Towards a unified national policy for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
Speech of Resident representative Mr.Robert Watkins
H.E. Prime Minister Mr. Najib Mikati
Mr. Khaldoun El Charif, LPDC President
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Exactly one year ago, in this very hall, we joined together to welcome H.E. Prime Minister Mikati’s renewal of the Lebanese Government’s ongoing commitment towards improving the living conditions and socio-economic opportunities for Palestinian refugees, as enshrined in successive Ministerial Statements. We also welcomed Khaldoun El Sharif as the new head of LPDC with much optimism.
A year on, as evidenced by the wide participation today, I believe we can all agree that H.E. the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Mr. El Sharif as president of LPDC has been well rewarded in a short period of time. A re-energized Lebanese – Palestinian dialogue on the basis of consultation and coordination among a diverse range of stakeholders has been the most visible impact of his leadership and the hard work of the LPDC staff. The decision of the Lebanese Government to financially contribute to the running of the LPDC over the past year was a further encouraging illustration of the Government’s commitment to the issue.
Ladies and Gentlemen
With almost eight years passing since the establishment of the LPDC, and in the face of growing national and regional challenges, it was clearly time to capitalize on this momentum and leadership to undertake a full review of the LPDC, its work, effectiveness, structure, and mandate, with a view towards moving from strength to strength. The wealth of lessons learned over the past eight years, combined with the extensive consultative process recently concluded, provided the compelling and inescapable conclusion that the best way forward is to strengthen the current structure of the LPDC in the form of an even more robust High Commission for the Palestinian refugee affairs, as Mr. El Charif has just outlined for us.
The establishment of a High Commission would no doubt mitigate many of the risks that have at times threatened the continuity and mission of the LPDC while strengthening its role as a government institution with full legal and administrative integration among the other branches of government. The High Commission will further help reinforce the central importance of engaging with the issue of Palestinian refugees from a holistic, non-security perspective across the institutions of government, through a new combination of executive and advisory functions. Practically, this will also mean that the work of the LPDC moving forward will no longer remain fully dependent on international donor support for continuity, a welcome move towards the sustainability that represents the ultimate goal of development partnerships.
This initiative comes at a challenging time for Lebanon and with many uncertainties as we look ahead. I believe, however, that the extensive consultative process conducted by the LPDC in laying the foundation for today’s event, with the full engagement and support of key political and civic actors across a broad spectrum, will best position the proposed model for legislative success and ratification.
In the meantime, of course, the LPDC continues to face many challenges in fulfilling its mission to support both Palestinian and Lebanese communities. At one level, there are more straightforward development issues of livelihoods, opportunity, and dignity, with the reconstruction of the Nahr al-Bared camp and assistance to Palestinian refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis among the most pressing. It remains a matter of joint accountability for the Lebanese Government, the Palestinian leadership and the international community to bring our collective resources to these tasks. At another level, there are complexities in the political process that require patience and continued persistence in realizing the establishment of a High Commission for Palestinian Refugee Affairs.
In this regard, UNDP remains committed to supporting the Government of Lebanon in furthering the mandate and mission of the LPDC both now and its new manifestation. We will continue to do so in close collaboration with key partners, perhaps most notably UNRWA which, despite financial constraints and new burdens of the Syrian crisis, continuous to demonstrate strong leadership and effectiveness in supporting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon on behalf of the United Nations.
I wish to commend H.E. the Prime Minister for launching this policy paper now, both because it will serve the next cabinet well, and because it gives a clear message that Lebanon’s commitment to achieving better living standards for Palestinian refugees and Lebanese alike, even at a time of great challenge, remains unceasing.