BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Officials, donors renew vow to improve Palestinians’ situation

This file picture shows the refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir, File)

BEIRUT: Representatives of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, the government and donor organizations renewed their commitment Monday to improving the lives of Palestinians in Lebanon, particularly to rebuilding Nahr al-Bared camp.

Speaking during a consultative meeting with donor groups at the Grand Serail, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said there was “political will to move forward toward a new relationship [between Palestinians and Lebanese] that is based on respecting Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and stability, and providing a decent life for Palestinian refugees in cooperation with the international community.”

Speaking of the northern Nahr al-Bared camp, which was largely destroyed in 2007 when the Lebanese Army fought the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam there, Mikati said the government’s ministerial statement stresses the importance of resuming construction when money is available from Arab and international contributions.

Since donor countries met in 2008 to discuss Nahr al-Bared, Mikati said “Lebanon has made the utmost efforts to adhere to its obligations ... there have been many initiatives in coordination with U.N. agencies to come up with the funds for the camp’s reconstruction, and continue the aid program there. We are here today to renew our commitment to this path, despite the difficulties.

LPDC president Khaldoun al-Sharf said that since he assumed the top post this summer, the committee has been “successful at solving a number of issues and making considerable progress on more than one level.”

He mentioned the scrapping of the permit system in Nahr al-Bared, the return of some lands to the camp that the Army had been using, and work to reconstruct those neighborhoods that remain destroyed.

He said Italy’s donation had been used to facilitate the entry of construction material to Nahr al-Bared, while the LPDC would soon carry out a study on how to best use Japan’s donation to revamp Ain al-Hilweh’s sewer system.

However, Sharif said that “the solutions we have reached are still less than what we hope to achieve, and we will build on them.”

“The next stage will include developing a plan to administer the camps based on a study prepared by the Lebanese Army and studies by Palestinian, Lebanese and international groups to establish a more comfortable structure in the camp, and the plan will follow up on all services [provided] in coordination with UNRWA.”

U.N. Resident Coordinator for Lebanon Robert Watkins called the meeting a “clear indication of the government’s commitment to the work of the LPDC.”

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, he said, face “simple issues that aim at providing opportunities and protecting dignity, and on another level they are complicated and require patience and perseverance.”

He said that while there had been tangible results in Nahr al-Bared, “there are other important issues that need to be resolved in the coming period, such as agreeing on a plan to administer the camps, and reinforcing the work of ministries that are members of the committee with regards to services for Palestinian refugees.”

Also participating in the meeting were U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon Annamaria Laurini, and UNRWA acting director Roger Davies.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 18, 2012, on page 3.

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