POLICY Statement

August 9, 2021: ATFL Event Marks Anniversary of Beirut Port Explosions

August 09, 2021

US and UN Officials and Lebanon Experts Call for the Lebanese Government to Prioritize the People

Washington, DC, August 9, 2021 (ATFL) - The American Task Force on Lebanon, a leadership organization comprised of American of Lebanese heritage, hosted a webinar on August 5 to mark the anniversary of the Beirut Port explosions on August 4, 2020.
The program, titled “One Year Later: Lebanon After the Beirut Port Blast,” featured US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka, President of Lebanese American University Dr. Michel Mawad, and President of the Middle East Institute Dr. Paul Salem.
Lebanon is at a critical juncture, and the discussion with Ambassador Shea and Special Coordinator Wronecka provided detailed perspectives on Lebanon over the past year including the response from the United States and international community. During the following discussion, Dr. Mawad and Dr. Salem addressed the stark cost to Lebanese society from the fallout of the blast and the worsening humanitarian, social, and civil conditions in the country. 
ATFL has been urging the US Congress and Administration over the past year to ensure that the United States is at the forefront of support for the Lebanese people and is actively addressing the country’s growing humanitarian needs.
ATFL welcomed the United States announcement on August 4, 2021, on $98 million in new humanitarian funding for Lebanon.
During the webinar, Ambassador Shea thanked the ATFL for its ongoing partnership with the US Embassy and the US government and its role in illustrating the many multilayered challenges that Lebanon is facing. She said, “Victims [of the blast] deserve accountability. [That] also applies to the government formation process… We are reiterating our calls for urgent action to both form a cabinet and enact much-needed reforms.”
In her remarks, Special Coordinator Joanna Wronecka said, “The Lebanese people are paying the price of their leadership’s inaction…One year has passed without reforms and concrete measures. A wasted year… There is no time to lose because the people are paying the price, and with each day that passes they pay a higher price.”
Dr. Mawad echoed this sentiment in his remarks, saying, “Since the cataclysmic explosion at the Port of Beirut a year ago yesterday, events have unfortunately settled into a slower and somewhat accepted pace of a new normal…a state of daily misery. [This past year] has done so much damage to the fabric of society.” 
In his remarks, Dr. Salem said, “One year after a criminal blast, nobody has apologized, nobody has resigned. An entire governing class claims absolutely no responsibility. …This oligarchy really doesn’t seem to care about the fate of its people. This is a long term struggle, but Lebanon will go on and change will come, even if limited.” 
ATFL continues to call for an independent and transparent investigation of the events of August 4, 2020 with the support and involvement of the international community.
ATFL is also proud to have been a part of the worldwide response to the humanitarian and health needs of the Lebanese people, having marshalled the efforts of the Lebanese diaspora through the Lebanon Relief Project to collect donations for Lebanese hospitals and medical centers. Currently there are still over 150 containers of medicines and supplies ready and waiting for the funds to ship them. The Lebanese Relief Project is seeking to raise $100,000 to ship these lifesaving supplies.
Following the webinar, Ambassador Ed Gabriel, President of ATFL, remarked, “Although the situation in Lebanon is worsening and seems hopeless, US Ambassador Shea and UN Special Coordinator Wronecka offered hopeful signs that the Lebanese people will not be forgotten and that they remain at the top of the international agenda. We will be working closely with today’s conference speakers in supporting the Lebanese people’s efforts to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Lebanon.”

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