Opening Remarks by the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi
Your Excellency Prime Minister Hassan Diab,
Colleagues from UN-Habitat’s global, regional and national offices, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished participants, Good afternoon,
Last week, I was introduced virtually to 5 touching human stories that reflect the painful and bitter reality of the current economic situation in Lebanon, which is unfortunately worsening by the day.
One of these stories is about “Youssef”, a 59-year old Lebanese man who has been recently living in the streets of Beirut, unintentionally ‘Homeless’ and ‘Hopeless’! His dream is simply to “have a door that he can close when he sleeps and a roof above his head”. Yet, his dream is universally considered as one of the most basic human rights.
It is no surprise to all of you that the situation in Lebanon continues to deteriorate steadily and has become intolerable for ordinary people like Youssef, who are bearing the brunt of the economic and financial meltdown, the disastrous impact of the Beirut port explosions, and the delays to form a fully-empowered Government to implement meaningful reform and recovery.
The horrendous 4th of August explosions have dramatically affected the city’s infrastructure. It changed the face of Beirut and sent many households into precarious housing situations, exacerbating livelihood conditions, particularly for those who were already in inadequate or insecure shelter.
Thousands of houses were damaged or destroyed by the explosions, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless or living in areas still at risk... I have personally met families who have had their homes and futures blown away, their children who no longer feel safe in their own home and neighborhood… People who have reiterated to me the importance of sending back their children to school so they can hope for a better future, and the need to restoring their houses for their own safety and protection, and to preserve their dignity and personal wellbeing.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current unusual and unprecedented crises facing Lebanon required from us unusual ways of working. The UN Country team, through its 26 specialized UN entities, were entirely geared to support Lebanon in responding to its multi-faceted crises in a rapid, coordinated and prioritized way and on different fronts as well as support the Government of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon, with a firm commitment to defend their rights to dignity, peace and justice.
Depending on their mandates, United Nations agencies operating in the country have focused on helping address different aspects of humanitarian and longer-term development challenges – governance, economy and livelihoods, social protection and stability; basic and social services; housing; environment; and cultural heritage. At the same time, we have set up coordination mechanisms to capitalize on synergies and avoid overlaps in our response and recovery efforts.
Alongside humanitarian efforts deployed in response to the devastating port explosions, we developed - together with the European Union and the World Bank Group- and in close collaboration with the Government of Lebanon, the Lebanon’s Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (known as the 3RF) that is fundamentally for the people. The 3RF is a people-centred recovery and reconstruction framework that aims to bridge the immediate humanitarian response and the medium-term recovery and reconstruction efforts to put Lebanon on a path of sustainable development. It is about the people who lost their houses, it’s about the families who lost their beloved ones, it’s about the people who lost their daily bread, hope and businesses and lost years of hardly won savings.
The 3RF promotes an integrated approach across all sectors and is guided by the principles of transparency, accountability and inclusion. The 3RF has adopted a new way of working between the government of Lebanon, the international community and Civil Society Organizations. As we speak, an Independent Oversight Body (IOB) led by Civil Society, is laying the groundwork for an effective oversight of the 3RF implementation.
Housing is at the center of the 3RF priorities and projects that revolve around reconstructing damaged houses and historic buildings as well as the infrastructure, including the upgrading of affected and vulnerable neighborhoods of the poor and most vulnerable.
The UN-Habitat Beirut City Profile that we are launching today is a key reference to support the 3RF process. It provides a much-needed spatial perspective of the damaged neighborhoods and demolished spaces and serves as an important basis for all stakeholders who are seeking to contribute to the ongoing recovery and reconstruction of Beirut.
Most importantly, the Beirut City Profile offers an important opportunity to reflect on the multidimensional needs of the residents, through a comprehensive, multisectoral and area-based approach to analyzing and diagnosing the capital city.
In a highly urbanized country like Lebanon, making urban data and analysis available has proven essential to respond to unpredictable crises and to help build and increase the resilience of the city of Beirut and its residents to future similar shocks.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Adequate housing is universally viewed as one of the most basic human needs. For me, it is much more than just a roof. It’s a home, a source of safety and a must to preserve human dignity!
To make Lebanon safer and more sustainable, we need to take action. In this regard, the Beirut City Profile, along with other city and neighborhood profiles that UN-Habitat has been tirelessly producing for the past months, are valuable resources to use in our joint endeavors to “Build Back Better” and wiser.
I call upon all concerned stakeholders, those among us today and beyond, to make the best use of these resources as they provide an important evidence base in our steady efforts to build strong communities and more inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.
Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator