Between September 2019 and March 2022, WFD implemented a CSSF-funded programme to strengthen democratic mechanisms for accountability and dialogue in Lebanon. At the time, Lebanon was facing – and continues to face – a series of crises. From a severe economic and financial crisis, to the aftermath of the Beirut Port explosion that killed more than 200 people and left an estimated 300,000 homeless. The effects of each of these was further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With poverty levels spiking above 75% and state institutions collapsing, Lebanese taxpayers have been hard-pressed to acquire basic items such as fuel, baby milk, and food. WFD partnered with MP Inaya Ezzeddine – representing the district of Tyre (Sour) and Zahrani – to help support her efforts in addressing these three basic needs. Dr Ezzeddine’s work as an MP and as the chair of the Women and Children’s Parliamentary Committee (WCPC) over the past four years has been prolific, making her stand out as an example of a reformist parliamentarian.
“What’s for sure is that MP Ináya Ezzeddine in her first parliamentary term, following an earlier ministerial experience, has added a serious approach to [public] work and accompaniment; for she worked hard on many draft laws that safeguard the rights of women, whether in their electoral candidacy (on advancing a gender quota) or in their private lives (on working against GBV), as well as other spheres.”
Excerpt from an analytical article in the Lebanese daily Annahár (March 29th, 2022).
A three-way crisis response
During the summer of 2021, Lebanon witnessed a fuel crisis owing to the lifting of fuel subsidies. This translated into very long car queues at gas stations, which at the peak of the crisis would average at six-hour waits. This hindered mobility for everyone, including medical personnel. To counter this, MP Inaya Ezzeddine worked with the Digital Transformation Network (DTN) – a network of CSOs, formed in 2019 with WFD’s support, that promotes and facilitates the incorporation of information technology into public practice. Together, they reached out to the Union of Tyre Municipalities to allocate two gas stations for medical staff in the Tyre district. DTN then developed a platform to organise the appointments of medical staff on gas stations; as a result, an estimated 1,500 medical personnel benefitted from this drive.
On another level, Lebanon witnessed a dramatic increase in the price of milk on one hand and a shortage on the other. This resulted from milk exporters storing big amounts whilst waiting for the government to lift price subsidies. In October 2021, MP Ezzeddine – in her capacity as the chair of the WCPC – reached out to international and local organisations (such as Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Medair, Makhzoomi Foundation, and others), and launched a national campaign on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF). WFD provided administrative and secretarial support throughout the campaign.
Lastly, WFD reached out to MP Ezzeddine following her appointment as the new chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) parliamentary committee. WFD provided the MP with technical support to work on a mapping exercise for food security from an SDG perspective; identify SDGs targets and indicators related to food security; and carry out an analysis outlining the gaps on this theme within the Lebanese legal context. A WFD expert then provided the MP with coaching to develop an action plan on how parliament should intervene to fill these gaps. The aim was to turn the action plan into a draft law that would place Lebanon amongst the few countries enshrining food security in their legal framework.
Dr Ezzeddine’s work in times of a crisis has positioned her as a model MP and raised the bar for parliamentary engagement, not only for women, but for everyone. She was recently re-elected to parliament following the May 15, 2022, Lebanese parliamentary elections.