This Week in Lebanon

Monday, November 23, 2020
Opinion by Heidi Ahmed
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NOVEMBER 14, 2020
French Envoy Warns Lebanese Officials
Doctors Are Leaving Lebanon
Return of Syrian Refugees

 

French Envoy Warns Lebanese Officials
A French envoy met with officials in Lebanon this week to warn the government over its stalling to form a Lebanese Cabinet headed by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. It’s reported that if the government is not formed by the end of November, an upcoming economic support conference will change to a humanitarian conference instead. Rather than supporting the state, the conference would provide aid to civil society organizations. (The 961)

ANALYSIS

“ATFL advocates for humanitarian and recovery relief for the Lebanese people in the short term, and in the longer term, assistance to help strengthen civil society, election reform, poverty programs, and educational institutions. This should include enabling the Lebanese Armed Forces to undertake increased FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and Army Corps of Engineers-type activities, while maintaining Lebanese sovereignty. The purported proposal by France to reprogram aid intended to support an elusive reform government in favor of direct citizen and civil society support is an important and critical need that should be supported, even if PM Hariri succeeds in this latest effort.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

ANALYSIS

“It’s ironic that the upcoming meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon may reprogram funds contingent on government reforms to be used instead in part for humanitarian assistance. The lack of success in forming a government may end up helping the Lebanese people in the short term as they face the onset of winter facing desperate economic conditions. Failure to agree on a government may give the people a lifeline that might otherwise not materialize.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Doctors Are Leaving Lebanon
An increasing number of doctors and surgeons are leaving Lebanon after seeing wages fall, coupled with shortages of equipment, staff and basic supplies. Lebanon is running out of hard currency to pay for these medical imports. The government owes hospitals money and their unpaid bills continue to accumulate. (Reuters)

ANALYSIS

“Professionals and technicians including doctors are leaving Lebanon, concerned that they have no future for themselves and their families. If it wasn’t for COVID, the exodus would be much greater. There is a great deal of grief among those leaving as many cannot imagine returning except to see family left behind. Without a strong middle class built on the skills, talents, and drive of these people, Lebanon will face enormous challenges if any recovery is to take place. It’s awful to note that they are ‘collateral damage’ on the road to a failed state.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Return of Syrian Refugees
Before an international conference in Damascus this week on the return of Syrian refugees, Lebanon’s outgoing Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe appealed to the international community to help return the more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. (Naharnet) On Friday, Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Ramzi Msharrafieh announced that Lebanon’s plan, that was presented to a Russian delegation, to repatriate Syrian refugees back home was adopted at the conference. (Naharnet)

ANALYSIS

“Once again, Syrian refugees are pawns in a larger regional travesty that would hand them over to become captives of a regime that will neither protect them nor enable their return. Conditions in Syria, even the 70% loosely controlled by the regime, are a vast humanitarian crisis. The international norm for return is voluntary, safe, and dignified – characteristics not evident under the 50 year-old Assad regime, even for its own people who are still in the country.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.