Think Culture... Think Growth


Med Culture is a Technical Assistance Unit funded by the European Union for the promotion of culture as vector of Human, Social and Economic Development in South Mediterranean countries. 

0. Executive Summary

Country Overview of Lebanon

0. Executive Summary

0. Executive Summary

In 1943, Lebanon became officially The Lebanese Republic, assembling within its land different religions. Lebanon established a unique political system, “Confessionalism”, which is a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. The co-existence of these religious communities has granted the country a freedom that is not shared by most of the other Arab countries.

Even though Lebanon gained its independence in 1943, it was not until 1993 that the Ministry of Culture was finally established. The aim behind the creation of this ministry was to set up an institution that would be the only reference for sponsorship and support of the Lebanese cultural life, in terms of knowledge, research and creativity.

There are no unified general objectives, principles or strategies that govern the Lebanese cultural scene. In European countries, cultural institutions work within the framework of the government’s strategies, whereas in Lebanon, culturally, the government is almost non-existent. Each cultural institution enjoys free and independent internal governance. Individuals running these institutions have the absolute power over the objectives, principles and strategies of the institutions, which give room to creativity and freedom of maneuver.

However, with the difficult political situation in the region, the financial support for arts and culture is becoming more and more difficult, however it does not prevent the cultural scene from remaining lively and versatile. The Lebanese cultural scene depends mostly on independent individuals/institutions/associations, which show great artistic, intellectual and/or entrepreneurship potentials. It is far from relying on anything but on human capacities and the possibilities they can bring. The majority of the institutions are non-profit associations, which allows them to get funds from foreign funding bodies (as most of these bodies require that the applicant be a non-profit association). Most of the funding for the Lebanese arts and culture domain are foreign, mostly European ones.

There is a real expansion on the cultural level. The artistic scene is constantly moving, young and creative artists are emerging, the design and creative field have never been so vivid, theatre plays, musical creations, festivals, photo and painting exhibitions, crafts, dance… The city is always on the move and the Lebanese creators are present all over the world with their productions and initiatives. The main problem remains the same for almost all the cultural associations: securing money/funds for the running costs.

As of 2014, the Lebanese cultural scene has seen some changes with the arrival of a number of Syrian artists fleeing their homeland and seeking refuge in Lebanon. Theatre plays, concerts, other type of artistic disciplines and especially TV series started combining Lebanese and Syrian talents, opening up the doors to a new era of an interesting mix of nationalities. Unfortunately, with time, and due to the difficulties in getting residency permit and jobs in Lebanon, a big number of Syrians artists left to Europe, where they were welcomed and offered a stable life.     

The cultural scene is very lively, but mostly in Beirut; however the potential to strengthen and improve the professional environment through the involvement of both the public and the private sectors, inside and outside the capital, is real. The involvement of the Ministry of Culture, which should provide the strategic framework within which cultural operators can perform, would be a positive development.