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A day on the field, another at the Serail

By Nazem El Khatib

“What should we expect from this internship?”

This is a question one normally expects during a recruitment interview and that is supposed to have an easy answer.

But as one of my supervisors mentioned, it was hard to have a clear answer when applying for the Youth4Governance program.

After a month of working in the office with the research team on multiple projects, we initiated a survey on the perception of public administrations in Lebanon. The initial findings were presented to the President of the Central Inspection, judge Georges Attieh.

The second phase of the study focused on surveying civil servants.

Initially, my negative perception of public administrations was similar to what we heard from citizens we surveyed. When I began working on the survey, I had low expectations and imagined there was nothing to find except empty halls, rude employees and a negative attitude. However, the few days that we spent in different ministries proved me wrong.

Despite encountering some civil servants who fit the usual stereotype, I met, in fact, a large number of public servants dedicated to their job; people who, in spite of the economic collapse and their meager salary, are committed to serving the citizens. The vast majority understood the importance of this survey and generously offered their time, hoping it will improve the image of the institutions where they work.

I learned to undo my prejudices about public administrations. Most civil servants I met expressed frustration about those who, in the public sector, confirm the generally negative stereotype, embodied by those who get away with poor behavior through nepotism and political connections.

Every new day of the internship brought its own lot of surprises.

After a week of surveys, I had the unique opportunity to present the findings of a major IMPACT-related project at the Grand Serail. Standing in front of ministers, members of parliament, representatives of international organizations, ambassadors and UN agency representatives. I presented, along with a colleague, findings of a rural and local development mapping and assessment, based on data I had the chance to work on, which highlighted major social, economic and infrastructural gaps across the country.

I am convinced that I would not have had these opportunities in any other internship program. From spending a day on the field, surveying citizens under a heated sun, to spending the following one under the high ceilings of the Grand Serail, this internship is truly like no other.