Confessional politics paralyse the work of the Civil Service Council

Tue, 01/26/2016

The paralysis that has hit state institutions in Lebanon, namely the presidency, the Cabinet and the House, has extended to reach other institutions namely the Civil Service Council which is a public outfit granted with wide prerogatives principally the appointment of civil servants. As a result of creeping confessionalisation within civil service which started back in the nineties, seemingly “civil” but in fact confessional outfits have emerged to overtake the role of the Council which in turn resulted in further strengthening the trend of “confessional recruitment” in the public sector.

The Civil Service Council was set up in 1959 and was given the legal responsibility of recruiting, promoting, transferring, penalizing, compensating and firing civil servants in addition to the overall responsibility of regulating public administration, both institutions and municipalities as well as staff on-site training. Furthermore, and since its inception, the Council was designed as an institutional mechanism to liberate the state apparatus from various forms of political and confessional pressure. For further info on the role of the Council, please consult:

According to informed sources, the Council was never able to fully fulfill its responsibilities notably ensuring that meritocracy in appointments is adhered to save for an ephemeral period which stretched from the date of its inception and until the late sixties. In fact, decisions of the dominant political forces with regards to recruitment were largely based on confessional considerations, a trend which gained further momentum following the Taef accord.

It is to be recalled that clause 95 of the Constitution states that merit and competence shall guide appointments in the public service, the judiciary as well as in the armed forces. The said clause made and an exception concerning the appointments of Category 1 posts that should be guided by the principle of confessional equity between and among Christians and Muslims. However, actual confessional practices in this field became widespread, in what is a clear violation of the Taef provisions, and to the extent that they reached appointments in Categories 2 and 3 as well, without hindrance from the Council.

As a result of these disastrous practices, the Council’s role became virtually paralysed whilst, concurrently, a number of confessional organisations emerged taking over the role of the Council through setting up their own initiatives to train current and/or would-be civil servants using the guise of “reform” and/or “equity amongst confessions”.

As such, Labora was set up some five years ago to “orient young Christian people and train them to take on positions in the public and private sectors. Similarly, the PSP party also created in December 2015 the PSP centre for training which, according to party sources, is aimed at preparing young people to integrate reform and support the public sector.

In evidence of this growing and worrying trend adopted by all major political forces, one can note the ways in which several recent appointments in key public institutions were made during the past few years such as recruitments for Electricite du Liban, the Ministry of Higher Education, Civil Defense, and others, which were openly made on the basis of confessional apportioning. Interestingly, the failure of agreement among the major confessional leadership often has resulted in blocking actual appointments such as in the recent cases of Electricite du Liban and NSSF and even when candidates have succeeded in those entrance and placement exams administered by the Council.

The confessionalisation of recruitment and appointments in the public sector is one part of a broader phenomenon that began with the onset of the civil war of 1975 and that has affected the private sector as well. This is an issue that has largely gone unnoticed but deserves in depth analysis and public disclosing.