There is without a doubt a relationship between sectarianism, corruption, and the “Garbage Crisis” in Lebanon. Corruption is widespread in the Lebanese government, and it has been officially decided that it is LESS corrupt only than the governments of 32 other countries (out of 180) in the world (BBC, 2018). In regard to the Garbage Crisis, “instead of opening up the decision-making process, and inviting civil society to be part of the solution that could save the treasury a considerable amount of money, [the Lebanese government] did what it does best: monopolize the process, ignore the voices of society, and attempt to split the pie among the political elite themselves” (Atallah, 2015). The political elite in Lebanon do not seem to care about their constituents at all, unless their constituents are particularly loyal to them. In fact, “the real question is: who do the political elite represent in the first place in a country where elections are an opportunity for the political elite to select their constituency rather than citizens to elect their representatives?” (Atallah, 2015). This is just another example of the political corruption in Lebanon. In regard to the protests over the Garbage Crisis, this corruption has even begun to take on a violent nature. As of 2015, “failing to outmaneuver the protesters thus far, the government has shamefully used violence to silence the people. They beat up citizens, accused detainees of being drug addicts, and forced them to take urine test to prove their innocence” (Atallah, 2015). The Lebanese people are fed up with the trash in their streets, yes, but more than anything they are fed up with the corruption of their government. The government has failed to provide basic services to its people, and instead continues to divide up its resources primarily among the elite class.
In Lebanon, political power is rewarded based on religious affiliation (Cammett, 2009). According to Harris, religion in Lebanon is not just a set of beliefs and practices, but it actually relates directly to your family and also to who you are as an individual (2017). Because of this, sectarianism runs deep, primarily between Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims. Interestingly, the Garbage Crisis may actually be easing tensions between these groups. In 2009, “some activists [were] challenging Lebanon’s sectarian culture by working through the nongovernmental organization sector to promote a ‘culture of rights’ among citizens. For example, explicitly anti-sectarian NGOs such as the Amal Association or the Mouvement Social [ran] social programs that offer[ed] medical care, vocational training and other social services” (Cammett, 2009). Much in the same way, the Garbage Crisis seems to be bringing the citizens together. This is an unprecedented protest because, in the historically sectarian society that is Lebanon, for the first time people of all different religions, ages, etc. are gathering together to protest against one common foe: their government (Vice, 2015).
If this conflict is to be resolved, Lebanon’s sectarianism would need to be solved before its political corruption. I believe that the sectarianism is a very important aspect of the corruption itself. According to Cammett, “because power is awarded based on religious affiliation, there is little scope for citizens to vote as citizens rather than as members of sectarian groups. All of these factors combine to distort the translation of voter preferences into electoral outcomes” (2009). If Lebanon could rid itself of this rampant sectarianism (which would be incredibly difficult to do), then it would have a chance to make real political reforms. It would have a chance to find an effective political method that works for the people, and which would give people the legitimate voices in the government which they so desperately need. This would be an enormous step in the right direction. If the citizens could organize and work together as a country, and not based on their religious or ethnic differences, then they could much more easily communicate with their government and and with each other and make real changes which could lead to the solving of this Garbage Crisis, and so much more.
All sources have used here have been cited on the infographic above. I apologize that it posted in two separate parts, I couldn’t find any other way to make it clear enough to be legible. Thank you for your understanding.