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:
17 March 2023
In Lebanon, UN deputy chief explores first-hand, challenges facing children and persons with special needs
During a visit to a center for street children in Beirut, Lebanon, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “Children should be allowed to be children. They should enjoy their rights to education, to health, to safe environment and to not feeling the pressures of an adult at a child’s age.” She added: “We want to make sure that street children are an issue of the past. That’s what we will be working for day-in and day-out.” Recognizing the unprecedented economic hardship that people in Lebanon are facing and renewing the UN’s commitment to supporting Lebanon to respond to increasing needs, are two main issues addressed by Ms. Mohammed while on a two-day official visit to Lebanon for the opening of the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA). On the margins of the forum, Ms. Mohammed made two visits, one to a center for street children and the other to a community kitchen run by women with disabilities, to explore, first-hand, challenges faced by two of the most vulnerable groups in Lebanon as a result of multi-layered crises that have left an estimated 80 per cent of the population residing in the country struggling with multidimensional poverty, which considers dimensions other than income, such as access to health, education and public utilities. Advocate for children’s rights While at the UNICEF-supported Drop-in Center for Street Children in Beirut, the Deputy Secretary-General on Monday engaged with the children through an art activity where they expressed in drawings their aspiration for a brighter future. “I met today children that come here to learn. They are children and they have dreams. Watching them paint and write what their day should be is quite incredible. But they’re also very giving children seeing through their drawings and writings the help they want to offer their families and communities,” said Ms. Mohammed. A ray of hope The Drop-in Center provides psychosocial, medical, educational and social protection support for street-connected children who enjoy easy and safe access to recreational and play activities. It is being operated with support from UNICEF and partners Terres des Hommes Lausanne and Mouvement Social. But like everything else in the country, the Beirut center cannot sustain operations without support. Ms. Tamam Mroue, Executive Director of Mouvement Social, said they are doing their best to provide all services required to respond to children’s needs amidst the difficult circumstances the country is going through, “but, alone, we cannot cater to the growing needs. Work has to be done at the national governmental and policy levels to avert a catastrophe.” Children protected and cared for “Lebanon’s crisis is affecting every aspect of children’s lives. Investing in children’s protection, development and wellbeing is essential to ensure their rights are met under any circumstance. Lebanon cannot afford children to be nutritionally deprived, out of school, in poor health and at risk of abuse, violence and exploitation. Children are an investment, the ultimate investment, in a nation’s future,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative Ettie Higgins. Connecting with other young people and playing in a safe environment are pivotal to children’s development and wellbeing. Around 1.8 million children are living in households that are more likely to resort to negative coping measures such as child labour and child marriage. “We come here to play, to meet friends and to learn new things,” said Rasha, 15 and Hasan, 11. Against all odds On Tuesday at Access Kitchen, a UN-Women supported community kitchen set up by the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities (LUPD), the Deputy Secretary-General engaged with the women and joined them in preparing a meal. “In the middle of the misery and complexities of this country, this place is like an oasis, a little piece of paradise,” Ms. Mohammed said. “This is a very hopeful place, and we need to do more of these. Women who work here realize their value and learn to become more confident, ambitious, and hopeful.” Silver Lining Women at Access Kitchen feel empowered and worthy. Nour Jammoul, 32, who suffers from paralysis, regained her self-confidence after working here. “Ever since I began working here, my life has changed. I restored hope and became financially independent, productive and responsible for myself. I like this place a lot and I am so happy to be here.” It is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of the Lebanese population have disabilities – either physical, sensory, cognitive, or mental. In 2018, 61.4 per cent of households in Lebanon were estimated to have at least one member with a disability. Yet, discrimination against persons with disabilities remains deeply entrenched and widespread. Women and girls with disability face stereotyping, stigma and discrimination daily, while Government protections are limited. Access Kitchen is part of an effort to create employment opportunities for women with disabilities, the first of its kind in Lebanon. As of mid-January, the women of Access Kitchen have produced over 16,950 meals benefiting 1,822 individuals in the community. Access Kitchen has been supported by UN Women, initially under a joint programme with UNICEF. “Behind the courage of those women lies stories of suffering and abandoned responsibilities by the Government. They wouldn’t have been in this position had society cared; the Government lived up to its responsibility and the international community managed to solve the problem of places like Syria so that refugees can go home,” Mohammed said. For Rachel Dore-Weeks, UN Women Representative in Lebanon, women and girls there, including those with disabilities, face multiple discriminations. “This initiative is a way of reminding women with disabilities of their self-worth, bringing them back into the economy and proving to the external world that women with disabilities are a critical part of the community in Lebanon and can contribute to the economy.”
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28 September 2022
UN Lebanon Greening Restaurants: A Business with an Impact
"Generating profit might be easy, but it's hard to reach a point where you're proud of your work," says Aline Kamakian, 53, owner of Mayrig Restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon. Over the past nine years, Aline has been working on reducing the environmental footprint of her business, and today she is transforming Mayrig into a zero-waste project with passion, perseverance, and hard work. Instead of throwing away leftovers, plastics, and glass bottles together in landfills, Aline transforms food waste into compost that nourishes plants and plastics and glass into new useful items despite the challenges. From a Father's Dream to a Mother's Recipe Aline launched Mayrig in 2003 to fulfill her father's dream of having a restaurant that serves authentic Armenian food. She has been working with Armenian mothers on creating recipes and platters and ended up calling the restaurant "Mayrig," which means mother in Armenian. "The restaurant's name salutes mothers for their efforts to preserve Armenian culture and traditions, and the business aims to support Armenian mothers by offering them job opportunities and ways to generate profit," Aline explains. With wit and kindness, Aline convinced her employees about the importance of working towards greening her restaurant: "When we first started sorting, my employees thought that the extra tasks were inefficient and exhausting. But, with time, they started realizing the importance of sorting for Lebanon's environment. So today, they're keen on sorting and treating waste like we do." Aline handled this process alone for nine years until the financial crisis hit Lebanon in 2019. With the devaluation of the Lebanese currency, business owners started moving towards reducing costs. As a result, the cost of sorting, composting, and recycling became an extra burden for Aline's business, and greening Mayrig was thus compromised for the sake of other priorities. "The high expense of transporting the food waste into the composting facilities threatened the sustenance of the initiative," Aline explains. UN Lebanon Supports Green Restaurants & Circular Economy Before giving up on her dream, Aline's last option was to resort to funding opportunities. Fortunately, UN Lebanon, through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Regional Office for West Asia based in Beirut, was looking for restaurants in Mar Mikhael – Gemmayze area to partner with on targeting the waste problem in Lebanon. Under this project, which is part of the SwitchMed II Programme funded by the European Union and implemented in collaboration with local civil society organization NUSANED between July 2022 and June 2023, the UN is supporting Mayrig by collecting their food waste. "I no longer have to worry about managing the composting of food waste because someone is taking care of that," Aline explains. Under the same project, UNEP regional office is also partnering with seven other restaurants in the same area by providing, through NUSANED, advisory services, and technical support around plastic waste management, food waste management, greening restaurants, and ways for allowing circular businesses to flourish. In addition to restaurants, the UN is also working with households to raise their awareness on the importance of plastic prevention, reuse and recycle and incentivize them to contribute to circular economy. “For each kilogram of plastics that households put in our bins, they receive points that eventually become shopping vouchers at local businesses in the area, and this is one of the incentive mechanisms we will be using for the purpose of encouraging waste prevention under this project. This way, we are supporting families by increasing their purchasing power and local businesses by promoting their sales”, says Rasha Sukkarieh, the programme manager at NUSANED. She adds: “By doing this, we are creating a circular and more sustainable economy in the area.” Today, Mayrig alone produces around 20Kgs of food waste and 4 to 7 Kg of plastic per day. In a country struggling with waste management, Aline hopes this initiative would reduce the negative impact of restaurants on the environment. "Multiply these numbers by 3000, which is the estimated number of restaurants in Lebanon. Imagine what all this plastic and waste are doing to our environment and health when dumped in the sea and on land?" Aline says. Greening Restaurants is Colorful In addition to reducing Mayrig's environmental footprint, Aline also relies on recycling to decorate her restaurant. She is turning wine bottles into colorful decorative chandeliers hung on the ceiling that cannot be missed when you enter the place. She also decorates her terrace with a green wall made from recycled plastic. For Aline, protecting the environment is vital for sustaining her business: "When you protect the environment, encourage tourism, attract new businesses, and sustain your business, it's a cycle!" Aline says.
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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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11 August 2022
UN Lebanon Celebrates Youth: Say No to Hate
Dima El-Awar, 21, stands in front of the camera with confidence and ease. In addition to being a good speaker, a skill that every journalist would yearn to master, Dima is keen on promoting positive speech and accurate information. Coming from Falougha, a small yet breathtaking village in Mount Lebanon, Dima was hesitant to pursue her dream career in journalism because she thought she was not good enough for this job. “As a young girl, I always received hateful comments about my personality and clothing style. Some people told me I was too loud; others said that I did not match the beauty standards of TVs and public figures because I did not dress up like girls. Although I used to feel bitter for receiving such comments in the past, today I smile and respond with positivity in an attempt to change other people’s attitudes,” Dima says. Before reconciling with these negative comments, Dima studied Chinese translation instead of journalism. With time, she recognized that she should not have given up on the dream of her life because of other people’s opinions, so she transferred to studying journalism. “I didn’t want to regret not pursuing my passion when I’m old, so I decided to get over other people’s opinions and to listen to my inner voice,” Dima says with a smile. UN Lebanon Helps Youth in Lebanon Counter Hate In a training that UN Lebanon, through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), organized to help youth combat hate speech and misinformation under the “Youth Countering Hate Speech and Misinformation” project, Dima listened to other people’s experiences with hate speech and realized that everyone is susceptible to hate. Dima learned about the various forms of hate speech, its impact on people, and ways for combating it so she eventually became more resilient and skillful in dealing with it. “When I understood that hate speech expresses the other person’s problems not mine, I started accepting myself. I also started accepting others for who they are and seeing the beauty in everyone,” Dima says. The training helped Dima realize that she had taken the right decision by transferring to journalism because “journalism plays a positive role in the community as it can counter hate speech and misinformation through positive speech and accuracy,” Dima says. It also helped raise her awareness on the importance of combating hate speech and putting an end to “bullying, destructive criticism, and marginalization of anyone based on their identity.” With funds from the Government of the Netherlands within its support to UNESCO's flagship initiative Li Beirut, and in collaboration with May Chidiac Foundation- Media Institute, UN Lebanon trained 15 youth from different regions and universities in Lebanon on media and information literacy, access to information, combatting hate speech, and countering misinformation. Under this project, the young participants produced 12 social media episodes about hate speech and misinformation after they were trained on the technical strategies for producing social media segments. Youth: Positive Actors at Heart Dima has always been keen on positively impacting her community and this has been manifested in her volunteering with the Lebanese Red Cross in Falougha as a paramedic and emergency medical services volunteer for the past 7 years. “Volunteering allows me to be close to people. Through volunteering, I can show solidarity to people of all ages, gender, and socioeconomic classes,” Dima says with pride. As a believer in the importance of giving back to the community, Dima is eager to counter hate speech from her role as a young person and a future journalist. “Young people can play a major role in countering hate speech because they are the future generation. They also have the power to change perspectives, are resilient, and accept diversity,” she says. After she overcame the influence of hate speech, Dima is today more confident to stand in front of the camera and to highlight the beauty of Lebanon.
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02 December 2022
UN and University Students in Lebanon Team Up in a Vigorous Debate on SDGs, triggering Young Voices of Change
“The Way We Shop: Is it Sustainable?” A probing question that spurred a flurry of arguments and opposing views from around 100 young students on Thursday 24 November. The debate took place at the heart of the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) in a green environment made up of recycled materials and environmentally friendly furniture. Two groups of young students, composed of 10 young men and women each, played the role of opponents and proponents of sustainable lifestyles and shopping habits that help curb climate change. “Each one of us has a responsibility vis-à-vis our mother nature and can take simple actions that help save our planet,” said a third-year USEK student who volunteers in the university’s Green Committee that was established to advance USEK’s environmental management and engage students in sustainable initiatives. “Personally, I’m leading an upcycling initiative of chips and chocolate wrappers that can’t be recycled, and turning them into aprons, pouches, and bags that I eventually sell to help people in need with whatever income I get,” she explained. Other similar initiatives were enthusiastically shared by other young students as part of preserving Lebanon’s environment and supporting sustainability efforts. “It’s time to become more conscious about our habits in food and fashion, and to stop being intellectually lazy!” asserted another proponent student favoring sustainable lifestyles over unsustainable harmful consumption habits. The session started with an interactive informative presentation delivered by UNIC Beirut on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a dialogue with the youth on their perceptions of the SDGs and the resulting actions they were taking to implement the Global Goals in Lebanon, such as reducing the use of plastics, shopping consciously, carpooling and others. The learning session featured a video on the UN, an animated video on the SDGs, and a PR stunt on recycling produced under the UN Communication Group #TakeAStep media campaign on the SDGs. The students’ debate was followed by an engaging discussion and presentation by experts from the UN Environment Program Regional Office for West Asia focusing on climate action, resource efficiency, and sustainable consumption and production. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session that helped expand students’ knowledge of the global goals and explore effective ways to reduce plastic, food, and fashion waste, including through reducing, reusing, repairing, and recycling, as well as taking action on impactful environmental issues. The session ended with pop quizzes administered by both UNIC and UNEP representatives to test the level of acquired knowledge among the attending students. UN-branded promotional items were awarded to those who provided correct answers. “We really enjoyed it! It was fun and informative at the same time”, said a few young attendees, expressing their appreciation and interest to have more interactive specialized sessions on the SDGs and to collaborate on advocacy projects with the UN in the future.
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