BEIRUT: French Ambassador to Lebanon Emmanuel Bonne and Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas teamed up Tuesday to announce a 600,000 euro ($650,000) fund for NGOs to undertake development and humanitarian projects in Lebanon. The new fund, named PISCCA, was announced at a news conference where the pair explained they want NGOs to submit bids for funding from the French Foreign Ministry to undertake projects in Lebanon.
“The contract we are going to sign, after having gained Cabinet approval, is based on the fact that, in light of the Syrian refugee crisis, the social and humanitarian situation in Lebanon is in need of all kinds of support,” Derbas said at the event held at the ambassador’s residence in Beirut.
The ambassador and the minister then signed the official call for proposals. “We in the ministry are ready to be partners in any project that the donor wants to implement, without any conditions,” the minister added, before thanking Bonne for France’s “symbolic” support.
Since 2012, France has provided Lebanon with 55 million euros in humanitarian and development aid. The French government has also pledged 3 million euros to the EU-Syria fund. Citing Lebanon’s problematic location as Syria’s neighbor and its special relationship with France as the main reasons for the aid, Bonne said that “within the support scheme for countries affected by the Syrian crisis, France gives priority to Lebanon.”
He added that France considered it extremely important for the region to preserve Lebanon from an expansion of the violence being perpetrated in neighboring countries.
The new PISCCA grant is intended to contribute to economic and social stability in Lebanon through support for civil society and municipalities currently critically affected by the Syrian crisis, according to the call for proposals.
The conference was followed by an informal meeting between embassy staff and NGO representatives to go into detail on how to apply for PISCCA funding, which will be managed by the Cooperation and Cultural Action Services (SCAC) department of the embassy.
The money will be distributed amongst eligible projects related to education, health, economic and rural development that target youth and women in Lebanon. Selected projects will be granted between 120,000 and 200,000 euros for a two-year period, starting in April 2016. The implementation of each project will be evaluated by the Social Affairs Ministry.
During the conference, Bonne also signed grant agreements with representatives from Amel and Arcenciel, two well-established Lebanese NGOs committed to sustainable development through providing aid and services in underprivileged areas in Lebanon. The funding for the two agreements are worth 1 million euros and is provided by the French Development Agency.
Despite Tuesday’s announcement, Derbas stressed that the overall international humanitarian and development aid provided to Lebanon was insufficient. “The Lebanese Crisis Response Plan, which the government approved for 2015, asked for $2.1 billion but unfortunately we barely got half of this amount,” Derbas said. He added that the LCRP 2016, which the government published late last year, had raised that requirement from the international community to around $2.5 billion. However, the minister was upbeat, saying, “We believe that grants this year will be more generous.”
Next month’s Supporting Syria and the Region conference will show the extent to which these expectations will be met. Co-hosted by the U.K., Kuwait, Norway, Germany and the U.N., the conference will take place in London Feb. 4. The aim is to mobilize the international community to step up efforts to address the needs of the millions of people affected by crisis in Syria.