The Conference in support of the Lebanese population was held on 2 December 2020 by videoconference, at the joint invitation of the President of the French Republic and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. 32 countries, 12 international organizations and 7 Lebanese civil society organizations participated.
Following the international Conference to support Beirut and the Lebanese population, held on 9 August after the devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August, an emergency humanitarian response was mobilized to help the population to cope with the consequences of this tragedy revealing of the Lebanese shortcomings, in the context of ongoing political, economic, financial and health crises in the country.
The Conference of 2 December allowed the international community to strongly reaffirm its solidarity with the Lebanese population, and to reiterate its commitment to stand by its side, in the face of the tragedy that touched this population in its flesh and heart. The Conference also discussed the humanitarian response to the crisis and efforts towards early recovery. The Conference called for the respect of human rights in Lebanon.
The Conference ensured that the commitments made toward emergency aid since 4 August had been fulfilled, both in quality and in quantity, in all the priority areas then identified by the United Nations, including health, education, urban rehabilitation, and food. With 257 million euros pledged, more than 280 million euros were actually disbursed. The participants reaffirmed their commitment to a transparent and efficient distribution of international aid, for the sole benefit of the population. The role of the United Nations in this regard was commended.
Beyond emergency aid, the Conference worked to mobilize additional support in terms of early recovery for the direct benefit of the most vulnerable populations, in particular to respond to the challenges of food security and access to education. In particular, the participants noted the need to target assistance to women, young people and children.
The 3RF (Reform, Recovery, Reconstruction) framework and its financing facility (multi-donor trust fund) prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations and the European Union were presented. These instruments will ensure the continuity of funding beyond emergency humanitarian aid, released after 4 August. An important role will be given to civil society actors to define priority areas for action, such as good governance, health, education, social protection, housing, culture and heritage. Special attention will be paid to the immediate needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Conference welcomed these coordination mechanisms, and underlined the necessity to avoid duplication with existing mechanisms.
Participants expressed concern about the delays in the investigation into the 4 August blasts. The Conference also discussed the reconstruction of port facilities, their integration into the city, as well as the rehabilitation of neighborhoods affected by the explosion. Participants stressed that the reconstruction of the port should be based on the following principles: build back better, manage better, and decide in a transparent manner. The participants considered that the reconstruction of affected neighborhoods should be done in an inclusive manner, in consultation with their inhabitants.
The Conference expressed concern about the worsening socio-economic situation as well as the emerging humanitarian crisis. Participants noted the worsening of all economic, financial, monetary and social indicators, with a poverty rate rising from 28% to 55% over a period of 12 months, which today leads many Lebanese to emigrate. The Conference shared the World Bank’s view that it is a “deliberate depression”. Lebanon is in a situation of financial bankruptcy, but still has the capacity to be a performing state if reforms are undertaken swiftly. The Conference also allowed for reflection on the necessary refoundation of the Lebanese economic model.
The participants strongly recalled that the importance of effective implementation of the reforms expected by the population and the international community. Such reforms are absolutely critical for the engagement of the latter in support of Lebanon, both with regard to the conclusions of the CEDRE conference of 6 April 2018 and to the prospects for additional, longer-term structural support. This support will have to be part of a program concluded with the International Monetary Fund.
The Conference reiterated the urgent need for Lebanese political leaders to agree as soon as possible on the formation of a credible government, effective and able to work in the general interest of the country. Based on the roadmap of September 1st 2020, approved by all the Lebanese political forces, it will be up to this government to urgently implement the series of reforms and measures necessary to regain the trust of the Lebanese people and of the international community.
Finally, the Conference welcomed its extensive dialogue with Lebanese civil society, bearing witness to their spirit of responsibility and dynamism. The Conference shares the aspirations of the Lebanese people and draws confidence in the future of Lebanon from this dialogue.