Prime Minister Saad Hariri, together with the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini and the Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi, launched the 2018 update of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) 2017-2020 this evening at the Grand Serail. The Government of Lebanon and its national and international partners appealed for US$ 2.68 billion to provide critical humanitarian assistance as well as invest in Lebanon’s public infrastructure, services and local economy.
It is pleasure to be here today and be part of the launching of the 2018 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan.
As we are entering the 8th year of the Syria conflict, Lebanon remains at the very forefront of this crisis. This unfortunately continues to have a profound humanitarian, socio-economic, security and political impact on Lebanon and its people. Also, the country continues to host the highest number of refugees per capita in the world which is placing unprecedented strain on the country’s infrastructure and public services.
Lebanon and the Lebanese have shown an outstanding solidarity with their Syrian neighbours. Also, the international community has supported Lebanon generously. In 2017, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan received more than 1 billion dollars, making Lebanon the second-best funded response in the world � and this impressive international mobilization has enabled us to implement a multifaceted response serving both refugees and host communities.
Last year together, we provided access to safe water to more than 1.3 million individuals, we enabled more than 870,000 people to buy food in local shops and markets, and more than 400,000 children were enrolled in basic public schools. In addition, more than USD 489 million have been injected into the Lebanese local economy through cash assistance.
Much has been achieved, but this has not been enough to reverse the tide of growing needs and deepening vulnerabilities across the country. The situation is gradually eroding and humanitarian and development needs are growing: 76% of Syrian refugee households live below the poverty line and more than 50% of Syrian households live in extreme poverty. And we should not forget that 1.5 million Lebanese live below the poverty line.
These are not just numbers and statistics, but human beings suffering daily. These people have names and faces, they have shattered dreams and fears � and they have hopes and dreams, – just like the rest of us. Among them, Riad Dibo, a Syrian refugee, father of 4 children who immolated himself in front of UNHCR office in Tripoli few weeks ago. This out of despair after he was dropped from the list of refugees eligible for assistance. Riad’s action was a direct consequence of the limited resources available. In these difficult times, agencies are forced to make impossible decisions to prioritise among those who need critical assistance.
Amid these needs, we are also witnessing rising fatigue among host communities. Anxiety is shifting into exasperation and tensions between and within communities are on the rise, with perceived competition for lower-skilled jobs as a key driver. Between 2014 and 2017, the percentage of Lebanese who did not report any inter-community tensions dropped from 40 to 2 per cent. And almost 400 municipalities have reported that they are implementing some type of curfew on the refugees.
It is no secret that the situation in Syria remains fluid which – understandably � is creating concerns that the refugees will not return to their home country. I am also hearing concerns that the international community through its assistance is promoting a prolonged stay of refugees in the country.
Here let me be clear: no refugee wants to remain a refugee, and the United Nations support return as the main durable solution for displaced persons. Return, however, should always be based on a free, fully informed and voluntary decision, by the refugees themselves and should be devoid of any form of coercion or influence.
The crisis in Syria is not over yet. Airstrikes and fighting in Southern Idleb and Northern Hama have resulted in over 270,000 displacements since mid-December alone. Closer to us, and just 10 days ago, 15 Syrians, including women and children, died of cold at the Syria-Lebanon border while crossing the mountain. These terrible tragedies are sober reminders to anyone who claims that the situation in Syria has now normalised. Until conditions are conducive for return, it is our collective responsibility to stand by Lebanon, the Lebanese, and all refugees.
In this regard, I strongly encourage the government to allow for the resumption of refugee’s registration. This will not only enable the Government and the international community to know the size of population and assess needs, but will facilitate the implementation of sustainable solutions outside of Lebanon, through resettlement to third countries and voluntary repatriation to Syria, when conditions allow.
Today we are launching the 2018 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan which is our key plan to support Lebanon overcome its challenges. The plan targets vulnerable Lebanese as well as Syrian and Palestine refugees. The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan appeals for USD 2.68 billion and focuses on integrated and innovative humanitarian and stabilization interventions. It brings lifesaving assistance to families, while supporting the delivery of public services all over Lebanon.
We have reached a point in the crisis where humanitarian assistance alone is no longer enough to turn the tide. It must be linked with development and peacebuilding efforts.
To this end, together with the World Bank, we have initiated a joint strategic dialogue to explore innovative solutions to build longer term support for Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees
This kind of approach requires multi-year funding and commitments by partners and donors. Although Lebanon has received a significant amount of funding so far, the lack of funding predictability beyond 2018 remains a serious concern. I am also very concerned by the funding cuts for UNRWA which has devastating impact on the Palestine refugees in Lebanon. In addition, it could also trigger additional challenges for the stability of Lebanon and the region.
Longer-term action to ensure Lebanon’s stability, including shielding the country from the regional instability, is at the forefront of our collective efforts this spring. The upcoming CEDRE conference will be critical in supporting the Government’s investment and reform plans and to jumpstart growth, creating job opportunities and renovating infrastructures. Also, the upcoming Brussels Conference will be critical in our support to mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis.
Before I conclude, allow me to express my appreciation to Prime Minister Hariri who has encouraged and supported the approach adopted in the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. I would also like to extend my thanks to the Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, for his leadership on operationalizing the plan, and to the State Minister for Displaced Affairs, Mouin Merhebi, for his support to the response. I also want to convey my utmost appreciation to the national and international partners for their dedication and commitment to implementing the response plan.
Lebanon stability is not a given and time is of the essence to preserve it. The Aid community’s support to Lebanon remains critical to prevent a further deterioration of the situation for the most vulnerable and to prevent the rising tensions caused by host community fatigue.
Preserving the stability of Lebanon means preserving tolerance, diversity and stability in the region. More than ever, international solidarity needs to match the hospitality of Lebanon as host country. No country in the world can � or should � carry alone the challenge that Lebanon is facing. Responsibility-sharing with Lebanon is key.
Bou Assi said:
In the words of the great Lebanese philosopher, academic and Diplomat Dr. Charles Malik, who was responsible of the drafting and adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human rights: The question of human rights is second only to the question of the maintenance of peace and security. I add; the preservation of peace & security starts by the preservation of the dignity of the Human being. Every human being, under any circumstances and at any time.
Indeed, this is what we have been doing in Lebanon, in response to the Syrian crisis. As government, donors, UN organizations, International and local NGOs.
Together, we have been working to preserve the dignity of those who have been suffering the most from the impact of displacement on their lives, to preserve the dignity of the victims of this tragedy, both Syrian and Lebanese
The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan has been a key tool in this effort. It is an active joint plan between the Government of Lebanon and its international and national partners, to respond to the challenges of the crisis, by bringing the humanitarian and development partners together, alongside the Lebanese Government and civil society, to strengthen stabilization, protection and urgent assistance efforts.
MoSA’s outreach and geographical spread through its 228 SDCs, established the Ministry as a primary focal point and first respondent for the Displaced Syrians and Lebanon’s Host Community needs…
MoSA has proven to have the knowledge, the know-how, and the expertise to take the lead in the LCRP.
Since day one at the Ministry, I have focused on a three pillars strategy to approach the crisis:
1- No discrimination: Both Syrian Displaced and the Lebanese host community are victims of the crisis
At the beginning of 2017, tensions between the host and displaced community were reaching unprecedented levels. Therefore, our main objective last year, was to foster a more positive and comprehensive approach of the response and how Syrians are perceived by their Lebanese hosts
Syrians are victims and so are the most vulnerable Lebanese
As such, MoSA focused on integrating, in every project, specific activities for the most vulnerable Lebanese (disabled, abused women, Children, elderly, addicts) as well as capacity building for organizations working with these groups, in an attempt to benefit both communities and defuse the rising tensions. However, we all know that the best solution to maintain stability is for Syrian displaced to go back to their homeland
2- Transparency and accountability at all levels with all actors
In the previous phase, the Lebanese state represented by MoSA was absent from significant involvement in the projects design & implementation within the LCRP. Therefore, a major shift needed to take place in order to improve the response.
In its capacity and ability (through its legal mandate and team in the field), MoSA applied systematic methodology in 2017 to direct the response in a holistic and more comprehensive bottom up and needs based approach. As such, MoSA fostered collaboration and coordination with local, national and international organizations and actors to deliver the response.
Furthermore, we gave clear directions to establish a Monitoring and Evaluation Structure, the first of its kind since the beginning of the response to the crisis in Lebanon, in order to have a continuous ability to assess and evaluate the implementation and learn from the previous mistakes to improve programing.
In addition, based on the principle of sovereignty (which considers that the state is the ultimate decision-maker within its borders), direct bilateral cooperation was initiated with major Governments and donors operating in close partnership with the Lebanese state, to ensure an effective, efficient and clear collaboration.
For this purpose, ultimate transparency was put forward by MoSA, as a major requirement for any entity that wishes to collaborate within the Crisis Response framework, to avoid duplication of investments and to ensure efficient management of resources.
Collaborating with MoSA and working under the framework and guidelines of the Ministry, gave a clear and coherent direction to the activities being implemented in the field, under the LCRP, by all national, local and international actors.
3- Strategic Partnership
After an extensive assessment made for the response, we concluded the following:
(1) An improved coordination among actors (local, national and international) – including Line ministries, donors, NGOs and International Organisations � is needed
(2) A better attention to local conditions and needs is a must
(3) The limited capacity of the Lebanese institutions has to be improved.
In this regards, only a strategic partnership that brings together MoSA, the Donors and our implementing partners under the umbrella of the LCRP, can provide an efficient and active response.
In addition, Inter-Ministerial Cooperation has been activated, bringing MoSA and all line ministries to work in a unified approach, leading to success and achievements.
Based on the aforementioned, it is my honour today, as a Lead minister of the LCRP, mandated by the government of Lebanon and its inter-ministerial committee, to launch with you all, the LCRP 2018 as an important milestone towards the upcoming international conferences in 2018.
The Plan will maintain a strong focus on humanitarian assistance in 2018, while at the same time � in line with commitments made at the 2016 London and 2017 Brussels Conferences � move towards longer-term recovery and development strategies.
The updated 2018 version of the Plan includes extensively revised sector strategies and targeting, based on achievements and assessments made in 2017, and remaining gaps for 2018-2020.
In 2018, the plan entails a 2.6 billion dollars appeal to provide direct humanitarian assistance and protection to 1.9 million highly vulnerable individuals and aims to deliver basic services to 2.2 million affected persons, as well as to invest in Lebanon’s infrastructure, economy, and public institutions.
Today we renew our commitment as partners, to support Lebanon’s efforts to provide for the most vulnerable, to alleviate the immense burden of the crisis on Lebanon’s economy and services, and to preserve Lebanon’s stability.
Today is a landmark, not only to launch the LCRP 2018; with the commitments made by the donors community and the support of our international and local partners; but also to celebrate the sacrifices made by Lebanon as a host country in support of the displaced Syrians;
In addition, I would like to salute the efforts of the Response team at the Ministry of Social Affairs and their colleagues in line ministries, without whom, we wouldn’t have been able to come so far in assuming the Government overall leadership of the response, and to move towards a more strategic, transparent, active and effective operation.
Moreover, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Resident and Humanitarian coordinator of the United Nations in Lebanon, Mr. Philippe Lazarini, not only for his support but also for his considered partnership.
Last but not least, a special Thank you is to be given to all donors, for every dollar you have shared in order to maintain the Lebanese government ability to handle the burden of the crisis.
Finally, a deep sincere acknowledgment should be given to the Lebanese people. Their human values, generosity and relentless support of those who are in need, are a set example of responsible human citizenship.
It has been seven years since Lebanon started hosting all these refugees. I think Lebanon has shown hospitality like no other country.
We are a small country, 4 and a half million people, 4 and a half million Lebanese who had the compassion, who had the honor to host those refugees and we will keep on doing that because we believe in human rights, we believe in humanity, we believe that those Syrian refugees ought to go back home one day soon. We believe that what is happening Syria is an outrageous conflict that has cost the world and Lebanon a huge amount of agony and despair.
Historically, people did their best, now we are trying to do even more, we are launching this program for the infrastructure that we want to build.
Why do we want to do that? Because we believe that we need to create jobs and growth in the country.
It is one thing to help but also, like this young man you saw here, he would have rather worked to earn his living and we would like to see the Lebanese work because at the end of the day I am the Prime Minister of Lebanon, so my job is to make sure that we have growth for the Lebanese and at the same time make sure that there are enough jobs for those refugees to work in this country.
Some people would look at what we are trying to do and use it in politics against me, but I am a firm believer that, in order for these refugees to live in a dignified way, to take their children to school, to have this generation of Syrians go back to Syria to rebuild their own country, we have to do a lot of work in Lebanon.
A lot has been said about the return of the refugees. My government’s position is very clear, nobody is going to force anyone to go back if they do not want to go back. We will respect international law, we believe they should go back as soon as the conditions are right, we will work with the UN for that because it is the right thing to do.
People sometimes criticize the Lebanese politicians, on how they talk about the refugees, but I will tell you that we are much better than certain countries that would not allow those refugees to get into their countries. At least we opened our doors, our homes, our lands and here they are.
So we are here to make sure that the launch of the LCRP is done for the sake of the refugees and for the sake of the host communities also.
I believe that the conflict in Syria must end soon because the refugees want to go back home, they do not want to stay in Lebanon or in turkey or in Jordan, they want to go home.
Most of us here, if we go on a vacation, we want to go back home, so imagine those refugees, I am sure they want to go back home so let us not play the politics of trying to say that those refugees are going to stay here forever. They are not going to stay here forever, they are going to go back home.
I want to thank all the donors but I have to say that we need more from the international community because we are doing a public service for the international community, otherwise these people would seek refuge somewhere else. We do not want to get there, we do not want them to start seeking refuge anywhere else, we believe that the international community has a responsibility towards those refugees and this responsibility has to be shown every year until this conflict is resolved.
We will keep our doors open but we will seek you more and more and we will press you more and more for the sake of the refugees and the host communities.
We should not fail, we are in 2018, and it would be a shame to fail in this century. Thank you to all the donors. I think we all know that we can do better and we can do more. I thank the UN, Mr. Lazzarini, all the donors, my ministers, all the ambassadors who are here and have done a great job and hopefully we can see more smiles on the faces of those refugees and the host communities.
Source: National News Agency