NB: Power has two meanings in Arabic, Authority and Strength, strength is our aim not authority.
Table of Contents
1- What is a government?
a- Purpose of governments
2- Determining the problem
3- The Council of Citizens (COC)
a- The Citizens Protector
b- The Academy of Human Rights and Nonviolent Struggle
c- The Human Rights Force
d- The Human Rights Media
4- Where and how can the COC be applied in Lebanon?
5- Why is the COC useful?
Even though the “Council of Citizens”, in its first 10 years, is designed to be a non-governmental organization so as it can protect its aims, we believe that it is an institution of an utmost importance that must be established and maintained by the Lebanese community, with the indirect non-formal help of all the political institutions. The Council of Citizens is expected to become the fourth political power, i.e. the power that couldn’t exist in Montesquieu’s time back when he distinguished between the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities. We call this authority the “Council of Citizens”. This idea/theory is to establish an institution that can put an end to problems related to the misuse of power, whether this misuse is carried out by national, regional or international forces. We will prove through this short introduction research paper that the Council of Citizens, by establishing four institutions that will greatly change the balance of power in our country, will be contributing to the process of good governance by involving both men and women in the decision making process, achieving the rule of law, raising transparency and eradicating corruption.
Throughout time, humans were constantly trying to make their life better. They either did that through working together, which was the first step towards realizing the progress they now achieved, or through working against each other which was also a very successful way to enhance their lifestyle as history reveals, even though this way produced a lot of suffering and resulted in an imbalanced world in all aspects.
We work against each other because resources are rare, and in order to survive we fight to eliminate the others. Today, on the edge of the space age and nanotechnology, our societies have the chance to stop flourishing on the expense of others’ destruction. It has been reported, that all wars were launched because of the “power fever”, the needed capacity to satisfy all our humanitarian needs.
“Power is broadly defined as the capacity to bring about change and it takes many forms, comes from many places, and is measured in many ways. Understanding all the varieties of power is essential if one is to understand who has it, who doesn’t, and how those who don’t have it can get it”.[i]
Plutarch wrote, “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”.[ii]
Furthermore, the renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow[iii] and the conflict scholar John Burton deem that not all needs are physical and that the human beings have essential needs in order to survive. “These essentials go beyond just food, water, and shelter. They include both physical and non-physical elements needed for human growth and development, as well as all those things humans are innately driven to attain”.[iv]
Human needs explain to a large extent almost all human behavior and social interaction. Indeed, “all individuals have needs that they strive to satisfy, either by using the system […] acting on the fringes […] or acting as a reformist or revolutionary. Given this condition, social systems must be responsive to individual needs, or be subject to instability and forced change (possibly through violence or conflict)”.[v]
People use their power to achieve their own personal needs, and many times they do that causing a lot of harm to others. This is what is called “Misuse of Power”.
History and philosophers had taught us that all human beings, even those with the best intentions, will misuse any power they have if allowed to do so.
That is why when Montesquieu told us about the golden rule of a person holding a power, he said that if you give someone a power, he will always misuse it, and nothing stops power but another power.
To face this problem, the concept of separation of powers was created “as used in western constitutionalism”[vi] that assumes that there are three categories of public power: the legislative, the executive and the judicial.
Almost all countries of the world nowadays apply these concepts, and almost all of them have a higher written law (constitution) and they advocate the ideas of rule of law, democracy, human rights, citizens’ right etc… But surprisingly, in its report for the year 2006, Freedom House[vii] noted that between the 192 nations and countries of the world, only 46% are free i.e 89 countries, while the rest (54%) are either “Not Free” (45) or “Partly Free” (58).
So what are the reasons behind this fact?
Why did human societies fail to achieve freedom?
And why injustice still exists even in the oldest democracies?
1- What is a government?[viii]
For very long time, humans lived in small, “relatively non-hierarchical and mostly self-sufficient communities”.[ix]
However, the human beings’ ability to communicate abstract information or the knowledge they acquire in an accurate way lead them to become more and more efficient at agriculture what allowed increasing population densities.[x]
The states that were formed were as the results of “a positive feedback loop where population growth results in increased information exchange which results in innovation which results in increased resources which results in further population growth”.[xi]
Cities had an important role in the feedback loop. Indeed, they became the principal conduits for the major increases in information exchange that allowed the formation of large and densely packed populations. In addition, since “cities concentrated knowledge, they also ended up concentrating power”.[xii]
a- Purpose of governments
Montesquieu said: “Government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another.”
Indeed, the communities created governments and submitted to their authority in order to have safety and public order.[xiii]
“The fundamental purpose of government is to protect one from his or her neighbors; the need for people to defend themselves against potentially thousands of non-neighbors necessitates a national defense mechanism—a military.”[xiv]
There have been wars and armies well before governments were formed, but once the latters came onto the scene, they worked on dominating the formation and use of armies.
“Governments seek to maintain monopolies on the use of force” [xv]. To achieve that, they usually do not allow private armies to develop within their states.
Rulers have always used armies and wars as a way of domination and suppression of both the members of their own societies and the members of other societies.
In democratic and republican systems, a government can be seen as an entity for a people enjoying sovereignty over his State and that strives to establish the society, laws and national objectives that are beneficial to all. A government that is created and maintained in this line will tend to be in favor of those who created and maintain it.[xvi] However, in many countries, the people rarely are those who create a government!
2- Determining the problem
In its website, Freedom house states the following:
“(…) Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed.” [xvii]
In countries like Lebanon, the level of citizenship is very low, and the majority of the people have imprecise if not erroneous ideas about concepts such as: separation of powers, integrity in the judiciary system, right to equality, right to worship, right of expression, right to work, or right of assembly etc… The big majority of our people don’t know what the purpose from having a constitution is or what do terms like freedom, sovereignty and independence mean. They don’t know why they should obey an authority or why they shouldn’t, or what the purpose of elections is.
We find that the reason behind all kinds of tyranny and injustice is not only the brutality of some people but the ignorance of the majority of them.
In countries like Lebanon, people are born in ignorance, and they remain in ignorance because the system is a big failure which makes them a tool that can be used by propaganda makers or ideologies’ manufacturers.
Therefore, the major problem does not lie in tyranny and injustice alone, but also in the use of certain elites of people’s ignorance to take control of their resources in order to achieve their imperialistic[xviii] and/or theological aims and believes.
The equation of education Vs ignorance has always been well known and suggested as a solution. However, we find this equation incomplete and it is not what we suggest.
Since our capacity to destroy is constantly increasing, using people as a mean has stopped being a “limited” problem and has become a major problem that faces all humanity. Today, the famous saying “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”[xix] is true more than ever.
Before I describe in details this idea/plan, I would like to note that it was developed by a group of human rights activists including me that lived and practiced some sides of what they concluded while facing State brutality and bad governance in Lebanon under the Syrian occupation. We identified several problems:
1- We were defenseless before injustice because we didn’t know what our rights were.
2- When we knew some of our rights, we didn’t have the means to claim and defend those rights.
3- We faced police brutality, kidnapping by secret services, fake trials and corruption.
4- We did not find anyone we could resort to when our rights were violated.
So we came to specify the problems we faced, and with time and knowledge we developed the idea we find will solve it all: The Council of Citizens.
3- The Council of Citizens
The Council of Citizens is a non-governmental organization that aims to protect and promote citizenship, good governance, rule of law, equality and human rights in Lebanon. It is constituted by NGOs and individuals of the Civil Society through a certain predefined criteria.
This association combines an intellectual HR organization and a “Direct Action” organization[xx] and adds to it a work mechanism that observes and treats the reasons and the results of human rights violations.
The Council of Citizens watches, observes and follows up any human rights violation through:
1- The Human Rights Prosecutor Office (Citizens Protector whose functions are similar to the Ombudsman’s).
2- The Academy of Human Rights and Nonviolent struggle.
3- The Human Rights Force.
4- The Human Rights Media.
It reaches all regions, recruits people from the local societies, and gives them the knowledge they need in order to know their rights, and those of their neighbors.
It gives them also the required nonviolent weapons to stop human rights violations, dictatorships, occupation and terrorism as well as to restore/claim their rights.
It trains volunteers from the civil society on human rights principles and Nonviolent Action techniques and aims at spreading ways and methods of Nonviolent struggle[xxi], civilian-based defense[xxii], human rights, separation of powers and integrity, as well as at fighting corruption.
Our objective is to establish a fourth political power, i.e. the power that couldn’t exist in Montesquieu time, when he distinguished between the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities. We call this authority the “Council of Citizens”. This idea/theory is to establish an institution that can put an end to all problems related to the misuse of power, whether this misuse is carried out by national, regional or international forces, without entering into the well known dilemma of the suppressed becoming the suppressor.
A- The Citizens Protector
The Citizen Protector (either male or female) is responsible of the Council of Citizens and has offices for his representatives in every Lebanese caza. He offers to help victims of human rights violations and he uses the litigation strategies as a method of working.
He is elected by the General Assembly of the Council of Citizens for five years.
Every five years, he renews for himself or he appoints a substitute.
He can be dismissed by 85% of the General Assembly’s votes.
He must be a lawyer for more than 15 years, holding a doctorate in law, and he must be known for defending human rights.
He appoints representatives for him in every caza to help him carry out his tasks. Those representatives can be dismissed by 85% of the General Assembly’s votes if the “Citizen Protector” does not approve of that dismissal and by the absolute majority of the General Assembly’s votes if he does not object.
B- The Academy of Human Rights and Nonviolent struggle
It trains volunteers through series of workshops that allow them to join the HRF.
It communicates and cooperates with local and international Human Rights and Nonviolent Struggle Organizations.
It seeks help from local and international organizations specialized in human rights and Nonviolent Struggle.
It uses workshops as a teaching method.
Its students receive a certificate that allows them to work in the HRF.
The students can specialize in one of the courses listed below that, at a later phase, will be made available to the general public on DVDs:
– Human rights
– Citizens’ rights
– Constitutional law
– Street law (citizens’ rights in Lebanese laws)
– Direct actions
– Economic boycott
– Mass demonstrations
– Political, social, and economic non-cooperation
– Civil disobedience and Civilian-Based Defense
C- The Human Rights Force
It is composed of trained groups of volunteers that will be present on the streets and between the people. They will constitute an awareness tool on human rights and a confrontation tool against HR violations.
They possess the necessary knowledge and tools to implement any nonviolent action, to impose human rights and to help the wronged. The HRF will use teaching strategies, persuasion strategies, confrontation strategies, etc…
They possess all the techniques taught in the Academy.
They will be localized in all regions.
They will pass their skills to the local communities.
They will immediately interfere to stop any striking violation of human rights (ex: the August 9, 2001 incidents in Lebanon).
All HRF centers will be equipped with a hotline to receive and respond to every complaint or urgent call in cooperation with the police according to a certain criteria established to maintain their integrity, just causes, and their abidance by the Lebanese laws.
D- The Human Rights Media
It is a media network specialized in human rights, run by a board of 3 trustees appointed by the Council of Citizens.
The objective is to have a TV station that broadcasts in all regions and reaches every house in Lebanon and abroad teaching human rights and Nonviolent Action skills, in addition to a website, a newspaper and a radio. It publishes annual and quarterly reports in cooperation with the Academy and the HRF, and that contain their recommendations for the competent administrations and ministries in order to put an end to human rights violations, corruption and offer suggestions for improvements in the delivery of government services to citizens.
4- Where and how can it be applied in Lebanon?
We will build an institution with high standards managed by a big number of NGOs and individuals of the civil society which adopts a system formulated to avoid the bad implementation and misuse of its structure/power and where all the democratic ideas and good governance concepts mentioned earlier are practiced and implemented.
The Human Rights Force activists will be spreading human rights ideas and constitutional law knowledge from one side and nonviolent struggle and civilian-based defense from another side. Through strategizing and launching carefully chosen campaigns as well as through monitoring and cooperating with the three other authorities, it will be present almost everywhere: at police stations as an observer, on the streets telling people about their rights, in courts and public administrations ensuring an atmosphere free of corruption, and in all cities, towns and public institutions.
Thus, we will be witnessing the rise of a Human Rights Direct Action “Red cross” merged with a more efficient “Amnesty International”.
The HRF will adopt a special system that ensures the impossibility of misusing its structure or controlling it.
The HRF will choose 25 Lebanese young people who will mainly be university students and it will give them a workshop that will last 20 days on the following issues:
1- Human rights and constitutional law
2- Strategic thinking and nonviolent struggle
3- Civil rights and street law
Those 25 persons will train another 75 volunteers for 15 days in a big camp.
Those 100 volunteers will work together to spread people’s rights, teach nonviolent struggle, and monitor the executive, legislative and judicial authorities and their tools such as army, police forces, courts and administrations. They will do that by establishing the mentioned institutions and gradually by adopting and developing a special system that ensures a maximum efficiency.
At the completion of these workshops, the Human Rights Force will choose the first case it wants to work on and will plan it out using advocacy techniques…
The work of the Citizen Protector will be inefficient without the support of the Human Rights Force. Therefore, when the last workshop finishes, the general assembly of the Council of Citizens’ association will elect the “Citizen Protector” from among the candidates for the position.
The “Citizen Protector” will meet the 100 HRF advocates, individual by individual, in multiple meetings in order to get to know them. They will present to him the advocacy campaign they have chosen to work on and will give him all the details they have on the subject.
The Citizen Protector does not have the right to approve or disapprove the campaign chosen by the HRF.
In the meantime, the Human Rights Academy which is constituted by the core group of 25 volunteers will open its doors for the people directly after the election of the CP. The CP will be responsible for it and will appoint a group of three persons to run it.
It is very important to highlight the fact that the Council of Citizens will not work, be it directly or indirectly, to control the State. It will neither run for the elections nor support a specific candidate or party.
The HRF activists will be taught how to think freely and independently using methods of scientific critical thinking and that by lawyers, judges, university professors, and international trainers and thinkers. They will not be submitted to any leadership from outside their group.
The HR Media will be managed by an independent council of NGOs that will be reporting news in light of human rights. This method was already developed and tried out, and it has proven to be efficient by a Lebanese NGO named rightsmedia.org.
All institutions will have a statute and bylaws.
All institutions of the Council of Citizens will work together and monitor each other.
5- Why is it useful?
Thanks to the work of the Council of Citizens, the people of Lebanon will be ready to face dictatorships, coups d’état, invasions, occupation, corruption, segregation, and to build a state in which almost every citizen knows his rights, how to defend them, and where any person can find other people ready to offer him support when his rights are violated.
1- The Council of Citizens will lead to an actual improvement in people’s lives.
2- It will increase people’s confidence in themselves.
3- It will build permanent, solid and popular institutions that will change the balance of powers in favor of the civil society, the human rights community and the citizens.
4- It will increase people’s awareness on the relationships between the different powers and on their democratic rights.
5- It will provide opportunities for individuals to experience and participate in the political life.
6- It will lead to building a leadership that can be called to account and will teach people how to bring authorities to account.
7- It puts a permanent end to corruption in public administrations and to torture and inhuman behavior in police stations and arrest centers.
We have learned from all Nonviolent Struggle[xxiii] studies and from our own experience fighting tyranny and injustice in Lebanon, that if people refused to obey, no one will have the power to force them to, and if no one can force knowledgeable people to obey unfair orders, we will be able to build the developed, free and just country we are seeking!
[iii] Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper: A Theory of Human Motivation, which he subsequently extended to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity (www.maslow.org).
[v] Coate and Rosati, “Preface,” in The Power of Human Needs in World Society, ed. Roger A.Coate and Jerel A. Rosati, ix. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1988.
[vi] Professor Cheryl Saunders, Professor of Legal Science 2005-2006, University of Cambridge; Professor of Law, University of Melbourne, “Separation of Powers and the Judicial Branch” essay:
[vii] Freedom House is a United States-based international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. It is best known for its annual assessment of the degree of democratic freedoms in each country which is widely used in political science research.
[ix] David Christian, p. 146-147, Maps of Time.
[x] David Christian, p. 146-147, Maps of Time.
[xi] David Christian, p. 253, Maps of Time.
[xii] David Christian, p. 271, Maps of Time.
[xiii] Dietz, Mary G. (1990). Thomas Hobbes & Political Theory. University Press of Kansas. P. 65-66
[xv] Adler, Mortimer J. (1996). The Common Sense of Politics. Fordham University Press, New York. P. 80-81
[xx] The first category of associations are the intellectual ones that fail to spread human rights culture at a large scale and reach only a small number of people.
The second category is that whose objective is to help victims of human rights violations. This category remains inefficient, because it only uses judicial means to help the victims.
The third category is composed of the international associations such as Amnesty International whose work remains inefficient because it can’t act directly to stop these violations, and because it mainly uses one tactic only of the nonviolent tactics.
[xxi] Nonviolent action (NVA): A general technique of conducting protest, resistance and intervention without physical violence. Such action may be conducted by (a) acts of omission – or (b) acts of commission – or (c) a combination of both. The technique includes a multitude of specific methods that are grouped into three main classes: nonviolent protest and persuasion, non-cooperation, and nonviolent intervention. (Http://www.canvasopedia.org/content/canvasopedia/dictionary.htm)
[xxii] Civilian-Based Defense is a policy that employs nonviolent action rather than military action or diplomacy alone as its strategic core. As a strategy, the central concept of CBD proceeds from a single observation. That is, over the course of centuries, human populations have developed a set of violence-free, yet undeniably forceful methods for denying the goals of an attack. These defensive methods may be primarily reactive, or proactive and planful. They specifically do not plan for violence, as conventional military strategy does, but rely upon the powers inherent in society’s capacity to deny an aggressor the fruits of its aggression.
Introduction to Civilian-Based Defense, Ronald M. McCarthy’G, Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace University of Hawaii.
[xxiii] The relationship between command and obedience is always one of mutual influence and some degree of interaction. That is, command and obedience influence each other. Without the expected obedience by the subordinates (whether in the form of passive acquiescence or active consent) the power relationship is not complete, despite the threat or infliction of sanctions […].”
Dr. Gene Sharp, WAGING NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE, Extending Horizons Books, p. 32
OPT translation by TT International Group (www.GroupTT.com) part of the NGOs support program