Statement Of The Ministry
Of Social Affairs
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The Ministry of Social Affairs is a recent Ministry, which was established as such in 1993, Social development in contemporary Lebanon, however, has an institutional tradition that dates back to the 1960s when the Social Development Office was established. This office - with the functions entrusted to it, the qualifications of its staff and the numerous projects it carried out in the rural areas - constituted a unique experience in development, which was forcibly brought to an end with the outbreak of war in 1975.

Today, the Ministry of Social Affairs resumes this experience after a long interruption and deep transformations in the international and national environment. On the one hand, the war and its results led to a general deterioration in social conditions, which was manifested in greater needs and an increase in the number of people who could not satisfy these needs. On the other hand, it led to the emergence of direct assistance and emergency relief operations as activities having priority over medium and long-term development programs. This has shaped the work of all state institutions, including the Social Development Office and then the Ministry of Social Affairs, during the war and the years immediately after.

The Ministry, however, has always aspired to develop its role so as to include, in addition to the basic and necessary welfare function, a developmental role in the modern sense, and which is consistent with internationally recognized modern development concepts. On this basis, the Ministry has endeavored to fulfill its welfare function as best as possible, and at the same time to prepare for its developmental role by ensuring the pre-requisites and overcoming the obstacles confronting it.

In this connection, the Ministry felt the need to provide a reliable statistical database which would allow it, and the other ministries, to formulate work programs on a scientific and objective basis. The Population and Housing Survey project, which the Ministry carried out corporation with the United Nations Population Fund, constituted the practical response to translate this need into a field project which started in 1994, and whose results were published in October 1996.

The Ministry was also actively involved in the preparations for the Social Summit which was held in Copenhagen in early March 1995. For this purpose, the Ministry formed a national committee including representatives from the civil sector and international organizations, in addition to the concerned ministries. The national committee was successful in preparing a national report, which was the first official study of its kind to cover the three topics on the summit agenda, namely, poverty, unemployment and social disintegration, in an objective manner and in light of the most up-to-date data available at the time.

After the summit, the Ministry pursued its work on the two tracks mentioned: welfare and development. It completed the Population and Housing Survey, and took the distinctive step of putting the results of the survey at the disposal of researchers, including the preliminary tables, which rendered the study a main reference and a base for several other studies.

Pursuing the same course, efforts continued to benefit from available studies to formulate practical program and plans. A Population Atlas was prepared and published, including maps that depict geographical disparities with respect to social indicators. Work is also underway to prepare a series of specialized sectoral studies, with the participation of selected experts, to form the basis for programs and projects to be adopted by the Ministry.

The orientation of the Ministry at this level was overlapped with the activities of the United Nations Development Programme, which rendered cooperation between the two parties necessary. The "Mapping of Living conditions" study is the first result of this corporation; and the first analytical utilization of the Population and Housing Survey results in describing and analyzing the living conditions of households and the population, and in depicting a regional picture of these conditions that shows the elements of similarity and social disparity among the various categories and regions, up to the level of the kada.

The study adopted a modern approach, used for the first time in Lebanon and in the Arab World, namely, the Unsatisfied Basic Needs methodology. An original index was constructed to measure living conditions, which was designed specifically to be harmonious with the economic, social and cultural characteristics of Lebanon. This distinct experience was positively received at the regional conference for the Improvement of Living Conditions which was held in Cairo in November 1997, and which recommended the adoption of the methodology used in the study of Mapping Living Conditions by the other Arab countries in the study of social conditions based on population surveys.

Today, this study is being made available to citizens, after several months of the completion of the first draft - months spent to complete the agreement between the Government and the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the United Nations Development Programme, and to translate the study into work plans and programs with the aim of improving living conditions of the population in Lebanon.

The usefulness of scientific studies will remain limited unless they are made available to people, and unless they are translated into work plans to which responsible officials in both the civil and private sectors subscribe in their pursuit of the goal of social development. Based on this, and following the tradition of transparency which the Ministry has always upheld, we are presenting to you the gist of months of serious work: the "Mapping of Living Conditions in Lebanon". For us, this means a commitment to translate it into a work strategy for the Ministry in the areas of welfare and social development.

Director General, Ministry of Social Affairs
Nimat Kanaan, Team Leader