Establishing Regional Technical Offices in municipalities across Lebanon
The project in brief
2007 - Present
Regional Technical Offices (RTOs) were created to strengthen the local governments’ capacity to cope with the increasing demands on services resulted from the large increase in population in the area, due to the influx of thousands of refugees from Syria. By empowering local actors, RTOs create sustainable and fast-acting solutions. In addition, RTOs being aware of municipalities' needs, promote integrated multi-sectoral activities initiated by different agencies. This helps avoid duplication, providing cost efficient solutions, and mainstreaming various interventions into a clear regional plan.
The establishment of RTOs was a paradigm shift. It capitalized on local knowledge, capacities and structures already in place enabling them to deliver results in real-time and over the longer-term.
- Strengthen the resilience of local government institutions during a crisis phase and enabling them to deliver better and faster results.
- Ensure institutionalization of this RTO mechanism and ownership embedded in the structure of municipalities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The RTO scope of work is determined by the Union of Municipalities respective mandates. It is directly involved with local and public actors namely, the national water establishment offices and the Ministry of Social Affairs. It coordinates the different inputs of these entities, ensures complementarity and avoids overlapping. Additionally, the RTO is responsible for a range of activities:
- Enhance the participation of local authorities and actors as well as the decision-making process to achieve local stability;
- Promote technically-sound and cost-effective solutions for the construction, upgrading, and rehabilitation of community facilities and urban services at all sectoral levels;
- Support municipalities and Unions of Municipalities in identifying problems and plan adequate interventions;
- Raise awareness of municipal and Unions of Municipalities employees on good governance, administration, community participation;
- Establish solid networks between municipalities and key local public, and civil society, actors such as the Ministry of Social Affairs Social Development Centres, Water Establishment Regional Offices, public schools and health centres, Community Based Organizations, private sector, local committees, etc.
Those activities are achieved through a wide variety of tasks that fall under the following categories: planning, mapping, capacity building, coordination, and technical support.
- Union of Municipalities
- Municipalities in Lebanon
Among the 10 RTOs that have been created by UN-Habitat, 2 are fully financially covered by the unions of municipalities, Jabal Amel and Bint Jbeil, 3 are 60% financially covered by the unions; Nabatiyeh, Tyre, and Sahel Zahrani, 3 are partially covered by unions; Sahl, Bouhaira, and Beqq Awsat, and unfortunately 2 were not sustained due to financial issues within the unions; Iqleem Kharroub and Aley.
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Due to the complicated bureaucratic and time-consuming recruitment process of permanent staff, RTOs are still established as part of UN-Habitat projects’ implementation strategy at the regional level.
- According to the municipal bi-laws, RTOs staff are recruited as consultant to municipalities.This is a temporary legal arrangement.
- Part of the issue around the limited role of the RTO could be attributed to communicating the functions of the RTO to mayors in the Unions of Municipalities who do not necessarily see it as a priority to finance. For example, in many cases, mayors refuse to pay the allocated monthly fee to the Union. Some mayors are in many instances not aware of the role of the RTO, and on other occasions, are not willing to cooperate or provide the RTO with needed data which in turn slows down their work.
- UN-Habitat has developed a brief “study” on the feasibility of RTOs showing the costs that unions and municipalities pay to acquire technical studies for municipal project over a 1-year period, compared to the cost of the RTO in 1 year; The comparison shows that RTOs cost 70% less of what is being paid.
Results of the Good Practice
- Municipalities in Lebanon are poor in terms of their human and financial resources. This has promoted the concept of getting several municipalities together to work under a legal framework called "unions of municipalities". UN-Habitat has identified the lack of technical capacities within municipalities and unions mainly on local/regional planning as a major gap. Big amounts were invested on unplanned activities, many of which were not sustained. The introduction of RTOs has helped municipalities and unions in initiating well planned and assessed projects, projects that target and benefit more than 1 municipality.
- RTOs have been playing a remarkable role in supporting partner municipalities and organizations in the design of civil engineering projects such as piping, wells, public parks etc.
- RTOs are a good investments. They are saving considerable amounts, should those projects be designed through private engineering offices. The investment made in the RTO, largely as staff salaries, is less than the cost of the design of the projects.
- The RTO is the link between the community, key stakeholders, UN agencies, INGOs, NGOs and the local authorities whereby they enhance coordination and strategically address key issues to plan, identify needs and respond to challenges through avoiding duplication.
- The RTO is willing to supervise the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the projects implemented by all stakeholders.
Tarek Osseiran, UN-Habitat