The first World Happiness Report was released in 2012 and ranked Lebanon in the 97th position worldwide and 8th position among Arab countries. In the 2015 World Happiness Report, Lebanon dropped 6 spots and was ranked 103rd, which makes sense given the stressful times we’ve been through in the past couple of years. The report also found that “GDP per capita was one of the most important explanatory variables in determining national happiness, along with social support (if you have someone in your life you can count on), healthy life expectancy, freedom (answer to the question “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”), generosity (“Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?”), and government corruption”.
As far as Arab countries are concerned, UAE ranked first followed by Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The least happy country in the region and (almost) worldwide (156th out of 158) is the Syrian one. Worldwide, Switzerland came on top, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland.
Here’s the full list for Arab countries (Rank 2015):
Syrian Arab Republic 156
We all know by now that Lebanon’s oil and gas reserves off its coast might be the richest and best in the Mediterranean, and a lot of Lebanese are thrilled about this discovery and already started dreaming about a wealthy country with a solid infrastructure, prosperous economy and a strong army, but transparency and accountability are needed to make the best out of these resources and we are very far from that in Lebanon!
Corruption is at an all time high, Our MPs have extended their term, we don’t have a president and most of the parties handling the oil & gas file are not trustworthy. For that sake, I’ve been following up mostly on reports from [Executive Magazine] and [MESP], and other useful articles like HMA Tom Fletcher’s take on this matter and what George Sassine, who’s an energy policy expert, had to say about it.
George Sassine also happens to be one of the founders of LOGI, The Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI), which is an independent NGO based in Beirut that aims to create a network of experts across the world to help Lebanon benefit from its oil and gas wealth, and avoid the resource curse. I was introduced to LOGI by a friend a week ago and I think what they are aiming to do is exactly what Lebanon needs to maximize the economic and social benefits of its oil and gas wealth. We need an expert’s point of view on these issues and we need competent individuals to inform us citizens on the key issues facing facing Lebanon’s oil and gas industry, and help us understand what’s happening around us and what’s being cooked behind our backs by corrupt parties. Once policies are set in motion and contracts are locked for decades, it will be impossible to change anything and we might fall into the resource curse forever!
Just in case you don’t know what the resource curse is, it is also known as the “paradox of plenty and refers to the paradox that countries and regions with an abundance of natural resources, specifically point-source non-renewable resources like minerals and fuels, tend to have less economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. This is mainly due to governments mismanagement, corruption, instability and other factors”.
LOGI is asking people to join their initiative and support them to kick off the initiative through a dedicated website and finance their first research projects. The website will include infographics, dynamic animations, videos, detailed reports and a database of all analyses and news articles on oil and gas in Lebanon both in Arabic and English, and the first research projects will include policy briefs on Lebanon’s export infrastructure strategy, and fiscal policy strategy. LOGI already secured a large part of the amount needed ($10,000), which is honestly nothing when compared to the billions at risk if the oil & gas goes into the wrong hands.
I’m not writing this post to ask readers to donate money as I’m sure they will secure it before the deadline, but to shed the light on this initiative and ask those interested to get engaged and contribute to driving change in Lebanon. I honestly believe we need similar initiatives for all our problems in Lebanon whereas experts join hands to inform the citizens of what’s really happening, put pressure on the government and concerned parties and offer solutions and reports. On the other hand, it is important for us as citizens to follow up on these NGOs and hold them accountable when they break their promises, the same way we should be doing with our politicians.
Georges Sassine is a Harvard University alum and an energy policy expert with a wide range of experience with several multinational companies. He has been widely published commenting on energy, transparency and public policy issues including the Financial Times, CNN, the Huffington Post, Annahar, L’Orient le Jour, the Daily Star and others.
Karen Ayat is a Partner and Contributor to Natural Gas Europe – a leading platform that provides information and analyses of natural gas developments. Karen emerged as a key expert on the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and her work has been widely published, mainly by Natural Gas Europe and Energy Tribune. She holds an LLM in Commercial Law from City University London and reads International Relations and Contemporary War at King’s College London.
Jeremy Arbid is an energy and public affairs analyst focused on Lebanon’s oil and gas industry. He is currently a journalist covering economics and government policy for Executive Magazine in Beirut. He holds a Master in Public Administration from the American University of Beirut, and a bachelor in Political Science from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Research fellows: several research fellows are helping LOGI launch various research projects including 4 Harvard University master students, and an ESCP Europe Business School graduate.
LOGI’s Advisory Board is formed from several high level executives and experts spanning multinational energy companies, an international energy law firm, a world renowned think tank, academics from top universities, as well as experts from global NGOs focused on transparency in the oil and gas sector.
Arabian Business published the 100 most powerful Arabs under 40 list which included 16 Lebanese. The top ranked was Iqbal Al Asaad who’s a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, followed by Amal Clooney, Maher Zain, Rani Raad and Nancy Ajram. Khalil Beschir, a Lebanese racing driver and the first ever Arab to race in a single-seater World Championship was also featured on that list.
When sectarian fights were raging in Tripoli and innocent people were getting killed, a lot of people were clueless about what’s happening and who’s fighting who. The sad part was that most local TVs seemed uninterested and only very few did the extra effort to go and investigate properly. This negligence led the online community to start hashtags and campaigns to support Tripoli residents, shed the light on the events taking place and share stories and videos.
Of course I’m not trying to compare in anyway the small fights that took place in Tripoli last year to what Gaza, also known for being the largest open-air prison in the world, has been going through the past 20 years or more, but in both cases media played a detrimental role by ignoring the events and hiding the truth.
The sad and shocking part is that the media blackout on the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza was deliberate and the atrocities and crimes that were committed there didn’t get the coverage needed, even though the last Gaza war was the bloodiest in years. In fact, Israel has killed in 2014 more Palestinians (2,341) than in any other year since 1967 and 531 out of these 2341 kills were innocent children.
Having said all that, the Gaza Font is an initiative aimed at shedding the light on the Gaza unknown stories by asking the public to engage. Every letter and number stands for a story little-known that is now revealed and you can show your support in many ways that are described on the website, and mainly by tweeting at #UncoverGaza.
We are all concerned with what’s happening around us, whether in Syria or Palestine or anywhere in the Middle East. We should be concerned with innocent civilians and families and children paying the price of war and being kicked out of their villages and houses. Let’s not forget we’ve been there many times as Lebanese and every family in Lebanon has paid the price of war in one way or another.
Joumana Haddad is Lebanese journalist, activist, poet, instructor, author and the head of the cultural pages for An Nahar newspaper, as well as the editor-in-chief of Jasad magazine, a controversial Arabic magazine specialized in the literature and arts of the body. She’s an exceptional woman that speaks seven languages and was recently ranked among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women in 2015.
Joumana was supposed to fly to Bahrain on the 6th of April to attend a cultural event, however an online campaign (#البحرين_لا_ترحب_بالملحدين) was started against her visit and as a result, she was denied entrance because she’s an atheist and a threat to society. How is being an atheist a threat to society? Unless Joumana chops heads off and trains terrorists while pretending to write poetry, I think that’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard of.
In all cases, it’s their loss as any country should be proud of having women like Joumana Haddad.
The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015 list by Arabian Business is out and this year’s second place goes to Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Clooney. Amal is an activist known for leading numerous high-profile human rights cases and she made headlines all over the world last year after marrying Georges Clooney. I think this is the highest rank ever achieved by a Lebanese on that list which was topped once again by HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi.
10 other Lebanese women proudly made the list:
– Nayla Hayek
– Iqbal Al Asaad (Lebanon/Palestine)
– Grace Najjar
– Joumana Haddad
– Ayah Bdeir
– Nadine Labaki
– Nancy Ajram
– Reine Abbas
– Hind Hobeika
It’s quite depressing to see countries planning to launch 5G services in the next 3-4 years while we are still struggling with our 4G speed and data plans and of course the lousy DSL. I was lucky enough to access Ericsson’s huge booth at the MWC2015 thanks to a friend and got to see what a 5G connection looks like. We are talking about a speed hundreds of times faster than the 4G, reaching over 5000 mbits/s. Samsung has been doing some 5G tests as well and it looks like South Korea might be the first countries to adopt it.
Technology has a huge impact on every country’s development and needs to be handled more seriously in Lebanon. The technological gap between Lebanon and the UAE has already become a huge one and it will take many years to catch up. Of course I am not talking about implementing 5G but at least enhancing and expanding our 4G network and completing the switch to fiber optics ASAP.
The picture above is a school diploma given to a Syrian student enrolled in a Lebanese school by the temporary Syrian government’s Ministry of Education. You’d think this is a fake diploma at first, specially that it mentions Lebanon as a province (in Syria?), but the truth is these exams were done by the Syrian Opposition back in 2013 (under the supervision of the Lebanese Army) and financed by USAID according to Al-Akhbar. Having said that, Education Minister Bou Saab had declared that these exams are illegal of course and that there’s a procedure set for Syrian students in Lebanon whereas they can apply for official exams and send the diplomas to the Syrian Embassy in Beirut for validation.
So to sum things up:
– If you are a pro-regime Syrian refugee in Lebanon, your diploma will be certified by the Syrian Embassy that may not be recognized by certain institutions and countries outside.
– If you are against the regime, your diploma will be issued and certified by a temporary government that the Lebanese authorities don’t recognize yet but that is acknowledged by some countries abroad.
In both cases, the real victims are refugee children who are trying to continue their education in Lebanon yet are facing all sorts of obstacles. Just to give you a glimpse of how bad the situation is, it is estimated that 50% of Syrian refugee children aged between 5 and 17 are out of any form of education. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of children who are either forced to work or being abused or end up begging on the street. On top of all that, those who are lucky enough to enroll in a school are graduating with illegal and unofficial diplomas.
Update: Speaking of Syrian Children in Lebanon, check out this article from The Guardian on how those forced to work on streets of Beirut face severe exploitation.
Lebanon’s architectural heritage is slowly disappearing and Beirut is quickly losing its traditional character as old houses, beautiful villas and Ottoman-style mansions are increasingly being destroyed and replaced with modern skyscrapers. Activists have been campaigning for years to preserve some of that heritage but time is not on their side as historical buildings are not being preserved by the authorities and will become beyond repair at some point.
Having said that, French Designer Benedicte de Vanssay de Blavous Moubarak and her husband Raja moved to Beirut few years ago and became immediately drawn to the unique style of traditional Levantine houses. In an attempt to salvage whatever is left of Lebanon’s disappearing architectural heritage, they began collecting discarded old wrought iron balustrades, railings and window frames from all over Lebanon and turning them into design pieces.
The couple created in 2006 2b design with the mission of “restoring the unseen beauty of the broken” and the name Beyt (House/Home in Hebrew and Arabic) was chosen as the flagship brand name. Their creations are now found in several countries and are sold through different retailers. Moreover, the company hires people with disabilities as well as those marginalized from society in order to transform their lives as well.
Of course the ideal would be to preserve these houses and restore them but unfortunately there are no serious plans to do so and there are many obstacles on the way. BBC made a nice report on 2b design which you can watch [Here]. You can also check out their [website] for further information.