Ten-Year Program Advanced Professionalism, Good Governance in Lebanon
Past participants of the Professional Skills Training Program in Lebanon.

Professional development is key to improving and maintaining the cutting-edge skills and knowledge of professionals in their respective fields. Done in a strategic manner and over a period of time, it adds not only to the expertise of the individual trainees, but advances institutional capacity and sustainable development in critical ways.  This has been the case for the Professional Skills Training Program (PTP) in Lebanon, a 10-year, $1.7 million program implemented by AMIDEAST for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Initiated in 2001, as Lebanon was still recovering from civil war, the PTP was an important component of  a larger, U.S.-supported strategy of helping the war-torn country rebuild its public and civil institutions, reestablish the rule of law, and implement needed economic reforms.  During the ensuing decade, the program trained more than 2,700 individuals through professional courses, conferences, workshops, and forums, enabling them to upgrade their knowledge in specific areas and strengthen the capacity of their institutions.

The program also provided exposure to international best practices and fostered linkages between professionals in Lebanon and colleagues in the United States and elsewhere. Many of the trainings took place in the United States; the rest either involved travel to regional conferences or were delivered by American experts brought by the PTP to Lebanon.

All told, the PTP, which drew to a close in September, has had a significant cumulative impact in Lebanon. By targeting professionals in government ministries, regulatory  agencies, professional associations, and civil society, it has helped improve the delivery of public services in a range of areas, including telecommunication regulation, protection of intellectual property rights and consumer interests, public interest law, and capacity-building for NGOs. The skills acquired also expanded economic opportunities in a variety of areas and improved environmental practices and policies. The program worked across all sectors in support of USAID development objectives in Lebanon, including agriculture, banking, civil society, education, health, human rights, good governance, rule of law, and social services.

The impact of the PTP was complemented by a second USAID program, the Transparency and Accountability Grants (TAG) program, which was also implemented by AMIDEAST during the past decade.  A small grants program, TAG directly targeted nongovernmental organizations for financial support and contributed to the development of a more vibrant civil society sector in Lebanon.

During its final year, the PTP funded a record 26 trainings, including several large in-country programs. The largest of them involved school health advisers and health coordinators at 1,120 public schools, who received training in how to monitor school food shops so that they will be able to  conform to new government rules for nutrition and food safety at public schools. In yet another, 80 civil society activists received training in lobbying and advocacy.

Reflecting the diversity of beneficiaries, the program also funded training for teachers and conductors in a youth music program, a pyrex glass-blowing workshop with the International Association to Save Tyre for 21 disadvantaged young men and women in South Lebanon, and training for consumer protection inspectors to enable them to use new GIS technology to monitor fraud and counterfeit problems.

“[The program] made me think of difficulties as challenges and of obstacles as new experiences.”  — Suzanne Talhouk, President, Feil Amer

Suzanne Talhouk, president of Lebanese NGO Feil Amer, was one of 24 NGO representatives who participated in the Fund Development and Marketing for NGOs training workshop, an intensive workshop designed and delivered by North Carolina State University’s Institute of Nonprofits. Like the others, she found the group work on specific challenges very helpful in conceptualizing more effective ways to plan their own organizations’ fundraising activities.

“Much of what was learnt has been used to the profit and success of the association. It was also good exposure to other successful NGOs in Lebanon.” — Diane Mansour, President, Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon

As president of Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon, Diane Mansour was one of 15 NGO representatives who participated in the Strategic Management of Non-Profit Organizations workshop, organized by the American University of Beirut. The May 2006 workshop focused on enhancing the participants’ managerial skills, covering topics critical for today’s NGOs, such as developing marketing plans, building strategic perspectives, team building, and human resource management.

“As our MENA region lacks such types of professional policymaking expertise, attending the 2009 Energy Codes Conference empowered my professional interventions in these matters at the local and regional levels.” — Mohammad Tassi, Engineer

Engineer Mohammad Tassi, a representative from the Order of Engineers and Architects, participated in the 2009 Energy Codes Conference in Portland, Oregon. The training helped him learn how international energy codes are formulated, applied and updated in ways that will assist him, and members of the Order’s committee responsible for green building, to advance environmentally friendly building concepts in Lebanon.

"It really was a very enlightening experience that ... made me realize how much influence a successful entrepreneur could have on the economy, society and people, and how important it is to improve the business arena and support other emerging young entrepreneurs.”  — Eva Turk, Program Manager, Lebanese League for Women in Business

Through the PTP, Eva Turk was able to join the Lebanese delegation attending U.S. President Barack Obama’s Presidential Entrepreneur Summit in Washington, DC. in April 2010. As the program manager at the Lebanese League for Women in Business, Eva was working in Lebanon to support women entrepreneurs. The summit established a platform for key stakeholders from throughout the Middle East and North Africa region to build partnerships to support the launching of new businesses to create economic opportunities for people throughout the region.

“The summer music training day camp was unique in the region. It has tremendously uplifted the skills of the 140 youth and 13 trainee teachers and conductors, and will help empower our NGO, Lebanese Band Association for the promotion of Music (LeBAM), to develop new branches throughout Lebanon to reach out to youth nationwide.” — Ghassan Moukheiber, Member of Parliament and Founder of LeBam

This training program brought experienced music conductors and trainers to Lebanon to train four Lebanese trainee conductors and 10 Lebanese music teachers, all of whom are active with the Lebanese Band Association for the Promotion of Music, on training of wood wind instruments and brass wind instruments .This “Summer Band Camp” was held in the mountain village of Baskinta. The aspiring music conductors and teachers trained in these camps developed their skills by using the new techniques in their work with students in the LeBAM camp, thereby benefitting the 140 underprivileged young student musicians enrolled in the camp.

“What influenced me the most was the level of organization of the telecommunications sector in the U.S. There’s nothing like being trained at the hands of the best experts in the field!” —  Riham Hijazi, Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

Riham Hijazi, an employee of the Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), traveled with a colleague for training at the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) in spring 2011. The training consisted of three separate one-week courses focused on Radio Frequency Spectrum Management, Spectrum Management in the Civil Sector, and Radio Spectrum Monitoring and Measuring. Both found the training very beneficial as they work to develop the capacities of Lebanon’s TRA.

“It was a good chance to network with international lawyers. The workshop gave us basic principles that are internationally practiced, which we use till today. The experts provided by the training were really helpful and supportive.” — Brigitte Chelebian, Lawyer, and Director, Justice without Frontiers

A professional lawyer, a human rights activist and director of Justice without Frontiers, Brigitte Chelebian was one of 12 Lebanese lawyers selected to join the intensive Public Interest Law course in August 2005 conducted by New York University School of Law. NYU also sponsored eight lawyers from other developing countries to join the Lebanese for this program. The course, “Global Public Service Lawyering: Theory and Practice,” had participants examining the different aspects of the impact of law on society and its effectiveness in social change. The course was taught by an international team of faculty and experienced legal practitioners.  Participants were required to prepare and present a lawyering dilemma in class, based on their own experience.


―  Appeared in AMIDEAST Impact Newsletter, September/October 2011
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