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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat

US, UN Reroute $72M to Support Lebanon's Security Personnel

UNDP official Melanie Hauenstein, Lebanon's Army Gen. Joseph Aoun, US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Osman at the UN headquarters in Beirut, January 25, 2023. (Reuters)

The US Embassy in Beirut, in a joint program with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), announced Wednesday the rollout of a program providing $72 million in temporary financial support for Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) personnel.

The “LAF-ISF Livelihood Support Program” was announced at a press conference held at the UN headquarters in Beirut UNDP, in the presence of US ambassador Dorothy Shea, UNDP Resident Representative Melanie Hauenstein, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun, and Director General of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Imad Osman.

“These payments will provide every soldier and police officer eligible to receive assistance under US law with $100 per month for a period of six months,” UNDP said, adding that the agency is working with a nationwide financial service provider to disburse these funds as soon as the modalities are finalized.

At the launching of the program in Beirut, US Ambassador Dorothy Shea revealed that the embassy asked for and received the consent of the US Congress to re-purpose a significant portion of Washington’s security assistance to support hardworking men and women of the LAF and ISF in light of the urgency of Lebanon’s dire economic situation.

The Ambassador said providing this temporary assistance – which is the first time the United States has ever provided such financial support to security forces in Lebanon – will bring relief to brave and hardworking soldiers and servicemembers.

She then urged Lebanon’s political leaders to elect a president, form a government, and enact urgent economic reforms.

For her part, the UNDP Resident Representative in Lebanon stressed that “security, stability, and the swift implementation of reform are the basic prerequisites for development in Lebanon”.

Hauenstein further stressed that “transparency and accountability are key for a project of this scale and importance.”

UNDP will work with trusted partners to ensure funds will reach those eligible, no matter where they are stationed.

“UNDP has also mobilized an internationally recognized third party agency to monitor the operation. We have put rigorous mechanisms in place to ensure that the project adheres to the highest human rights due diligence standards,” the UNDP representative affirmed.

Lebanon's currency has lost about 97% of its value against the dollar since the country's financial system collapsed in 2019, driving down most soldiers' monthly wages to around $80.

The military has been squeezed so badly that its canteens stopped serving meat to troops in 2020 and it began offering sightseeing tours in its helicopters to raise cash.

LAF Commander, General Joseph Aoun said the fact that the international community is keen on preserving the military institutions proves that it will not allow Lebanon’s collapse on the security front.

“Lebanon is vulnerable to a set of challenges and dangers, because of its geographical location, the multiple crises it has faced as well as the presence of the displaced Syrians and Palestinian refugees,” he noted.

He added that the impact and consequences of its collapse are not limited to it as a country but will have a spillover effect into the regional security environment.

For his part, General Osman presented the concerns and burdens of all ISF staff and families that come from across the entire Lebanese society.

“The ISF members now face two things: On the one hand, they must secure the food, livelihood, medical care and education for their families, and on the other hand, they must remain faithful to their oath and to the institution that embraced them throughout their years of service,” Osman said.

Lebanon, a tiny Mediterranean country of 6 million people, is struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis, one that the World Bank says is among the worst worldwide since the 1850’s.

Three-quarters of the population live in poverty while Lebanese leaders, deep in political deadlock, have failed at implementing economic reforms to make the country viable again.

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