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Last updated 15 January 2013
In recent years Lebanon has established one of the most enabling legal and regulatory environments for civil society in the entire Arab world. The Lebanese NGO law is the 1909 Ottoman Law on Associations, which has remained in force for more than 100 years. Although the Ottoman Law is quite liberal, it notably diverges from the French Law on Associations from which it is derived by requiring government notification of the formation of all associations immediately after they are created. "Secret" or undeclared associations are prohibited and subject to immediate dissolution.
For a number of years the Law on Associations was misapplied by Lebanese authorities, who often took months and, in some extreme cases, years to deliver a receipt of notification. Without this receipt, associations could not take full advantage of the rights and privileges afforded to registered legal entities. In 2006, the young attorney and civil society leader Ziad Baroud became Minister of Social Affairs, and in this position circulated a Ministerial Circular putting an end to a number of negative implementation practices -- most importantly, by requiring that receipts be given within 30 days of the date of notification.
Since 2006, very few issues have been reported with regard to implementation of the NGO law. Indeed, the only association which has not been issued a notification receipt upon filing the necessary paperwork is Helem, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders in Lebanon and the Arab world. The Ministry of Social Affairs has stated that it cannot issue a receipt because homosexuality is prohibited under the Lebanese Criminal Code. Helem argues that the Ministry is violating Lebanese law by refusing to issue the receipt. To date, no legal action has been taken against Helem and the organization is able to operate with a relative minimum of government interference.
|Organizational Forms|| Associations
Note: A number of laws govern religious endowments or foundations, but there is no law allowing for the creation of non-religious foundations. A separate law governs cooperatives.
|Registration Body||Ministry of Social Affairs|
|Approximate Number||At least 6,000, including at least 200 local branches of international organizations|
|Barriers to Entry||Mandatory notification of association establishment.|
|Barriers to Activities||"Secret" or undeclared associations are prohibited.|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||n/a|
|Barriers to International Contact||n/a|
|Barriers to Resources||n/a|
|Population||4,140,289 (July 2012 est.)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Male: 73.67 years
Female: 76.88 years (2010 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Male: 93.1%
Female: 82.2% (2003 est.)
|Religious Groups||Muslim (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite, Nusayri): 59.7%, Christian (Maronite, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic, Protestants): 39%; Other: 1.3%|
|Ethnic Groups||Arab: 95%, Armenian: 4%, Other: 1%|
|GDP Per Capita||$15,500 (2011 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||71 (2011)||1 – 182|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||30.0 (2011)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||34.3 (2011)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||128 (2012)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: 4 (2012)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Failed States Index||45 (2012)||177 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1972|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||--|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1972|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||No||--|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1971|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1997|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1991|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2007|
|Key Regional Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|Arab Charter on Human Rights||Yes||2011|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Lebanese Constitution was adopted in 1926 and amended following the Lebanese civil war in 1989. According to Article 13, "the freedom to express one's opinion orally or in writing, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association are guaranteed within the limits established by law."
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant national legislation includes the following:
- Ottoman Law on Associations of 1909 [English] [عربي]
- Ottoman Law on Cooperative Societies of 1909
- Ministry of Interior and Municipalities Circular 10/AM/2006 of 2006 [English] [عربي]
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
We are unaware of any other pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting NGOs. Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the 1909 Law on Associations, an association is a group composed of more than one individual that combines their knowledge and effort in a permanent fashion to achieve a goal which does not include the distribution of profit.
Public Benefit Status
Lebanese associations may obtain a public benefit designation only by an act of Parliament. Because there is no formal procedure, no associations have been awarded public benefit status in a number of years. Public benefit status allows associations to receive public funds, bid for government contracts, and receive limited tax benefits.
Barriers to Entry
According to Lebanon's 1909 Law on Associations, formation of an association does not require any prior approval. However, it is mandatory that the government be notified of an association's existence once it has been formed. This notification can be submitted by filing two copies of the association's bylaws and the identification cards of the founders to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities. Since 2006, the Ministry is required to issue receipts of notification within 30 days of receiving the notification.
Barriers to Operational Activity
"Secret" or undeclared associations are prohibited and subject to dissolution by government authorities. However, the Lebanese government has not attempted to dissolve any association on these grounds since at least 2006.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There are no legal barriers to speech or advocacy activity. Associations are free to engage on issues of public policy concern.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal barriers to international contact or communication.
Barriers to Resources
There are no legal barriers to resources, whether from domestic or foreign sources.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review: Lebanon (2010)|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Lebanon|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Not available|
|U.S. State Department||2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lebanon
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2010: Lebanon
|Failed States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 2012|
|IMF Country Reports||Lebanon and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Lebanon|
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at email@example.com.
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The foregoing information was collected by the Organization for Civil Activities in Tripoli, Lebanon.