Lebanon needs full support in face of Syrian conflict, says UN-backed group

Syrian refugees queue to be registered on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal. Photo: UNHCR/M. Hofer

25 November 2013 – Lebanon needs strong, coordinated support in response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the crisis in Syria, which has brought an inflow of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and has stoked inter-communal conflict, a United Nations-backed international group warned today.

The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG), first convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September to help the country tackle its multiple challenges, including hosting over 800,000 refugees who have fled the Syrian conflict, met at UN Headquarters in New York under the auspices of Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

Participants in the meeting noted the many ongoing pressures on Lebanon and again underlined the importance of burden sharing. They regretted the lack of progress on Government formation in Beirut and encouraged all Lebanese parties to engage positively in the effort given the urgency of the security, humanitarian and development challenges facing Lebanon.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and representatives of the World Bank, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) briefed the group.

In addition to the Permanent Representative of Lebanon, the meeting was attended by the original participants in the September meeting – the Permanent Representatives of China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States, the Head of Delegation of the European Union and the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States.

The Permanent Representatives of Italy and Germany, which has given a lead on admission programmes to receive Syrian refugees, were also present. Participants welcomed the prospect of expanding engagement with a range of stakeholders, including through broader high-level meetings.

Participants noted that the next UN Regional Response Plan for refugees from Syria, due to be completed in December, would also address the immediate needs of host communities and underlined the importance of the pledging conference the Secretary-General will convene in Kuwait on 15 January.

The number of people fleeing Syria is growing as the conflict continues unabated. An estimated 4.25 million Syrians are now displaced within their own country, while a further 2 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, since the fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

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