Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, together with UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini and caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi, today launched the 2019 update of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (2017-2020) at the Grand Serail in Beirut.
As the Syria crisis enters its ninth year, the Government of Lebanon and its national and international partners today appealed for US$ 2.62 billion to deliver critical humanitarian assistance and invest in Lebanon's public infrastructure, services and local economy amid deepening vulnerabilities. The crisis response plan brings together more than 133 specialized partners to assist 3.2 million people in need living in Lebanon. It aims at supporting 1.5 million vulnerable Lebanese, 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and more than 208,000 Palestinian refugees.
Prime Minister Hariri delivered the following speech:
First, I would like to express my appreciation for the extraordinary efforts exerted by the public institutions and departments, by our international partners and civil society organizations. I thank you all for your serious commitment to the growing needs of the displaced Syrians and their host communities, despite the magnitude of the crisis and the limited possibilities available.
In light of this year's growing talk about the return of the displaced Syrians to their country, and we hope that its components will be assured as soon as possible, I stress the seriousness of considering this return as if it had already taken place or will happen in the near future, thus ignoring the needs of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon and the ever-growing needs of the host communities.
Indeed, there is a need for continued humanitarian and development assistance, and we must all emphasize this at the Brussels III Conference.
Over the past years, we have worked hand in hand to address the repercussions of this crisis on Lebanon and on the host communities in particular. And despite all efforts, the crisis of the displaced is becoming increasingly acute in Lebanon at the level of the host communities, which showed the highest degree of hospitality, and for the displaced Syrians, although these communities are mostly from the poorest and most needy communities in Lebanon, and on the level of an already exhausted infrastructure, and on the humanitarian and subsistence level of displaced Syrians.
Also, the public finances in Lebanon can no longer tolerate, and the next government will be forced to take difficult decisions to reduce the previous expenditures in the government budget. Thus, very clearly and frankly, there will not be any funding related to the crisis of Syrian displacement in the next budget expenditures.
The challenges ahead are great and the possibilities are limited and this is clear to all of us. This should not let us surrender but rather should be an incentive to continue and increase efforts, and work together to increase support, humanitarian assistance and development projects that would improve the living standards of displaced persons and the host communities at the same time.
There is a clear path and road map to follow. This was previously confirmed by the Lebanese government at the Brussels Conference II and in launching Lebanon Crisis Response Plan last year, and I reaffirm it today.
First: The necessary funding must be available for Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. During 2018 donor contributions to fund Lebanon's plan to cope with this crisis amounted to about $1.1 billion, representing 41% of Lebanon's total needs estimated at $2.7 billion. It should be noted that this need constitutes only 6% of the cost that would have been incurred by the international community if it were to host the one and half million displaced people that are hosted by Lebanon!
The needs are still big, especially on the living standards and level of public health, and our needs for 2019 are estimated at $2.5 billion.
Second: To ensure the sustainability of the projects, which would be implemented over several years, such as Reaching All Children with Education (RACE) 2, by securing the necessary funding for several years, especially as the pace of return of displaced Syrians to their country is still slow.
Third: It is necessary to increase the support provided to the host communities by at least $100 million per year to finance small projects in infrastructure, especially in the field of water and solid waste management, since they have direct impact on the environment and public health. As well as supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially the productive projects, the empowerment of women in host communities and the implementation of municipal development projects in municipalities.
Here I pay a heartfelt tribute to the municipalities of Lebanon, which have shown exceptional cooperation and hospitality to the displaced Syrians despite their very limited capabilities.
Fourth: Support and develop the social protection system in Lebanon, and in particular to expand the scope of the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP). We highly appreciate the continued commitment of the World Bank and World Food Program (WFP) for their continued support for this program.
Special thanks are also due to the countries that responded to Lebanon's appeal at the Brussels II Conference, in particular the German government and the European Union for their contribution to the national program to support the poorest families. I hope that in the next stage we will secure food for all families living below the extreme poverty line, which is estimated to be around 44 thousand Lebanese families, as well as increasing support for the component of graduation from poverty, which allows these families to secure their needs through vocational and technical training and employment opportunities. To achieve this we need to secure a grant of $100 million per year.
Fifth: Support the National Strategic Framework for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) that was developed by the Lebanese government with the support of UNICEF and the International Labor Organization (ILO), to enhance the efficiency and skills of young workforce and contribute to their entry into the labor market and to secure the specialized human resources necessary to achieve the goals of sustainable development.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that the Russian initiative remains the only serious initiative for the return of the displaced people. And we are very pleased with the ongoing coordination between the UNHCR and the Russian Government, which is certainly an important step in the right direction.
Other similar efforts in this humanitarian issue are urgently needed, and we undoubtedly appreciate and encourage any support from the international community in this regard.
Needless to say that the quickest solution for the return of displaced Syrians to their country remains by providing real and concrete guarantees to those displaced that the political and living conditions in their homeland have become suitable for their safe return now.
I hope that this plan will receive the necessary and required response from the international community so that Lebanon can remain able
to absorb the consequences of this crisis and thus maintain its security, economic and social stability.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini delivered the following speech:
Today's launch is the fourth since I took up my position as Humanitarian Coordinator. And therefore, I will come to you with four main messages.
First, the UN acknowledges the extraordinary hospitality and resilience of the Lebanese people as the Syria crisis enters its ninth year � you are an example to the world. At the same time, let me also underline that we share your concerns and believe the future of Syrian refugees is in Syria because this is also what the refugees are telling us.
Second: the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan is and has been the cornerstone of the response for both Syrians and Lebanese.
Third: More than ever, we need your support to implement the 2019 Response Plan. We cannot afford donor fatigue which in turn would fuel host community fatigue. This Plan is our best way to support refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities alike.
Fourth: To increase the impact of our response, we must invest more in women.
On refugee returns, I want to start by addressing some of the misperceptions circulated in the media. The UN and partners neither prevent nor discourage refugees to return when decisions are free and informed.
Refugees have the right to return. It is an individual decision and we respect that. We support families who wish to return by helping them to obtain the key documents that they need to cross the border and re-establish their lives in Syria.
But let us make no mistake: the main challenges to large-scale returns are not in Lebanon, but on the ground in Syria.
The challenges to return range from continued insecurity in some areas, to military conscription, uncertainty around the application of amnesty laws and property rights.
Yesterday, a young Palestine refugee from Syria told me: I want to return, but I fear the unknown. I think this is very telling for how many Syrian refugees are feeling. Despite living under miserable conditions here and despite a strong wish to return there is still a lack of trust and there is apprehension among many.
It is our aim to help minimise these fears and the obstacles to return. The UN is engaging with the Syrian government and other key stakeholders to address the concerns expressed by refugees. It does not mean conditioning the return to a political solution but instead working towards a successful and sustainable return process.
Experience from similar situations around the world has shown that returns that are not safe or sustainable are likely to lead to renewed displacement and deter further returns. While we work on the obstacles to return, it is our collective responsibility to pursue an effective response in Lebanon.
This brings me back to my second message: the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan remain the cornerstone of the response for both Syrians and Lebanese. Since the beginning of the Syria crisis, we have mobilized more than 7 billion US dollars.
In 2018 alone, we mobilised around 1.2 billion US dollars, covering 45% of the appeal � and while we haven't managed to completely turn the tide, we have at least managed to stop further decline of vulnerabilities
Let me highlight a few key achievements in 2018:
-Around 700,000 Syrian refugees received food assistance every month. As a result, the proportion of refugees living under the poverty line has for the first time since the beginning of the crisis slightly decreased.
-More than 220,000 refugee children are now enrolled in public schools.
-55 municipalities are now better able to manage solid waste.
-More than 1,000 local businesses have been supported to boost their profits, through grants, technology transfers and greener energy solutions.
I could go on! These are just a few milestones, and they are the result of the unique partnership between the Government of Lebanon and 133 NGOs and UN agencies. And none of it would have been possible without the steadfast commitment of Lebanon's international donors.
This brings me back to my third message: We need your support for the activities under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. As we go into 2019, Lebanon continues to face extensive humanitarian and development needs. The 2019 appeal calls for $2.6 billion, to provide direct humanitarian assistance to more than 1.7 million highly vulnerable people, and to provide basic services to more than 2 million affected persons through Lebanon's public institutions.
Responding to the most critical needs is also a contribution to the stability of Lebanon. The competition over scarce resources and jobs has put relations between communities under intense strain. Furthermore, a recent study found that one-fifth of refugees and host communities now say they rarely or never interact with one another. This is worrying, as it fuels prejudice and fears.
In this light, I am very concerned that the Livelihoods sector remains one of the most underfunded sectors - with 31% funding in 2018. Amid the growing economic uncertainty in Lebanon, job creation is among the key ways to address sources of tensions between communities. This should be a key priority for us in 2019.
And my fourth and final message Our response must focus more on women and women empowerment. Data shows that despite some improvements, women and girls face more challenges, from protection risks to access to income.
As an example of this, 79% of young refugee women aged 15 to 24 are not employed, not in education, and not attending any training. This compares to 41% of young refugee men. The Response Plan is already putting a clear emphasis on engaging women and girls, but we must do better in 2019.
Beyond the statistics, our response has a very real impact on human lives. Last week, I visited Tripoli neighbourhood of Bab-el-Tebbaneh and I met Hadi, a 10-year-old Syrian boy. He told me that he works 12 hours a day to sell vegetables; he earns 4,000 pounds a day and which goes to the family's survival. It comes, however, at a heavy price. Hadi has never been to school.
I was very moved that among the challenges of his daily life, Hadi still has a clear and vibrant dream for his future. He wants to go to school, he wants to become a doctor, he just wants a better future.
We owe Hadi � like the hundreds of thousands of Hadi's - to do what we can to save his future and protect his dream. We cannot leave behind an entire generation of children who have already been through so much.
In conclusion, I promise that I will continue to work tirelessly to keep Lebanon on the international agenda. The third Brussels Conference will take place in March and will focus on boosting the response to the crisis across the region, including to Lebanon.
In return, I call on all of you to reaffirm your support to a well-funded, well-coordinated, and well-targeted response in Lebanon.
To all the donors in the room: I thank you for your outstanding commitment to the Lebanon response. We count on you to continue to support us, including through multi-year commitments. As you know such commitments are essential to ensure long-term planning.
To all our operational partners: Your extraordinary efforts are highly appreciated and make a difference to the life of the people. Keep up the good work.
And to our government partners: I thank you for your leadership and for your solidarity with the Syrian people. I look forward to a continued engagement in 2019.
In closing, I want to express my special appreciation to Prime Minister Hariri who has always been a steadfast supporter and advocate of the LCRP. I also want to extend my thanks to the Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, for his leadership on operationalizing the plan as well as to State Minister for refugees Merhebi for his tireless advocacy.
Let us come together for a successful response in 2019, in support of refugees and host communities alike. In support of all those who believe in a better future.
Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi said: I hope that this will be the last year we launch a Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. I wish for all refugees to return to their land and country, their work and schools.
He added: Despite all the improvements we have made, the situation of the refugees and vulnerable Lebanese is still dangerous, and continued support is a key element. The level of poverty remains alarming and about 90 percent of refugee families are in debt. Child labor is also a problem among Syrian refugee children with 7.4% of refugee children between the ages of 12 and 14 years and 16.4% of refugee children aged between 15 and 17 participate in child labor. Vulnerable Lebanese families also face decline in income, making them increasingly unable to meet basic needs, including food and health care.
Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (2017-2020) is the main tool for responding to the most pressing needs in Lebanon. In addition to providing protection and assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including displaced Syrians, Palestinian refugees and Lebanese citizens, the plan also plays a key role in supporting and enhancing stability in Lebanon's public services.
Bou Assi hoped this meeting to be the last and that the displaced would return to where they belong, to their country, their work and schools.
He also outlined the plan that was developed to respond to the crisis, adding that red lines had to be identified, including the workspace to respond to the displacement crisis. The first red line that I have refused to accept is racism, rejection of the other and indifference to human suffering. This is unacceptable and does not resemble our Lebanese values and humanity, he added.
Minister Bou Assi explained that the second red line, which must be preserved and defended, is our high Lebanese national interest. The longer the displacement period, the less the margin between the two lines and this is not in the interest of the displaced or Lebanon.
He reminded that since assuming the Ministry of Social Affairs, he insisted that the Lebanese state be present in any project or move that aims to assist the displaced Syrians. It is a sovereign aspect from which we cannot retreat. Experience has shown that the presence of the Lebanese state has facilitated all programs and created increased confidence among donors, international organizations and associations.
It is regrettable that the funds allocated for the support project for the Lebanese community remain below expectations. It should reach a minimum of $100 million since this project has a direct and sustainable impact on the lives of citizens.
The goal today is to provide aid and food to 44,000 families included in the National program to support the poorest families with an expected cost of $100 million US dollars annually and is at the heart of the Sustainable development goals 2030.
Source: National News Agency