Beirut explosion: Donors pledge aid for Lebanon but want reform
BBC News, 9 Aug 2020
International donors have pledged a quarter of a billion euros in aid for Lebanon five days after the explosion which devastated a swathe of Beirut. But an online donor summit arranged by France called at the same time for reforms to be made….
Statement by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on the International Conference on Support to Beirut and the Lebanese People
August 9, 2020
Washington, DC: Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), made the following statement today at the end of the high-level “International Conference on Support to Beirut and the Lebanese People” after the August 4 explosion:
“I would like to thank French President Emmanuel Macron for bringing us together just days after the devastating explosion in Beirut and express heartfelt solidarity with the Lebanese people. It is a terrible tragedy, coming at a terrible time. Lebanon has been struggling with profound economic and social challenges, aggravated by a pandemic, but even more so by the shortage of political will to adopt and implement meaningful reforms the people of Lebanon have been calling for. This is the moment for Lebanese policymakers to unite and address the severe economic and social crisis. It is also a moment for the international community to stand by the country and its people – with urgent humanitarian assistance, and support for reforms to pull Lebanon from the brink of economic collapse.
“Over the last months we have been engaged intensely with the Lebanese authorities, as well as with civil society and the international community, on a reform package aimed at addressing the deepening crisis, strengthening governance and accountability, and restoring confidence in the economy. Unfortunately these discussions have yet to yield results.
“We are ready to redouble our efforts. But we need unity of purpose in Lebanon—we need all institutions to come together determined to carry out much needed reforms.
“First, to restore the solvency of public finances and the soundness of the financial system. Current and future generations of Lebanese must not be saddled with more debts than they can ever repay. This is why the IMF requires debt sustainability as a condition for lending. And the financial system must be solvent—those who benefitted from past excessive returns need to share the burden of bank recapitalization, to protect the life savings of the vast majority of ordinary Lebanese depositors.
“Second, to put in place temporary safeguards to avoid continued capital outflows that would further undermine the financial system while reforms are taking hold. This includes adopting legislation to formalize capital controls in the banking system and eliminate the current multiple exchange rate system to help protect Lebanon’s international reserves while reducing rent-seeking and corruption.
“Third, upfront steps to reduce the protracted losses in many state-owned enterprises. There must be more predictability, transparency, and accountability—with comprehensive audits of key institutions, including the central bank.
“Finally, an expanded social safety net has to be in place to protect the most vulnerable people. They must not be asked to bear the brunt of this crisis.
“Commitment to these reforms will unlock billions of dollars for the benefit of the Lebanese people. This is the moment for the country’s policymakers to act decisively. We stand ready to help.”
Press briefing note on Lebanon – UN OHCHR
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
7 August 2020
This week’s horrific blast in Beirut has brought into sharp focus the need for the international community to step up and help Lebanon and its people at their time of crisis. Only a swift international response and sustained engagement will prevent many more lives being lost.
Four weeks ago, the High Commissioner issued a stark warning that the situation in Lebanon was fast spiralling out of control. Then, she urged the Government, political parties and leaders to enact urgently needed reforms and to address essential needs such as shelter, food, electricity, health and education.
In her statement on July 10, the High Commissioner pointed to the situation of the most vulnerable. Today, every Lebanese is weighing how they will manage going forward after the triple tragedy of the socio-economic crisis, COVID-19 and the ammonium nitrate explosion.
With large swathes of the city unfit to live in, the country’s principle port all but destroyed and the health system on its knees, the situation is dire. Victims’ calls for accountability must be heard, including through undertaking an impartial, independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the explosion.
As the city and the country rebuilds, the need to protect the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable through collective action and reform, will be more important than ever.
This tragic event must be a turning point for the country’s leaders to overcome political stalemates and address the grievances of the population first aired during the protests in October 2019.
UNESCO convenes partners to coordinate support for cultural heritage after the tragic explosion in Beirut
While reiterating expressions of condolence and solidarity with the people of Lebanon in the wake of the tragic explosions in Beirut on 4 August 2020, UNESCO is taking action and organizing a meeting on 10 August together with the Directorate General of Antiquities in the Ministry of Culture of Lebanon, and its partners – ALIPH, ARC-WH, Blue Shield, ICCROM, ICOM, and ICOMOS – to jointly assess the situation and determine how the international community can support Lebanon in its efforts to safeguard the invaluable cultural heritage of Beirut.
The explosions destroyed a number of cultural assets in Beirut, which are a testimony to the country’s rich culture, identity and history. Important museums and galleries including the Sursock Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University in Beirut, as well as the urban cultural heritage districts of Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhaël, are among the sites that are reported to be severely damaged. Other galleries such as Malerie Marfa and Galerie Tanit are reported to be completely destroyed.
Culture and heritage are fundamental to societies and give strength and comfort to communities emerging from loss and tragedy. While humanitarian needs are of immediate concern, the protection and rehabilitation of cultural heritage and the prevention of further damage and loss are important for the longer-term recovery of the city and its people. This first coordination meeting aims to identify concrete measures that can be proposed to the Lebanese Government as well as local authorities and institutions in Beirut.
UNESCO stands ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this tragic incident.