POLICY Statement

December 16, 2019: ATFL Statement Calling for Support of the ISG Initiative“Help Us Help You,” International Community Proposes Help for Lebanon 

December 16, 2019

Washington, DC, December 16, 2019 (ATFL) – Last week, the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon[i] met in Paris to review the challenging economic and political situation in Lebanon. In its final statement, the ISG expressed its concern that “preserving Lebanon’s stability, unity, security, sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity requires the urgent formation of an effective and credible government capable to meet the aspirations expressed by all the Lebanese that will have the capacity and credibility to deliver the necessary substantive policy package of economic reforms, and that will be committed to dissociate the country from regional tensions and crisis. It is urgent for the new government to be in place as quickly as possible.”
The ISG also noted that the country’s economy was at risk of unraveling and urgently needed a “substantial, credible, and comprehensive policy package of economic reforms to restore fiscal balance and financial stability and address long-lasting structural deficiencies in the Lebanese economy.” The statement mentioned that “These measures are of utmost importance to bring answers to the aspirations expressed by the Lebanese people,” adding the importance of a safety net to protect those who are suffering severe economic dislocation.
The ISG calls for a new government committed to a reform agenda in the 2020 national budget. Specific recommended steps are the passage of laws to promote transparency and counter corruption, fiscal policy reforms, implementation of regulations to deal with the “long-lasting deficiencies in the Lebanese economy,” measures to tackle debt and tax collection, setting up independent regulatory bodies, effective implementation of transparent procurement laws and reform of state-owned enterprises, beginning with the electricity sector.
Regarding the commitments of the CEDRE donors, the ISG called on the Lebanese government to immediately put in place the mechanisms needed to implement the approved projects “in line with the people’s needs and expectations.” A key caveat is that international support is contingent on concrete and rapid implementation of measures addressed in the statement.
Importantly, the ISG statement commended the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces “for their actions in securing the peaceful character of the protests and the rights of the citizens more broadly,” adding that “The Group reiterates that the right to peaceful protest must continue to be respected and call on all sides to act responsibly.”
As MP Yassin Jaber, the head of the Lebanese parliament's foreign affairs committee said, the ISG conference delivered a clear message. "They have basically told us, 'we still have you in mind, but please, for heaven's sake, let us help you by you helping yourselves.'"
ATFL Perspective
Since the beginning of the demonstrations and in our report after visiting Lebanon this past summer, ATFL has called on the Lebanese government to adopt economic, social, and political policies that strengthen society and the economic well-being of its citizens. The points raised by the ISG are a critical to-do list for the government, starting with the formation of a government to oversee the restructuring and revamping of policies and projects.
The impoverishment of many people in Lebanon, now over half living in poverty, is a crisis that cannot be ignored. Actions must be taken in short order that directly address needs in sanitation, water resources, power, telecommunications, and adequate stocks of food, medicine, and fuel. ATFL calls on international aid agencies to prioritize programs that provide emergency food and other vital supplies to the Lebanese people.
We commend the demonstrators and the LAF and ISF for the largely peaceful nature of the protests, which are remarkable, cutting across all sects, ages, and regions of Lebanon. And we support the ISG’s statement calling for a government that is “committed to dissociate the country from regional tensions and crisis,” which are a diversion from the first priority of the country – the well-being of its people, a free society, and competent governance at all levels.
This past weekend’s troubling protests and reactions by the security forces demonstrate that the longer the stalemate remains the potential for violence increases. The postponement once again of the vote for Prime Minister is a clear indicator that change, significant change, in the leadership must be authentic and durable.
ATFL remains committed to ensuring that Lebanon’s relationship with the US remains a priority and that the US remains an active partner in safeguarding and enhancing the lives of the Lebanese people.

[i] The ISG is co-chaired by France and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Attending the meeting were China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the League of Arab States, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and a delegation from the Lebanese government.

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