THE RIGHT GENERATION
As evidenced by the protest movement of this summer, the new generation is finally in town and it aspires to its rights. When compared to Lebanon’s previous generations, namely those from the civil war and prior to 1975, the under 30s of today have the advantages of a broader education, fewer experiences of violent external disruptions, and benefit from the millennial tech troika of computing power, connectivity and social networks. What’s more, they are acting in an environment that is ripe for change.
Certainly, not everyone today feels the need to craft a new social contract for Lebanon. However, the vast majority has been waking up to the daily realities of their increasing powerlessness in terms of both political and electrical power, water shortages, inundation with waste and not enough money to get children to college, let alone through it.
These failures of the Lebanese state and of traditional power figures have caused desperation which in turn has destroyed a lot of vertical trust and horizontal social capital. Viewed positively, this is a fertilizer for change. Thus, based on the impulse provided by the protest movement and with buy-in from the important stakeholders – academic, economic, civil societal and even genuine reform-willing political and traditional change makers – the rewriting of our social contract becomes a real possibility.
Although a contract evokes the image of pen and paper, this is seldom the case save for a few declarations made throughout history. The “writing” of a new social contract is a multi-tiered enterprise and done through mutual cooperation. From the perspective of Executive, this would involve mobilizing every available human resource and embarking immediately on an array of projects, of which we emphasize three for starters.
As a polity, Lebanon needs the rule of law and the guarantee of constitutional rights. At the present time, this requires rectifying the disastrous failure of the electoral and representation systems, beginning with the definition of a clear electoral law and implementation of the constitutional mandate to abolish political confessionalism.
As a body social and economic, the Lebanese cannot dispense of knowing who they are, how they live and what they are capable of producing. This requires a complete and detailed census of relevant demographic, social and economic data. Public and private establishments, and all citizens, must have access to comprehensive social and economic information to optimize their ability to plan and perform.
As a community, Lebanon needs to preserve the resources of its historic diversity and at the same time develop its inclusiveness. In regard to the multiple infrastructure emergencies that the country is facing, and especially the waste management crisis, this means that the protest movement and private sector should collaborate with vigor and intensity to produce workable solutions.