Lebanon/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Directorates and institutions affiliated to the Ministry of Culture (pertaining to which a law was issued recently) give a fair picture about the current situation and what is required to be achieved.

 However, observers of the Lebanese cultural situation know that all efforts exerted by official authorities or the state in the Arab World in general are driven by certain political powers and in the case of Lebanon various sectarian groups.

According to an article written by Nazem Al-Sayed about the cultural harvest in Lebanon in 2008, culture in Lebanon could also be, directly or indirectly, another face of politics.

So directly it could be a form of propaganda similar to that of opposition or government parties. In its indirect form it could be certain activities directed by certain political-cultural approaches.

These activities always raise questions about the country's identity, which is divided between East and West, between Islam and Christianity and between majorities and minorities.

We are always faced with a culture that is driven by the country's sectarian and political structure and by the local and overseas coalitions formed by the country's politicians.

Practically speaking, separate the knowledge exhibition organized by the Islamic Knowledge Society in Beirut's southern suburb from politics, at least in the indirect sense, since it is (the exhibition) responds to certain demographic changes that ended with Shiite domination in the area controlled by Hezbollah.

Furthermore, the activities conducted by "Omam" Society chaired by publisher and writer Luqman Salim cannot be separated from politics given its political content.

Moreover, major festivals staged in the country cannot be separated not only from politics but also from specific sectarian implications since some of these festivals were established as a form of zonal cultural federalism such as the Beiteddine Festival sponsored by Nora Junblat, wife of leader of the Socialist Progressive Party Walid Junblat, Tyre Festivals sponsored by Randa Berri, wife of Parliament Speaker and leader of Amal Movement Nabih Berri and the same applies on MP and Minister Mohammed Al-Safadi, who sponsors a number of cultural activities in Tripoli and north Lebanon in cooperation with a foreign foundations. In a similar context, vice-president of Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, former Minister Leila Solh Hamadeh has inaugurated the cultural movement building at the city of Bint Jbeil which has been provided with support of Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation.

However, a description of such doesn’t cancel the key aspect of Lebanese culture, which is the private sector product. This product is the individual result of many people who have no association with the cultural produce of the political authorities. These individuals constitute a cultural structure on the outskirts of politics and this structure is a tributary that is more profound and effective than the activities sponsored by politicians and their approaches, which remain folkloric and temporal (for showing up) at best.

The cultural issue in Lebanon is based on individual activities through different bodies, institutions and activities rather than a comprehensive presentation of a clear and integrated cultural policy. Activists in the field of culture are exempting efforts to drive the state to design a formal visionary cultural plan that lives up to their ambition and capacities and allows delivering culture to citizens as one of their rights. This requires allocating a considerable budget that allows for a continuous cultural development. Some officials who assumed key positions in Lebanon truly believed that culture is an important wealth for Lebanon but they tried to achieve this objective through individual, kind of big projects, away from the integrated vision. 

Chapter published: 07-04-2016