Hariri to UN country team: Syrian refugees’ crisis biggest challenge, we count on your support

Prime Minister Saad Hariri received this afternoon at the Grand Serail UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag in the presence of her deputy, UN Coordinator for humanitarian issues Philippe Lazzarini and the UN Country Team, a statement by Hariri’s press office indicated on Monday.

At the onset of the meeting, Premier Hariri said: “I would like to welcome you today at the Grand Serail. I am very happy to meet all of you. In the past few years, Lebanon suffered from a political stalemate as you all know, and this was happening in a violent regional backdrop. The situation was becoming extremely dangerous and I always used to say that we have to have a President so the government and the institutions can function as they should.

We elected a president, we have a government and we have a parliament convening this week. We have 384 draft laws that are delayed and I hope that about 80 laws will be approved this week and the ball is also going to roll on the other laws hopefully.”

He added: “While the whole world was busy with many other priorities, the International Support Group for Lebanon, encouraged and led by the UN, succeeded to keep Lebanon on everyone’s radar and agenda and always encouraged a consensus in the Security Council and this is something that we will hopefully continue to have in the Security Council.

For me, the Syrian refugees’ crisis has been substantial and this is the most challenging and critical point for Lebanon.

Five years ago, our population was of 4.5 million and today we are at six million. As you know, we view the UN agencies as our principle partner and count on your support to address these challenges.

One of the first steps is to have a comprehensive mapping of the presence of Syrian refugees and their impact on Lebanon’s real economy, fiscal stance, public service and physical infrastructure. Here also I count on your participation and input. This is something that is very challenging because some regions like the Beqaa and the North suffer a lot because there is a concentration of refugees. The whole country is suffering from the presence of refugees. The international community has to help, because we have less electricity, less water, less infrastructure, fewer schools, less hospital beds. We have problems in every single sector. The country is suffering in all sectors, so there is a huge job to be done.

The UNIFIL is not present today because they are busy with their strategic mission, but I will be seeing them tomorrow. I want to thank them for their commitment to Lebanon whether on land or at sea, in their military or civilian capacity.”

He continued: “Promoting an advanced sustainable development, including balanced regional development and prosperity for all Lebanese, remains a key priority for my government. Lebanon is committed to the sustainable development goals that were endorsed in the United Nation Summit in September 2015. In this regard, we will lay out a comprehensive plan and a well prioritized roadmap to ensure that Lebanon, with the support and participation of all relevant United Nations agencies, achieves these goals.”

He concluded: “Thank you for the support you provided Lebanon. The UNDP has also been an important key player with various government institutions. I hope this partnership continues because it gave a lot to Lebanon and showed a lot of success.”

For her part, Kaag said after the meeting:
“I had the honor, together with colleagues from the UN family, and together with my Deputy, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and members of his team. It was an early opportunity for us to reiterate and underline the strong commitment of the entire UN family to Lebanon, its institutions and of course to ensure the success of the plans the government has laid out both in the declaration of the government but also in the plans that are being developed.

We used the opportunity to have a very frank and open discussion as always on the areas of cooperation and support for Lebanon: peace and security, development, stabilization and human rights. As you know, the United Nations family is well represented in this country. We have large numbers of staff, we have a wide range of programs and this has now been captured in an integrated way of working and planning, through the UN Strategic Framework, which is more efficient and effective to help the government achieve its goals.

We discussed a number of priorities this year, including the timely conduct of parliamentary elections. We certainly also hope for a relevant quota of women to be represented. We looked at an agenda for the prevention of violent extremism, knowing Lebanon is living and breathing in a very volatile region – and support for the Lebanese Armed Forces as well as the broader security apparatus.

We also discussed with the Prime Minister how we can best support the strengthening and the building of capacity of some of the new ministries that have recently been established and this with a view to ensure success. This includes the Ministry of Refugees, the Ministry for Women and also of course the Ministry that combats corruption.

There is an ongoing, unfinished business that we will continue to work for, which is the progress towards implementing Security Council Resolution 1701, with a broader view to continue to shield Lebanon from all threats, to preserve Lebanon’s territorial integrity and to enhance its security. Lebanon remains a regional asset. It is a model of tolerance and coexistence at times of threat and uncertainty in the region. We must do more as United Nations family to help Lebanon’s Government and its people counter these threats. This will benefit not only Lebanon but also the region.

Last and not least, we discussed the impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon socio-economically and politically and of course we discussed ways in which we can assist vulnerable Lebanese communities and citizens, alongside continued provision of support for the Syrian refugees as well as the Palestine refugees through UNRWA.

It has been a very exciting discussion with the Prime Minister. It is the first of many. He is very clear that he means business and he wants to achieve results and we are precisely on message and very much share that vision and we are keen to achieve lasting results for Lebanon”.