Wednesday, 16 September 2020 | Virtual Launch | from Beirut, Lebanon

Greetings to you all,

I am privileged to be with you today, albeit virtually, to present an important report that has shaped our own thinking on how to support recovery in Lebanon after the port explosion last month.

When I landed in Beirut on Saturday, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. I had seen the harrowing images of the August 4th explosion, followed social media, read the many news reports and analyses, and was briefed regularly by our Country Office.

But it was impossible to fully grasp the absolute magnitude of the explosion, and its impact, until I began to see it first-hand.

To walk the streets of Beirut now is to be confronted with the tremendous scope of the destruction caused by this blast: homes, neighbourhoods, businesses, hospitals and schools damaged or destroyed.

But more serious impacts of the explosion may not be as visible: the trauma that too many children, women and men carry inside; their lives, livelihoods and well-being severely impacted.

The resolve of women and men in Lebanon had already been tried beyond limits by a crippling socio-economic and governance crisis, and a flaring health crisis in COVID-19. And now, this explosion.

Where there were fragilities and vulnerabilities before August 4th, they have resurfaced, or have become worse. Where there weren’t, there may be now.

More than half (55%) of the people in the country were already struggling with poverty, a figure which nearly doubled in a single year. Today, almost 9 out of 10 households (86%) in Greater Beirut are surviving on less than $200 a month.

As a result of the explosion, an estimated 300,000 people have lost their homes, 140,000 of them women and girls. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods.

In many of the affected neighbourhoods, insecure tenure brings the risk of large-scale displacements. Precarious living arrangements are translating to heightened risks of many kinds: not least, increased exposure to gender-based violence for women and girls.

Too many parents are wondering if their children will recover from the trauma and worrying if they can afford to send them to school.

Too many women, children, elderly, refugees, migrant workers, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable people are at risk of having their rights denied, their well-being jeopardized, and their dignity compromised.

Their stories must be heard; their needs assessed and addressed, and their rights safeguarded.

It is critical to ensure that the current recovery and reconstruction efforts do not unfairly benefit a few -- at the expense of the many that so urgently need support.

At UNDP we reaffirm our commitment to helping people recover and reclaim their lives and livelihoods. And as we do that, we will be vigilant that no one is left behind.

When all UN Member States, including Lebanon, unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, they pledged to ensure that “no one will be left behind” and to “endeavour to reach the furthest behind first”.

Leaving no one behind is not an ideal that we aspire to uphold. It is an obligation that befalls on local, national and international stakeholders: to curb inequalities, confront discrimination and fast-track progress for the furthest behind.

Above all, it is ensuring the protection of the human rights of the most vulnerable. People left behind are those most at risk of not enjoying their civil, cultural, economic, political or social rights.

In other words, being left without shelter, social protection, education, security of tenure, and basic services is a human rights violation.

That is why, we are proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with professors Harb and Fawaz on developing the report that we are launching today.

Entitled Leave No One Behind: For an inclusive and just recovery process in post-blast Beirut, the report seeks to inform post-recovery frameworks in ways that help reduce the likelihood of compiling losses on vulnerable groups.

It employs a human development perspective to the response to the Beirut blast and lays out a non-exhaustive set of seven guiding principles for an inclusive and just recovery process.

I will defer to professors Harb & Fawaz to delve in greater details into these principles. However, I would like to underscore the overarching idea behind the report: recovery must adopt a people-centred approach, rather than one that is building-focused, and reconstruction based.

In 1990, UNDP introduced the concept of human development globally, putting people at the centre of a discourse that had been dominated by a focus on economic growth until then. Since, we have consistently argued in all post conflict and post disaster contexts that recovery must also put people at the centre.

A people-centred recovery recognizes that beyond the figures, the statistics and the dollar cost of rebuilding, there are real people whose lives and livelihoods are at stake – women, men, children and vulnerable groups that are at risk of falling through the cracks in the recovery process.

The report reminds us that vulnerabilities do not exist in a vacuum. In addition to responding to the immediate impact of the blast, it is necessary to address the institutional and legal frameworks that have for too long been manufacturing and reproducing vulnerabilities in Lebanon.

The report also argues that post-blast recovery must be human rights based, participatory and grounded in accountability to ensure that the most vulnerable benefit from recovery efforts.

UNDP is advocating that all recovery stakeholders integrate the guiding principles articulated in this report into their recovery plans and programming. We believe that the focus should not only be on what should be done to rebuild Beirut, but also on how it should be done.

The port explosion on August 4th was undeniably a tragedy, but the process of recovery from its impacts may present a once in a generation opportunity to lay the groundworks for a more inclusive and just Lebanon.

Thank you. I now invite Professors Harb & Fawaz to present the report, thanking them for their great contribution to it.

Learn more UNDP Report: People’s recovery, especially the most marginalized, must be prioritized over physical reconstruction in response to the Beirut port explosion

You can access the report here  

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