On the occasion of the launch of the Decentralization Observatory, the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) hosted the former President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin, and former Lebanese Minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud.
The FLPS Dean Dr. Maan Bou Saber organized at Pierre Abu Khater Hall, NDU main campus a debate org, on “Decentralization and Federalism: Points of Similarity and Points of Difference.”
Following a welcome speech delivered by NDU Director of Public Relations and Cultural Affairs Dr. Nada Saad Saber in the presence of University President Fr. Walid Moussa, former Lebanese Minister of Interior and Municipalities Marwan Charbel, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Lebanon François Barras, mayors, military representatives, notable figures, and specialists, Dr. Bou Saber expounded on the main axes and problematic. He questioned whether the decentralized approach to federalism is a need to hide a risk and whether the points of difference and similarities between decentralization and federalism are in the nature of these regimes or in their levels.
The Swiss President began his presentation with two ideas. The first idea was based on the article of the Swiss Constitution, which states, “The Swiss Confederation consists of the Swiss people and the provinces ...” therefore, sovereignty is vested in the people and the provinces, and preference to the provinces.
The second idea being that provinces are self-sufficient: Each has private fiscal arrangements, and a citizen in a particular province pays more taxes than another living in another province. From this, federalism has an absolute freedom regarding authority in the provinces.
For his part, Minister Baroud thanked NDU for taking this initiative and for establishing the substantive and objective Decentralization Observatory. He also introduced the decentralization project and focused on its strengths, as follows:
- The privacy of the area where decentralization exists through the municipalities in Lebanon. Since the Taif Accord and the new reforms, decentralization has been expanded, but the principle has not been translated correctly; therefore, decentralization is not a synonym for division.
- The current draft law since 2012: At the request of former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and former Minister Charbel, a specialized committee to draft a law was created, which in turn conducted numerous meetings with specialists to examine the strategy before going into detail and issuing a report. According to Minister Baroud, this report is more important than the law project itself. He, therefore, provided some insight into this law, which helps maintain the municipalities’ power and preserves their finances, but they must come up with more funding; the establishment of regional councils headed by a person and not an elected mayor, which will replace the Board of Directors composed of elected people.
- Decentralization is an element of the unit elements: This technique is of a political scale, it is the best way to manage pluralism.
- Federal dialectic: Federal does not mean division, but is based on geographical nature.
- Decentralization as a mean of management concerns: Decentralization must contribute to the election and the creation of physical independence, from here decentralization and federalism converge.
- Inappropriate timing in which institutions are paralyzed; in addition to the different religious beliefs, leading to the risk of confrontation.
In conclusion, a discussion took place with the audience. The University President presented the Swiss President with a plaque as a token of appreciation.