Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at the International Donor Conference on Reconstruction in Lebanon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Paris (France), 25 January 2007

I am pleased to join you for this vitally important Conference.  President Chirac and the Government of France merit our gratitude for their leadership at a tumultuous time in Lebanon's history.  I am delighted to see Prime Minister Siniora and the members of his democratically elected Government.  The high level of representation here today demonstrates that Lebanon has many friends who care deeply about the country and are ready to contribute tangibly to its economic stability and general well-being.

In September 2005, when the idea for this Conference first arose, representatives of several countries and international organizations gathered at the United Nations to demonstrate their support for the then new Government of Lebanon.  They pledged to work together to solidify Lebanon's impressive efforts to emerge from its long civil war.

Last summer's war between Israel and Hizbollah has made such a conference even more urgent than when it was first proposed.  That conflict had a devastating impact on Lebanon's infrastructure and economy, which will be felt for some time to come.

Clearly, there is a pressing need for physical reconstruction, and also for the deeper national reconciliation that can promote stability and lasting progress.

The Lebanese people are determined to recover and rebuild.  Rarely has the United Nations witnessed such a quick transition from the emergency phase to development work.  I am proud of the support that United Nations agencies and the international financial institutions have been able to provide for these efforts to return to normalcy.  United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), strengthened since the conflict, continues to assist the Government and the Lebanese Armed Forces in a range of vital tasks.

Today, our focus is on one of the fundamental obstacles to the country's recovery and long-term development:  the unsustainable level of debt, which now stands at 180 per cent of gross domestic product.  This challenge cannot be addressed in piecemeal fashion.

Towards that end, the Government has presented an ambitious and comprehensive package of concrete fiscal, economic and social reforms.  At the centre of the programme is the need to reduce the heavy debt burden to a sustainable level, to stimulate growth and create employment.  I was also pleased to note that the programme makes clear the Government's commitment to implementing the Millennium Development Goals through social interventions.  I call on the international community to respond favourably and generously to this package.

At the same time, the success of Paris III will be measured not only by the level of international contributions, but also by the implementation of the reforms.  Therefore, I encourage all Lebanese to engage in consultations in order to achieve a national consensus on the value and necessity of these reforms.

The people of Lebanon are dynamic and enterprising.  At times, their fortunes have been affected by conditions not of their making.  It is tragic indeed that the current round of political and financial upheaval has led so many of the country's young and talented men and women to take their skills elsewhere.  Such emigration saps the strength of the private sector.  If the brain drain continues, this will severely cripple the chances of progress.  I believe that this Conference can help to stop that flow, and can give hope to all Lebanese that their country can enjoy sustainable peace and prosperity.

Political stability has to be the bedrock on which we consolidate economic recovery and reconstruction.  I call on Lebanon's neighbours to fully respect its unity, independence and sovereignty.  Lebanese democracy can only work if its leaders are free to make decisions and pursue reconciliation without fear of external pressure or interference.

More generally, I urge all parties and communities within Lebanon to engage in meaningful dialogue, and to avoid any recourse to violence and intimidation.  The situation in the country can be addressed only if the Lebanese people work with each other in a spirit of common purpose.  The only hope for stability lies in the path of national dialogue and reconciliation.

The communities of Lebanon have suffered bitter wars and deep divisions.  Yet, they have shown many times in the past that their unique social mosaic can work for all the country's people.  Today, the people of Lebanon are being tested again.  Their response will determine not only the future of their country.  It will also help determine prospects for peace in the broader Middle East.  I therefore urge them to cooperate, without distinction as to faction or faith, in order to strengthen their economy and achieve a prosperous and independent Lebanon.  And, I appeal to the international community to support those efforts.  The United Nations, of course, will continue to do its part.