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Put People Before Politics, Secretary-General Urges Lebanon’s Leaders, Citing ‘Perfect Storm’ Facing Country, at High-Level Event

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SG/SM/20273

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high‑level event of the International Support Group for Lebanon, held today:

Thank you for coming together to reaffirm your support for Lebanon, its people and its stability.

Our hearts are heavy for those who perished or were injured as a result of the devastating 4 August explosions. Sadly, Lebanon faces a perfect storm — a protracted financial and socioeconomic crisis with an unprecedented rise in unemployment and poverty, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The disastrous explosions last month exacerbated these challenges. This latest tragedy must be a wake-up call. Eleven months after so many took to the streets calling for change, we hope for tangible steps to implement economic, social and political reforms.

The designation of Mr. [Mustapha] Adib as Prime Minister is a step in the right direction. This should be followed by the swift formation of a Government able to meet the legitimate aspirations and needs expressed by the Lebanese people and to quickly deliver on key reforms and fundamental changes. Without such action, the country’s ability to recover and rebuild will be jeopardized, adding to the turmoil and hardship for the Lebanese people.

Now is the time for transformation in a variety of sectors, including financial, banking and energy, as well as customs, public procurement and State‑owned enterprises. Social reforms, including social protection, are also needed to ensure the well-being of all Lebanese, particularly the most vulnerable.

Ultimately, reforms are not a goal in itself. They should respond to the legitimate demands of the Lebanese people for greater welfare, accountability, transparency and the capacity to tackle corruption. That is essential to regain the trust of the Lebanese citizens. I salute civil society organizations, women’s rights activists and social movements as they work to respond to the needs of the population.

Since the explosion, the United Nations has led an urgent humanitarian response while looking at long-term measures that will put Lebanon back on a path to stability and sustainable development. I welcome your support and cooperation. The United Nations and our partners are undertaking a three-pronged approach: one, relief assistance; two, early recovery; and three, reform, recovery and reconstruction.

Scaling up international assistance is central to a people-centred crisis response. Close coordination is also critical with the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, along with Governments, donors and humanitarian and development actors and the Lebanese Armed Forces in light of their leading role in distributing relief efforts.

Let us also remember that apart from Palestine refugees, Lebanon has also generously hosted close to 1 million Syrian refugees. I welcome France’s initiative to host a second donor conference in October.

I want to reiterate my solidarity with the Lebanese people in these difficult times and my hope that Lebanese political leaders will rise to the occasion. This is the time to prioritize national interest and put people before politics. This is the time to work together to build a better future for Lebanon. With your support — and the commitment of the Lebanese Government — we can all do our part for the Lebanese people. Thank you.