jeudi 25 janvier 2007

Situation in Lebanon : Caritas Lebanon calls for dialogue and resumption of the normal operation of the institutions

Whereas that day was announced as a day of « general strike », Tuesday January 23 turned out to a day of violence in Lebanon, which tragically ended with the death of five persons and more than one hundred injured people. The political leaders who called for the strike had promised that the mobilization would be peaceful, but it rapidly evolved towards hard confrontations between militants in several regions, which causes extreme fear from an imminent generalized explosion in the whole country.

At the end of this sad day, the leaders of the opposition announced the suspension of the movement, while promising « other forms of demonstrations having more impact than the means that have been used until now » if the government does not change its position. These threats of escalation generate heavy uncertainty on the activities of all the Lebanese, and have a dramatic impact in particular on those whose low incomes rely on small business activities, local tourism or catering.

On the other hand, an international conference of support to Lebanon opens on January 25th in Paris. In order to benefit from the assistance promised by the donor countries and institutions, the Lebanese government is about to present a program of ambitious socio-economic reforms, based on increased liberalization, rise of tax revenues and administration reform. This program also includes a social part aiming at the improvement of social safety nets, and health care and educational systems. However, similar meetings have shown in the past that these measures and action plans are not sufficient to restore hope amongst the Lebanese who mainly distrust their political leaders.

In this alarming context, Caritas Lebanon considers that the resolution to the crisis lies in dialogue, and calls for a resumption of the normal operation of the institutions. Referring to its values, Caritas Lebanon believes that efforts must be focused on the introduction of a fair economic system, allowing the participation of all the Lebanese in the economic life, as well as transparent management of the national debt which burden should not weigh on the poorest, and especially the establishment of a lasting peace.

As far as it is concerned, Caritas Lebanon continues expanding its support programmes for the most deprived by calling upon the solidarity of the Lebanese from all denominations. Therefore, Caritas Lebanon is still working on the special post-emergency recovery programme following last summer’s war, along with its international partners, and has launched simultaneously new programmes in the suburbs of Beirut. For example : the «Friendship Meals» daily offered to needy people in Dekwane, and remedial classes in Nabaa, intended for the children from the district. Caritas Lebanon has also provided fuel oil to 2600 families, as well as 3600 food parcels to be handed out in all Lebanese regions.