wars that pose the risk of national state collapse and the disintegration and dismantling of societies, especially since the risks and threats posed by such an environment are likely to expand. Furthermore, the government and population of Lebanon seek to adopt policies and design preventive plans and programs that would prevent the spread of these negative effects, as they represent serious threats to the unity of the social fabric and the assurance of the continuity of national unity.

The experience of the civil war in Lebanon in the seventies and eighties, and the historic settlement through the National Reconciliation Accord that ended the war and paved the way for a comprehensive reconstruction process, are among the factors that stimulate the national action necessary for disrupting an environment conducive to polarization and violent extremism, and to support the values of social cohesion and the peaceful settlement of internal disputes.

RISKS OF VIOLENT EXTREMISM

Violent extremism threatens society at all levels:

Firstly, it poses a threat to the human right to life, which is the first right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international treaties and is enshrined in Article (B) of the preamble to the Constitution which states that "Lebanon is Arab in its identity and affiliation. It is a founding and active member of the League of Arab States and abides by its pacts and covenants. Lebanon is also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government embodies these principles in all rights and fields without exception".

Secondly, it has implications for the future of the individuals within the society, turning them from equal and active citizens who bring their positive contributions into their communities into tools to be exploited for violence and fighting. The risk increases further when children, women and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are at risk of violent extremism.
Thirdly, it lessens trust between individuals, between the components of society, and between individuals and State institutions. This is coupled with the prevalence of an unfavorable environment that cannot ensure the rule of law, economic development and social justice, as well as with a climate dominated by polarization and the absence of rationality when discussing national issues of concern to Lebanon.

THE STRATEGY’S RATIONALE

The prevention of violent extremism has become a global priority. It is constantly on the agenda of states and international and regional organizations as these have developed national strategies and regional policies to prevent extremism, as well as in the organization of conferences, symposia and workshops to enable states to share their experiences with this issue.

In this context, a number of states have developed integrated strategies to prevent and counter violent extremism. The United Nations Secretary-General issued the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism on 24 December 2015, and a number of international and regional organizations have adopted this approach.

Such action is particularly urgent in Lebanon due to its strategic geographic location, and its presence in a regional environment where violent extremism and calls for the settlement of internal conflicts through the use of violence are proliferating.

Moreover, this strategy is aimed at maintaining security and social peace, emphasizing the responsibility of the state to adopt practical policies and safeguards, and at allowing all components of Lebanese society to enjoy a better future. This will be done by preventing the country from being adversely affected by the negative repercussions of the surrounding regional developments and by ensuring sustained economic growth and balanced regional development. These will be coupled with respect for the human rights of all Lebanese communities in order to ensure the optimal utilization of Lebanese human capital and to make the most of the creative human wealth embodied in Lebanon’s social diversity.

Strategy Development Process

 
The formulation of this strategy was based on specific steps and measures characterized by the presence of political will, access to and capitalization of international expertise in accordance with the specific realities of Lebanese society and with inputs and contribution of all ministries, as follows:

  1. The Prime Minister issued a decision on the establishment of an inter-ministerial working group at the level of representatives and the appointment of the National Coordinator for the Prevention of Violent Extremism.
  2. Two meetings were organized, each of which included a number of representatives of the ministries in order to introduce them to the work plan and to survey their opinions about it.
  3. The National Coordinator presented a theoretical framework that included a presentation of the literature on various definitions and concepts related to the prevention of violent extremism. This paper was presented to the representatives of the ministries so that they could provide their opinions about its contents.
  4. Letters were sent to twenty-nine (29) ministries on (insert date) requesting them to send a conceptual paper containing each ministry’s regulatory decrees and their proposed policies and procedures to prevent violent extremism.
  5. The ministries responded with their papers between February and July 2017.
  6. These conceptual papers were examined and analyzed, and the intersections and interlinkages were identified.
  7. A workshop was organized on 12 & 13 July 2017 for delegates of all ministries to discuss their working papers and reach a consensus on definitions and on the strategy’s pillars.
  8. The Prime Minister convened the first high-level consultative meeting on 21 July 2017 in the presence of the ministers to present the paper which was discussed and agreed upon in the workshop and to discuss and adopt it. The meeting was attended by the Resident Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Lebanon.
  1. Based on these discussions, and in order to benefit from international experience, strategies to prevent violent extremism adopted by a variety of countries have been studied and the commonalities among them, as well as the elements that could apply to the Lebanese reality were synthesized in a research paper circulated to all ministries.
  2. A meeting of delegates from all ministries was organized on 18 August 2017 to discuss and approve the participatory methodology to determine the content of the strategy. The ministries agreed that the state is the main bulwark against violent extremism by virtue of its responsibility to ensure stability and social peace. This entails acknowledging the important role played by each ministry and that their regulatory decrees constitute the governing framework for their role in preventing violent extremism.
  3. Twenty-nine (29) separate meetings were held, one with the representative of each ministry, in September and October 2017 to discuss the relationship between the regulatory decree of each ministry and the objectives set by each ministry to prevent violent extremism in light of the analysis of the basic data on the status of each ministry and its relevant sector.
  4. Based on the foregoing, the team of the national coordination unit for preventing violent extremism prepared the strategy document proposal in order to present and discuss it with a wide variety of social groups before its final approval by the Council of Ministers.
  5. The Prime Minister convened the second high-level consultative meeting on 20 December 2017 in the presence of the ministers, representatives of the international community, and the inter-ministerial working group to present the proposed strategy document.
  6. The Lebanese Council of Ministers endorsed the National Strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism during its session held on 27 March 2018.

Strategic Key Positions

 
GENERAL FRAMEWORK
The process of developing the National Strategy is occurring in a critical and complex local, regional and global context that is threatening socio-economic growth and stability at national and global levels as well as diversifying forms of inequalities which increase the incidence of acts of violence resulting from a climate of violent extremism. It also comes at a time of social transformation in which the country needs to support and consolidate trust among its various components and institutions. This trust is the cornerstone that would allow the country to overcome all economic, social and security challenges and to build a safe, knowledge-based society, thereby preventing the growth of the seeds of extremism in all its forms. Thus, the Strategy is based on the following:

  1. The Strategy provides the national objectives, policies and plans to prevent violent extremism in the short-, medium- and long-term, while defining monitoring and evaluation systems.
  2. The Strategy addresses structural factors at the community, cultural and economic levels, which are the driving force behind the growth of violent extremism. Therefore, problems such as poverty, unemployment, and the feeling of inequality and absence of justice are elements that shall be integrated into the strategy.
  3. The Strategy stems from the realization of the complex nature of the issue of violent extremism by taking into consideration the overlap, multiplicity and intertwinement of elements and circumstances, as well as the multiplicity of actors and the diversity of their roles.
  4. The Strategy takes into account the various levels that threatened by violent extremism, i.e. the individual, family and community.
  5. The Strategy draws upon the universal theoretical contributions of international organizations, and upon the strategies for preventing violent extremism adopted by other states, as well as relevant experiences and practices.

Thus, addressing the problem of violent extremism cannot be achieved by focusing on one or a number of elements separately and independently of each other. It should also be based on the study of the cultural, developmental, demographic, social, administrative and economic realities of Lebanese society. Such a study helps identify the elements that influence violent extremism and their interactions with a view to developing national policies and programs based on scientific evidence.
Strategy Standards
  1. The Strategy shall not contain any justification for extremist ideology or for the use of violence to express it, and any other interpretation of any of its elements shall be deemed a clear violation of its objectives.
  2. The Strategy shall not contain any justification for the violation of human rights in all their forms, and any other interpretation of any of its elements shall be deemed a clear violation of its objectives.
  3. No category, group, region, or belief shall be stigmatized, and any other interpretation of any of its elements shall be deemed a clear violation of its objectives.
  4. The components and elements of the strategy should be constructed on the premise that the policies, plans and programs arising therefrom are based on scientific evidence.
  5. Community participation in the development process of the national strategy is a key condition for its effectiveness, and this development shall be conducted by a consultative process involving all components of society.
  6. Respect for the government’s key positions and the Lebanese specificities, and an emphasis on the importance of international contribution to the development of the strategy, its operational plan and its implementation are essential.
  7. The implementation of the Strategy requires ad hoc independent projects, plans and programs provided by the international community alongside the current development activities and humanitarian programs and policies.
  8. A national mechanism to coordinate governmental, societal and international programs and plans and follow up their implementation will be developed.
  9. The Strategy should be flexible and adaptive in response to social transformations.

General Objectives

 

Regaining Social Trust

Trust among the members of a society and between the society and the state are the primary sources of social cohesion and stability. Its presence is positively correlated with increasing and sustained economic growth, effective institutional performance and the development of capacities necessary to confront the challenges of violent extremism. Increasing trust within Lebanese society is the most important way to counter the polarizing power of extremist rhetoric. Every public policy and program aimed at supporting trust-building among the various components of society on the one hand, and state institutions on the other, is seen as a strategic priority.

  1. The State encourages every scientific research effort that focuses on measuring the concept and indicators of trust among Lebanese citizens and institutions as well as the means of promoting and building trust and the subsequent effects on social peace and prosperity.
  2. Complying with the approach of the Government to regain trust is based on the importance of national engagement in this process.

Promoting Citizenship

  1. Promoting identity, citizenship and the sense of national belonging among all members of Lebanese society is a key goal for the strategy of preventing violent extremism.
  2. Promoting the national culture of the state as the guarantor of identity, citizenship and national belonging with responsibility for the implementation and follow-up of this strategy is essential.

Achieving Social Justice

  1. Social justice is a general principle that should be pursued and that should be the starting point of all public policies.
  2. The concept of social justice is an integrated concept that includes individuals, social components and geographic areas.

Monitoring Social Transformations

  1. As a result of the complex and cross-cutting nature of the challenge of violent extremism, as indicated in Section 2 of the General Framework, a preventive and proactive response requires that its signals be monitored and considered within the context of social transformations occurring at national and local level, by focusing on the interactions among the components of society and understanding their determinants, causes and effects. This should be done over an extended period of time, since such interactions occur in a cumulative way over time.
  2. Universities, research centers and official, community and international institutions will undertake a scientific effort to monitor, study and follow up on social transformations in order to prevent the emergence of violent extremism.