BEIRUT: U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said Tuesday that although the recent inaugural meeting to establish the International Support Group for Lebanon served as a catalyst to bolster diplomatic activity, the formation of a new Cabinet remained crucial to securing long-term assistance.The meeting, which was held on Sept. 25 in New York, marked the first high-level assembly of key international members to discuss the subject of bolstering assistance to Lebanon in the wake of the Syrian crisis.
Participants included the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia, China, France, the U.S., and the U.K., as well as the EU and representatives from the Arab League. U.N. agencies, including the UNHCR, UNDP and UNIFIL were also present.
“One thing that is new is the very clear solidarity of ... the permanent five members of the Security Council, the EU and the Arab League,” Plumbly said. “It is a raising of the degree of the engagement, basically.”
While response from donors to assuage the refugee crisis has been “solid and good,” it is not going to meet Lebanon’s enormous needs, Plumbly added, but emphasized that the establishment of the group has provided new momentum and more tools to seek out support.
“A lot of these things would become easier of course if we had a new government because then we would have a partner which was able to take collective decisions,” he said. “Which is not to say that the present government isn’t trying or the present ministers aren’t trying, but it would make a lot of difference.”
Asked whether confidence in directly funding the government was low due to its caretaker status, Plumbly said a concrete and prioritized road map would appease donors.
“Some of these things do assume the formation of a new government,” he added. “A lot can be done in the short term to try and to do the most immediate and urgent things, but for the longer term, obviously, the formation of a government is important.”
During the meeting, participants themselves also stressed that forming a viable government in Lebanon was an urgent need, highlighting that this was crucial for the nation to effectively meet its myriad of challenges, now exacerbated by the refugee influx.
The group discussed a number of related topics during the meeting, which was chaired by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, including support for Lebanese state institutions, assistance to vulnerable areas of the country, boosting the capacity of the Army, and providing structural and financial support to the government.
“I think it accomplished its political purpose of sending a strong signal,” Plumbly said during a media briefing for journalists. “I think it had a real catalyst effect.”
Plumbly said the meeting had increased diplomatic support for Lebanon, which has not seen substantial direct funding to cope with the impact of the Syrian crisis.
He said the meeting would be followed up regularly by high- and midlevel officials and diplomats.
The outcome of the meeting did not extend beyond assurances of unanimity, however, and Plumbly stressed its importance lied in its ability to lobby high-level officials.
“This is not a forum in which the money that Lebanon gets or the refugees get or the Army gets will be determined,” he said. “After all it is a limited group but it can be expanded and that is part of the plan.”
The formal establishment of the support group builds on a presidential statement that was released by Security Council on July 10, which stressed the need for coordinated international support for Lebanon.
“Over time, hopefully, more can come, but this is a core group with which we are starting and it will meet regularly to follow up and to give the encouragement and support,” he said.