Lebanon is experiencing a multifaceted crisis at various interconnected levels. The financial and economic crises, the Beirut blast, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Syrian crisis all have increased the burden on the water sector, which is already suffering from considerable financial, technical, administrative, and social challenges. This has diminished the capacity of water establishments to provide services in an appropriate manner, which has further eroded trust in consumers.
In 2016, the Lebanon Water Forum (LWF) addressed the scope and diversity of challenges regarding water service provision in Lebanon. By tackling the major policy gaps and institutional voids, it sought to provide contextualized recommendations pertaining to improved public services and increased cost recovery for Regional Water Establishments (RWEs). In 2019, the LWF reflected on water governance in Lebanon through discussions on the operational aspects of the RWEs, the strategic frameworks governing Lebanon’s water sector, and investment planning in the water sector.
In 2021, the LWF built on the success of two former fora (2016 and 2019). The aim of LWF 2021 was to address policy advancements, their implications and changes in the investment landscape, and means towards integrated planning, all in light of the arising national challenges.
Oxfam Lebanon and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI)—American University of Beirut (AUB)— organized the LWF 2021, in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water. LWF 2021 comes under the project framework Improving access to safe and affordable water to vulnerable communities, part of the EU Madad Trust Fund program: “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme for Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities.” The program is implemented by a consortium consisting of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Oxfam, World Vision International (WVI), and Gruppo di Volontario Civile (Weworld GVC).
The objectives of the LWF 2021 were as follows:
- Provide updates on developments at the Regional Water Establishments (RWEs) and Litani River Authority (LRA): current challenges, needs, and opportunities.
- Highlight the implications of the revised Water Code and National Water Sector Strategy.
- Explore opportunities for policy/strategy interlinkages between the water sector and other key sectors.
- Review developments in investments in the water sector with attention given to the current economic and financial crisis.
- More than 200 water experts, academics, and officials, representing more than 30 international and local organizations, attended LWF 2021.
And the main key takeaways include:
- An urgent need for WEs to develop risk and disaster-management plans to ensure continuity of water provision in extreme events and disasters.
- A need for a national economic master plan that presents a clear vision, and the setting of national priorities is essential to guide sectoral planning.
- To clearly delineate responsibilities and roles of each entity within the water sector, including the involvement of the private sector in operations and management.
- To advocate for serious implementation of existing laws. To date there are 58 laws that are in place and ratified but not implemented.
- The existing tariff scheme in the water/wastewater sector is the main hindrance towards improving cross sectoral inefficiencies. Corrective measures for the water tariff policy have become inevitable.
- Citizens have an important role to play in making investment more effective through accountability.
- Investment planning should shift from being infrastructure-focused to a service-based approach.
- Set monitoring and benchmarking standards for regional water establishments, starting with a few, simple, and easy key collectible indicators.
Read the conference report.
Read the policy brief: "Investment in Emergency Planning".
Learn more about the 3rd Lebanon Water Forum, here.
(Re)watch the sessions: