As I was walking down the streets in the middle of the crowd on October 17, 2019, I felt extremely proud to be Lebanese. Hearing the protesters’ chants, I experienced a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It was as if I was finally part of a real movement for change in a true nation. I didn’t feel like I was being labeled by my sect, but rather as a Lebanese citizen. The Lebanese people, my people, were revolting against a confessional system that I had despised since I was born. They had ultimately woken up and finally realized their need for public freedom – Constitutio Libertatis1, the purpose of every revolution.
The Revolution, Its Achievements, and Where to From Here
While Lebanese citizens and residents were protesting, their demands were not merely complaints, but an honest expression of the dire need for political change so as to rebuild Lebanon once again. Although most people might be unaware of it at first, political freedom, as Hannah Arendt would say, is every revolution’s center of gravity. As Lebanese, we have realized that we need political freedom to reform and build a system of institutions that can balance direct democracy with the necessities of an independent, transparent, and uncorrupt central government, an efficient public administration, and an independent judiciary.
Today, it is clear that organized political work, mainly through political parties that have and are still working on detailed political programs and rescue plans for Lebanon, is required for change. The adoption of this idea by a significant proportion of the Lebanese population has become possible, I believe, thanks to the revolution.
It is frustrating to see people who are still persuaded by the traditional confessional political parties believe that the revolution has made the situation in Lebanon worse. The crisis started well before the revolution, it was merely veiled.
There have, however, been tangible results of the revolution’s impact on people’s political awareness and desire for change. One was the victory of the independent “Naqaba Tantafid” (the syndicate revolts) list during the Order of Engineers and Architects elections. The Lebanese citizens have in fact understood that the successive governments in Lebanon have proved their inefficiency to govern and predilection to corruption throughout the years. Having been a policy analyst for the Lebanese National Bloc, a secular political party that believes in balancing social justice and economic freedom, I foresee that the upcoming elections will be pivotal for the emerging alternative movement. Once a new independent and laic government is formed, immediate reforms must be implemented.
As a matter of urgency, Lebanon needs to overhaul its public administration and reform its banking sector while protecting small depositors. Administrative and economic decentralization are a must as are focusing on investing in the sectors where the Lebanese people have a comparative advantage or competitive edge. This is crucial to lowering unemployment, especially amongst the youth.
Lebanon also needs to implement a sound social security system and reform its education sector to better help the vulnerable and remediate the skills-mismatch which hinders the Lebanese labor market.
Moreover, the judiciary must become independent and technical assistance must be provided by the United Nations to ensure the continuation of the Beirut Port blast investigation without interference or obstructions. In tandem with the latter, Lebanon needs to be sovereign and to neutralize itself from regional and international conflicts while adopting a positive neutrality towards Palestine.
Last but not least, Lebanon needs to become a nation where women are just as politically and economically active as and equal to men. On this note, initiatives such as Siyasiyyat, a joint initiative by AFAAL and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, are playing a major role in supporting women in their political careers.
These reforms, as basic as they may seem, are still lacking in Lebanon due to the corrupt political class that has been ruling the country for decades.
Closing Remarks: October 17 was more than just the beginning of the revolution, it was the day that sparked the initial flame of change needed to work towards a more prosperous, greener, and fairer Lebanon. It was our first step towards the defeat of a traditional and confessional leviathan that has instilled sectarianism in every Lebanese generation throughout the years, while gradually draining their resources and extorting their savings.
Today, the revolution is far from over, it has just started. Our efforts will not be in vain and will hopefully be concretized during the upcoming elections. It is time to rebuild a prosperous, green, and fair Lebanon, a true Lebanese state, all over again.
Rim Haidar has an MS in Economic Policies. Her fields of interest include economics, public policies and poetry. She has several published works ranging from digital economy and microeconomics to health economics.