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:
28 November 2022
UNIC Beirut Delves Into 2022 World Cup through a PODCAST
In the run-up to Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 and as part of the global “Football for the Goals” initiative, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Beirut produced a special episode of #TheUrbanAthletePodcast dedicated to this mega sporting event featuring football experts who gave insights about the tournament, shared professional experiences, and highlighted the role of SDGs in this game. The episode was divided into two parts. The first part featured Former FIFA Elite Referee Andre El-Haddad and President of the Lebanese Wushu Kungfu Federation/University Professor Dr. Georges Nseir who, together with the host Coach Ryan Merheb, discussed the performances of the countries that qualified to the Cup, looking ahead to what is expected after this year’s Cup kickoff. They focused on the process of becoming a referee and the status of female referees in Lebanon. In the second part Ali and Youssef El-Hajj, two brothers who are football players in two major football clubs in Lebanon, shared their professional experiences, success stories, as well as insights about the global tournament. Throughout the episode, guests tackled the FIFA Sustainability Strategy and stressed the importance of organizing eco-friendly tournaments. Each one of them chose one SDG and pledged to work on achieving it until 2030. The podcast, originally released in April on the International Day of Sport for Development, aims to influence behaviors and galvanize action within sports, and to inspire people to consider sport as a valuable tool to overcome obstacles or crises. You can watch our episodes on basketball, mental health, athletes with disabilities, e-sports, self-defense and strike force on UNIC Beirut’s Youtube Channel. Also under “Football for the Goals,” the Centre developed a social media package consisting of Twitter polls and Instagram quizzes related to the participation of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait in the World Cup (countries served by UNIC Beirut) and the UN’s strategic alliance with FIFA, in addition to WHO and FIFA’s “Healthy 2022 World Cup” campaign, the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, Qatar’s MoU with UN Women, and many other topics.
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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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24 October 2022
UN Lebanon Marks 77th UN Day: Reforestation for Environmental Recovery
It was a sunny Friday morning when UN staff in Lebanon embarked on an environmental mission to plant 1000 locally sourced seedlings on the occasion of UN Day in one of the reforestation sites managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Falougha-Baabda, Eastern Beirut. Wearing their UN Lebanon-branded white aprons and caps, around 90 staff from 22 UN agencies hiked through the peripheries of Falougha villages, passing by “The First Lebanese Flag Podium” and the Cedars Forest. Their aim is to support Lebanon’s environmental recovery through a simple Greening activity that can help contribute to cleaner air and support local communities in their endeavors to stop the country’s environmental deterioration. “We are living the daily struggles of the people of Lebanon and we recognize with sorrow the immense challenges that have crippled the country and reversed hard-won development gains,” said Acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edouard Beigbeder. “Today, this field activity led by UN Staff, is sheer evidence of our commitment to ‘Greening’ Lebanon. Let’s continue to inspire positive change through such simple actions,” he asserted. Reforestation As a Collective Effort Guided by the “Oaks and Cedars” local NGO, working in the framework of the GEF-funded Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) SALMA Project (Smart Adaptation of Forest Landscapes in Mountain Areas), each UN staff planted around two seedlings including Cedar, Oak, White Hawthorn, Almond, Grecian Juniper, Syrian Pear, contributing as such to planting 1000 trees over an area of 2 hectares. Co-funded by UNIC Beirut and FAO Office in Lebanon, the planting activity contributed to the reforestation of the 100,000 m2 in the Falougha’s forest area in the framework of the SALMA project. “Forests, rangelands and agriculture are all parts of the mosaic of landscape in Lebanon and they all contribute to food security and to the sustainability of the livelihoods. This reforestation activity shows the importance of all UN agencies working together towards achieving the UNSDGs”, said Nora Ourabah Haddad, FAO Representative in Lebanon. UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, who took part in the hike and planted several trees said, “The UN family’s celebration of UN day in Falougha through reforestation is an attempt towards conserving the environment in Lebanon, a country known for its climate and beautiful natural scenery. Our activity is part of our efforts to combat climate change which is a priority on our Agenda 2030 for a better future.” Evoking Lebanese Natural Heritage Most UN staff planted oaks and cedars, two of the most renowned forest plants in Lebanon that hold a patriotic connotation in the folkloric collective memory. “Hiking at the cedar forest, which is a tree that means a lot to us, was my favorite activity today,” said Hoda El-Turk, Public Information Officer at UNEP Regional Office for West Asia. “I’m happy that there are people and entities preserving these trees and bringing them to life.” For his part, Mohammed Salih, Deputy Resident Representative at UNDP in Lebanon expressed his fervent desire to visit in a year the planted spot to see how far the planted trees have grown and to observe the impact of this One UN initiative on Falougha’s environment. Bonding amid a breathtaking landscape This recreational activity represented an opportunity for staff to shake off job formalities, bond together, and enjoy the beautiful landscape, particularly after three years of hard work amidst the myriad of challenges facing Lebanon. “I think it was a great opportunity to meet my UN colleagues. Walking along the trail, we had the chance to talk about our joint work and we realized that many of us could work with each other more on reforestation, agriculture, livelihoods, and jobs for Lebanese and refugees,” said Peter Johan Rademaker, Deputy Regional Director & Director for Arab States at ILO Lebanon. The day culminated in a fun gathering around a local and organic brunch, which included traditional Lebanese bites and drinks, followed by a group photo next to the “Secret Heart” at Lamartine Valley in Falougha. “UN Staff are one family despite the various missions and programs we work on. Today was a great opportunity for us to meet up and to remember that we’re all here to support Lebanon,” said Bechara Maroun, Media and Communication Officer at UNESCO regional bureau.
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12 September 2022
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