Signing of the gender quota law proposal

A temporary special measure to advance women's representation and participation in politics

December 7, 2023

Beirut, Today, 10 Members of Parliament from across political parties signed a gender quota law proposal for municipal council elections. The ceremony took place during a conference organized by the United Nations Development Programme and “Fiftyfifty”. 
UNDP and Fiftyfifty, funded by the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), worked together for the last four years to develop and promote amendments to the electoral legislation that will allow the adoption of gender quotas which is a temporary special measure that aims to advance women’s political representation and participation and strengthen the fairness and inclusiveness of the upcoming municipal elections.

The law proposal was developed by legal and electoral experts and “Fiftyfifty” organization with the technical support of the United Nations Development Programme. The proposal was shared with all political parties and blocs. Following the standard legal procedure, the law proposal was signed by the following 10 Members of Parliament: Mr. Simon Abi Ramia, Mr. Sami Gemayel, Mr. Hadi Abou Hassan, Mr. Elias Hankash, Mr. Bilal Abdallah, Dr. Inaya Ezzedine, Ms. Nada Boustani, Mr. Raji Saad, Dr. Najat Aoun, and Dr. Halima Kaakour.

The signed law proposal will be introduced to the agenda of the relevant parliamentary committees for further discussion and approval, before being submitted for endorsement during the plenary parliamentary sessions.
The event started with opening remarks from UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Melanie Hauenstein, who said “Seventy years ago, Lebanon boldly stepped forward, granting women the right to vote, a testament to its progressive spirit and commitment to equality.” She stressed that “today, the adoption of a gender quota is not just a step towards gender equality; it is a reclamation of Lebanon's destiny as a nation beating the odds and moving ahead”. And she added “Data shows that in countries where both men and women are more equally represented, the institutions are more inclusive, more community-oriented, more efficient and more transparent”.

Then the President of “Fiftyfifty” organization, Ms. Joelle Abou Farhat, stated that “For the first time in Lebanon, 10 women and men Members of Parliament sign a Gender Quota Law Proposal for the Municipal Elections. Before 2018, 5 political blocs were against the quota and 2 were pro. Today, 5 have signed and 2 are still studying the law”.

In her remarks, USAID Mission Director Ms. Julie Southfield stated that “Promoting gender equity and women’s empowerment is woven into all of the U.S. Government's initiatives as a way to improve social growth, stabilize democracy, and encourage progress and peace. This stems from our belief that engaging women, who represent nearly 50% of Lebanon’s population, is key to development.  The change you are initiating today will have a direct impact on people’s daily lives and will pave the way for a significant increase in women's engagement at all levels, especially as mayors, parliamentarians, and political leaders”.

Finally, the chargé d’Affaires a.i at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Mr. Martin Lassen SKYLV, said in his speech “We encourage Members of Parliament to adopt this reform, as women not only deserve to be present at the table but also bring in a different perspective on political matters. The EU remains committed to enhancing Lebanon's democratic processes”. 

Following the opening remarks, the gender quota law proposal for municipal councils was presented by the experts who developed it: Dr. Fadia Kiwan, manager of the Arab Women Organization, Dr. Paul Morcos, legal expert and Mr. Mohamad Chamseddine, electoral expert. They presented the main rationale of the law and simulations of the proposal. The proposal provides for a 30% reserved seats quota for municipalities with 9 and 12 members, and a 50% reserved seats quota for municipalities with 15, 18, 21, and 24 members. This will result in an estimated 40% overall women representation in all municipalities.

During the conference three of the Members of Parliament who signed  the gender quota law proposal and four Members of Parliament who are also supportive of the quota  discussed the importance of adopting a gender quota law to compensate for existing barriers that hinder women from receiving their fair share of political representation. 
More than 200 participants attended this conference including MPs Adeeb Abdel Massih, Ibrahim Mneimneh, and Michel Moawad, former ministers Ziad Baroud, Wafaa El Diaa and Ghada Shraim, ambassadors of Canada, Belgium, Australia, United Kingdom, and representatives from diplomatic corps, civil society, legal and electoral experts, and members of the National Quota Coalition.

It is worth noting that women in Lebanon remain underrepresented in political and public life due to a range of structural barriers and cultural norms. Based on the 2010 municipal elections results, women represent only 4.6% in municipal councils, and 5.4% representation in the 2016 municipal elections, placing Lebanon at the bottom of the women's representation ranking worldwide.

This conference took place in conjunction with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign and before the Human Rights Day on December 10. 
UNDP is working in Lebanon since 1986 as a development partner supporting economic recovery, including working with municipalities to deliver basic services to host communities, promoting clean energy and solid waste management, strengthening governance and rule of law, providing support to elections, and working on empowering women and youth.

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