The United Nations head of humanitarian operations for Lebanon on 22 June 2016 urged the international community to develop a comprehensive approach of support, or risk the implosion of a country that is vital to the regional dynamics.
At a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York this afternoon, Philippe Lazzarini, Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, highlighted that when we first began his new post, Lebanon was described to him as a resilient country known for managing crisis on the edge.
“It is in the interest of no one to try to find out how far resilience can go, because, like any resilience, it erodes, and I think it is in none of our interests to find out where the tipping point of this resilience would be,” he emphasized.
Noting that no country would be able to cope with all of the challenges Lebanon is currently facing at the same time, Lazzarini said that among the country’s challenges are: extremely high national debt; a failing economy; the exodus of young graduates; skyrocketing unemployment; and dealing with more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
“Despite all the efforts of the international community, the vulnerability of the people is declining year after year,” he said.
“Clearly, there is no country in the world which alone can cope with so many challenges at the same time, and this is also one of the reasons why the anxiety about the future of the country is very high, also within the population,” he added.
Lazzarini, who is also the UN Development Programme Resident Representative in Lebanon, also stressed that filling the presidential void in the country is a priority, as other institutions are severely affected by the vacuum.
“The country is without a president for more than two years now. No one would have expected that it would be so long and there is absolutely no doubt that the resolution of this presidential vacuum is a priority because the absence of a president is impacting the smooth running of the institutions,” he said.
“And I would not use the word ‘smooth’ today because with the absence of a president, the institutions are even more weakened,” he added.
The Deputy Special Coordinator said that the international community must look outside the traditional means of relief and development to help Lebanon. This includes continuing pre-existing programmes while helping the country face the impact of its crises.
“Lebanon is a country that is extraordinary important to regional dynamics – to the Syrian conflict, and to regional tension – and it pays a very high price both politically, economically, but also in terms of security and demography,” Lazzarini explained.
“We need to have comprehensive and multi-faceted economic approach in the country. We as members of the international community certainly have to show more risk-sharing with the country because if we do not do this, we take the risk of a country on the edge of imploding,” he concluded. (Source: UN).