Accountability and Transparency in the Municipality of Tripoli
To: All members of Tripoli’s Municipality and Members of current Political Parties
From: Norhan Alshihabi, Lover of Tripoli, Rawda Alumni,MPA Candidate
Although local government in the true sense of the word hardly exists in Lebanon because of great central control, we can still continue to push for reforms that improves the quality of life for all who reside in Tripoli[i] In the context of Tripoli, all municipality members have a responsibility when it comes to the well-being and prosperity of all Tripolitarians. More specifically, it is the duty of public servants to maintain accountability and transparency in all activities. Transparency is not only defined by utilizing social media to connect with citizens, but also by its effectiveness in making progress through allowing for participation among all citizens in the functions of the locality. Accountability is reached when all citizens understand the municipal budget (where are taxes being allocated), council meetings, etc. Members of the municipality are public servant. In turn, they work for the people and not vice-versa (*a reminder to those who might have forgotten). Accountability and Transparency can be achieved by the municipality through collaboration with experts on economic, political, and social issues, grassroots level participation, and holding council members accountable for lack of actions taken to benefit citizens.
The Municipal council of Tripoli is a typical example of a council controlled politically by political leader [ii] The work of the council is hindered by having all major decisions deliberated outside the council meetings, and by the chronic absence of the council members. Regardless of the current status quo, steps can be taken to mitigate some of the economic, political, and social issues facing Tripoli. The practice of accountability and transparency in local governance is utilized to maintain the rights and well-being of all people. Transparency serves two important purposes[iii]. First, it serves to open the government to those it serves[iv]. A transparent government allows people to participate in the democratic process and to keep informed of government budgets, spending, and projects [v].Second, transparency is a powerful weapon against corruption. When government processes are transparent, it is difficult for corruption to thrive[vi]. A conflict analysis report published in 2016 stated that “While politicians do invest in the city, their policy initiatives are mostly described as rather ineffective. This was often related to the aforementioned political fragmentation, crisis of Sunni political leadership and dynamics of clientelism and competition amongst these politicians”[vii]. These tendencies were often described as occurring much more often in Tripoli than in other Lebanese regions: “In Saida they kill each other but when there is something related to the city they sit together. In Tripoli they kill each other to gain control of Tripoli and they kill Tripoli too”[viii]. Furthermore, the current political establishment entrenched in all functions of the municipality has lost its focus on what matters the most: Working for the common good of all citizens. In doing so, citizens have become the victims of bargain, greed, and corruption (a restatement of the obvious for the politicians that might have memory loss).
I propose several solutions to aid municipal members in Tripoli (recommendations are directed towards those in the municipal sector who want change)
Collaborating with experts on economic, political, and social issues
Can be executed through developing a strategic plan for the city by utilizing talented and successful Tripolitarians in all fields. Also includes collaborating with universities and college students. The goal is to utilize expert advice from those who care about the city and not listen to empty policy proposals made by political leaders. Encouraging citizen participation from all regardless of socioeconomic status, religion, or political affiliation.
More importantly, council members who do not attend meetings should be replaced by citizens who reside in areas of Bab al Tebbaneh, Jabal Mohsen, and Palestinian refugees. I mention Jabal Mohsen because I believe it is time to demarginalize and allow for conversations to flow between citizens and public officials. Moreover, we should allow for youth from these communities to interact and converse with municipal members on their priorities and the goals/vision for Tripoli. Conversations should not be strictly for elite families and those who received formal education. Allowing youth to volunteer and partake in voter outreach and election oversight. Lastly, practicing participatory budgeting (involves actively engaging with citizens on municipal budget and community needs).
Holding Municipal members accountable for lack of action
Creating and maintaining an ethical code for all members and inform citizens on the importance of transparency and accountability in relation to ethical code. An ethical code holds public officials accountable for actions such as receiving bribes, bias decisions, and general laziness of not coming up with solutions to benefit all citizens. Hold members accountable by informing citizens on the importance of voting rights (National and Local). By informing citizens of basic rights, citizens will have the ability to differentiate between public officials who care and those who are maintaining empty promises.
I am aware of the historical events that have allowed for Tripoli to become marginalized and underrepresented. I propose several recommendations in hopes of sparking a conversation among citizens and public officials who want solutions. We do not have to abide by the national status quo. Change is possible if we all work together and believe that we can create a prosperous Tripoli.
[i] Karam, Jihad. "Central-Local Government Relationships in Lebanon as Reflected through a Case Study of the Municipality of Tripoli." Order No. 27551140 American University of Beirut (Lebanon), 1961. [ii] Karam, Jihad. "Central-Local Government Relationships in Lebanon as Reflected through a Case Study of the Municipality of Tripoli." Order No. 27551140 American University of Beirut (Lebanon), 1961. [iii] U.S. transparency and Accountability. Coalition For Integrity. (2020, June 12). Retrieved January 7, 2022, [iv] U.S. transparency and Accountability. Coalition For Integrity. (2020, June 12). Retrieved January 7, 2022, [v] U.S. transparency and Accountability. Coalition For Integrity. (2020, June 12). Retrieved January 7, 2022, [vi] U.S. transparency and Accountability. Coalition For Integrity. (2020, June 12). Retrieved January 7, 2022 [vii] Hands, Tom, Sebass, M., Saleh, R., & Hammoud , M. (2016, September). The conflict context in Tripoli: Chronic neglect [viii] Hands, Tom, Sebass, M., Saleh, R., & Hammoud , M. (2016, September). The conflict context in Tripoli: Chronic neglect