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From Charity to Social ChangeTrends in Arab Philanthropy$

Barbara Ibrahim and Dina H. Sherif

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9789774162077

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774162077.001.0001

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The Republic of Lebanon

The Republic of Lebanon

(p.111) 5 The Republic of Lebanon
From Charity to Social Change

Barbara Lethem Ibrahim

Dina H. Sherif

American University in Cairo Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses philanthropy in Lebanon. Because of a number of constraints on data collection, it was not possible to cover Lebanon's philanthropic landscape fully. Researchers were struck by the resilience and determination of those they did meet, who have sustained the sector through many years of uncertainty, often at substantial personal risk. A new generation of business leaders and philanthropic actors are consciously deciding to operate through the creation of secular Lebanese rather than sectarian institutions. The weak presence of the government has both contributed to a climate of relative independence for the civil sector and strengthened the role of philanthropic institutions in basic service provision. Despite many cases where constituents subscribing to particular religious or political groups are the principle beneficiaries of philanthropic organizations, the trend is toward more all-inclusive programs and impacts.

Keywords:   Arab philanthropy, institutional philanthropy, philanthropic organizations, Lebanon, civil sector


The origins of Lebanese philanthropy lie in religious institutions of the Ottoman Empire. As in neighboring Palestine and Syria, the once-vibrant traditions of awqaf, zakat, and ‘ushr survived into the modern age in Lebanon. Contemporary philanthropy, however, is marked by the singular politics of sectarian civil war, Israeli occupation, and external meddling over the past thirty years. In particular, private giving has become inextricably bound to sectarian parties and militias. A small but growing movement attempts to foster nonsectarian civil society groups, believing this to be the only healthy way to rebuild national unity.

A relatively open society reinforced by international trade made Lebanon one of the earliest sites of modern civil society formation. Large flows of migration out of the country coupled with sizable return migration in the last century means that ideas and expertise for civil society organization (CSO) development have been readily available. The native entrepreneurship celebrated by Lebanese was applied to invigorate this sector long before it became fashionable in the era of Bill Gates. The presence of many highly regarded universities and publishing houses contributed to a climate of openness and innovation in the civil society sector.

It therefore is not surprising that as expatriate Lebanese became successful and wealthy, many began supporting social causes at home, and some returned to put their skills to work in promoting social and cultural advancement. The levels of debate around indigenous funding and development (p.112) today are vigorous and characterized by considerable soul-searching in the CSO community—a result of over three decades of civil strife.

Philanthropic initiatives in Lebanon have been closely associated with sectarian politics, almost from their inception as religious gestures over many centuries, and certainly with the rise of modern foundations today. The fifteen years of civil war that began in 1975 both stimulated private initiatives to rebuild the country and led to a further retreat into sectarianism. Present-day politics remain unstable, prompting a growing number of Lebanese to articulate the need to overcome purely sectarian identities. A few organizations are leading the way toward nonsectarian, professionally managed philanthropy.

Country Background

(p.113) History

Lebanon is known as a vibrant liberal country in the Middle East with a fractious recent past. The consequences of that past continue to reverberate as the country charts a course toward reconstruction. In order to understand the current political climate, it is imperative to examine Lebanon's modern history.

Once under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon was pieced together to include the area of Mount Lebanon and the coastal cities of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre, as well as the Beqaa Valley, in the aftermath of the First World War. The country established its independence in 1943, when the acting Maronite Christian president and Sunni Muslim prime minister agreed on a National Pact that divided all government positions among the religious communities with a 6:5 ratio of Christians to Muslims based on a census taken in 1932. Shifts in the demographic balance later became the impetus for a bloody civil war and long-term political problems.

In the years that followed the pact, an increase in the Muslim population in relation to Christians began to threaten the power-sharing accord. In 1970, Palestinians displaced from their land during wars with Israel in 1948 and 1967 took refuge in Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan. This incident served both to complicate existing religious tensions and as the justification for Israeli retaliation and twenty-nine-year occupation of southern Lebanon. Deepening tensions along sectarian lines led to a civil war in 1975 that lasted almost fifteen years. Foreign elements became heavily involved, with France and the West protecting the Christians, Syria and Iran supporting the Shia, and the Sunni Muslim world, particularly Saudi Arabia, backing the Sunnis.

In the 1980s the civil war lost much of its sectarian character. The worst outbreaks of violence began to occur within sectarian communities or between local and foreign forces, oftentimes with shifting alliances. Eventually, the sectarian groups were convinced under the influence of Saudi Arabia to sign the Taif Accords, which altered the constitution, shifting powers from a Christian president to a Sunni Muslim prime minister and granting Muslims more power.

The Taif Accords, signed in 1990, brought about increased Syrian influence in Lebanese affairs. Certain political and civil liberties were allowed to citizens that exceeded those in most other Arab countries in return for tacit Western acceptance of Syrian control.2 Internally, Lebanese politicians began to side with either the pro- or the anti-Syrian camp. Corruption mounted as the government financed massive deficit (p.114) spending on reconstruction during the 1990s. By the end of the decade, Lebanon's government debt far exceeded its gross domestic product (GDP) and the economy was in deep recession.3

Demographics Today

According to a 2005 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, population estimates for Lebanon are around 3.58 million, with over two hundred thousand Palestinians living in semi-permanent refugee camps,4 and some three hundred thousand migrant workers. The Palestinians, many of whom have lived in Lebanon since 1970, are not granted citizenship rights and face many restrictions that reflect the precarious sectarian balance. Because of historically high out-migration streams and a steady flow of repatriation, Lebanon is one of the most transnational of Arab populations. Since 1932, no census has been undertaken for fear of revealing demographic figures that would threaten the current 1:1 ratio power-sharing accord.

(p.115) In February 2005, after over a decade in politics, Rafik Hariri, a businessman, philanthropist, and former prime minister, was assassinated. This watershed event led to massive street politics and the end of Syria's overt presence in Lebanon, though Syrian influence continues. After twenty-nine years, Syrian troops pulled back to their own borders. Parliamentary elections in May 2005 marked the first post-civil war period free of outside occupation.

The death of Hariri had political reverberations and prompted an ongoing investigation that seeks to implicate pro-Syria actors within the Lebanese government. In the months following Hariri's assassination, his son, Saad Hariri, stepped in to lead what is known as the March 14 Alliance,5 a coalition of anti-Syria political parties, democrats, and independents with a strong youth base. The opposition consists of Hezbollah and Amal, the two key Shiite parties, and Michel Aoun, who represents the Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

In June 2006, politics on the border of Lebanon blew up once again. A war with Israel broke out, lasting over fifty days and causing billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. This has reversed the momentum of economic gains, causing a second major exodus of high-level manpower and overall serving as a major setback to reconstruction efforts. A long political stalemate was broken in May 2008 by a flare-up of violence between government backers and Hezbollah. Recent accords brokered in Qatar have led to the installation of a new president and an agreement by all sides to allow the Lebanese army to keep the peace.

The media sector in Lebanon has a reputation for liberalism and promoting free speech. Although press freedom has enjoyed a long tradition within the country, at the present time nearly all media outlets are owned by prominent political and commercial elites.6 Few outlets could be said to operate free of sectarian or political influence.

The Economy

Official economic data has become more reliable since the end of the civil war, but it remains relatively poor. The first part of the decade produced promising increases in economic growth, but this progress was all but reversed by the hostilities with Israel in July and August 2006, which resulted in an estimated USD 3.6 billion in infrastructure damage.7 GDP growth reversed from an estimated 6 percent forecasted growth for 2006 to a 6 percent contraction.


The Republic of Lebanon

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2007.

The Republic of Lebanon

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2007.

(p.117) The economy has struggled since the end of the civil war, hampered by political gridlock and ongoing conflicts. Lebanon is mostly a services-based economy, deriving 67 percent of its GDP from that industry.8 Once serving as a regional banking hub, the country has suffered as a result of the civil war. Although services have been rebuilt to a certain extent, the country now faces tough competition from dynamic and progressive cities in the Gulf. Lebanon had developed a high-end tourism sector that catered to Arab visitors, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, when Europe and the United States became less attractive destinations. The 2006 war sent those revenues plummeting and created an uncertain future.

The post-war reconstruction effort has depended heavily on the commercial banking sector, as well as on private sector funds. Philanthropic gifts also have played a major role. State spending remains at a high and inefficient level, funding 13 percent of the labor force. Inefficient spending and a massive need to borrow for reconstruction has led Lebanon to have one of the highest debt ratios in the world: around 195 percent of GDP. Debt servicing consistently took 40 percent of total spending and almost 70 percent of revenue on average from 2001 to 2005.

A series of donor conferences have been held in Paris to attract support from existing creditors and foreign allies as a way to mitigate the burgeoning debt crises. The result of these conferences was a series of concessional loans for development projects, long-term restructuring schemes, and a reduction in the average servicing charges of the debt. Little of the money from the Paris donor conferences is in the form of direct grants; rather, it has strings attached to repayment and usage.

Many reform policies have been enacted to jump-start the economy, despite internal and external setbacks. Through a reform instituted by Rafik Hariri, the government legislated a program of deregulation and economic liberalization by slashing custom duties and taxes in an attempt to create a favorable climate for investment. Parliament has passed legislation easing restrictions on foreign real estate ownership and approved a new investment promotion law. Increased revenue also was a result of a government-mandated increase in the value added tax.

Philanthropy in Focus

The Culture of Giving

Lebanese society prides itself on maintaining an open climate for culture and politics, as well as on its entrepreneurial acumen. A widely dispersed and successful diaspora population maintains close ties to the home country, (p.118) sending back large remittance streams. These have been widely used to build schools, clinics, and mosques or churches, and to support social services, often in an emigrant's village of origin.

Like other countries in the Middle East, religiously motivated giving has a long tradition in Lebanon, with institutions such as waqf proliferating in the Ottoman era. While religious origins pervade philanthropy around the region, the years of sectarian civil war and its aftermath have deepened these identities in Lebanon. Like other aspects of civil society, philanthropy almost always has a sectarian character in Lebanon. Both religious and political parties have played a dominant role in the evolution of religious giving. The terminology of sectarian groups and that of political parties comingle because most parties have a religious affiliation. Major sectarian groups have distinct philanthropic arms that direct charity and services to their own constituency, although most would claim that these activities are for all Lebanese citizens.

Each religious sect forms its own safety net around organized religious giving. The collection of donations and provision of social services may become a way of creating group loyalty, or, as is often alleged, a way of winning over converts to a political cause. Hezbollah is recognized for its effective provision of social, medical, and other kinds of support to disadvantaged populations of the rural south and the slums of Beirut. It is not surprising that such giving engenders a kind of loyalty and gratitude, if not outright political support. The mixing of social services and efforts at voter turnout, for example, is a problem faced not only in Lebanon but also elsewhere in the Arab world, such as Jordan and Egypt.

The Lebanese desire to protect democratic institutions has kept elections alive in recent years despite continuing sectarian stand-offs. Ironically, electoral politics both encourage philanthropy and keep it closely tied to sectarianism. Election campaigning is a time of heightened giving, both by candidates and their wealthier supporters. Philanthropic gifts have a short-term impact on the living conditions of less advantaged voters, and they ‘buy’ support.

The scale of election-related giving is not known, but most Lebanese believe it has increased dramatically in the past decade. In the months and weeks prior to voting, communities tend to be showered with gifts and donations designed to leverage electoral support. In some cases, beneficiaries take control of the transaction, specifying the levels of donations that will result in a given proportion of the community's votes. This was seen in the last parliamentary elections, for example, when a village church renovation project set contribution levels, managed by the mayor, that were tied (p.119) to a sliding scale of the votes to be delivered by the populace.9 A promising development in 2008 is the creation of a civil society coalition to improve electoral processes—the Civil Campaign for Election Reform.

In the current atmosphere of political stalemate and economic duress, the Lebanese government lacks the ability to pursue vigorous development. A small but growing group of organizations that identify themselves as specifically nonsectarian believes that unified citizen action is the only way forward for Lebanon. New and existing philanthropic initiatives attempt to bridge the gap between the needs of the population and government services.

The Legal Environment for Philanthropy

The culture of giving in Lebanon is complicated by the tenuous political situation. The Ministry of the Interior plays a strong role in the activities of civil associations, in contravention to rights secured by the Law of Associations. The ministry requires its own registration procedure beyond that stipulated in the law, including the imposition of a template version of bylaws. Nonetheless, the environment for CSOs is recognized as among the least constrained in the region.

Private associations and public interest organizations are governed by the Ottoman Law of 1909, as amended, which differentiates between the two types of organizations. The procedures of incorporation of a private association do not need to be approved by the corresponding administrative authority, meaning the Ministry of the Interior, but notification is required. Associations are free to offer grants and to receive and distribute funds from abroad in the country. If funds are transferred from Lebanon to an entity outside, then it is considered a foreign association and must be framed accordingly in its bylaws.

The existence of public interest organizations is subject to the Council of Ministers under a watchdog body known as the Control Authority. This authority has the right to inspect the public interest organization and to require it to submit a detailed report on annual activities, one on accomplishments, the year-end balance sheet, and how the organization will use its resources to achieve the designated programs in the following year. Organizations in violation of these procedures may be disqualified and face legal consequences before a criminal court. Public interest organizations are not allowed to give cash donations and their general position is relegated to a supporting role. According to Edict 1785 of 1979, donations offered to private associations or organizations receive a limited tax exemption of a maximum of 10 percent of the taxpayer's net profits.

(p.120) The Ottoman Law stipulates that if an association fails to state its purposes accurately or to provide the government with sufficient information about its activities, it may be banned, its properties can be confiscated and activities suspended, and, ultimately, it can be closed down by the proper authorities. Approval of new amendments must be licensed in advance. Associations may extend grants if this is included in the bylaws, or otherwise must obtain prior approval from the proper authorities.10

Foreign associations are allowed in Lebanon, but they must obtain licenses beforehand. They are licensed by a decree from the cabinet and monitored through the Ministry of the Interior.

Institutionalized Philanthropy

Institutionalized philanthropy in Lebanon is similar to that in neighboring countries in its mix of older waqf structures, institutions to distribute religiously mandated donations such as zakat, and more contemporary forms of grant-making or operating foundations. Many of the operating foundations in Lebanon could be characterized as charity associations mainly engaged in social services. Some are secular, but many are associated with a religious sect. Increasingly, foundations are formed by wealthy individuals in the name or memory of a family member. These newer foundations have a variable mix of social and political agendas, according to most Lebanese observers.

Private individual/family-based philanthropy generally is established by elites or return migrants who have amassed wealth abroad. Many but not all are highly involved in politics. Asad reality is that the frequency of political assassinations means that a number of these foundations are set up posthumously.

Among the most prominent role models for individual philanthropic giving was the late businessman and prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Despite his legacy as a controversial figure, few doubt the impact of the Hariri Foundation on the sustainability of higher education for students across the sectarian spectrum, or his repeated investments in the rebuilding of Lebanon through periods of war and destruction. Stories are told of Hariri's representatives going from village to village to identify talented young Lebanese and make scholarships available to them for study abroad during the worst years of the civil war.

Grant-making Foundations

The Hariri Foundation

The Hariri Foundation was founded in Lebanon by the late Rafik Hariri. Its mission is to make education a means for the development of Lebanon's (p.121) youth. It is a grant- and loan-making institution that has responded to dire national needs stemming from the civil war and its aftermath. The foundation started its mission in Sidon in 1979. Then, it was called the Islamic Institute for Culture and Higher Education, but it has carried its present name since 1984, when it moved its central offices to Beirut. It opened offices in Tripoli and Bekaa, in addition to those in Sidon, in an attempt to facilitate the giving of grants and loans to individuals countrywide seeking education at the tertiary level, regardless of religious affiliation. It also opened offices in Paris, London, and Washington, DC, to keep in close contact with student protégés enrolled in nearly one hundred universities in Western Europe, North Africa, Canada, and the United States.

Throughout its life, the Hariri Foundation has supported a hundred and thirty thousand students from Lebanon with a cumulative budget of more than USD 1 billion. This is the largest private organization in Lebanon, and it has played a major role in building the educational sector. The Hariri family is the sole sponsor of the foundation, with no additional funding. The foundation also has the following projects:

  • The University Loan Program: Up to June 1996, around thirty-two thousand students were granted loans.

  • Special English Training: This makes it possible for students to over come the language barrier as a prerequisite for university admission abroad.

  • Preparatory Year Program: The program helps students continue their education in French either in Lebanon or in France.

  • University Student Training: The Hariri Foundation has sent 144 university graduates, mainly engineers, to be retrained and kept abreast of new developments in their fields after intensive English training.

  • Medical Training Program: This is a program for Lebanese doctors who have completed their university education abroad and wish to continue their specialization in Lebanon.

  • Career Planning and Guidance: The foundation provides information for job seekers on job availability and the needs of the labor mar-ket in various fields of specialization. In addition, a career guidance program exists that offers career counseling.

  • Funding and Renovating Secondary Education Facilities.

  • The University Institute of Technology: The foundation, in collaboration with Lebanese University and the Ministry of Higher Education in France, contributed the construction of this institute.

  • (p.122) Kafar Falous Complex: Founded in 1979, it contains a high school, a university, a school for the training of nurses, and a hospital. The university college is known as Sidon Institute for University Studies and is under the administration of St. Joseph University.

Operating Foundations

Oum al-Nour

Established nearly twenty years ago, Oum al-Nour is one of the oldest Lebanese operating foundations to be funded through profits from the Debanne family businesses. The organization has a focused commitment to helping people overcome drug addiction in order to attain a healthy society.

The organization recognizes the issue of drug addiction as a complex personal and societal problem, and it maintains extensive programs to rehabilitate and follow up with individual addicts. In addition to its prevention and treatment programs, it works on building a skilled staff that applies the latest scientific tools and methods and adapts them to Lebanese society.

Oum al-Nour has a multidisciplinary team composed of counselors, exdrug addicts/peer counselors, psychologists, social workers, sociocultural workers, psychotherapists, recreation therapists, doctors, and lawyers.

Social Service Associations

The Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped

The Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped (LWAH) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization registered with the Ministry of the Interior under the notification and information no. 92/A.D. It was established in 1984 by Randa Assi Berri.

After the civil war, the number of disabled persons in Lebanon increased tremendously and the lack of basic services for this demographic was apparent. Beyond that, for all levels of society, whether young or old, it was clear that services ranging from medical and psychological aid to financial and social aid were needed. Thus, with a mission to improve the quality of life for people with special needs and to enhance their dignity, independence, and productivity, LWAH developed services for their reintegration into society.

The main objectives of the association include providing full rehabilitation services to the disabled, including diagnosis and treatment, physical rehabilitation, and psychosocial, educational, and vocational rehabilitation; ensuring the process of social integration of the disabled; and promoting and supporting the rights of the disabled. LWAH also works on some projects related to community development, agriculture, advocacy, sports (p.123) activities, and awareness campaigns, but its primary capacity is for rehabilitation services. Services it offers include diagnosis and treatment, physical rehabilitation, psychosocial rehabilitation, and educational rehabilitation. After the war with Israel in July 2006, LWAH delivered prosthetics and orthotics to ninety-seven landmine, cluster munitions, and war victims, as well as eighty hearing aids to those suffering from hearing disabilities.

The Social Welfare Institution of Lebanon

The Social Welfare Institution of Lebanon (SWI) was started in 1917 as a small orphanage concerned with the condition of orphans distressed by the First World War. In 1932, having grown into a larger operation, the orphanage was named Dar al-Aytam al-Islamia. Forty years later, the organization was renamed the Social Welfare Institution after targeting a much larger portion of orphaned children.

Today, SWI provides diversified specialized services in over twenty-five locations, including Beirut and its suburbs, the Bekaa, Aramoun, Shimlan, Wadi al-Zaineh, Akkar, Kitirmaya, and Syr al-Dinnieyeh. It has forty-nine operating institutions.

Religious Associations

Fondation Père Afif Osseiran

The Fondation PèreAfif Osseiran (FPAO), established in the 1960s by Reverend Father Afif Osseiran, was set up to rehabilitate minors from underprivileged backgrounds and troubled families, with the goal of reintroducing them into society.11 The Foyer de la Providence, officially recognized by the Lebanese government in 1967, became a free boarding and technical school. Its main mission is to provide education and technical skills to disadvantaged and problematic young boys, regardless of religious or political affiliation. The home offers young boys a real family atmosphere and helps them maintain relations with their parents. They receive free accommodation, food, extracurricular activities, and psychological and medical follow up. In addition, the school offers them an education and instruction with specialized proficiency in carpentry, car mechanics, general mechanics, building electricity, and welding. The certificate of professional aptitude (CAP) and the Professional Certificate Brevet (BP) can be obtained through the school, along with official diplomas from the National Office for Employment for technical training. As soon as the children get their diplomas, the foundation helps them find jobs. In special cases, it directs particularly gifted students to institutes that offer them the (p.124) opportunity to pursue their education further. The foundation serves about 150 children each year.

Minors in Conflict With the Law

In January 2004, FPAO, in partnership with Terre des Hommes, took charge of a program established by Terre des Hommes called Minors in Conflict with the Law (MCL). The program, in operation since 1993, consisted of follow-up on the social and professional integration of young former prisoners. In 2005, FPAO took sole charge of the program. Places of intervention include the prison of Roumieh (juveniles wing); Union for Protecting Childhood in Lebanon (UPEL) (Fanar); and the regions of Burj al-Barajneh, Saïda, and Tripoli.

The objective of the program is the rehabilitation and reintegration of juveniles in conflict with the law through a multidimensional approach. In the prison at Roumieh, rehabilitative services are offered by way of psychological support, educational support (including literacy classes and grade levels), improvements in the conditions of detention (e.g., hygiene, medical care, and food), and sports and leisure activities. The program works with an expected results approach. This includes improving the circumstances of detention, educational and psychological rehabilitation, social and professional reintegration, and the proper implementation of Law 422.* The number of beneficiaries through the expected results approach has been approximately 275 minor prisoners each year and 250 ex-prisoners living in the regions of greater Beirut, Saïda, and Tripoli.

Individual Philanthropy the René Moawad Foundation

The René Moawad Foundation (RMF) was created on November 22, 1991, exactly two years after the assassination of President René Moawad, a Christian Maronite, who was killed seventeen days after being elected president of the Lebanese Republic. As a member of parliament and minister in various cabinets both before and during the civil war, he believed in the unity of the Lebanese people and actively strove for civil peace, dialogue, national unity, and the equality of all citizens.

Since its creation by his spouse, Member of Parliament Nayla Moawad, and other prominent Lebanese public figures, RMF has implemented development projects to support the disadvantaged in society. In this spirit, (p.125) RMF provides medical care to the poor; develops agriculture and rural enterprises; conducts literacy campaigns and vocational training; encourages public political participation; promotes democratic values; and protects the environment. The foundation supports projects under several broad headings:

  • Education: RMF's educational activities are delivered through individual projects and/or the foundation's established centers, which target youth and working children in particular. The main objectives are establishing equal access to basic education for the disadvantaged and developing the capacities of youth.

  • Human rights: RMF's activities in human rights and democracy began in 1994 and are focused on women and youth. Since 2004, RMF has expanded its project of creating human rights clubs in schools with the Rights Education and Awareness for Children and Teens (REACT) project for raising awareness on human rights and democracy among youth, while continuing to offer numerous work shops for youth on democracy and human rights.

  • Economy: RMF's economic and development activities mainly target rural women and the war-affected population. The Business Development Center is under construction in Tripoli to serve entrepreneurs and employees in small and medium-size enterprises. The main objectives of the projects include development and promotion of social services and capacity building of community-based organizations (mainly women's associations); increasing employment through vocational training in sectors of high growth; and supporting civilians in war-torn areas.

  • Agriculture: RMF pursues a dual action plan in combating the severe problems confronting the agricultural sector in Lebanon. First, it supports the sector by improving the socioeconomic conditions of farmers and increasing their competitiveness. Second, RMF promotes environmental protection by encouraging public awareness of existing problems and the adoption of ecologically sound agricultural practices.

  • Health: RMF's objectives and activities in the medical field focus on the provision of health services to the most disadvantaged and to those living in the poorest and most remote villages in northern Lebanon. Services are centered mainly in the community clinic in (p.126) Zgharta, which offers specialized and general medical consultation services and a dental clinic at reduced costs as well as other forms of financial aid. The clinic also maintains a laboratory and a pharmacy. RMF also runs a mobile dispensary service and public health prevention programs and awareness campaigns.

Issam Fares Foundation

Founded in 1987 by Issam M. Fares, deputy prime minister of the Lebanese Republic, the Fares Foundation is active in several fields of human and social development in Lebanon. The foundation pays particular attention to underprivileged groups, communities, and regions and includes programs and services in health, education, humanitarian aid, culture, infrastructure, research, and conferences. It implements about half of its activities, while the other half is implemented by other organizations and institutions in cooperation with the foundation. The foundation was established in order to organize and channel donations of Issam Fares in an organized and strategic way. The Fares Foundation's current areas of programming include:

  • Health: The foundation has developed a general public health program that includes the Michael Issam Fares Clinic in Beino, Akkar, and the Mikhayel Gerges Fares Clinic in West Talabbas, Akkar. Each clinic includes doctors who specialize in general medicine, pedi-atrics, cardiology, urology, and ophthalmology, as well as a pharmacy that offers free medications. The foundation provides material support to other clinics around the country. It participates in vaccination campaigns in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Among many other contributions, the foundation sponsors health awareness campaigns in schools in cooperation with various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as a series of health lectures and conferences in universities and medical centers.

  • Education: The foundation provides various forms of aid to educational institutions so that these institutions may play their role effectively. The foundation also supports and participates in the renovation and rehabilitation of many public and private schools in Akkar and northern Lebanon, as well as provides equipment for libraries, laboratories, and other school and university needs. It also assists in literacy campaigns that include adults and children, and it sponsors training workshops in various fields.

  • (p.127) Social and cultural programs: The foundation has adopted two different ways of addressing social and cultural issues in Lebanon: through general social services and promoting “the spirit of cooperation.” It focuses on strengthening civil society and on invigorating cultural and sporting activity and all that encourages people to meet and interact. The foundation also provides help and support to a number of associations that focus on the needs of the handicapped, orphans, the elderly, and other marginalized groups. It supports the holding of artisanal exhibits that create incentives to promote local production and marketing. It also sponsors scouting camps and sporting tournaments and other youth activities, as well as musical festivals and concerts. The foundation supports many municipal councils, educational institutions, and NGOs in their attempts to invigorate cultural life and the preservation of cultural heritage. In 1996, it provided assistance to the victims of the Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.

  • Infrastructure development: The Fares Foundation has undertaken its own projects in the area of infrastructure development, as well as offered support to municipalities and other local institutions in their efforts to develop the infrastructure of their communities. It has been active in building and asphalting new roads, rehabilitating old roads, and providing street lighting, sidewalks, and other necessities.

  • Conferences and research: The foundation sponsors a number of scientific and cultural lectures and conferences. It also sponsors the publication of books and studies on Akkar, Lebanon, the Middle East, and the relationship of Lebanon with the global community. Although the foundation's main activities are in Lebanon, it accords a significant importance to projecting a positive picture of Lebanon to the world.

On an international level, the Issam M. Fares Center for Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University in the United States focuses on Lebanese and Middle Eastern affairs. In addition, there is the annual Issam Fares Lecture Series, which has featured presentations by such major figures as former United States President George H.W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, former United States Secretary of State James Baker, former United States Senator George Mitchell, former United States Secretary of State General Colin Powell, and former United States President Bill Clinton.

(p.128) Family Foundations

Safadi Foundation

Although the Safadi Foundation was officially established in 2001, it has been operating unofficially in northern Lebanon for more than fifteen years with a focus on youth development. Recently, the foundation has been separated from a more political entity. It traces its roots to the civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. During this period, state services collapsed, leaving a vacuum in the provision of social, health, and welfare services to Lebanese citizens. In order to reduce the burden faced by the public, the foundation's founder and honorary president, Mohammed Safadi, began to provide support for institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental, to enable them to continue meeting people's basic needs.

While its roots are in humanitarian or charitable work, the foundation's success in its early years developed into a commitment to developmental issues. The last four years have been critical in the evolution of the foundation. Its orientation and work methods have changed from those of a charitable institution to those of a broad-based development agency. This period witnessed a regional series of workshops entitled “Toward a Comprehensive Development Plan for North Lebanon.”

The foundation's focus and methodology is based on the following values and core principles: All people are equal in dignity and rights, regardless of gender, race, religion, or beliefs. Individual development is the starting point for developing societies. The individual is the means and the end of improving the quality of life. Participation is the prerequisite for empowering all social sectors, including women and young people, and particularly children. Finally, consolidating cooperation among various stakeholders in society (official, private, and civil) is a fundamental pre-condition for successful development programs.

The foundation is undertaking programs in interfaith dialogue, agricultural extension, microclimate weather stations (with the United Cooperative in al-Joumeh-Akkar), women's empowerment programs, programs to improve marketing for poor fishermen, a tourism training center, youth programs, and alternative education schools.

Makhzoumi Foundation

The Makhzoumi Foundation, established in 1997 by Fouad Makhzoumi, is a private Lebanese nonprofit organization that contributes through its programs to civil society development.

(p.129) The foundation sees its mission as working toward a more evolved Lebanese civil society through:

  • Human resource development

  • Self-responsibility and independence

  • Environmental preservation

  • Education and quality healthcare

Its programs are focused on five areas:

  • Civic centers: The foundation provides trainees with educational, technical, and vocational skills.

  • Agriculture and environment: It aims to preserve and care for the environment through sustainable agriculture and the management of natural resources.

  • Micro-credit: It recognizes the importance of micro-credit as a beneficial tool for community development.

  • Adult and child awareness activities including projects such as Pub-lic Awareness on the Concept of Democracy and Let's Talk.

  • Healthcare: The foundation is building a healthcare network that provides citizens with medical care at the least possible cost in doctors’ private clinics and access to insurance policies at attractive premiums, covering 100 percent of hospitalization. It has opened community clinics that offer up-to-datea equipment and medical care.

Broadly Sponsored Associations

The Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon

Established in April 2002, the Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL) is a unique regional center for the comprehensive treatment of pediatric cancer. An affiliate of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States, the center works in close association with the American University of Beirut Medical Center. While CCCL is completely dependent on donations, it maintains a state-of-the-art center for treating and curing children with cancer in Lebanon, at no cost to patients and without discrimination.

The CCCL employs various methods of fundraising, including:

  • Sponsor a Child: As a child's sponsor, one may change the life of a sick child by sponsoring his or her one-year treatment for USD 30,000, paying monthly, quarterly, or annually. Child sponsorship can be for one year or more, as the average period for the treatment (p.130) of pediatric cancer is two to three years, depending on the child's age and circumstances. Today, more than four hundred patients from all backgrounds are being treated at CCCL.

  • Naming a Facility: Naming a facility or space at the outpatient unit after an individual or a corporation is the most incorporated and institutionalized form of donation.

  • Give Hope: This method allows the donor to choose the amount he or she wishes to donate on a monthly basis.

  • Partner in Life: This is a corporate partnership whereby employees of corporations can make donations.

  • Math-a-thon: Math-a-thon, initiated in 2003, is an educational program targeted at school students of grades three through seven, whose ages range from eight to fourteen years old. It is designed to be an educational learning experience for the students and is relatively easy to conduct.

  • Occasions gifts: Donations to CCCLcan be made in the name of a new-lywed couple or a newborn baby, or to commemorate other occasions.

  • Corporate sponsorships: Companies give support within a marketing strategy.

  • Annual gala dinners: The CCCL annual gala dinner is the corner stone of the organization's yearly fundraising efforts.


Because of a number of constraints on data collection, it was not possible to cover Lebanon's philanthropic landscape fully. Researchers were struck by the resilience and determination of those they did meet, who have sustained the sector through many years of uncertainty, often at substantial personal risk. A new generation of business leaders and philanthropic actors are consciously deciding to operate through the creation of secular Lebanese rather than sectarian institutions.

The study did not cover the networks of social service provision tied to militia and political groups, although it is widely believed that these are significant and growing in some instances. The weak presence of the government has both contributed to a climate of relative independence for the civil sector and strengthened the role of philanthropic institutions in basic service provision. Despite many cases where constituents subscribing to particular religious or political groups are the principle beneficiaries of philanthropic organizations, the trend is toward more all-inclusive programs and impacts.

(p.131) Lebanese are proud of their ability to persevere and rebuild their society repeatedly. They believe in the merits of an open, entrepreneurial society where there is still care for a neighbor's welfare. They also increasingly recognize the enduring problems caused by underdeveloped notions of citizenship and a weak sense of belonging to a nation. These are challenges that a rising generation of philanthropists must face.




Economist Intelligence Unit. 2007. Country Profile: Lebanon. Freedom House: Lebanon 2007. http://www.freedomhouse.org.

International Monetary Fund. 2007. World Economic Database (Lebanon) April. http://www.imf.org.

Khalil, Abdullah. 2004. A Comparative Guide on Laws: Relating to Establishing an Arab Fund (Endowment or Cash Deposit): To Extend Financial Support for Social Justice Programs in the Arab Region. Cairo: Ford Foundation.

World Bank. 2007. Republic of Lebanon Economic Assessment of Environmental Degradation Due to July 2006 Hostilities. Sector note, report no. 9787-LB. World Bank, October 11.


(*) Law 422 of 2002 (Protection of at Risk Children or Children Violating the Law).

(1.) Gross domestic product and population figures are taken from IMF data. Estimates start after 2004. The population and religion breakdown is from NationMaster.com.

(2.) Freedom House 2007. http://www.freedomhouse.org.

(4.) Some estimates are as high as 350,000. See Freedom House 2007.

(5.) March 14 Alliance is named after a key date in the Cedar Revolution, which was a series of mass demonstrations and civic movements for greater independence and democracy after the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.

(6.) Freedom House 2007.

(7) World Bank. Republic of Lebanon. Economic Assessment of Environmental Degradation due to July 2006 Hostilities Report No. 39787-LB. Document of the World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org.

(8.) Economist Intelligence Unit Country Profile 2007:19.

(9.) Conversation with a past candidate for Lebanese parliament.

(10.) Khalil 2004:17–20, 28–30.

(11.) See Fondation Père Afif Osseiran, Foyer de la Providence, http://www.rein-cude.org/