The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Lebanon to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Lebanon's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Following nearly three decades of foreign occupation and civil conflict in Lebanon, the U.S. Government seeks to support Lebanon's sovereignty and independence by increasing the government's capacity to provide for the security and socioeconomic needs of its citizens, while also upholding respect for human rights and democratic principles, practices, and values. United States assistance to Lebanon strengthens the institutions of the Lebanese state, to enable the Lebanese government to exert its sovereign authority throughout Lebanese territory and implement all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. In its assistance programs, the United States emphasizes strengthening the capacity of municipalities throughout the country, assisting them to improve transparency practices and citizen services. The United States Government also supports national-level programs promoting economic, fiscal, political, and judicial transparency and reform.
The United States Government supports the Government of Lebanon as it seeks electoral reform, and the U.S. mission provides assistance to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working to improve electoral processes and increase citizen participation among traditionally marginalized groups. U.S. technical assistance will support local efforts to ensure the 2010 municipal elections are free and fair, avoid violence or intimidation, and reflect the independent will of the people. Finally, the United States seeks to strengthen civil society organizations to develop leaders adept at advocating for their communities' needs. Because the country's constitution provides for a confessional system of government that distributes power among religious communities, the United States supports civil society organizations promoting cross-confessional activities, conflict resolution, and programs to provide alternatives to extremism.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. programs are supporting Lebanon's government institutions to promote the rule of law. Through capacity building of the security and judicial authorities, U.S. assistance is strengthening the criminal justice system. For example, the U.S. Government provides significant funds for training and equipment to the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces to enhance the professionalism of these national institutions. Programs to improve the capacity of the security forces are based on Western democratic principles and designed to enhance the understanding and implementation of international norms and concepts to protect individual human rights. Training on human rights practices for the security forces is focused on civil and political rights, in addition to an emphasis on fighting corruption through training on ethics and values. Similarly, U.S. Government programming is addressing basic needs in the justice sector to increase the independence of the judiciary and to improve the efficacy with which laws are applied in the courts.
The United States supports programs that seek to empower civil society, extend fair labor practices to all segments of the population, and address the plight of trafficking victims. U.S. funding for civil society organizations contributes to just and democratic governance, strengthens citizen advocacy campaigns, and increases civic participation. U.S. officials also encourage Lebanese leaders to extend labor law protections to foreign workers, to improve employment rights for refugees, and to end arbitrary detentions in forced labor and trafficking cases. To this end, U.S. funds support NGOs and social workers who interview trafficking victims in order to screen and refer trafficking cases to the country's judiciary for prosecution of traffickers. U.S. programs are training judges, prosecutors, and lawyers on trafficking victim identification and protection, and these programs support the only safe house for trafficking and forced labor victims.
U.S. programs are supporting religious freedom, encouraging cross-sectarian dialogues, and promoting freedom of the press. To promote religious freedom, U.S. officials meet regularly with religious leaders and members of the Islamic Christian Dialogue Committee. U.S. officials emphasize the importance of protecting the freedoms of speech and the press and note the critical role of journalists in advancing democracy and human rights. The United States Government also supports programs seeking to improve independent media, including application of new social media tools and journalist training. Engaging and empowering women and youth with new media tools is a focus of these efforts, which in turn enhance transparency and citizen advocacy.