SAPIENZA UNIVERSITY OF ROME – IN COLLABORATION WITH UL, USEK, ITALIAN EMBASSY IN LEBANON, ITALIAN INSTITUTE OF CULTURE IN LEBANON, ITALIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, COI, UNIFIL, EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
INTRODUCTIONS BY DR. PAMELA CHRABIEH BADINE (RESEARCHER AND PROFESSOR, REPRESENTING USEK- Lebanon)
26th November 2008 (UL, Lebanon)
SESSION I (12.00 PM)
University Cooperation promoting Human Rights,
Fundamental Freedoms and the promotion of solidarity
Democracy and integration process
1) There are several definitions for human rights. The most common one in the Western literature often uses the term “human rights” for both natural rights (rights that derive from nature) and civil rights (rights that derive from society, or the social contract). This definition is found in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which is known to set the “global standards”, including the right to health, education, shelter, employment, property, food, fair trial, freedom of speech, thought and movement, freedom from torture and slavery, etc. Even if most countries ratified this Declaration, its implementation is not generalized. For some scholars, this reality is seen negatively. For others, it is a natural situation, because each country builds its system of rights and liberties according to local traditions, customs, culture and political system. Furthermore, human rights and freedoms exist in every civilization and religion throughout the history of mankind, from the Mesopotamian Codes of Hammurabi to the present day. This puts forward the concept of cultural relativism. One thing for sure is that there is no consensus concerning the vision of human rights and freedoms, whether on a global scale or within Lebanon. The debate is continuous between universalistic and cultural relativism promoters. Any cooperation, and especially between universities on a international level, should bare this in mind and work accordingly.
2) There are several definitions for democracy. The most common one found in the Western literature could be summarized in the following:
· the political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives
· a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
· majority rule: the doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group
It is important to consider, in the broader arena, two general objections to the advocacy of democracy that have recently gained much ground in international debates and which tend to color discussions of foreign affairs. There are, first, doubts about what democracy can achieve in poorer or ‘under-developed’ countries. Is democracy not a barrier that obstructs the process of development and deflects attention from the priorities of economic and social change, such as providing adequate food, raising income per head, and carrying out institutional reform? It is also argued that democratic governance can be deeply illiberal and can inflict suffering on those who do not belong to the ruling majority in a democracy. Are vulnerable groups not better served by the protection that authoritarian governance or other political systems can provide? For example in Lebanon, the social-political system is called ‘Consociative Democracy’, allowing Christian and Islamic communities to equally rule the country. This system does need reforms, especially when it comes to individual rights and liberties, and freedom of beliefs beyond the religious ones. But these reforms should not allow minorities to be excluded.
The second line of attack concentrates on historical and cultural doubts about advocating democracy for people who do not, allegedly, "know" it. The endorsement of democracy as a general rule for all people, whether by national or international bodies or by human rights activists, is frequently castigated on the ground that it involves an attempted imposition of Western values and Western practices on non-Western societies. The argument goes much beyond acknowledging that democracy is a predominantly Western practice in the contemporary world, as it certainly is. It takes the form of presuming that democracy is an idea of which the roots can be found exclusively in some distinctively Western thought that has flourished uniquely in Europe--and nowhere else--for a very long time.
In understanding where the two lines of attack on democratization respectively go wrong, it is crucial to appreciate that democracy has demands that transcend the ballot box.
Indeed, voting is only one way--though certainly a very important way--of making public discussions effective, when the opportunity to vote is combined with the opportunity to speak, and to listen, without fear. The force and the reach of elections depend critically on the opportunity for open public discussion. The championing of pluralism, diversity, and basic liberties can be found in the history of many societies. The long traditions of encouraging and protecting public debates on political, social, and cultural matters in, say, India, China, Japan, Korea, Iran, Turkey, the Arab world, and many parts of Africa, demand much fuller recognition in the history of democratic ideas. This global heritage is ground enough to question the frequently reiterated view that democracy is just a Western idea, and that democracy is therefore just a form of Westernization.
A fuller understanding of the demands of democracy and of the global history of democratic ideas may contribute substantially to better inter-university cooperation. It may also help to remove some of the artificial cultural fog that obscures the appraisal of current practices.
SESSION II (3.00 PM)
Common security policy and international cooperation for peace
1) Security can be defined as "the state of being free from unacceptable risks". War or conflicts are particular unacceptable risks that concern us as Lebanese. For some scholars and experts, being free from these risks demand one of the following processes or both of them: Peacemaking or ending violence – silencing the weapons -; Peacekeeping or preventing violence from reoccuring – this is for example the UNIFIL mission at the southern Lebanese border.
2) As for peace, it concerns three intermingling processes – one step further than security: Peacemaking; Peacekeeping; and Peacebuilding or edifying conviviality within a society, with its diaspora and with other societies. Conviviality is not coexistence, nor tolerance. It is based on mutual respect of rights and freedoms, on their fulfillment, on dialogue, on solidarity, on the living and working together – in French ‘le vivre ensemble’ – in order to reach a better management of the diversity of identities, visions and practices – whether political, economical, religious, cultural, linguistic, generational, etc. This vision of peace is based on a vision of war as defined by the Lebanese Psychiatrist Adnan Houballah in his book ‘Le virus de la violence’ (The Virus of Violence, Albin Michel, 1996) that includes a physical or visible process (combats, negotiations, treaties) and a psychological or invisible process (trauma, suffering, bruised memories, torn identities, prejudice, stereotype, absence of dialogue and solidarity). In this perspective, Lebanon is in a continuous state of war, especially since the 70s, and breaking the cycle of this war requires the 3 Ps.
Given the latter, I think that any cooperation between universities on an international level should not seek a common understanding on security policies but a broader agreement and action plan. Security measures could be included but would not be sufficient.
3) It is widely recognized that national development depends partly on the wealth of natural resources (economic development), capital resources (capital construction), as well as on human resources (building talented work forces). Industry and enterprises are economic entities of national productivity and basis of capital construction. Universities are the continuing education training ground for these industry and enterprises. In order for the university to educate a compatible and adaptable talented work force, increase the level of scientific research and the achievement in scientific research conversion rate, there must be an establishment of a close cooperation with enterprises. Through cooperation with enterprises, the university can accurately map out its own development direction, improve teacher's practical ability, enhance the education quality and strengthen its personnel training capability. In that perspective, inter-university cooperation in economical issues could pay close attention to the formulation of joint programs and concrete content with enterprises, which have to primarily include new theories, technologies and methodologies.
Additionally, it is worth stating that the training content more useful and valuable for students of enterprises if it is integrated nicely with the realistic demands from the enterprise. A training program which has achieved this goal is the most effective and is welcomed by the industry. Through cooperation with enterprises, whether local or foreign, the communications of educators, engineers and technicians are greatly enhanced. This does not only speed up the process of transforming scientific research products, but also helps solve those urgent problems of enterprise. Both universities and enterprises can then share intellectual properties of scientific research and technology
4) Finally, inter-university cooperation could contribute to identifying political reforms such as the electoral law or the implementation of a common civil personal status, to creating political awareness and empowering minorities of conditions – women, youth, Diaspora members, religious minorities’ adepts, to analyzing the impacts of regional conflicts on local contexts, etc. In October 2008, Saint-Joseph University of Beirut and the University of Montreal organized a symposium on managing religious diversity while tackling the issues of the political systems in Lebanon and Quebec.
By Michele Chrabieh
December 2nd, 2008
I lost my pen in an emotional roller coaster, one of those we are bound to ride till the day we fade away… yet the past few months made me value more the embryo of temporary moments of pleasure and love. Moments I could only breathe and not convey through words. Today, words appear still relatively weak vis-à-vis such moments, but they remain my sole remedy and cure.
Again it’s in Beirut that the roller coaster was activated. We lived street combats, which reminded us of the 1975 war we feared to live again. We were fooled by what we call “love”, the Achilles’ heel, yet again egotism, weakness, fear of responsibility and doubt conquered. We experienced death and sickness in the family, which strengthened our belief in life and genuine love… But in Beirut, we constantly rise from our wounds stronger and more determined to live and let go…In Beirut, we live and survive…In Beirut, we realize and Love again and again…
By Michele Chrabieh in Beirut
Wednesday December 3rd, 2008
Dedicated to JVA
Pain will begin when you will start peeling your life moment by moment…especially as of those moments of solitude and fury…when I met and got to know you…
You will no longer weep, but stand still and hope such torture would stop. ‘Cause every lie and every little hurt you have done would last an eternity in the far end of your mind… Time is fluid with the damage created… and the hardest lesson is yet to come as you will learn about the consequences of the things you have done… inch by inch, detail by detail….You will strip everything down to truth and I bet it will hurt more than anything else… You will live an ever lasting painful awakening and I will step out the door with hesitation and sorrow yet with pride and vitality. In time, I will even look at those moments with fondness… and desire the alternative genuine path I have yet to discover. There is no place in my life for lies, except a temporary anger and pain…to be replaced soon with undying and unending love…