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Civil Society Organisations

We must strengthen citizen participation

Ali Darwish, from Green Line in Lebanon, our local partner for the SwitchMed Civil Society programme, explains how Lebanon is facing difficulties to increase awareness on environmental issues. The participation of non-governmental organisations is crucial to scale-up citizen’s involvement.


Tell us about the organisation that you work for 

Green Line is a non-aligned proactive scientific association for conservation and development established in 1991 by a group of people concerned about the future of Lebanon after 16 years of civil war and aggressions. Green Line’s main objectives are to: expose environmental threats, promote environmental awareness and work towards a sustainable development framework in Lebanon and the region. The organisation deals with resource conservation from a rights-based approach and tries to mobilize citizens to handle their resources responsible and also the demand equitable access to these resources. To achieve its goals, Green Line seeks to build alliances and consolidate efforts on major issues in order to optimise resource use.

Green Line’s main objectives are to expose environmental threats and promote environmental awareness 

Green Line is an active member in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the GEF NGO Network, the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) related to the Committee on Food Security of FAO/IFAD.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself 

My name is Ali Darwish, I am a senior expert in agriculture and development. As a founding and leading member of Green Line, I’ve been active in this field for more than 20 years and has ever since been part in the major environmental conservation efforts and campaigns that took place in Lebanon, starting from the conservation of public spaces and domains and their protection from privatisation and dredging, to fighting illegal toxic waste imports, introduction and promotion of sustainable agriculture into Lebanon, promoting food sovereignty in West Asia and North Africa, combatting land degradation and much more. I served 8 years on the council of IUCN and six years on the steering committee of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR).

On a personal level, I have worked as a lead consultant for major international organisations such as the German Cooperation, the United Nations, the European Union, Heinrich Boell Foundation and many others. Recently, I served as a lead expert on eco-citizenship and eco-consumption for an EU project in Lebanon.

 

You are coming from a scientific background, how are you using it to increase awareness about sustainable consumption and production?

In any sector or cause, it is sometime easy to mislead people and mobilise their support based on emotions and instincts. However, this is not sustainable.

We believe that science and technology is the main pillar for sustainable action, and the presence of a robust and solid technical file is crucial towards success. Surely, this should be combined with equally supported media and awareness strategies to ensure reachability.

In any sector or cause, it is sometime easy to mislead people and mobilise their support based on emotions and instincts. However, this is not sustainable.

You are part of different networking providing knowledge and experience sharing, can you tell us the name of this platform? how does it help to strengthen the voice of non-governmental organizations?

Green Line is a member of several platform and informal networks such as the Civil Campaign for the Protection of Dalieh (a major natural monument in Beirut of high cultural and environmental value), the National Coalition for Sustainable Transport; the Water is not for Sale Coalition and the Zero Waste Coalition. These platforms allow and lobby for a unified technical and advocacy position regarding the country’s most pressing issues such as Solid Waste, Transport, Water and Public Spaces. These also aim at funnelling the outcomes of individual efforts into the main cause and thus increasing their impact on the larger picture.

 

You are working from nearly 25 years in environmental issue. How do you see the future in Lebanon?

Lebanon is seriously affected by its regional geopolitical context. This problematic has nearly blocked all serious attempts to achieve radical changes in the environmental scene. The lack of political and the polarization of citizens have hindered progress and the creation of a mass opinion and position on environmental issues. Within this context, the expectations are not very high or very positive. It is expected that this negative or static (at the least) will persist until the achievement of a breakthrough in public/citizen involvement

The lack of political and the polarization of citizens have hindered progress and the creation of a mass opinion and position on environmental issues.

As a SwitchMed local Partner, you are preparing workshop to empower civil society organisations. What do you want to achieve? What would you be proud of?

Lebanon has been facing since more than three months a serious solid waste crisis which is the result of about 20 years of no-strategy from the side of the government to initiate a strategy based on the 3Rs. Besides the waste issue, resource use efficiency is in continuous deterioration, be it at the production/supply level or at the consumption level. Water resources, energy/electricity and transportation are flagrant examples of this problem.

Within SwitchMed, Green Line aims through the training workshop and the following activities to increase awareness and citizen involvement in increasing resource use efficiency and contribute further to the spread of a culture responsible and sustainable consumption.

For Green Line it would be most rewarding to see a collective involvement of non-governmental organisations and citizen initiatives include issues of efficient and environmentally friendly resource use as cross cutting issues in their work.