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:
16 October 2021
UN Country Team’s retreat explores how to Build Forward Better Lebanon
“Dream, Love, Inspire” that’s how the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi kicked-off a two-day retreat for the UN Country Team in Lebanon that took place on 4 and 5 October 2021 in the heart of nature, in rural Beit Mery. “‘Dream’ for a better Lebanon... ‘Love’ for the love and dedication we owe to the people of Lebanon and to our common agenda… ‘Inspire’ for the inspiration we desperately need to continue to serve the people of Lebanon amid these unprecedented challenging times,” Ms. Rochdi explained. Two years on from the COVID19 Pandemic, the popular protests and the devastating Beirut port explosions, the UN Country Team in Lebanon under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, joined a ‘One UN’ retreat to share visions for a better Lebanon and help decide the next chapter of the Organization amid the country’s mounting challenges and inherent risks. UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka welcomed the UNCT members and the concerted efforts to build a common UN vision on how best to support the Lebanese people and work towards a prosperous Lebanon. “If we are to have a positive influence on developments, the UN needs to respond to the Lebanese reality as a whole. To maximize our impact, we need to work concertedly. Our political, peacekeeping, development and humanitarian efforts must go hand in hand,” Ms. Wronecka said. Over 25 Heads of UN Agencies operating in Lebanon engaged in a vigorous debate, sharing their thoughts, knowledge, and good practices to help shape the new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) that will guide the work of the UN in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The group works were the essence of the retreat’s interdependent sessions, tackling important socio-economic, political and environmental priorities in Lebanon. These joint exercises proved to be a catalyst for inter-agency harmony and synergy in identifying multi-dimensional risks, triggers and prevention and mitigation measures to address Lebanon’s challenges and overcome obstacles that would jeopardize the work of the UN. “I came, thinking we would have two days of formal exchanges and dry lengthy statements. I left with a sense of purpose, expectations, energy, and the feeling that I was part of a team,” said Zarak Jan, Co-Chair of the joint UN Programme Management Team. The sessions also provided a good opportunity to get everyone around the table and re-consider the current way of doing business to help Lebanon surmount its formidable problems. “Business as usual is no longer an option for the UN in Lebanon. That’s why we commit to working together to turn Lebanon’s crises into opportunities and ‘Build Forward Better’ through actionable, accountable and effective programs that serve first and foremost the interests of the people,” explained Ms. Rochdi in one of the sessions. Partnerships are central to Lebanon’s recovery and this was also discussed in the retreat in the presence of representatives from the European Union, World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Civil Society in Lebanon, who committed through concrete actions to optimize the way different entities work together to ensure they deliver the greatest value for the people of Lebanon. For participants, the retreat created comradery and helped promote friendly interactions and networking among different UN heads of agencies away from the usual office setting. “The retreat provided an excellent space to see colleagues again and have the space to brainstorm how the UN can best support Lebanon in its recovery,” said UN Women Director in Lebanon, Rachel Dore-Weeks. “It reminded us all of the power and importance of face-to-face discussions, and the need to work together across the humanitarian, development and peace nexus in Lebanon”, she added. The two-day retreat concluded with an interactive wrap-up of the main UNCT retreat’s outcomes and culminated in a group dance on “Jerusalema” song. A group photo was taken in memory of this year’s UNCT retreat and a short video was created for this occasion.
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10 August 2021
One Year after the Devastating Beirut Port Explosion: How did the UN observe the tragic 4th of August Day?
The 4th of August has become an ominous day that will dwell forever in the memory of every Lebanese. On this fateful day, 214 people lost their lives, over 6,000 were injured and thousands found themselves without any shelter, their lives and livelihoods completely shattered. The damage was colossal on many fronts, caused by the unsafe storage of an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut for many years. On the occasion of the first anniversary of this tragic day, the United Nations staff in Lebanon has united in grief to mourn the victims of this horrendous tragedy, and express their solidarity with their families and the injured and with the people of Lebanon at large who are bearing the brunt of the country’s socio-economic, financial and political crises. A minute of silence was observed at the Port of Beirut where the massive explosions erupted, in the presence of UN officials, ambassadors and the diplomatic corps in Lebanon. “Let us take this moment of silence to honor the memory of the victims of this terrible explosion, to show our solidarity with their families and all the Lebanese people,” UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka said before the minute of silence was observed at the Port. “A Minute of Silence will never console the pain of families of the victims of the Beirut Blast,” tweeted the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi on this solemn occasion. “Today we reflect on the suffering and sorrow of those who lost their loved ones in this dreadful tragedy, of the survivors and people of Lebanon and reiterate our call for a swift and impartial investigation,” she added. UN Staff Members recall and react Concurrently, other UN staff members observed one minute of silence in their respective UN offices to pay tribute to the victims and show their solidarity with their bereaved families and with their UN colleagues who lost their loved ones. “August 4 has been marked in every single Lebanese person. For me, time stopped there,” said Danielle Inaty, UNV National Specialist working with WHO office in Lebanon. “It has been a year already! Yet, I still live this tragic event over and over again.” Inaty observed a minute in silence with her colleagues in WHO office in Beirut and added with tears running down her cheeks: “scars may have healed, but we will forever remember this sad day. May the soul of the victims rest in eternal peace”. UN staff were equally hit by this fatal explosion. They lost family members, relatives, friends and saw their houses falling into debris. Rana Dash, a Lebanese programme assistant working for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Lebanon, still remembers vividly what happened on that day. The minute she felt the shockwaves of the explosion from her house in Ashrafieh, Rana knew that people would need her help, so she sprang into immediate action. “I heard a huge explosion, followed by a tide of screaming and shattering glass. I grabbed my first aid kit and drove my damaged car to Gemmayzeh to help. My tires crunched on broken glass. It was the first time that I see so much blood in my entire life... People turned to prayers amid the tragedy, and my only concern back then was to stop people’s bleeding and save their lives.” Elie Mansour, senior engineer and head of UN-Habitat Lebanon’s Urban Planning and Design Unit, was another UN staff survivor from the Beirut blast. He was still in the office working late when the blast went off. “The building shook. I started praying. The alarm sounded, the windows blew out of the walls, and the office’s interior partitions titled. The office was in complete ruins,” Elie said recounting his most horrifying moments that day. “Looking back, I know that my story does not compare with those of people who had their lives taken or changed forever on 4 August 2020, but for me it was a lesson that even through the hardest moments, hope should always prevail,” Elie added with a determination to stay hopeful despite all the hardships facing Lebanon. A joint EU-UN-WB position on the commemoration of the Beirut Blast The commemoration of the fatal explosions was also observed by the three principals of the European Union, the World Bank and the UN who are partners in the so-called “Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF)” that aims for a rapid transition towards Lebanon’s recovery with focus on governance, social protection, social cohesion, inclusion and gender, health, education, and housing. “365 days later, the people of Lebanon are still waiting for the justice promised by the country’s decision makers… 365 days later, the investigation continues to stall, without a truly independent judiciary able to block political intervention… 365 days later, we reiterate our call for an effective, independent and transparent investigation that can bring justice for the victims and peace for their families,” wrote Rochdi along with Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, and the Regional Director of the Middle East Department of the World Bank, Saroj Kumar Jha in an Op-Ed published in local media on the same day. A year after the blast, grieving families continue to seek justice and truth for their loved ones, and the UN reiterates its call for a swift, independent and impartial investigation that guarantees justice to victims and ensures families’ right to remedy and reparation. A Conference in Support of the People of Lebanon Reaffirming its support for Lebanon one year after the devastating explosion, the UN co-chaired with France an international donor conference to boost aid and prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Lebanon. The conference responded to a UN humanitarian appeal for $370 million in emergency aid for the coming 12 months. This new appeal aims to save lives and to address the most urgent food security, water, sanitation, health and education needs of impoverished Lebanese and migrants. However, “humanitarian assistance cannot be a long-term solution”, read the co-chairs’ statement issued after the conference, calling first and foremost for a Government formation that implements reforms promised since the 2018 CEDRE Conference, the resumption of negotiations with IMF and the timely preparations of transparent and impartial 2022 elections. Participants in the conference reiterated their commitment to stand alongside the Lebanese people and expressed their determination “to make use of all available instruments to provide direct support to population.” But structural economic and financial assistance require profound changes by Lebanon leaders, concluded the statement.
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26 May 2021
LOOKING BACK IN LEBANON: How the UN responded to multiple crises in the past year?
Mimi is a migrant worker from Ethiopia who came to Lebanon eight years ago looking for a better future. She found work but endured years of salary theft, no days off, and beatings from her employer. She fled her job without her personal belongings—including her passport. “I ran away from abuse thinking my life would get better,” she says. And it did get better. Mimi took on freelance work, got married to someone she loves, a Sudanese refugee, and they had kids. But then, with the advent of the pandemic, she lost her job. “Now I am undocumented with unregistered children and an unknown future.” The UN in Lebanon was there to back her up, working with partners to provide cash assistance to 700 migrant workers and other people left behind during the pandemic. Mimi has gotten some much-needed support from the UN and partners. “Now,” she says, “I am able to see the light of my humanity and dignity again.” As COVID-19 swept the country, prompting shutdowns and interrupting the economy, the UN and partners trained thousands of healthcare and other workers on preventive measures. Rawan Chehadeh was one of the 282 nurses who benefited from trainings implemented by UN Lebanon with the Lebanese Orders of Nurses and the Ministry of Public Health. Also in response to the pandemic, the UN supported the establishment of community isolation sites for those unable to quarantine at home, procured 73 fully-equipped intensive-care-unit beds and 800 regular hospital beds, provided food parcels to 50,000 of the poorest Lebanese households, and is now assisting with the national vaccination program. On 4 August 2020, a massive explosion rocked the capital city of Beirut, triggering a series of smaller explosions, killing over 200 people, injuring thousands more and flattening whole neighborhoods. The UN in Lebanon was there to provide support, deploying expert relief response teams less than 24 hours after the explosions to assist with medical care, search and rescue operations, and assessing the health impact of the explosions. Ten days later, a UN-coordinated appeal for financial support was launched to respond to the most urgent needs of 300,000 people affected by the explosions. By the end of 2020, the appeal had raised US $165 million. The UN and partners helped restore water service to around 24,000 persons after the blasts, provided multi-purpose cash support to 91,552 persons, including cash for rent or shelter, and repaired or rehabilitated over 12,000 damaged homes, including that of 34-year-old Hala, who says, “Walking into our repaired home mended our broken hearts.” The ongoing crisis in Syria has driven many thousands of people to take refuge in Lebanon, seeking work and freedom from the bombs and guns that have imperiled their lives back home. The UN was there to provide support. In 2020, and with the support of UN partners under Lebanon’s Crisis Response Plan, vulnerable Syrians and Lebanese were provided with safe water, food and cash assistance, as well as healthcare, legal aid and life-saving sexual and gender-based violence services. “2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for Lebanon, and the people are still feeling the shocks of it,” says Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon. The COVID-19 pandemic. The explosions in Beirut. The long crisis in Syria driving refugees into Lebanon. These events are widely divergent in nature, but they are all reminders of how catastrophe can strike at any time and in any form, and they call for people who are ready to respond. And these are just some of the areas where the UN responded. Indeed, the UN in Lebanon was built for such situations, and its work in 2020 is detailed in the new UN Lebanon Annual Results Report. “Whatever we at the UN do—responding to emergencies, promoting peace and good governance, protecting human rights, reducing poverty and gender inequality—our aim is always to serve Lebanon and its people.” Read more in the 2020 UN Lebanon Annual Results Report.
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05 April 2022
The living of "Al-Karantina"
The devastating Beirut Port explosions caused major traumas across all social groups. This was even more present in the Karantina area, where the explosion also uncovered old traumas, reviving stories of mass deaths from the 1975 to 1990 civil war area, and the compounded crisis. A safe and inclusive platform for people of Karantina has been provided through playback performances, documentation, and work on memorialization to heal the wounds of the explosions and foster social cohesion among Karantina’s different groups. The process was sought to be a recovery journey that focuses on the physiological support for the people of Karantina, including all nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and age groups. More than 547 people were targeted by the playback theater performances, 254 youth were involved in the drama performance sessions, and 71 children were engaged in expressive arts sessions. “It was a chance for a person to speak out his pain. This isn’t our first pain; we’ve seen that before and it had affected us too. We felt that there’s someone who cares about us and is trying his best to understand whatever it is we felt,” said Feryal El Hussein, who actively joined the different sessions. The residents’ stories were collected and transformed into a book and a memory box “The Living of Al Karantina”. This initiative attempts to document and archive the oral history of the area from the Lebanese Civil War to the Beirut Port explosions, stemming from the principles of witnessing and historiography—the two pillars of the peacebuilding process.
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04 April 2022
Bringing vibrant life to schools in Beirut one brushstroke at a time
Children draw their brushes and get ready to add color to a big white wall in the playground. Colors, paint jars, pencils and drawings cover the ground. Children’s voices burst forth with joy; and Marie-Joe Ayoub, a young artist/painter, tries to channel the group’s overflowing energy to complete the mural that is starting to take shape. This activity marks the completion of the rehabilitation work carried out by UNESCO and UN-Habitat in the two schools after the Port explosion on August 4th, 2020, with the support of Education Cannot Wait, which has helped rebuild 40 damaged schools within the framework of UNESCO’s flagship initiative “Li Beirut”. "This mural helps children feel that they have a role to play in the beautification of their school after the Port explosion”, explains Marie-Joe Ayoub. “This allows them to leave their mark in their school. Now, they are a part of it. Today, we need a new active generation to take the initiative. Art is crucial to help children express themselves. It increases their concentration, focus, patience, and serenity, especially amid the pandemic. Children want to get together to work and interact with each other”. To carry out this project, Marie Joe Ayoub has organized brainstorming sessions with the students to teach them about murals. “It is important for them to know that there are jobs out there that need artists and illustrators”, says Marie-Joe. “We started with the history of murals, from caves to American graffiti. More importantly, we talked about why we draw. Murals often carry a message, and I opted for a message centered on education for health and well-being," she added. The children – of different ages – interpreted the theme in their own way, drawing sketches that inspire them, then reproducing them on the large wall, which now sports big words like "Peace" and "Freedom”. “I am drawing food”, says Hani, a child, while decorating the wall in his school. “Food helps our bodies grow. I also drew bad things like cigarettes and candy, to compare”. On her side, Sally is adding the final touches to the wings of a large butterfly. "It symbolizes freedom, and it's colorful", she says. “Just like my school! Years from now, I'll be happy to return to my school and see my drawing, my mark, engraved on the wall..." Li Beirut is an international flagship initiative launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in the aftermath of the explosions, on August 27, 2020, to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.
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24 November 2021
09 September 2021
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