Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks to the International Conference on Assistance and Support to Beirut and the Lebanese People, held in Fort de Brégançon, France, today:
Let me start by bringing you greetings from Secretary-General António Guterres, who has asked me to express his solidarity and strong commitment for the well-being of the people of Lebanon. He regrets not being able to join you today at this critical conference. We are grateful for the leadership of our co-convener, President [Emmanuel] Macron, in ensuring we could organize this high-level gathering only few days since the tragedy, underscoring our strong sense of urgency.
The explosion in Beirut last Tuesday shocked the world. Neighbourhoods flattened, at least 150 lives lost, a large part of the country’s grain reserves obliterated, six hospitals damaged or destroyed, hundreds of thousands have been made homeless — many of them children. I offer my condolences to those who lost loved ones, and a full recovery to the thousands of injured. Above all, I give my pledge that the United Nations is committed to helping the people of Lebanon in every way we can.
Since the blast, the United Nations system has been working around the clock, delivering medical supplies, shelter kits and food parcels, and helping reunite separated families. We are grateful to the donors whose funding has enabled us to do this. Financial support leveraged in record time — in particular from regional partners — is already making a difference.
But, of course, this is just the beginning. Much more will be needed. First, recovery and reconstruction. This will require a sense of urgency, large-scale activity and considerable funding. The damage to homes and public infrastructure is significant and the response must match it. This will need to go beyond the United Nations humanitarian system and involve a wider range of United Nations organizations and other partners. To help Lebanon overcome the tragedy and recover better, we will need all hands on deck. The faster we act, the better we can reduce human suffering, in Lebanon and beyond; let us not forget that the port that was destroyed also serves humanitarian needs in Syria.
Second, anticipating and responding to the ongoing crisis. As the dust settles, the deeper and longer-term impacts will become visible. Led by our Resident Coordinator in Lebanon, the United Nations development system has been mobilizing in full emergency mode to support the Lebanese authorities. The United Nations will help strengthen safety nets for vulnerable people against the socioeconomic crisis, and we are well equipped to do this. A focus on the long-term is essential to ensure this latest tragedy will mark a turning point for Lebanon. It would be a mistake to underestimate the cost of this work, or its value.
This blast will have deep social and economic impacts. Not least because it came when Lebanon was already dealing with economic hardship and the coronavirus outbreak. Lebanon is also a generous host to large refugee communities. To the people of Lebanon, I say this: the United Nations family is here for you and will stand by you throughout. To Lebanon’s many friends and partners: the Secretary-General and I count on you to rally together, and provide all the financial, material and political support you can.
The people of Lebanon need to rebuild. We must focus our support on four priority sectors — health, food, the rehabilitation of buildings and the rehabilitation of schools. We must also remember the importance of the Government of Lebanon implementing the reforms that will address the needs of the Lebanese people for the longer term. The Lebanese people deserve a stable and secure future. With determination and solidarity, we can help them reach that long-sought goal.