American Taskforce for Lebanon's Virtual discussion with the UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi on the Humanitarian Situation in Lebanon
Opening Remarks by the UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s an enormous pleasure to be with you today, even if it’s just virtually. I am also heartened by your strong support to your country of origin.
I would like first to speak to you in stark and simple terms about the worsening humanitarian situation we have inevitably reached in Lebanon.
Since the onset of the popular protests back in October 2019, we have seen the country falling into the abyss, undergoing an acute financial and economic crisis that has significantly raised the level of poverty and worsened food insecurity in different parts of the country. It also reinforced structural gender inequalities and reflected overwhelming needs among Lebanese and non-Lebanese communities, including the large refugee populations that Lebanon has been generously hosting for years.
These are compounded by political tensions, a Government stalemate and a soaring number of COVID-19 cases that recently reached a dramatic point. The Beirut blast seem to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and more Lebanese are planning to leave the country. Every day we see talented young Lebanese leaving because 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.
Disturbingly, we have also seen social tensions growing in many parts of Lebanon, with an increased perception of aid bias. The living conditions have become untenable for the people of Lebanon amid liquidity shortages.
The recently completed Secondary Data Review (SDR) showed a severe deterioration in people’s standard of living, whether in terms of their capacity to afford basic commodities and services, or the availability of such services, including food, health, electricity and water supply, solid waste and wastewater management… these are basic services that constitute the inalienable rights for every person!
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are in a race against a deteriorating humanitarian situation in a country that is dear to your heart. A country with which you are maintaining strong ties and want to see structural change at all levels.
These interconnected and deepening crises placed upon us – the UN and its partners- a tremendous responsibility towards the people of Lebanon, a responsibility to preserve their dignity, to put an end to their distress and restore hopes in a brighter future.
That’s why amid these mounting challenges, we sprung into immediate action with the support of our partners, offering urgent humanitarian assistance to the unprecedented needs that outpaced the capacity of the Government alone.
Tackling COVID-19 on top of the existing economic crisis and the socio-political challenges made it even more difficult to meet the needs of vulnerable Lebanese and refugees and reach them with lifesaving aid. So, we launched the Lebanon Emergency Appeal (LEA) in May 2020, focusing on critical areas of humanitarian interventions to protect the lives of those most acutely at risk. This included, among others, the procurement of essential health services & equipment to vulnerable groups, the roll-out of capacity-building activities, the built-up of isolation centers and rehabilitation of hospital wards in addition to working with frontline health workers and communities to get information out to millions of people.
Guided by our principled value of ‘leaving no one behind’, we put the vulnerable refugees at the heart of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP), that constitutes our joint plan with the Lebanese Government and other international and national partners to address and respond to the impact of the Syrian crisis in Lebanon.
And when the deadly port explosions hit Beirut, we launched a comprehensive Flash Appeal response plan to help the people of Lebanon receive immediate life-saving humanitarian relief and move towards recovery and reconstruction, and eventually to longer-term recovery.
Meanwhile, we worked closely with the European Union and the World Bank Group on a Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF), a sort of roadmap that aims to meet people’s critical needs, restore their livelihoods and safeguard their basic rights, while ensuring that the 3RF programs are delivered through a well-coordinated recovery and reconstruction effort with the active engagement of all stakeholders and the steady support of the international community.
We are currently investing all our efforts with the EU and the WB to design priority programmes and projects and establish suitable, effective and transparent governance mechanisms for the implementation of the 3RF. Governance, jobs and economic opportunities, social protection and inclusion, and access to services and infrastructure are the four pillars that will inform our priority interventions needed for Lebanon’s short-term recovery and reconstruction process.
The financing of the 3RF will be mobilized from various sources: from the recently established Lebanon Financing Facility (LFF), from bilateral donors, the private sector, but also from the generous contributions of the Lebanese diaspora and other new forms of crowdfunding.
The most urgent priority for us now is to start with the immediate actions required for a people-centered recovery. Winter and rains are here, small businesses are unable to access finance to restock and recover, poverty levels are escalating further.
That’s why we continue to highlight to the international community that the supporting and financing of the 3RF ‘people-centered’ recovery track must come quickly, and it must come without conditions! We need to get resources directly in the hands of people…. They deserve to live in dignity, to enjoy their basic human rights. It is a moral imperative and in everyone’s interests!
Our task is immense, and we have an enormous hill to climb. So, allow me to tap on where additional help is needed now.
Beyond Beirut and the geographical areas affected by the Port explosions, a close monitoring of the humanitarian situation across Lebanon is urgently required.
While the overall picture shows increasing humanitarian needs, there is a lack of granularity of information that would hamper our planning of an effective, coordinated and time-bound humanitarian response. Therefore, we are planning to undertake a country-wide Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (MSNA) to have a comprehensive, clear and data-solid mapping of the actual needs of people across Lebanon.
The results of the MSNA will help the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to articulate a more focused and time-bound, coordinated and multi-sectoral humanitarian response plan in 2021; A plan that will help us cover the overwhelming humanitarian needs that have not yet been met by the current frameworks and plans.
All the more, in view of the severity of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon, we are developing a 6-month operational plan to ensure not only a coordinated support to the Government’s efforts in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, but also to secure the continuity of basic health care for the most vulnerable groups.
Also, with the potential rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the subsequent security environment along with heightened community tensions, the HCT is starting to identify preparedness actions in response to major risks and dangers that lie ahead and articulate a detailed contingency plan for scenarios stemming from moderate and high-risk factors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As Lebanon continues to struggle against these unprecedented simultaneous shocks, a new social contract appears to be the country’s path for a much-needed transformation. People want their fundamental rights and freedoms to be respected. They want a say in decisions that affect their lives.
Creating a new pact in Lebanon will provide a binding force of mutual rights and duties between the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese society at large, where transparency, accountability and citizenship are at the heart of this mutual commitment.
This new social contract will give the people, especially those who have taken to the streets or who feel marginalized, the opportunity to rethink and shape Lebanon’s future and to feel that their concerns and needs are addressed. It will enable young people to live in dignity; will ensure women have the same prospects and opportunities as men; and will protect the sick, the vulnerable, and minorities of all kinds. Most importantly, it will help re-establish trust in the political system and national institutions and break the vicious cycle of corruption!
You, as part of the large Lebanese Diaspora, must be a great enabler to this endeavor! You have been at the forefront of Lebanon’s economic survival in previous years, and helped foster development in several ways, including by means of remittances that were used to set up businesses.
We need to make the best use of your great sense of kinship, your strong group consciousness for your country of origin, your idealized and collective memory that always incites you to give and stay connected. We need to harness your generous and much-needed contribution to rebuild a better Lebanon!
As much as the Beirut explosions were a harsh blow to Lebanon and its people, it opens a window of opportunity to ‘Build Back Better’. And this is where the Lebanese Diaspora along with other crucial actors (from the Government, to the civil society, the academia, the private sector, the UN and others) need to step in. The transformation we need requires us to acknowledge that everyone is an important player in Lebanon’s recovery.
At this pivotal moment, we have a huge responsibility to attenuate the pains of the people of Lebanon, to respond to their needs, concerns and hopes. The UN is moving forward on that front. But we cannot do this alone! We need every support you and other actors can provide.
We rely on you to push for action and to influence a new vision for the Lebanon we all want, to help create from faraway an environment conducive to good governance, development and respect for human rights. And you can count on us to support your efforts too!
With today’s discussion, I am hoping to reach commonalities on how to usher in an improved way of coordinating the diaspora’s support to Lebanon and its people, be it through your skills support, your knowledge and learning exchange, your financing or investments.
Let’s have now a fruitful and insightful dialogue.