Improving Civil Status Services
Directorate of Refugees Affairs at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities

The Problem

The Ministry of Interior and Municipalities in Lebanon has undergone organizational restructuring by Decree No. 4082 that was issued on October 4th, 2000. According to this Decree, the administrative entity concerned with the affairs of the Palestinian Refugees titled “the Directorate of Refugees Affairs” (DRA) has been transferred to the Directorate General of Political Affairs and Refugees.
The building in which the DRA is located has borne the disastrous consequences of the civil war (1975-1990). Despite the fact that the war was brought to a halt in 1990, the building remained in habilitated for several years. Part of this building was inhabited by Lebanese residents, while another part hosted the offices of the DRA. Thus, it was regarded as a hybrid building. The residents who fled the building that fell on the green-line between the then divided Lebanese capital returned to their apartments in the building. The bulk of files of the Palestinian refugees that were maintained by the DRA have been destroyed or stolen leaving the administration with no reliable records.
The Palestinian refugees, residing in different camps over the country, who needed the civil status services of the DRA had to go in person to the administration in Beirut to complete their transactions regardless of their area of residency. There was one central office through which such services were provided to the people concerned. The refugees were not aware of the procedures that governed their services, nor of the types of documents they had to submit to complete their transactions in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations. The elapse of time to close the transaction cycle could take 15 days (example: the issuance of an ID for a Palestinian refugee). There was a high risk of losing records due to the lack of backup data. This administrative shortcoming jeopardized the processing of a considerable number of requested transactions. The issuance of paper IDs opened the way for falsification. The security authorities were unable to track false IDs that had no reliable references. This situation has widened the gap between the Lebanese administration and the Palestinian refugees aggravating the negative image of the Lebanese Government. The DRA has also suffered from shortage of staff. Out of fifty established positions in the cadre, only six employees existed. The other jobs remained vacant. The understaffing of the DRA has slowed down service-delivery providing a lucrative opportunity for some corrupt brokers to interfere to expedite the process. The refugees, in certain cases, had to resort to such illegal actions to receive the required services.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Although the civil war in Lebanon was over in 1990, the building in which the DRA is located did not undergo significant renovation before 2011. The offices were rehabilitated and equipped. An exemplary waiting-hall (reception) has been established and furnished to receive the refugees in a professionally respectful manner. Every visiting refugee would take a number and wait for his/her turn according to an organized queuing system. A wheelchair accessible corridor was set up to ameliorate the service provided to the physically disabled refugees.
Cameras were installed to observe the customer-oriented performance of employees and to eliminate any possible illegal act. Moreover, a complaints-management mechanism has been established in line with the Citizen’s Charter that called for “putting things right”. Complaints filed by the Palestinian refugees started to be handled in a timely manner. Most of the complaints were about the late registry of births (when parents fail to register their newly born children, but rather wait for years to pass-by before they take the step). The DRA used to turn down any late request for registration. The DRA decided to tackle the issue by facilitating the late registration of newly born Palestinian refugees. Requests for registration that are late up to twelve years are processed by the DRA according to a management decision that was issued to solve the problem.
A special Guide has been developed and published to explain the transactions related to the civil status of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The Guide clarifies the role and structure of the DRA, the types of transactions, the documents that must be submitted to complete each of the transactions, the fees that must be paid to the postal service company (LIBANPOST) in case the refugee decides to use its service. The transactions include the issuance of IDs, birth certificates for children born in Lebanon, birth certificates for children born abroad, divorce certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates and copies that substitute lost documents. The Guide was written in plain language. Forty thousand hard copies have been distributed to the refugees. An electronic copy has been posted on the website of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (
The Palestinian refugees have been provided with two options to receive civil status services. The first option was to report directly to the DRA in Beirut. The second option was to request the service at any of the available stations of the main postal service company in Lebanon (LIBANPOST) that are located in the different regions. Once the transaction is completed, the refugee concerned receives a notification message on his/her mobile phone. The transaction will then be collected at the same postal station. The latter has become a single-point of service for the Palestinian refugees.
As for the lost information about the refugees due to the destruction of records, the DRA has intensified its efforts to restore the lost pieces of information by collecting the available documents that are possessed by the refugees themselves. This restoration process contributed to the re-building of the refugees’ files. Around 75% of the information about the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has been restored, knowing that their total number in Lebanon is 480,000.
In order to mitigate the risk of losing records, backup data has been established by microfilming every single record. The old records have undergone restoration prior to microfilming. All the documents that are submitted by the refugees are scanned by the DRA.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The top management of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MOIM) adopted a new inclusive method that involved internal and external stakeholders.
The solution represented a holistic approach from planning to implementation. It was proposed by the Director General of the Political Affairs and Refugees and was fully adopted by H.E the Minister of Interior and Municipalities. Execution from physical rehabilitation, equipping and furnishing of the building to the printing of the guide and microfilming were outsourced to a private firm with the full support of the Lebanese Palestinian Committee (NGO). The production of the Guide material was the fruit of cooperation between the MOIM, the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, the Research and International Development Center that is supported by the Canadian Government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The Terms of Reference for the upcoming phase of the solution, that is the issuance of the biometric IDs, has been developed by the DRA. Negotiations with an international donor (USAID) are underway, in this respect.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Directorate General of Political Affairs and Refugees, of which the DRA is part, has sensed the need to improve the efforts of the Lebanese Government to be more responsive to the needs of the Palestinian refugees in the civil status field. The refugees were regarded as a vulnerable group that lacked the proper attention of Government that had other priorities, but it was time to break the vicious circle. A comprehensive plan has been developed by the DRA to make the civil status services that address the Palestinian refugees more responsive. The ultimate objective was to shrink the gap between the Government and Palestinian refugees and to facilitate their daily life. The plan was strongly backed by the Minister of Interior and Municipalities. However, the DRA preferred to cooperate with the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee (NGO) to put the plan into action due to their experience in the Palestinian affairs and to their flexibility in mobilizing the required funds from international donors. The plan is under implementation on an incremental basis. The DRA is currently negotiating with Lebanese wealthy people who are of Palestinian origin, like top managers in the private sector, to involve them in the implementation of the next phase of the plan (issuing the biometric IDs). The DRA has persuaded some key Chief Executive Officers in the country that this kind of support is part of their social responsibility. Raising awareness by disseminating the guide and posting it on the website of the ministry was one of the communication tools used to enhance accessibility to the civil status services, persuade the refugees to handle their civil status affairs in compliance with the set regulations and to demonstrate some tangible results on which the DRA can build on in the near future for further development. The DRA had to adopt some new management arrangements to deal with delayed birth registration of refugees. Internal decisions to facilitate the registration process represented a significant progress that contributed to the implementation of the plan.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Upon finalizing the plan taking into consideration the demands of the Palestinian refugees who have been interacting with the DRA on a daily basis, the administration had to look for the right channels to mobilize funding. The DRA believed that the execution of the plan is a collective responsibility that involves the Government, civil society and the private sector. Dividing roles between the three parties is a demonstration of the principle of Good Governance. Establishing contacts with the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee and international donors to ensure the full, step-by-step implementation of the plan was one of the main responsibilities of the DRA.
The implementation steps included: the physical rehabilitation of the building and offices, restoration of the lost data, classification of records, building a data backup system, writing and publishing the Guide, posting the Guide on the website of the ministry and staff training.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Improving the civil status services delivered to the Palestinian refugees faced several challenges, especially that the issue at hand was not one of the Government priorities, though it was one of the priorities of the refugees as a vulnerable group. The DRA had to tackle the issue not merely from a security perspective, but also from the perspective of human dignity. The top management of the DRA had to re-collect the information that was destroyed or lost from the Palestinian refugees themselves. This was not an easy task, but rather a time-consuming process that required continuous follow-up. The regulation that prohibited the late birth registrations had to be countered by an internal management arrangement. The lack of human resources required reallocation of staff. The shortage of financial resources to complete the physical rehabilitation of the building, microfilming records and executing the other components of the plan necessitated the involvement of the civil society and international donors. Putting an end to illegal meddling to expedite the completion of the refugees’ transactions reflecting the resistance to change that any administrative development project is expected to face had to be treated by strict observation, installing cameras and staff orientation and training. The wide gap between the Palestinian refugees and the Lebanese Government remain the greatest challenge that needs more efforts and mutual dialogue.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The following Technical resources were provided:
1- Workstations : mainly
a. Acquisition workstations allowing to perform data acquisition from Refugees’ Civil Status Records (from Papers) – Check Scanning, Text Entry & Discrepancy Stations.
b. Acquisition Supervision Stations to double check acquired papers.
c. Fingerprint Matching Verification Stations
d. Quality Control Stations
e. Sorting and delivery stations
2- Mobile Devices: proposed the Ruggedized Mobile Terminals .
3- System Services Servers: it includes
a. System Workflow Servers
b. Matching database management and services Servers
4- Database Management Server & Data Storage System.

As for human resources and in order to meet the shortage of staff, 24 employees were reallocated from the Directorate of Political Affairs to the DRA.
Financial resources: USD 20,000 on microfilms; USD 27,000 on furnishing the Reception Hall; USD 30,000 on publishing the Guide. The rehabilitation of the building was covered from the annual budget of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The experience of the DRA has proven the fact that a success story can be built gradually. A simple success leads to another bigger one. Small projects will grow in scale and scope once a success has been demonstrated. The initiative of the top management of the DRA crowned with the full commitment of H.E the Minister of Interior and Municipalities gave a great momentum to the project. The engagement and enthusiasm of the civil society, international donors and the private sector were an example of cooperation amongst the various Governance stakeholders.
With persistence, persuasion, resource mobilization and follow-up, issues that have never been treated as top priority can climb the agenda of the Government. This is a lesson to learn not only by the administration that achieved success, but also by the other administrations of the public sector.
The success of the solution and the other components of the plan that await execution attracted the civil society and international donors. Negotiations are underway to allocate more resources and to maintain what has already been achieved. Cooperation with such organizations represents an opportunity that serves the interest of a vulnerable group.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impact of the initiative was a significant step in the thousand-mile journey of narrowing the gap between the Lebanese Government and Palestinian refugees, better understanding of the needs of the refugees for better future planning and opening the administration to new technologies. Several lessons have been learned: The commitment of the top management and political authorities is a must. The persistence of the top management and its follow-up with the political authorities can add to the political agenda some vital social and management issues that have been neglected for a quite long time. Management solutions can even contribute to solving some social and psychological complications that contaminate the relationships between peoples, on one hand, and between people and the Government on another hand. Tackling administrative problems in the public sector requires the engagement of the civil society and the private sector. The latter can sense their social responsibilities if the public sector seeks to promote a management solution in a persuasive manner. ICT is the means to solve a problem rather than an end by itself. Planning for the biometric IDs proves that one success encourages further plans for another success.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Directorate of Refugees Affairs at the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Elias El-Khoury
Title:   Acting Director General of Political Affairs and R  
Telephone/ Fax:   +9611423284
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Ministry of Interior and Municipalities; Sanayeh
Postal Code:  
City:   Beirut
State/Province:   Beirut
Country:   Lebanon

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