World Bank Group at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly
28 September 2020
Statement by Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Almost two months after the devastating port explosions that hit the heart of Beirut, the scale of the loss is so vast. The magnitude of damage remains massive, even overwhelming.
As I walk around Beirut every day, I listen to stories of shock and of loss. Women and men who have never had to ask for help, now reduced to handouts. Families who have had their homes and futures blown away. Children who no longer feel safe in their neighborhoods. Proud businesspeople who cannot access their savings, unable to start again.
This has occurred at a time when Lebanon was already reeling from civil unrest, economic and financial hardship, increasing poverty and unemployment compounded by political tensions and a soaring number of COVID-19 cases.
On the ground, following the night of the blast, UN Agencies and partners - including national and international NGOs, as well as volunteers and local communities - have swung into action. They are sparing no time nor effort to provide life-saving assistance including but not limited to:
Essential medicines and medical supplies to major hospitals.
Water, sanitation and hygiene services to affected families.
12,500 metric tons of wheat covering approx. 80% of affected stocks.
Over 75,000 ready to eat/hot meals to the most vulnerable.
Psychological support to more than 3,000 people and social protection to 19,000.
Multi-purpose cash assistance to more than 1000 families in three affected neighborhoods.
Rehabilitation works and restoration services to more than 200 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
A humanitarian flash appeal of USD 354.9 Million was issued by the UN and Humanitarian partners to mobilize necessary resources for life-saving and early recovery.
However, Lebanon needs support that goes beyond the scope of emergency response and appeals and that is centered around the people that are most in need, this support must accommodate the aspiration of the people of Lebanon.
It is these people who are at the center of the Lebanon Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework – the 3RF- that presents real solutions to these very real problems - so that together, with the European Union, the World Bank and key stakeholders, we can deliver institutional, economic and social change that will end need, restore hope and trust, and put Lebanon back on the path to sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Through a principled approach to reforms, recovery and reconstruction under the 3RF, I commit to ensuring that the values of the United Nations are upheld throughout the recovery process. Not only because that is a key part of my job, but because these values and principles really matter in a complex situation like Lebanon. They matter to the people of Lebanon!
For example, we cannot focus solely on rebuilding Beirut, and ignore the Lebanese who are living in poverty elsewhere in the country. We have committed to ‘Leave No One Behind’ and we shall deploy every effort to ensure that marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, the newly poor, the women and youth, are not excluded from the long-term recovery process. These people are at the heart of Lebanon’s inclusive recovery.
Good governance and full transparency and accountability of the recovery effort are critical for an effective Building Back Better approach. It is only through a good governance and strategic oversight of the three-pronged approach of Lebanon’s recovery that we can ensure equity in the allocation of resources, help re-establish trust in the political system, break the vicious cycle of corruption and deter mismanagement practices.
Building Back a Better Lebanon requires that we also ensure active and proactive citizen engagement in the entire recovery process in order to preserve the legitimacy of the response. And, in such a complicated region, where Lebanon got its fair share of inherited and intractable problems, we must also be conflict sensitive, so that the recovery actions do not inadvertently lead to new preventable tensions.
Women’s and Youth’s equal leadership and full participation in the reform, reconstruction and recovery process are particularly crucial in this realm! We need their voices, their presence and contributions at the forefront of this promising path for a better Lebanon.
The port explosions served as a wake-up call but also as a window of opportunity to build back a better Lebanon. This is a once in a generation opportunity to deliver real change for Lebanon and its people!
As we move forward on that front along with our long-standing partners, I reaffirm my full commitment to ensuring that this recovery will be based on our common principles, so that the results will be in the best interests of everyone and will leave no-on behind.
Together with the European Union and the World Bank, we are on track to deliver this 3R framework by early October.
However, as much as this partnership is crucial and fundamental for the reform and recovery of Lebanon, it will only be successful, inclusive and sustainable, if the delivery of the 3RF is Government-led and involve other key stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector.
Indeed, the process of building better would need to follow a “Whole of Lebanon” approach, bringing together government, civil society, the private sector, youth groups, academia, and the international community around this common vision. We need the innovative and new financial instruments of the private sector and the leading watchdog role of the civil society.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 3RF is not designed to bail out Lebanon, and substitute for important actions by the Government, for the people. Instead, the future of Lebanon is in the hands of its Government and its people! The sooner the State and the society are in a leadership role, the better in terms of providing the foundations, and the fervent hope for a better future for all.
Amid this collective endeavor to plan and execute a swift and systemic recovery, it is time to recognize the work of my UN colleagues and partners, including the large humanitarian community, that are still sparing no time nor effort to provide life-saving assistance in the healthcare, food, water, hygiene, shelter and protection sectors.
I would like to commend their terrific job in integrating a people-centered approach and adding a gender lens to the 3RF to ensure that the people are and will always be at the forefront of the recovery and reconstruction process and that they constitute the foundations for a more stable future for Lebanon.
The governance arrangements for the 3RF are being designed on this basis towards full transparency and inclusion. Why? Because it is critical that this 3RF is not only seen as providing a short period of breathing space, but rather to allow important long-term and sustainable reforms to be undertaken.
My optimism for Lebanon’s future is based upon its past. This small dynamic country knows a lot about resilience. And it has raised a generation of vocal, intelligent, engaged young people who made every effort to support those in need, to clear streets and houses from debris and be part of wider relief efforts.
But now these people hardly cope with such monumental challenges. They are tired of being resilient, of new thorny problems that life throws at them, over and over again. They want simply to live in peace and dignity.
We owe it to the Lebanese people to put in place transformative and structural change that addresses all aspects of today’s crisis and helps them get back on their feet and move towards a stable and prosperous future.
It is in everyone’s best interest to support Lebanon’s recovery and to stand together for the necessary structural changes that will underpin a stable future: Lebanon acts as an island of stability in an extremely volatile region, one from which millions of refugees have already walked across the region and to Europe. Lebanon alone has hosted 1.5 million refugees on behalf of the international community for nearly a decade, and we must pay the Lebanese back.
This is the moment for the international community to heed the current call, a move ahead with a collective response in unity and solidarity with the Lebanese people. But this will require significant financial commitments, much greater than what has been given for the humanitarian appeal. It will also require sustained political will to ensure long-lasting recovery and reform process, which will be worthwhile investments in the stability and prosperity of Lebanon, but also of the entire region.
Given the current global aid environment, and the impossibility at the moment -without the IMF reforms- of lending to Lebanon, we expect the financing for the 3RF to be largely grant-based, whether through pooled mechanisms or directly from donors to the UN and its partners.
This financing will need to be smart! We must ensure that it is not just funding the rebuilding of bricks and mortar infrastructure and achieving macro reforms, but also ensuring that all people –including the poor and marginalised– have access to services… that shared memories are preserved, that corruption and bad governance are addressed… that all people have income stability and access to their legitimate needs and social safety nets.
The Beirut tragedy is a warning that must spur us all to action.
So, let us continue to stand side by side with the people of Lebanon, help them rebuild their lives and livelihoods and recover fast from the country’s multi-faceted crisis.