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Cablegate: Lebanon: Partners Suggest Practical Steps to Move Forward

VZCZCXRO5251
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0425 0861419
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261419Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1364
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000425

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR USAID, APRIL HAHN
DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
TUNIS FOR PETER MULREAN

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL KMPI KDEM LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PARTNERS SUGGEST PRACTICAL STEPS TO MOVE FORWARD
JOINTLY ON ELECTORAL REFORM

REF: Beirut 00303

Summary
----

1. (U) On March 18, Emboffs hosted their monthly electoral reform
coordination meeting for U.S.-funded NGOs and local civil society
partners. The objective of the meeting was to reconcile a range of
coordination and strategic communication issues between the various
stakeholders and discuss IFESQs new "training academy" proposal to
broaden the awareness and skills of local partners on electoral
reform issues. Frank talk resulted in some positive solutions to
difficult issues. End Summary.

MeetingQs Agenda
--------

2. (U) On March 18, Embassy hosted representatives from the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the National
Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute
(IRI), the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) and the Civil
Campaign for Electoral Reform (CCER) to the third monthly electoral
reform coordination meeting.

3. (U) Agenda items included:

- LTAQs plan for centralizing CCERQs activities
- Ironing out coordination and strategy communication
- IFES proposal for a "technical certification program" for local
partners

New "Executive Secretariat" for CCER
----------

4. (U) LTAQs co-executive director Khalil Gebara noted that the
Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform (CCER) has never had an
independent office and has always been operating from three
different locations, which has undermined its efficiency. Time has
therefore come to centraliz activities into a single independent
"executivesecretariat" office with an expanded staff that woud
include a project manager, a grassroots officer and a senior
communication officer to be trained by NDI on political lobbying
techniques. During his recent meeting with LTA in Beirut, NEA/PIQs
Political Pillar Manager Owen Kirby expressed MEPIQs strong support
for this initiative. LTA was asked to further define the work
requirements for the CCER secretariat to present at the next
meeting.

Formalizing Coordination and Communication Strategy
-----------

5. (U) Gebara expressed concern about IFES meetings with political
leaders and members of parliament, which often overlapped with
CCERQs political lobbying activities. IFES Country Director Richard
Chambers clarified that these visits were solely educational. He
provides briefings for political party members, but also inquires
about the formal positions of each party, which has been
misinterpreted. He pledged to notify CCER of these visits ahead of
time, to be clear about the educational nature of his briefings and
to share summaries of these discussions. Special Assistant
Jacqueline Ward asked IFES and CCER to engage in systematic
information sharing through CCERQs "executive secretariat."

Training Academy
-------

6. (U) IFES Country Director Richard Chambers underlined the need
for CCER to broaden the awareness and skills of its local partners
to better engage political parties on electoral reform issues. He
proposed to set up an academy to train a group of fifteen CCER core
members on the following topics: achieving international standards
for elections; independent elections commission proposal; voting age
and universal suffrage; campaign finance regulations and media
regulations; electoral systems; voting and counting procedures; out
of country voting and absentee balloting; disabled access; voter
registration; processes for legislative change in Lebanon; working
with the authorities. At the end of the four-day training,
participants will receive a certificate which will qualify them to
train other CCER members, Chambers added. NDI will supplement
IFESQs work by providing workshops on political lobbying, strategic
planning and effective public communications.

7. Special Assistant Jacqueline Ward asked IFES, NDI and CCER to
develop a joint action plan to get the academy up and running as
soon as possible.

SISON

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