Gina Casar: Statement to the International Support Group for Lebanon

Oct 28, 2014

Berlin, Germany

Excellencies, Colleagues from United Nations Agencies,

Lebanon has paid a heavy price for this crisis, and continues to do so. With the massive refugee influx, the country is under strain, threatening hard-won achievements in overall progress, including against the Millennium Development Goals.

There are towns and villages where Syrian children outnumber Lebanese children in classrooms, and where fuel and bread are running low.  Health and sanitation systems are under strain, unemployment is rising, and community resources, including the most basic – water – are stretched thin.

Today, we are faced with the situation of an upper middle-income country, barely able to address its own vulnerabilities, yet seeing the number of people within its borders increasing by 25 percent or more.

The implication for this country is devastating: Lebanon will not meet the critical MDG targets for poverty reduction, gender equality and the environment. The implication for us as an international community – represented by the International Support Group for Lebanon, is just as alarming: hard won development gains and the country’s precious stability are threatened, making the Syrian crisis not only a humanitarian and development crisis for Syrians, but also a development and stability crisis for Lebanon.

An understanding of these basic facts must help guide our collective support to the country, its institutions and its most vulnerable communities.

In September of this year, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark undertook a joint visit to Lebanon with High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, seeing and hearing the devastating impact of the crisis,  first hand from government counterparts, from the donor community, from civil society and both hosts and refugees.

UNDP and UNHCR agreed to have a co-ordinated – indeed, integrated – refugee and development response which is in line with Lebanon’s National Stabilization Roadmap, and which will address the needs of refugees.  A strong example of the benefits of this co-operation can be seen in the most affected municipalities, such as in the North Beqaa Valley.  This co-ordinated response will help build the resilience of communities and individuals by leaving a lasting legacy of improved services, infrastructure, and livelihood opportunities for the future.  This is the type of intervention that will be reflected in the forthcoming Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan – the 3RP, for 2015.

Let me close by reiterating another conviction that we have shared with partners which would be helpful in addressing the refugee crisis at its source. First, a political solution remains critical – now with renewed energy provided by the appointment of Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura. Secondly, and concurrently, we must together enhance our support for greater livelihoods and basic service rehabilitation inside Syria itself, which would strengthen the resilience of the communities and mitigate the refugee movement into neighboring countries.

The lessons Lebanon has shared with us today are clear: burden-sharing is no longer optional. Rather, it is an imperative if the international community, collectively, aims to preserve the stability and development gains that Lebanon has secured even amidst its own challenges. Let us stand united in response to this urgent call for support from a country that is shouldering a burden well beyond its means.

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