Crisis in Lebanon: French Macron announces a fund for sustained aid | News France

Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced the creation of a World Bank-hosted humanitarian fund for Lebanon in crisis, saying relief would bypass the country’s increasingly ostracized politicians and go directly to the Lebanese people and NGOs. trust.

Macron spoke at an international conference organized by France and the United Nations that aimed to assess the disbursement of millions of dollars in aid pledged by the international community following the massive explosion of the port of Beirut in August.

The port explosion destroyed large parts of Beirut, killing 200 people and injuring another 6,500. To date, Macon said $ 338 million has been disbursed for immediate needs such as food security, healthcare, education and the preservation of cultural and heritage sites.

The explosion also worsened the country’s economic crisis that began last year as foreign remittances dried up, leading to mass protests demanding sweeping political reforms.

Lebanon has experienced dramatic spikes in unemployment and poverty as its economy remains in crisis [File: Hassan Ammar/AP Photo]

Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost about 80% of its value against the US dollar – causing skyrocketing inflation, corporate bankruptcies and dramatic spikes in unemployment and poverty rates. A growing COVID-19 epidemic threatens to overwhelm Lebanon’s fragile health system.

While ordinary Lebanese are shaken, the country’s ruling elites have left them twisted – blocking the reforms that are a prerequisite for unlocking billions of dollars in promised international aid.

In a scathing report released Tuesday, the World Bank said Lebanon was in a “deliberate depression” caused by the actions – and lack of action – of the country’s political and financial authorities.

The country’s economy shrank 6.7% in 2019 and is expected to shrink 19.2% in 2020.

“As it stands, the economic crisis in Lebanon is likely to be both deeper and longer than most economic crises,” the World Bank report said, with a further economic contraction expected by 13, 2% in 2021.

“Unfulfilled commitments”

Macron renewed his call for the rapid formation of a Lebanese government after the latter’s resignation following the Beirut explosion. The French president said this new government must commit to implementing a reform roadmap that all of the country’s main political forces agreed to in meetings with Macron in Beirut in September.

“These commitments, to date, have not been kept. Nothing shows so far that it was more than words, ”Macron said. “This road map is inevitable and is in the vital interest of Lebanon. It is also the request of the Lebanese people.

Macron said France continues to keep its promise “to stand by the Lebanese people for the long term – unconditionally – for this part of our aid.”

He plans to return to Beirut in December – his third visit in four months – to keep up the pressure for reform.

The coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm the country’s health system as the Lebanese economy remains in crisis and its politicians fail to implement reforms that would unlock international aid [File: Hassan Ammar/AP Photo]

But faced with an inflexible political class, some called on Macron to adopt punitive measures.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday took the unprecedented decision to call for “sanctions against members of the political class who have rendered the national justice system impotent.”

“France should work with other countries to sanction leaders against whom there is credible evidence of corruption leading to human rights violations, share this evidence publicly and initiate the process of asset recovery,” HRW said.

“If the Lebanese rulers can evade accountability when half of the capital exploded, then they will have no qualms about sabotaging reform initiatives and continuing their massive theft of the wealth of the Lebanese people as the country is rushing towards economic collapse, ”added the rights group.

France, which controlled Lebanon from 1920 to 1943, repeatedly mobilized aid to Lebanon over the past two decades, organizing four international donor conferences where nations and organizations pledged some $ 24 billion in favorably qualified loans and grants for development projects.

The 2018 CEDRE conference was the last of these, where $ 11 billion was pledged, subject to reform. But these have never been implemented.

Wednesday’s conference was, in essence, anti-CEDRE – a conference aimed at cushioning Lebanon’s collapse rather than pledging development loans in exchange for reforms.

Instead of money for new highways and power plants, the Lebanese have so far received 12,500 tons of wheat flour; financial assistance to 73,000 people and food stamps to 17,000; shelter for 25,000 people; repair work for 8,000 homes; and supplies and equipment for 90 schools and around 30 hospitals, according to Macron.

The country’s octogenarian president, Michel Aoun, said in a speech at the conference that any help was welcome – “whatever its methods, mechanisms or tools, and whatever channels you adopt” – provided that ‘it is supervised by the UN and donor countries.

Aoun said Lebanon is working to secure a $ 246 million loan from the World Bank to put in place a social safety net for those who need it most due to the country’s current crises, including COVID. -19.

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