Lebanon remains “a beacon of tolerance and co-existence” in an otherwise combustible region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, adding that in the face of growing challenges along its borders, the Middle Eastern country will need to continue its close collaboration with the United Nations and other international stakeholders.
In a message delivered to a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, held in Berlin, Germany, Mr. Ban celebrated the unity of the Group in support of Lebanon’s stability, stating that it sent “a strong signal” and complemented the progress reflected in the present Government.
He noted, however, that the Group had expressed concern about “the severe and growing challenges” facing the country as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria and that pressure on Lebanon’s border, including recent attacks on the Lebanese army in Tripoli, had “further highlighted the threat.”
“The Group has consistently highlighted Lebanon’s need for international assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces; for Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them; and for affected government programmes,” the Secretary-General said in a message delivered by Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.
“I understand certain anxieties about the scale of the Syrian refugee presence, and note the tensions in some communities. I also note recent policy decisions announced by the Government,” he continued, while also stressing the importance of “close cooperation between the Government and UNHCR [Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] in managing the refugee presence effectively and in accordance with international humanitarian standards and human rights.”
Last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Support Group to help the country tackle its multiple challenges, including hosting such a large number of refugees.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered over 1,000,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon – now constituting an estimated 25 per cent of the total population.
Also, the number of registered Syrian refugees does not include the hundreds of thousands of Syrians that are living in Lebanon without having asked for assistance, or the over 50,000 Palestinians who have fled to Lebanon since the start of the conflict, adding to the 270,000 that were already there.
If the current influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon – some 12,000 every week – continues, there could be over 1.6 million of them registered in the country by the end of this year. The presence of such a large number of refugees is exerting unprecedented pressure on public services and communities hosting the refugees.
“Lebanon is a beacon of tolerance and co-existence in the region,” Mr. Ban concluded. “Easing the situation imposed by a crisis now in its fourth year is essential to Lebanon’s continued stability.”