Development plans to uplift the social, economic and demographic situation in Akkar GovernorateJul 14, 2017
The General Secretariat of the Lebanese Parliament in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program, launched a full-day development workshop targeting the Governorate of Akkar, as one of many regional development workshops that were implemented since 2000 until 2013. This event took place at the Lebanese Parliament on July 13th, 2017 along with the two main participants His Excellency State Minister for Refugee Affairs, Mr. Moueen Al- Merhebi, and His Excellency Deputy United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, UN Resident and Humanitarian coordinator and United Nations Development Program Resident Representative, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini. Moreover, the attendance of other important public figures such as relevant ministries, public administrations, official bodies, and international and civil society organizations were vital in presenting their master plans and discussing their current and future projects with the Members of Parliament, concerning Akkar region.
This development workshop is mainly targeting Akkar to demonstrate its demographic, social, and economic scarcity since 1999, and more intensely after the massive Syrian refugee influx. Furthermore, Mr. Al- Merhebi’s opening speech indicated Akkar’s current miserable situation that is firstly considered as one of the poorest regions in Lebanon, in addition to the shortage of an efficient infrastructure, proper electricity, and water supply. Akkar also lacks sufficient educational institutions, such as establishing a public university branch (Lebanese University) in the region. Merhebi also commented, that Akkar supplies its people with only one public hospital, which is not considered adequate for welcoming Akkar’s high population rate in addition to the 300,000 Syrian Refugees in the area. Al- Merhebi gave in an estimation of “nearly every 11,000 Akkar resident has an approximation of one bed available at the hospital.” Such rates are indeed considered a crime to humanity and unfair to the Lebanese citizens. The State Minister for Refugee Affairs, urged the Parliament to construct a strategic plan with the help of Akkar’s stakeholders, which were present at the workshop, to supply the region with a sustainable plan that can uplift its social, economic, and demographical situation to a better status. Al-Merhebi added “there is no reason for us not to start developing Akkar, since the financial support is available, but not delivered fairly to the region, unlike other regions in Lebanon that are already implementing their development plans in various ways”. He concluded his speech by affirming, that such development plans indeed help create job opportunities for Akkar residents, rather than decentralizing them to other areas leaving Akkar as a remote area.
On the other hand, Mr. Lazzarini also echoed Al- Merhebi’s demands in not only targeting Akkar, but as a start to target all neglected regions in Lebanon. Lazzarini remarked, that this workshop’s objectives aim to discuss development challenges and solutions with all relevant stakeholders in order to limit the scarcity of essential resources of local communities, which can indeed play major part in increasing the economic growth, employment rates, building necessary efficient educational institution, and solid infrastructure that serves Akkar. He also acknowledged UN and UNDP’s continuous support and collaboration with the Lebanese Parliament in targeting the Sustainable Development Goals, through series of regional workshops. “It is our job today to identify with the attendees Akkar’s priorities”, in addition to responding to that in a specialized and professional way. Lazzarini also mentioned Zahle’s successful workshop example, in demanding to clean the river as one of their region’s priorities. He urged the current Akkar participants to have Zahle’s spirit and plans in aiming to reach a successful result. The mismanagement and neglect of such regions should indeed come to an end, as well in placing the SDG’s as an outline to analyze how much Akkar is lacking behind, and directing a plan to what kind of region we want Akkar to be. Lazzarini finished his speech by stating “We owe it to the people of Akkar and Human Development.”