Having heard and seen for himself the suffering of Lebanon’s people, the UN chief told political leaders there on Tuesday that they “do not have the right to be divided”, leaving the nation paralysed, amidst multiple crises.
“All government institutions are measured on results: social protection, access to electricity and water, education and basic healthcare, good governance and the protection of human rights”, said Secretary-General António Guterres.
Speaking at a press conference marking the end of his three-day mission of solidarity, he said that if the country was to return to a path of sustainable recovery, “civil society, women and young people have a critical role to play.”
“Their voices must be heard, and their proposals seriously considered”, he said.
“Free and fair parliamentary elections, held on time in 2022, will be an essential opportunity for the people to make their voices heard.”
Mr. Guterres said he was grateful for having been able to engage with a wide range of Lebanese society, including political and military authorities, and religious leaders.
He also undertook field trips to both the north and south of the country and told reporters it had been “an honour” to be back in a country, dear to his heart.
“But it grieves me to see the people of this beautiful country suffering so much. The people of Lebanon face immense challenges”, he said. “Yet, despite the strains they endure, the warmth and generosity of the Lebanese people continues to shine.”
He said region and the whole world, were thankful for the country’s generosity in giving refuge to Syrians and others, fleeing violent conflict, and commended the country’s “spirit of co-existence and tolerance”.
Victims deserve answers
On the Beirut Port explosion, where more than 200 lost their lives in the devastating August 2020 blasts, he reiterated his view that “all the victims deserve answers and justice that can only be met through impartial, thorough and transparent investigation.”
The UN chief expressed his grave concern over the impact of the worsening economic and financial crisis which has been fuelled by political deadlock, sectarianism, widespread protests and a growing humanitarian emergency.
“Yesterday, I visited Tripoli in north Lebanon and today, Tyre in the south. I was very moved when listening to first-hand testimonies of how this crisis is impacting people’s daily lives”, said Mr. Guterres.
Listen to the people
“People expect their political leaders to listen to their needs and to restore the economy, including through a functioning government and state institutions, and by effectively fighting corruption.
“These past two days, I have urged Lebanon’s political leaders to work to implement reforms that respond to the demands of the Lebanese people for greater welfare, accountability, protection and transparency in order to restore hope for a better future. “
We’ll have more on the Secretary-General’s visit to Lebanon from our UN News team on the ground, later in the day…