Photo: António Guterres, UN Scribe
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres says a donor conference conveyed to raise 350 million dollars to boost support for Lebanon following last year’s devastating blasts in the capital Beirut is a unique opportunity’ to renew commitment to rebuild the country.
The International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People, co-convened by France and the UN, aims to raise 350 million dollars to support the country. It was held on the anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020 blasts that left some 200 people dead and thousands more displaced.
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, speaking on behalf of the UN chief in a video message, said that the donation would boost support for Lebanon one year after the devastating explosion in its capital, Beirut.
Mohammed told the International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People on Wednesday that the support represented a commitment for the country to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.
“Twelve months on, our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the survivors, and all those affected.
“We continue to reiterate the need for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the explosion,’’ Mohammed said.
According to her, Lebanon is experiencing one of the worst crises in its recent history, with a collapsing economy, political instability and a population in dire need as over half of all Lebanese are now living in poverty.
“The country is also hosting scores of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, who, along with local families and migrants, are increasingly requiring emergency assistance to meet their needs.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained the health system and heavily impacted the economy and Lebanon has also been without a government for a year.’’
The UN deputy chief expressed hope for the swift formation of an administration under Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.
“The Lebanese people deserve strong institutions that can deliver relief, justice and redress – and a government of national interest that can pursue an ambitious course for reforms and restore stability.
“Also that can pursue growth and the prospects for a democratic future that provides opportunities and taps into the full potential of Lebanon’s young women and men,” she said.
Mohammed outlined how the UN and partners had supported Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion, ranging from mobilising emergency assistance and re-establishing water connections, to carrying out essential repairs on hospitals and schools.
She told donors that with their support, much more could be done.
“Today, we have a unique opportunity to renew our commitment and generate essential immediate financial assistance to the people in Lebanon to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
However, emergency efforts alone will not solve the crisis, she continued, highlighting the need for longer-term recovery that emphasises sustainable development.
Mohammed said that Lebanon required a strong, inclusive, and comprehensive social protection system, particularly to benefit the most vulnerable; also the country has to pursue a path of inclusive growth, decent employment and social stability.
“We need an enabling environment to move the needle – ultimately, Lebanon needs an empowered government poised to rapidly implement the necessary reforms.
“This includes macroeconomic-fiscal reform, the promotion of accountability and transparency, legislation to ensure independence of the judiciary and to root out corruption and regulate public procurement,” the deputy UN chief said.
Mohammed underscored how the conference demonstrated strong global support to the people of Lebanon, adding that the UN would continue to stand with the country and support its recovery towards sustainable development.
Meanwhile, reacting to forces using water cannons and teargas against protesters at the anniversary or memorial service that’s being held in Lebanon, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General said security forces should allow people to express themselves.
Dujarric, at a news briefing at UN headquarters in New York, said it was very important for the forces to allow people to demonstrate and express themselves peacefully.
“I mean, today, as we say, is a very solemn day. We stand in total solidarity with the people of Lebanon and, in particular, the victims and families. Some, as you know, were staff members of UN.
“It is very important to reiterate our call… that there is a thorough and transparent investigation on the blast.
“But, we have been concerned and will continue to be concerned at the force that we sometimes see and we’ve seen over the last year against peaceful protesters,’’ Dujarric added.