It is well documented that income inequality is on the rise, with the richest 10 percent earning up to 40 percent of total global income. The poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 percent and 7 percent of total global income. In developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent if we consider the growth of population. These widening disparities require the adoption of sound policies to empower the bottom percentile of income earners, and promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.

The Arab region suffers an average loss of 24.9 percent when the Human Development Index is adjusted for inequalities, which is above the world average loss of 22.9 percent. This is loss in human development is mainly driven by inequality in education and to a lower extent by income (17 and health inequality. Inequality is widest in the education component of the inequality-adjusted HDI (about 38 percent) and less severe in income component (17 percent). The Arab region also has the second highest ratio of rural to urban poverty (3.5) among all developing regions.

Income inequality is a global problem that requires global solutions. This involves improving the regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest. Facilitating the safe migration and mobility of people is also key to bridging the widening divide.

In Lebanon inequalities are most evident between the Beirut and the rest of the country. Due to the criteria used for allocating funding to municipalities from a central fund, municipalities have an unequal financial basis for servicing their community, and particularly municipalities in rural areas face financial challenges.

UNESCO and the Hariri Foundation Launch a Workshop on Youth Civic Engagement from Beirut Arab University

In the presence of MP Bahia Hariri, the UNESCO Office in Beirut, in cooperation with the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development (HFSHD) and Beirut Arab University (BAU), launched a workshop entitled MOST School on “Youth Civic Engagement and Public Policies for Urban Governance through Cultural Heritage.” The workshop is part of the “Enhancing Research Linkage for a State of Knowledge in Lebanon” project as MOST aims at exchanging experiences among those interested in policy research, especially the young, in order to develop a comprehensive urban policy.

During the opening session, Head of the Parliamentary Education Committee and Head of the Hariri Foundation MP Bahia Hariri spoke of the role of Hariri Foundation, which embodies the experience of late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his vision of supporting education. She also praised the role of Beirut Arab University in promoting justice in the higher education sector in Lebanon and thanked UNESCO, which attaches great importance to linking scientific research to policy development.

In his speech, Director of the UNESCO Beirut Office Dr. Hamad Bin Saif Al-Hammami maintained, "Cultural heritage education is a tool for promoting intercultural dialogue and social cohesion, and therefore the participation of the young in cultural heritage is essential to provide them with the tools of knowledge, skills and shared values and to promote peace through engaging the young in urban cultural heritage policies and strategies and supporting tangible youth-led measures.”

UNESCO has established a youth strategy (2014-2021) and clarified support on three issues: formulating youth policies, developing the capacities of youth organizations, and supporting youth civic engagement. Speaking of the significance of the workshop theme, "There are a lot of concerns about city life in light of its growth, spatial expansion, increasing services, complex lifestyles, local government development and future strategic policies. The city has become a centre of knowledge production in various interrelated disciplines. Therefore, understanding urban space at the research level has become interdisciplinary,” Al-Hamami continued, “this multidisciplinary approach to the city has become evident in the 2030 Agenda adopted by the United Nations as a plan of action for social justice and human well-being. UNESCO's support to the city stakeholders concerning inclusive urban development is more important than ever. Fifteen years after the launch of the International Alliance for Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR) in 2004, there are now 23 Arab cities from seven active member states that contribute to mutual support, knowledge sharing and capacity development to combat discrimination and fear of outsiders and foreigners.”

BAU President Professor Amr Galal El-Adawi stressed BAU’s interest in heritage and its preservation. He also highlighted the importance of disseminating this culture at the youth level and contributing to enhancing communication and dialogue opportunities among the students, academic staff and all those interested in developing policies to preserve cultural heritage in Lebanon with their counterparts at the regional and global levels.

Dean of the Faculty of Architecture- Design and Built Environment Professor Ibtihal Bastawissi spoke about the role of architects in the process of preserving cultural heritage, stressing that this role has been adopted by the Faculty of Architecture - Design and Built Environment at Beirut Arab University since its establishment in 1962 through its support for heritage conservation projects and the adoption of many other projects and private research in the areas of restoration, rehabilitation and reuse. The faculty has always been keen to teach its students how to devise architectural solutions that harmonize with these buildings and are compatible with our current era. she also emphasized the importance of this workshop, as "it helps develop the ability of researchers and decision-makers to link academic scientific research with its practical translation.”

Prof. Bastawissi continued, “Beirut Arab University has always sought to actively participate in this workshop, as it comes in line with its belief in the importance of making practical use of scientific research to serve the local community and support sustainable development at the national level. BAU believes in the role of the youth in development and the importance of engaging them in the development of plans and policies, which helps benefit from their innovation and creativity, in addition to adding up to the practical experience of the university youth and increasing the efficiency of graduates to meet the challenges of the labour market. The participation of the young in the development of plans and policies also develops their sense of responsibility and concern for the success of their implementation.”

The three-day workshop was held between Beirut and Saida , including a field visit to the ancient city of Sidon. During this workshop, a series of research methodologies and good practices were reviewed in order to highlight the positive role of the youth in promoting social integration in the process of preserving cultural heritage in Lebanon.

A Seminar on Women’s Rights at BAU In Collaboration with the EU Delegation

The Human Rights Center at Beirut Arab University organized in collaboration with the European Union Delegation in Lebanon a seminar on “Women’s Rights: Challenges and Opportunities for Gender Equality in Lebanon”. The event which was held on the 3rd of December, 2013 was attended by Prof. Dr. Amr Galal El Adawi, President of BAU, Mrs. Angelina Ekhorest, European Union Ambassador, Mrs. Ursula Fahringer, Austrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Deans of Faculties, Mr. Issam Houri, BAU Secretary General, Wakf El Bir and Ihsan’s Members of Board of Trustees, Directors of BAU Centers, BAU Administrators, and 250 students from various majors.

Prof. Dr. Amr Galal El Adawi reiterated in his word the role of BAU in supporting human rights, in particular women’s rights, through the Human Rights Center, as well as the establishment of a specialized Women’s Studies Diploma and a legal clinic where students – under the supervision of licensed lawyers – aid disadvantaged target groups to fight for their rights.

Mrs. Angelina Ekhorest, European Union Ambassador, addressed the students, reminding the audience that Lebanon is an important partner to the EU, not only in terms of dealing with the Syrian crisis, but also in terms of human rights. This is manifest in the effectiveness of parliamentary elections and structural reforms in the economic and social sectors.

Dr. Omar Houri, Director of the BAU Human Rights Center reviewed in his word the foundations of a woman’s right to grant her family her nationality in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution and the International Law. He added that there are over 18000 Lebanese women married to foreigners in Lebanon. There are no accurate statistics as to the number of children in these marriages, but it is possible to imagine the amount prejudices these children and citizens are exposed to. Such discrimination impacts upon medical care, education, employment and other aspects of daily life. 

The seminar also included an intervention by Mrs. Ursula Fahringer, Austrian Ambassador to Lebanon, and Lawyer Layla Awada from “Kafa”. The seminar was moderated by journalist Anne-Marie El Hage from L’Orient Le Jour.

A Panel Discussion on Activating Women's Political Participation

In cooperation with Beirut Arab University and the National Commission for Women, and in collaboration with the British Council and the National Committee for the Follow-up on Women's Issues, the Maharat Foundation organized a panel discussion on "Activating the Role of Women in Political Participation" among students and decision-makers within the framework of the EU-funded project DAWRAK . The panel was attended by the President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz and MPs Majid Edi Abi El-Lamaa and Elias Hanaksh, as well as the candidate for the parliamentary elections Laury Haytian.

Students and participants discussed issues related to activating women's political participation, such as approving quotas in the election law, the role of political parties in supporting women in political participation, and the strategy of the National Commission for Women to activate women's political participation.

The students raised a number of questions and made several recommendations to the participants in order to enhance the participation of the young in the discussion of public issues and the development of public policies related to the political role of women and to support communication between them and officials and decision-makers.

The event started with BAU President Professor Amr Galal El-Adawi and Head of the Media Department Dr. Gamal Mujahed welcoming the participants and stressing that BAU supports enhancing the role of women at all levels not only in the political realm.

President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz noted that the percentage of female candidates increased in the recent elections, but this was not reflected in the presence of women in the Lebanese Parliament, pointing out that women do not vote for female candidates but for a list that is compatible with their political stance.

She also maintained that the National Commission has called for a transitional quota to activate the participation of women in political life, considering that waiting for real equality only is useless at the moment. She added, "Laws reveal a significant prejudice against women. We as a national entity for women's affairs have many law suggestions which we will submit soon. Though women’s participation in the government is represented by 4 ministers out of 30, this is considered an achievement and a great progress at the level of female presence in the government.”

Continuing her speech, she said that the political presence of women needs a law and she encouraged the initiative of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to nominate women for the parliament and the government, adding that Hariri kept his word concerning women's presence in political life.

Within the context of the participation of women in the political parties, she stressed that females must get out of the shadows and impose themselves without allowing males to take the lead, adding "we are witnessing progress at all levels and the upcoming parliamentary elections will reflect this. Stereotypes change with the new generation."

MP Majid Edi Abi Al Lamaa, pointed out that there are many women in our patriarchal society who do not believe in the role of women in political life. "Here lies the danger. We must exert a great effort at the level of education at schools and universities to raise awareness about this subject,” he said.

Abi Lamaa assured that there are many discussions about the quota within the parties, considering that it is a kind of discrimination and imposing it is useless. He added, "Basically, it is linked to raising the young’s awareness through education in order to create a public opinion that is supportive of women's political participation, especially as there are many citizens who are against the quota, which is still considered a controversial issue."

As for the role of parties in supporting women's political participation, Abi -Lamaa expressed his hope for the new generation to change the current situation in the parties.

MP Elias Hanaksh, said that the current parliament members represent not only males but all citizens as well, especially as the problems in Lebanon are shared by men and women.

He pointed out that there is an improvement in the political participation of women through a set of indicators, for there are now six female parliament members and 4 ministers, as well as the post of Minister of Interior in the Middle East for the first time.

He also expressed his support for the approval of the quota, especially as all countries that have shown progress in the field of raising the political representation of women had approved the quota.

Laury Haytian, the candidate for the parliamentary elections, said that most of the female candidates who took part in the elections don’t belong to any party. They accepted the challenge to encourage the new generation to join the political domain. "There is a stereotype concept that women don’t understand politics which we tried to change in the previous elections," she continued.

Concerning the role of parties in supporting women's political participation, Haytian said that parties were not supportive as females candidates were absent from the election lists. The parties do not want the quota in order to maintain their posts and their gains. "We are witnessing a non-traditional situation in the political life; it is a transitional phase and civil society has played its political role, but the best way for women to achieve political presence is through the party, so the battle must take place within the parties for the women's involvement in the political life."

It is worth mentioning that DAWRAK project aims at enhancing women's participation in public affairs. In this context, the project resulted in a set of basic priorities for activating the role of women, including the promotion of women's political participation and civil status law. Therefore, DAWRAK launched two advocacy campaigns around these two priorities.

BAU Awareness Raising Day for the Disabled

Seeking to support the people with disabilities and to integrate them into the Lebanese society and economy via procuring the environment which meets their needs and capabilities in the job market, the Human Rights Centre at Beirut Arab University, together with the CRS Association and in cooperation with EDAN and Arcanciel, organized an awareness raising day concerning the people with disabilities in Lebanon.

On that day, students from the Faculty of Architectural Engineering presented an integrated engineering project for the development of the Hariri Building at BAU to meet all the needs of disabled people.

Students from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences clarified the rights which the disabled enjoy according to Article (220) of the Lebanese Law which stipulates the necessity of procuring an environment suitable for the disabled to carry out their everyday life activities.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship at BAU participated in presenting the ways the disabled can execute the projects that meet their physical capabilities and how to raise the funds necessary for these projects.

Students from the Faculty of Arts elucidated the codes of conduct and behavior necessary to deal with disabled.

During the day, a dialogue was held in which Dr. Omar Houri gave a talk and some short movies were shown, shedding light on the obstacles that the disabled face in both the society and the job market. Moreover, some testimonies and speeches were presented by some disabled people calling for the rectification of some offensive expressions and abusive behaviors towards the disabled.

Mr. Fadi Al Halabi, the known activist and media figure, summarized the challenges that the disabled face, stating that there are 100,000 disabled people in Lebanon, 80% of whom suffer from unemployment and 60% from illiteracy. Ms. Fadia Farah, Head of the Lebanese Association for Self Advocacy, attributed the injustice of the job market towards the disabled to the absence of experience in setting and observing the laws concerned with the disabled.

In his turn, Mr. Ibrahim Abdallah, Head of the Disabled Union in Lebanon, criticized the governments inefficiency as related to the issue of the disabled, and accredited the achievements to the efforts exerted by the concerned associations actively involved in the field.

UN Marks 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights at BAU

Under the theme “A Defender for a Right”, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre in Beirut (UNIC Beirut) and Beirut Arab University (BAU), organized a special ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and celebrate Human Rights Day that falls annually on 10 December.

The ceremony, which was held at BAU Premises, was attended by Bassam Al-Halabi, representative of Minister of State for Human Rights Affairs Ayman Choucair, MP and Head of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights Michel Moussa, MP and representative of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Roula Tabesh, Regional Representative of OHCHR Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) Roueida El-Hage, Director of the UN Information Centre in Beirut Margo El-Helou, President of the Lebanese Constitutional Council Issam Sleiman, President of Beirut Arab University Amr Galal El-Adawi and BAU Secretary General Omar Houri. The ceremony was also attended by representatives of military and security leaders, BAU professors and students, representatives of media outlets and organizations specialized in human rights issues.

The Opening

The Opening featured statements by Choucair, Moussa, El-Hage, and El-Adawi, as well as a video-taped message by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and a reportage on the BAU university and its major Faculties.

In his statement, Choucair said that decent life is the main issue that must be addressed when defending human rights, adding that the lack of sense of citizenship among people stops them from enjoying their basic human rights. “Citizenship is not a law,” he noted, “it is a struggle”. Choucair added that the Middle East is unfortunately witnessing a breach of human rights, especially in the presence of major powers that seek to destroy on daily basis the concept of democracy and reject peace and justice in the region.” He pointed out that citizens must strengthen their sense of belonging to their countries away from their social and sectarian affiliations in order for human rights to be attained in the communities.

For his part, Moussa pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has become a ‘unified constitution’ in the world that regulate the preservation and respect of human rights, despite the blatant violations recorded throughout the past 70 years. “There is no doubt that hate speech is caused by conflicts, wars, poverty, and religious extremism, as well as the absence of political and cultural awareness that ignites hatred, intolerance and negative inherited traditions.” Moussa also stressed in his speech the need to control and confront hate speech, adding that this requires close cooperation between governments and civil society to enact effective legislations that regulate the work of educational and social institutions, media, including social media, while preserving the freedom of individuals.

El-Hage began her statement by recalling that the UDHR is enshrined in the preamble of the Lebanese Constitution. “Its principles are therefore constitutionally mandatory, surpassing national legislation, and many countries have followed Lebanon’s example,” she noted. “Although the UDHR has helped many people gain more freedoms and rights, we are still witnessing systematic violations in the world. The struggle for human rights is not over yet,” she added. El-Hage also mentioned some world figures reflecting the progress achieved after the adoption of UDHR. These include increase in women representation in Parliament to one quarter of the total number of Parliamentarians in most countries, increase in the number of countries that abolished death penalty, provision of access to information for all, and offering guarantees for persons with disabilities, including minority groups, migrants and refugees, among others.

El-Adawi in his statement said that “intolerance, xenophobia and incitement to racial and religious hatred all endanger the very essence of human rights.” He also noted that “BAU is one of the first universities in the Arab region that introduced the human rights course as a compulsory requirement for all university students and this shows its unwavering commitment to human rights principles. It also established a Human Rights Center in 2009, whereby volunteers participate in awareness raising activities aiming at combating extremism through social media networks.” El-Adawi concluded his statement by saying that BAU is committed to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and its related 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as member of the Global Compact Network in Lebanon. “BAU is constantly seeking to achieve social justice and sustainable development in the country,” he pledged.

An Interactive Discussion

After the opening, El-Hage, together with Reda Abdel Aziz, a lawyer and regional human rights trainer, moderated an interactive dialogue entitled “Promoting Positive Messages” tackling the role of social media and arts in combating hate speech. The discussion also engaged Omar Houri, human rights activists Mirvat Rishmawi and Joumana Merhi, and human rights expert Habib Belkoush.

The dialogue discussed in detail current legislative and policy measures adopted by countries of the region to combat hate speech through social media. Discussions also tackled civil society efforts and initiatives in fighting hate speech, with special focus on the role of the youth.