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MENA Resource Governance Course a Life-Changer

The following is a first-person account from a participant in “Fundamentals of Oil and Gas Governance.” This year, the regional knowledge hub course takes place between 23 November and 2 December. The application period has concluded.

Almost exactly one year ago, I applied to participate in “Fundamentals of Oil and Gas Governance,” a training from NRGI and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. I had no idea the course was going to completely change my life.

To preface: Lebanon is a country that still has a long way to go when it comes to transparency and accountability. With an entirely new sector, there is a great need for capacity building and increased transparency. Additionally, Lebanon’s biodiversity and environment are already at risk; oil and gas investments could increase these risks if the sector isn’t carefully and correctly monitored from the start. As a chemical engineer and head of the technical department of the procurement administration at the Central Inspection board (CIB), these issues concerned me. I wanted to see what the NRGI-LCPS course could offer us as ideas and tools Lebanon’s oil and gas future, as well as a vision for the sector.

The training delivered. It gathered some of the top experts in the field, each with their own area of specialization—each day we had a new topic to cover, from technical matters to details of public policies and laws. I learned about environmental risks that need to be considered; contracts and laws to be aware of when dealing with the big corporate players; policies that should be taken into consideration for better governance; transparency initiatives; oil and gas economics; and much more.

The speakers, all influential experts, shaped or are shaping the industry we know. One of the speakers, Dr. Carole Nakhle, introduced me to the economics and policy of energy and the environment. I was fascinated by her explanation of the deceptively simple theory of supply and demand and how this relationship controls the sector. I was inspired to follow in her footsteps.

Nakhle posed provocative questions: How much should we extract? How should prices be set? What will the trends be? Should we start extracting now, or wait until later? What is gas monetization? What about revenue management? What are the environmental costs and benefits? Is the oil and gas sector the future or is it a dying industry? If we are to come up with proper policies for sustainable development and resource use, we need to answer these questions. The training was an important glimpse of a much bigger picture.

Another important aspect of the training was the networking opportunities. Between experts, organizers, [Lebanese Petroleum Administration] board members, and other participants, I was able to build a long-lasting network that I’m still in touch with. As individuals and as a group, this network can work toward change. Being part of it made me feel more responsible and driven.

Finally, the course was instrumental in securing a full Chevening scholarship from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I know for a fact that if Chevening did not believe in my vision—a vision I developed in that course—I would not be where I am today. And where am I today? In one of the world’s top university’s libraries, University College London, writing this testimonial.

Apply for the MENA hub course. It changed my life. It could change yours.

Bechara Youssef Samneh is the technical head of the Central Tender Board within the Central Inspection board for the Lebanese government. He graduated from the American University of Beirut with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, where he also worked in energy research.