Michel Moawad (Arabic:ميشال معوض) is a Lebanese political activist, the founder and president of the Independence Movement political party, and member of the March 14 Alliance leadership.
Moawad was an active participant of the 2005 Cedar Revolution as well as key precursor movements, including the Qornet Shehwan Gathering and Bristol Gathering.
He is the son of former Lebanese President Rene Moawad, who was assassinated on November 22, 1989.
Moawad is involved in a range of civic and social initiatives to stimulate Lebanese youth and ameliorate the conditions of underprivileged populations in the country. He is also founding member and the executive director of the Rene Moawad Foundation.
Moawad was born on June 4, 1972 in Beirut, Lebanon. He comes from a notable Maronite family from Zgharta in northern Lebanon.
Moawad attended the school at the College Notre-Dame de Jamhour in Lebanon, graduating from the French Baccalaureate program with honors in 1990.
He completed his higher education in France, attending the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP) and obtaining a master’s degree in public law at Sorbonne University.
Moawad is the founder and president of the Independence Movement, launched in 2005.
The Independence Movement began as a grassroots initiative as part of the Cedar Revolution, before it evolved into a structured political organization that aims to defend Lebanese sovereignty, independence, democracy, state institutions, and liberties.
The movement equally advocates human and economic sustainable development, modernization of state institutions, reinforcement of governmental transparency and accountability, as well as civic engagement and participation in public life.
Moawad was actively involved in several key movements that paved the way towards the Cedar Revolution. He was a founding member of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering. This political opposition grouping formed in 2001 was the primary opposition force to Syrian hegemony in Lebanon affiliated with the Maronite Church, advocating Syrian withdrawal, full Lebanese independence and sovereignty, as well as the implementation of the Taif Accord of 1989.
The group gathered key Christian figures, including Lebanese Minister Pierre Amine Gemayel, and Members of Parliament Gebran Tueni and Antoine Ghanem, all of which were assassinated for their political opposition.
Moawad was a founding member of the Bristol Gathering in 2005, the largest multi-sectarian opposition bloc in the history of Lebanon at the time, formed following the illegal extension of former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s term imposed by the Syrian government. Key founding political groups included the Kornet Chehwan Gathering, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Future Movement.
Following the 2005 Cedar Revolution, Moawad joined the leadership of the March 14 coalition, participated in the Doha Conference of May 2008, that came as a result of the May 7 events that saw Hezbollah militarily invade the capital and parts of the Chouf area. The conference produced the Doha Accord to end an 18-month-long political crisis.
Shortly after, Moawad ran as a candidate for the 2009 parliamentary elections on behalf of the coalition, attaining 47% of the vote in the Zgharta – Zawye district.
Moawad’s political involvement carries on his family’s legacy. His father Rene Moawad was the first Lebanese president elected following the Taif Accord of 1989 that ended the Lebanese civil war. His presidency only lasted 17 days. He was murdered on Lebanese Independence Day, November 22nd, 1989. His assassination is widely believed to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government, however no formal investigation has been undertaken until present. His assassination was a detrimental blow to national reconciliation, Lebanese sovereignty, and ushered in a 15 year Syrian hegemony.
His mother Nayla Moawad went on to play a central role in championing women civic and political empowerment. She took on his father’s position in the National Assembly and was then re-elected to that position in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2005. She then served as the Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs from 2005 until 2008. She is known for her opposition to Syrian hegemony as well as championing democratic values, civic liberties, woman empowerment, and human rights.
Moawad’s civic involvement began in 1997, co-leading a campaign named “Baladi, Baladati, Baladiyati” calling for municipal elections that had been suspended in Lebanon since 1964. A circulated petition gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures, in conjunction with events held across the country. The campaign succeeded in pressuring for local elections, held for the first time in 35 years in June 1998.
In 1990, he cofounded the Rene Moawad Foundation and continues to act as executive director. The non-profit and non-governmental organization, named after his father, advocates a society built on democratic values, social justice, and national unity. The foundation is currently one of the most prominent Lebanese NGOs in agricultural, social, and economic development, including education, health care, and building individual and institutional capacities.
The foundation’s key activities include the Business Incubation Association in Tripoli (BIAT), a non-profit organization, launched by the Rene Moawad Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce of Tripoli, established with the assistance of the Integrated SME support program, a European Union funded project at the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade. The center’s mission is to identify, incubate, host, assist, and promote growth potential sectors in north Lebanon.
In 1993, Moawad participated in founding the Rene Moawad Foundation – USA based in Washington DC, financing development programs in Lebanon. Annual fundraising initiatives gather high-profile members of the Lebanese diaspora and key American figures.
Moawad sits on the board of the Maronite Foundation in the World, founded by former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir under the patronage of the church, to engage the Lebanese diaspora in order to preserve their Lebanese patrimony by reclaiming their Lebanese identity and citizenship.
In addition, Moawad has launched several social initiatives to protect and ameliorate the conditions of marginalized populations, including low cost distribution of academic materials to students, supporting registration fees for students in public and semi-private schools and restoring houses for underprivileged families in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
He is the founder and president of FORAS: Fostering Entrepreneurship and Employment in North Lebanon. The association is dedicated to enhancing and supporting Lebanese human resources, a central tenant of the country’s economy, offering job seekers an interactive range of soft and professional capacity building and abilities strengthening programs, with the collaboration and participation of international and local academics, professionals, cultural centers, and training centers.
Moawad married Marielle Kosremelli in 2000. They have four children together, Nayla, Rene, Yara and Malek.
Moawad enjoys a variety of hobbies including shark diving, mountain trekking, skiing, as well as an interest in technology, history, music, and strategy games.