Italy still a leader: General Serra installed at the command of UNIFIL

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Italy once again takes command of the UN mission in Lebanon. On Saturday 28 January a ceremony was held for the instalment of General Paolo Serra as commander of the UNIFIL mission, in the presence of Minister for the Defence Giampaolo Di Paola and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Staffan De Mistura.

The appointment of General Serra, two years after the end of General Claudio Graziano’s mandate, is another in a continuing series of acknowledgements for Italy’s commitment in Lebanon and our contribution to UN peacekeeping missions, as top G8 supplier of troops and 6th largest contributor to the UN peace mission budget.

Italy’s active role in Lebanon is part of a comprehensive effort to promote stability and security throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, the dynamics of which are of crucial importance to international security.

On the military front, Italy contributes to the UNIFIL mission, deployed for the purpose of maintaining the ceasefire in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war, with a contingent of over 1000 whose professional merit has been recognised by our international partners and by the local populations with whom they have come into contact.

On the civilian front, Italy is one of Lebanon’s top donor countries and, over the past five years, has been Europe’s second largest after France. Over 60 cooperation programmes, for a total of more than €100 million, have been approved between 2008 and 2010; over €10 million has been earmarked for improving the living conditions in 12 refugee camps for over 400,000 Palestinians, and to aid the Lebanese people living in the areas adjacent to the camps, with a view to promoting dialogue and peaceful co-existence.

The Italian Cooperation is working in Lebanon to develop and enhance the synergies that emerge from the presence on the ground of various players (UTLs, NGOs, decentralised cooperation and our UNIFIL contingent’s CIMIC units) under the overall coordination of the Embassy in Beirut.

The efforts enacted by the Embassy and the Italian Cooperation are marked by an integrated approach and close ties with the local authorities, the main interlocutor in launching local development, and in continuous association with the central authorities. Italy has therefore assumed a leading role within the donor community, having been assigned the presidency of community coordination on local development, environmental and gender concerns.