The Sustainable Development Goals in Lebanon
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Lebanon:
18 July 2022
UN Lebanon Supports Women-Led Cooperatives: Sustaining Productivity Amid Consecutive Crises
"I enjoy teaching other women food processing techniques and helping my neighbors find income generating opportunities. A lot of women across Lebanon are doing the same thing," says Samira Zoughaib Akiki, 58, the chair of Al Atayeb cooperative located in Kfardebian town, north of Beirut, Lebanon. In 2004, Samira and some other women established Al Atayeb (The Delicacies) cooperative to support their local community. Samira’s Early Days in Food Processing Samira began her career as a French language teacher at a local school in Kfardebian before she decided to follow her passion for cooking. One year later, in 2003, Samira resigned from teaching to enroll in a training for sewing and embroidery that Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) non-governmental organization (NGO) was organizing. As she interacted with more women, Samira realized that women villagers have very good food processing skills and that they are willing to share their knowledge. She worked with YMCA on introducing food processing workshops and eventually became a trainer in food processing. “Teaching other women food processing skills was my way of women empowerment. It also empowered me given that I was surrounded by generous women with a vision,” Samira says with a nostalgic tone. The Cooperative Model Although Samira enjoyed her work as a trainer, she was not fully satisfied; she wanted to do something more impactful for her community. "Knowing that locals obtain valuable agricultural and food processing skills and expertise, my colleagues and I decided to form a cooperative specialized in food processing. We believed that it would be the best business model because it helps create job opportunities for locals and divides profits equally among shareholders," Samira says. Al Atayeb is a women-led cooperative specialized in producing Lebanese local and traditional food, such as citrus marmalade, fruit jam, fruit paste, and the famous Lebanese Makdous (Pickled eggplants in oil), and it follows the FDA criteria of food safety. Today, the cooperative involves 13 women from various age groups who work in food processing. These women are also shareholders so they receive a share of the cooperative's profits, in addition to the salary they earn from working in food preparation and processing. “A cooperative serves the maximum benefit of the largest number of people possible, and it is a participatory form of group work that is rich with perspectives and ideas," she says. The cooperative also supports farmers through buying their local crops and provides job opportunities to local workers who can perform necessary logistic and technical tasks that food processing requires. UN Lebanon Supports Cooperatives Similar to many cooperatives across Lebanon, Al Atayeb faced challenges that threatened its sustainability during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Lebanon was also reeling under the economic crisis. Not knowing how to counter the challenges, Samira and her partners learned that UN Lebanon was providing support to cooperatives across Lebanon and reached out for support. UN Lebanon, with funds from the German Development Bank KfW, and through the UN Development Programme, mobilized 4.4 million USD to reduce the downturn impact of COVID-19 on cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), and farmers. Under this project, UN Lebanon supported 94 cooperatives from different villages in Lebanon such as Deir Al Ahmar, Fneidek, Qana, Harissa, and Lehfed, with a focus on women, by providing cash for work and in-kind support such as raw materials, equipment, and tools. At least 6,000 individuals in Lebanon benefitted from this project, which helped them cope with the consecutive crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial crisis, and the notorious August 4 Beirut Port Explosion. For Al Atayeb, "the UN provided monthly salaries for women to sustain their income, in addition to oil and sugar we use to produce our food, as well as the jars necessary for preserving produce," Samira says. "The type of assistance that the UN provided was very efficient because it addressed our financial needs; thus, replenishing our capital and compensating our losses. We were able to resume our activities at a time when many businesses were shutting down.” By creating direct and indirect job opportunities, Al Atayeb cooperative has been a key factor in helping many families in Kfardebian survive the crises, making women proud of themselves and their community. "Our cooperative represents the values we believe in. We work with passion. We help our community and serve the public good," Samira says with a pride in her voice.
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04 April 2022
« LiBeirut » breathes new life into homes, residents, memories
A building that the plumber built in stages for his children every time he was able to put a few pennies aside. More than 30 years thus separate the construction of the floors of this typically Lebanese building. This is where Hala Boustani was born. This is where she took her first steps, where she grew up. She even stayed there after her marriage upon her father's request. This childless widow, who lost her husband 3 years ago, lived there happily surrounded by her relatives and was expecting to spend the rest of her days in the house. But on a grim summer afternoon on August 4, 2020, Hala Boustani saw her house, and with it her life, collapse in a matter of seconds. If she miraculously survived the double explosion at the port of Beirut, she says she would have preferred to die on that day, rather than see her house shattered to pieces. “This house was everything to me," says the octogenarian with a trembling voice. "Whatever I say, I would not be able to express how I feel today. In this house, my husband and I put everything we have done in our lives, and I was hoping to die in this building too”. When the explosion happened, Hala saw a fireball blow in her face, before she collapsed in front of her couch, with a damaged leg and glass in her eyes. "All my body still hurts, I see doctors regularly and have nightmares every night, Hala complains. But the most difficult thing at my age is having to move from house to house and live with relatives. Nothing remained in my house. We picked up our memories in pieces”. Of the moments that followed the drama, Hala doesn’t remember much. “Her memory has faltered, explains Eduardo, her niece's husband. It took us 45 minutes to get her and her sister-in-law out of the building through the rubble. The scene was apocalyptic. Three people had died in the building next door. We were only able to pick up our things a few days later, and for months Hala lived in denial, believing she was going home for Christmas. This house with its special antique furniture was a place for the family where we always met. Our concern now is to live in the house again and UNESCO has given us hope!" Identified by UNESCO and the General Directorate of Antiquities (DGA) of Lebanon as one of 12 priority historic buildings at risk of collapse in the urban districts of Rmeil, Medawar and Saifi, the building where Hala lives has been stabilized, propped and sheltered by UNESCO, thanks to a funding of 500,000 euros offered by the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and within the framework of LiBeirut, the flagship initiative of the UN organization. “Our building is safe and no longer at risk of falling; we can enter it now without worrying”, says Eduardo. “When the UNESCO team helped us, I felt my spirit reviving again, says Hala. Thanks to them, I have a small hope of returning home. I’m not asking for much. A few pieces of furniture will be enough”. Complicated interventions Among the buildings included in the German-funded project, which was the first country to respond to the call of LiBeirut, a building in Rmeil that was made ominously famous in the aftermath of the explosions, after rescuers had spent days looking for a possible survivor under the rubble. The research had captivated Lebanon when a sniffer dog named Flash lured rescuers into the building, offering a glimpse of hope a month after the tragedy, but no survivors were found. “The historic house was the most damaged building in the explosions”, explains Michel Chalhoub, a consulting engineer in charge of the stabilization of the building. “We were even told that it was better to tear it down and rebuild everything from scratch. Half the building was collapsed, even on the main street, and the other half was at risk of falling as well." “Working on this project, RMEIL 733, was very risky in terms of safety, and concrete blocks moved during the work, adds Michel Chalhoub. First we had to do some cleaning and sorting, as some stones had to be saved. In parallel, we carried out the propping and sheltering interventions to protect people and to safeguard the building during the winter." Stabilization, propping and sheltering works were indeed urgently needed as the rainy season approached. With the majority of the 12 historic buildings being privately owned, the risk of gentrification was also high. In other terms, the risk of having these buildings demolished and replaced with new architecture that would have changed Beirut's historic identity. This prompted UNESCO to speed up work between December 2020 and March 2021, under the watchful eye of experts and after UNESCO's Heritage Emergency Fund completed technical documentation before the start of the interventions. A few hundred meters from RMEIL 733, on Armenia Street in Mar Mikhaël, another building seems to have regained some of its former glory. It is a typical late 19th-century Beiruti house with vaulted shops, a three-arched facade, and marble slab balconies supported by wrought iron balustrades. The sloping roof, made entirely of "qotrani" timber, bears beautiful red Marseille tiles, now broken. This colossal project required long and complex interventions within the framework of the UNESCO project, until new funds are secured for the restoration of the building. Behind it, a restaurant closed since the tragedy of the port, and that is about to reopen its doors now that the building is safe. "The LiBeirut project has benefited the neighbors and the community," says the owner of the establishment. "It also gave us courage for the future. We were severely affected by the tragedy with huge losses exceeding $ 300,000. The pain is great, but we will open our restaurant again because we are resilient. And since our clientele constitutes a third of the clients of Mar Mikhaël, we hope that our comeback will bring back life to this devastated area." LiBeirut is an international fundraising appeal launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO in the aftermath of the explosions, on August 27, 2020, to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.
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30 May 2022
UN Supports Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in Lebanon: A Matchmaker by excellence!
“Supporting small businesses in Lebanon is the only way to help Lebanon recover from its crisis. It will help the country be self-sufficient, more productive, and retain its qualified workforce; a compelling need to stop the excessive brain drain” says Joanna Gerges, 32, in a voice filled with enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future in Lebanon. Over the past four years, Joanna has been spending most of her time in her winery “Chateau Cana” in Ras El Harf, Mount Lebanon, founded by her father 22 years ago. For Joanna, “Chateau Cana” is not only a family business that she runs for profit. The winery is a purposeful project for which she left her rewarding full-time job in order to rescue it from bankruptcy. “When I realized that my family business was not doing well, I resigned from my job and devoted my time to the winery. I strongly believed in the potential this business can have in adding a name to Lebanon’s winemaking history and creating job opportunities for hundreds of people in neighboring villages” Joanna said. In fact, her family has been supporting 50 families in the 30 Lebanese villages by providing farmers with vine seedlings, then buying from them the crops to protect them from incurring any losses. Despite Joanna’s persistence and fervent hope for growth, she struggled to find international buyers for her local wine. “It’s very hard to sustain a business when you don’t have opportunities to connect and meet with international importers,” she explained. Joanna’s challenges were compounded by the country’s severe financial crisis resulting in a dramatic devaluation of the local currency, making access to finance strenuous and the import of raw materials exorbitant for her and other entrepreneurs. During the time when Joanna was searching for gainful opportunities to sustain her business, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Lebanon organized in partnership with Berytech, the “Business-To-Business (B2B) Matchmaking” event on the Agri-Food Innovation Day (AFID) that spanned over three consecutive days (22-24 March 2022). The event aimed to create business opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Lebanon by creating conducive platforms that connect Lebanese entrepreneurs with international buyers and help them reach international markets. The B2B Matchmaking event falls under the MESO level, one of three intertwined levels of a three-year joint UN initiative titled “Productive Sector Development Programme” (PSDP). The programme which is worth USD 7.4 million, is funded by the Lebanon Recovery Fund through the generous contribution of the Government of Canada, and implemented by six UN agencies, namely UNIDO, FAO, UNDP, ILO, UN Women, and UNICEF and led by the UN Resident Coordinator Office (RCO). “The Productive Sectors Development Programme came at a crucial moment in Lebanon’s history. Canada’s development programme is driven by four key principles: being people-centered, reform-oriented, collaboration-driven, and results-focused. This initiative is a great demonstration of those principles in action,” said Mr. Jamie Schnurr, Head of Cooperation at the Government of Canada in Lebanon. “Today’s event [B2B Matchmaking Event] is an example of the results expected,” he added at the event. Accessing international markets and diversifying clients base are nowadays every agri-food company’s top priority in Lebanon, and their last lifeline to remain afloat amid the unfolding economic crisis. This is exactly what the PSDP has offered so far under its MESO component, which mainly aims at improving access of women and men-led MSMEs to international markets. For Rose Bechara, founder of Darmmess, a local producer of extra virgin olive oil, the event was “a grace from heaven, sparing us time, energy and money.” Watch Rose’s testimonial video and learn how she was able to meet her ‘dream’ buyer from Lafayette Gourmet. Ramshad Hassan Pandi, import Manager at Lulu Saudi Hypermarkets in Saudi Arabia, was one of the international buyers present at the B2B Matchmaking event, searching for new untapped entrepreneurs and looking into innovative ways to scale up his collaboration with Lebanese businesses. “We see a lot of export potential in Lebanon’s agri-food businesses. They offer new products that we want to add to our portfolios such as goat cheese, garlic sauces, and honey.” Ramshad was eventually able to strike a deal with one of the young entrepreneurs at the UN-Berytech co-organized event. BOOSTING LEBANESE BUSINESSES’ EXPORT SKILLS The “B2B Matchmaking” event is not the only activity under the PSDP. Maha, a producer, and manufacturer of naturally-made local nut spreads called “Spreadly”, has registered at the Lebanon Export Academy. The Academy aims at equipping women and men-led MSMEs and cooperatives in Lebanon with the required know-how and export skills to scale up their operational work and foster their export capacities. Through the Academy, a total of 70 MSMEs in Lebanon were trained on a myriad of export-related topics, from business plan development to product pitching, marketing and branding, pricing, and eligibility criteria. ACHIEVING THE SDGs The PSDP is also one of the UN initiatives in Lebanon that contributes to the achievement of the Global Goals and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Maha explains this in her own words, showing great pride in her business: “By recycling our waste and encouraging our customers to return the jars in exchange for a discount, we are encouraging sustainable production and consumption habits.” She adds: “We are also partnering with young talents and forging partnerships with local businesses, hence contributing to Goals 8 and 17 on decent work and partnerships respectively.” Despite doing well, Maha believes that her business can become even better with the guidance and training she will receive at the Academy. “I am eager to acquire the knowledge and skills offered by the UN through this Academy, which will undoubtedly open up new opportunities to export my products.” AN ONLINE EXPORT PORTAL: A ONE-STOP SHOP Lebanon’s entrepreneurs need further support to survive the multi-faceted crisis and help Lebanon recover fast and build forward better. As such, and under the PSDP project, the UN partnered with the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) to create an Export portal that acts as a ‘One Stop Shop’ for international buyers wishing to import Lebanese products and connect with local Lebanese producers. Local companies also benefit from the portal’s market intelligence reports that highlight important information crucial to boosting export to promising markets. This portal is expected to increase access to information in export and import procedures and promote Lebanon’s export capacities, especially for women-led businesses to enable them to sell their products internationally. “Sometimes all you need is a small push to reach the potential success you have always envisioned” says Joanna with a wide smile on her face.
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04 April 2022
Bringing vibrant life to schools in Beirut one brushstroke at a time
Children draw their brushes and get ready to add color to a big white wall in the playground. Colors, paint jars, pencils and drawings cover the ground. Children’s voices burst forth with joy; and Marie-Joe Ayoub, a young artist/painter, tries to channel the group’s overflowing energy to complete the mural that is starting to take shape. This activity marks the completion of the rehabilitation work carried out by UNESCO and UN-Habitat in the two schools after the Port explosion on August 4th, 2020, with the support of Education Cannot Wait, which has helped rebuild 40 damaged schools within the framework of UNESCO’s flagship initiative “Li Beirut”. "This mural helps children feel that they have a role to play in the beautification of their school after the Port explosion”, explains Marie-Joe Ayoub. “This allows them to leave their mark in their school. Now, they are a part of it. Today, we need a new active generation to take the initiative. Art is crucial to help children express themselves. It increases their concentration, focus, patience, and serenity, especially amid the pandemic. Children want to get together to work and interact with each other”. To carry out this project, Marie Joe Ayoub has organized brainstorming sessions with the students to teach them about murals. “It is important for them to know that there are jobs out there that need artists and illustrators”, says Marie-Joe. “We started with the history of murals, from caves to American graffiti. More importantly, we talked about why we draw. Murals often carry a message, and I opted for a message centered on education for health and well-being," she added. The children – of different ages – interpreted the theme in their own way, drawing sketches that inspire them, then reproducing them on the large wall, which now sports big words like "Peace" and "Freedom”. “I am drawing food”, says Hani, a child, while decorating the wall in his school. “Food helps our bodies grow. I also drew bad things like cigarettes and candy, to compare”. On her side, Sally is adding the final touches to the wings of a large butterfly. "It symbolizes freedom, and it's colorful", she says. “Just like my school! Years from now, I'll be happy to return to my school and see my drawing, my mark, engraved on the wall..." Li Beirut is an international flagship initiative launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in the aftermath of the explosions, on August 27, 2020, to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.
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26 May 2021
LOOKING BACK IN LEBANON: How the UN responded to multiple crises in the past year?
Mimi is a migrant worker from Ethiopia who came to Lebanon eight years ago looking for a better future. She found work but endured years of salary theft, no days off, and beatings from her employer. She fled her job without her personal belongings—including her passport. “I ran away from abuse thinking my life would get better,” she says. And it did get better. Mimi took on freelance work, got married to someone she loves, a Sudanese refugee, and they had kids. But then, with the advent of the pandemic, she lost her job. “Now I am undocumented with unregistered children and an unknown future.” The UN in Lebanon was there to back her up, working with partners to provide cash assistance to 700 migrant workers and other people left behind during the pandemic. Mimi has gotten some much-needed support from the UN and partners. “Now,” she says, “I am able to see the light of my humanity and dignity again.” As COVID-19 swept the country, prompting shutdowns and interrupting the economy, the UN and partners trained thousands of healthcare and other workers on preventive measures. Rawan Chehadeh was one of the 282 nurses who benefited from trainings implemented by UN Lebanon with the Lebanese Orders of Nurses and the Ministry of Public Health. Also in response to the pandemic, the UN supported the establishment of community isolation sites for those unable to quarantine at home, procured 73 fully-equipped intensive-care-unit beds and 800 regular hospital beds, provided food parcels to 50,000 of the poorest Lebanese households, and is now assisting with the national vaccination program. On 4 August 2020, a massive explosion rocked the capital city of Beirut, triggering a series of smaller explosions, killing over 200 people, injuring thousands more and flattening whole neighborhoods. The UN in Lebanon was there to provide support, deploying expert relief response teams less than 24 hours after the explosions to assist with medical care, search and rescue operations, and assessing the health impact of the explosions. Ten days later, a UN-coordinated appeal for financial support was launched to respond to the most urgent needs of 300,000 people affected by the explosions. By the end of 2020, the appeal had raised US $165 million. The UN and partners helped restore water service to around 24,000 persons after the blasts, provided multi-purpose cash support to 91,552 persons, including cash for rent or shelter, and repaired or rehabilitated over 12,000 damaged homes, including that of 34-year-old Hala, who says, “Walking into our repaired home mended our broken hearts.” The ongoing crisis in Syria has driven many thousands of people to take refuge in Lebanon, seeking work and freedom from the bombs and guns that have imperiled their lives back home. The UN was there to provide support. In 2020, and with the support of UN partners under Lebanon’s Crisis Response Plan, vulnerable Syrians and Lebanese were provided with safe water, food and cash assistance, as well as healthcare, legal aid and life-saving sexual and gender-based violence services. “2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for Lebanon, and the people are still feeling the shocks of it,” says Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon. The COVID-19 pandemic. The explosions in Beirut. The long crisis in Syria driving refugees into Lebanon. These events are widely divergent in nature, but they are all reminders of how catastrophe can strike at any time and in any form, and they call for people who are ready to respond. And these are just some of the areas where the UN responded. Indeed, the UN in Lebanon was built for such situations, and its work in 2020 is detailed in the new UN Lebanon Annual Results Report. “Whatever we at the UN do—responding to emergencies, promoting peace and good governance, protecting human rights, reducing poverty and gender inequality—our aim is always to serve Lebanon and its people.” Read more in the 2020 UN Lebanon Annual Results Report.
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12 September 2022
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