World Bank Virtual High-Level Dialogue “After the Beirut Explosion: High Level Dialogue on Recovery, Reconstruction, and Reforms”

Statement by Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon at the World Bank Virtual High-Level Dialogue.

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund and all those involved in bringing us together today in support of Lebanon.

As we all know, we are at a critical time in Lebanon’s history. The country is facing a multidimensional crisis that is weighing heavily on the people. More than ever, it is the time to rapidly address the root causes of this crisis and focus on people’s lives and their future!

The magnitude of the Beirut port explosions and the scale of the crisis are immense and must not be overlooked. Not only because of the immediate and massive damage caused to Lebanon’s infrastructures, its basic services and businesses, and mostly to the lives of over 200 people who perished, and thousands injured… but also because it was the moment when the Lebanese people lost hope for the future!

The impact of the blast had added much on the already existing political, socio-economic, and financial difficulties. Let’s not forget that this has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Exactly one year ago, the compounded challenges facing Lebanon had led to the popular protests, echoing people’s demands to root out corruption, reinforce good governance and ensure equal access to basic rights. 

Looking at the broader picture, disruptions to the Lebanese society are having a profound impact. Women I meet on the street are devastated and ashamed that they are now relying on handouts. Children are also paying a heavy price: They are out of school and most of them deprived of needed equipment to participate in home schooling. Learners with disabilities, those in disadvantaged communities and remote areas, and refugee students are even at highest risk of being left behind. Business owners lost access to their capital to restock mangled shops or to start again...

Alarmingly, every day we see talented and skilled Lebanese leaving the country. A brain drain at its best! More disturbingly, people mention one thing consistently: they no longer have hope for the future! Their famous “resilience” has been tested to the limit and is no more valid at this juncture.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must listen and heed this call, and we must do it now.

As people’s lives are disrupted and upturned, we have stepped up efforts to prevent this crisis from aggravating through the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework- what we call the 3RF.  

The 3RF provides the opportunity to restore people’s hope for a brighter future. It provides a vision for Lebanon to build back better, a plan to prevent Lebanon from sliding into a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe.

The 3RF is the result of a joint work, of an exemplary partnership between the UN, the World Bank and the European Union, which- together- brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise at the service of the people. Together, we delivered a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment in record time to help support an evidence-based recovery planning. And I assure you that, together through the 3RF, we will be influencing change that will hopefully end need and restore truts.

A little over two months into the emergency humanitarian response, relief assistance remains critical for the 300,000 targeted individuals who were directly affected by the horrific explosions. Amid a staggering number of COVID-19 cases and with winter just around the corner, shelter repairs along with food and medications remain people’s top priorities. Cash is now used as a preferred modality to help people adapt to a new normal, and to bolster local economic activity as well as support small businesses.

This aligns with the 3RF initial focus on a people-centred recovery, to shore up destroyed services and broken businesses, but most importantly to create some semblance of hope.

The 3RF is fundamentally for the people. That’s why it followed a participatory process ‘par excellence’. It is the outcome of extensive and inclusive consultations that engaged different stakeholders who are eager to deliver change for Lebanon and its people. Civil society actors played a substantial role in the designing of the framework, and their leading watchdog role will be more pronounced in the oversight and accountability process. The voices of the private sector and Lebanese volunteers who have shown commendable leadership and unity in the immediate response to the blast, have been also heard and will continue to have an important role to play in the implementation of the 3RF.  The 3RF will also build on the incredible efforts of the humanitarian community– both Lebanese and international – who have been working tirelessly since the day of the horrendous explosions.

However, the recovery of Lebanon and the successful implementation of the 3RF lie in the hands of the Lebanese Government and depend heavily on its leadership and political will to implement significant reforms as soon as possible.

I am talking about macro-political and economic reforms that will help people return to jobs and businesses that have been destroyed by the Beirut port explosions and the pre-existing deep recession. I’m also referring to substantial sector reforms - for social protection, basic services and infrastructure, governance and accountability and the environment – which constitute pre-conditions to delivering the 3RF.

These reforms are essential to regain the trust of the international community and help resume much-needed talks with the IMF. But most importantly, they are instrumental to build people’s trust in their Government and public institutions, and to ensure that Lebanon will not relapse into another crisis.

Distinguished participants,

Going forward, billions of dollars will be needed to support a durable recovery.  That means securing funding for the 3RF to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it, to ensure that the recovery does not come on the backs of the poorest and that the humanitarian needs are not sacrificed. We need to get resources directly in the hands of people.

But let's remember that sustained, timely and predictable funding is required to launch the recovery efforts while continuing to address people's emergency needs .We must ensure that people have shelters before winter, that hospitals are capable of providing medical services and care, and that children return to schools. That’s why, we need your urgent support for the funding of the early recovery process without conditions, otherwise the most vulnerable will be deprived of their basic rights.

Alongside the 3RF’s people-centred recovery, there is a second track focusing on important structural reforms that will be compulsory to address the root causes of this crisis and climb out of this terrible crater. Only when demonstrable progress on reforms are proven, private and public funding will be unlocked for the reconstruction of Lebanon. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have a clear way ahead. And we have a great deal of work to do together! 

The people of Lebanon are looking to all of us, the UN, the World Bank, the European Union and the wider international community, to step up and lead. 

The upcoming period presents several opportunities to do so and to keep the people at the very core of our plans and actions to help Lebanon ‘Build Back Better’. This entails ensuring a timely and effective implementation of the International Conference to be held next month in support of Beirut and the people of Lebanon; Completing the design and delivery of the recovery programming, as swiftly as possible; and finally setting up the institutional and oversight arrangements for the 3RF, including a well-functioning secretariat.

Working together to restore people’s hope for a better future should be our shared responsibility. That is the logic of the 3RF.

I look forward to working with you all in this vital and much needed endeavour.

Thank you.

UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
Other entities involved in this initiative
IMF
International Monetary Fund
World Bank
World Bank