President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, emphasized that “Lebanon needs to consolidate social safety with its various types of networks, especially in these difficult circumstances it is going through”. 

“Lebanon has been subjected to disasters that are in fact more severe than crises, which began with the war on Syria, which closed all our land borders to the Arab countries, which constitute our vitality, and what resulted from this war of massive Syrian displacement doubled our population density, which accelerated the impoverishment of the country and the Lebanese people, given the costs that this displacement has entailed on the Lebanese treasury, and psychological, social, economic and health damages, the size of which has been doubled by the spread of the Corona epidemic worldwide” President Aoun said.

President Aoun also pointed out that “These disasters have become economically and socially stressful, and have constituted a major imbalance on the Lebanese demography, which portends serious repercussions for the Lebanese entity, which requires quick treatment. The economic collapse that came as a result of several accumulating factors has been exacerbated by the explosion of the Port of Beirut”.

The President’s positions came while meeting a delegation of the Executive Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs, who came to Lebanon, at the invitation of Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar.

At the beginning of the meeting, Minister Hajjar said:

“We came to you today, with a delegation of our people who honored us throughout their second homeland, Lebanon, after an initiative dear to our heart.

We are thankful to the Council of Arab Affairs Ministers in the League of Arab States, at the request of the Lebanese state. 

The painful economic and social conditions and the great challenges that Lebanon is going through, especially in terms of social security, were the main motivator for this call, and within the framework of the consultations that we carried out in the period preceding this visit with Minister Ayman Al-Mufleh, head of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers, was agreed that it would be a high-level visit to gain the desired local and Arab attention and achieve the desired results.

This visit also aims to stand by Lebanon and its people in an attempt to improve the social and humanitarian situation by setting an action plan with a specific time frame, provided that all concerned from the Ministry of Social Affairs, councils, committees, unions, ministers of Arab affairs and their representatives participate in the implementation of this plan”.

For his part, Minister Al-Mufleh conveyed the greetings of King Abdullah II of Jordan to President Aoun and the Lebanese people, noting that “The visit to Lebanon today is aimed at coordinating with the Ministry of Social Affairs to identify the basic needs of social protection in Lebanon”.

Minister Al-Mufleh hoped to come up with recommendations through coordination with  Minister Hajjar, in order to work on achieving it for the benefit of the Lebanese people.

For her part, Ambassador Dr. Haifa Abu-Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of Social Affairs at the League of Arab States, thanked President Aoun for the invitation.

Ambassador Abu Ghazaleh considered that “This high-level visit aims to support Lebanon”, looking forward to coming up with effective programs that serve the Lebanese people.

Ambassador Abu Ghazaleh also hoped to take quick executive steps after submitting a factual report to the Executive Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs.

Minister Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity in the Arab Republic of Egypt, permanent member of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers, stressed the full support to the Lebanese people, based on the directives of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Al Kabbaj noted that “Lebanon is always able to emerge stronger from every crisis. 

“I hope that the entire Executive Council will stand by the Lebanese people, looking forward to the support that will help rebuild Lebanon and restore health through Arab partnership. We are looking forward to this partnership, and God willing, Lebanon will be strong and proud as we have entrusted it, under your wise leadership” Minister Al Kabbaj sai

For his part, President Aoun thanked and welcomed the members of the delegation, stressing that the stand of the brotherly Arab countries by Lebanon is a testimony of brothers that we cherish. 

“The brotherly ties that unite us are well known, and we look forward to your meetings, in order to help revive Lebanon from the tragic situation we are living in” the President asserted.

The President reiterated the importance that “The return of the displaced Syrians receives the attention of the Arab brothers in accordance with the principle of joint responsibility and lifting of burdens, based on the concept of international cooperation in developing sustainable solutions, to resolve this crisis by returning in safety and dignity to Syria”.

The delegation included Minister Hajjar: Minister Ayman Al-Mufleh, Minister of Social Development in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Head of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers, Minister Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity in the Arab Republic of Egypt, permanent member of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers, and Ambassador Dr. Haifa  Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Social Affairs Sector in the League of Arab States, Plenipotentiary Minister Tariq Al-Nabulsi, Head of the Technical Secretariat of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers in the League of Arab States, Ambassador Abdullah Al-Dais, the Yemeni Ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Borawi Al-Imam, the Tunisian Ambassador to Lebanon, and Khaled Al-Hanafi Al-Amin  General in the Federation of Arab Chambers.

On the Lebanese side, the meeting was attended by: Former Minister Salim Jreissati, and advisors: Rafic Shelala, Osama Khashab and Raymond Tarabay.

Statement of the delegation members:

After the meeting, the members of the delegation made a joint statement to journalists, which Minister Hajjar began by saying:

“We were honored today to visit His Excellency the President of the Republic with the high-level delegation from the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers.

Minister Al-Mufleh said: “We were honored today to meet His Excellency the President, accompanied by their Excellencies, and in the presence of representatives from the Republic of Tunisia and the Republic of Yemen, and the President of the Federation of Chambers.

We were briefed by the President on the situation in Lebanon, and the economic and social repercussions that the brotherly Lebanese people suffer from. 

We discussed the issue of refugees and Syrian refugees, and the repercussions of the Corona epidemic on the old-age security law, which is an internal Lebanese affair, with its positive repercussions if it is approved within the constitutional framework. 

In response to a question about the most prominent recommendations expected, he answered: “What concerns us as ministers of social affairs is social protection, which has become a priority, and most Arab countries are suffering from this issue. For example, in Jordan, and in the official assignment letter to the state of Dr. Bishr.  Khasawneh, His Majesty the King dedicated a space for social protection, and what applies to Jordan applies to Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Lebanon… as social protection has become a priority for the renaissance of society which is essential to social life”.

Minister Hajjar added: “We need this visit, to see the reality, and we will present and present the programs of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and tomorrow we will have a field visit to some institutions. Of course, the strategic goal is to secure social protection, but there is a quick goal that we can answer. Lebanon today suffers from a dense urban population, and there are urgent social needs, and we have programs such as “Aman” and the Poorest Families Program, but this matter is not enough, because the number of the poor has increased and we need to think about emergency support, and this is what we will address. We hope that the ministers will raise this matter to the League of Arab States, for a quick approval, whether for strategic protection or emergency assistance. And I would like to note that, in the last meeting of the Council of Ministers, we approved the strategic plan and demanded that it be reformulated by the Ministerial Committee for which I am responsible. With the aim of speeding up its implementation, we hope that the next ministry will take our observations into consideration, and we will go to implementation”.

Then, Ambassador Abu-Ghazaleh said: “At the kind invitation of His Excellency the Minister of Social Affairs, and in implementation of the decision of the Council of Ministers of Social Affairs, this high-level delegation attended to Lebanon to see the various programs and needs that the Council can provide. We were honored to meet His Excellency the President and we conveyed to him the greetings of His Excellency the Secretary General of the League of Arab States and his wishes for this visit to achieve its goals, and a report will be prepared to be submitted to the Council of Social Affairs, and we in the League of Arab States can start implementing what was stated in it.

Minister Al-Kabbaj said: “On my behalf, as a member of the Executive Council of the Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs, and as an Egyptian citizen, I express my happiness and honor to meet His Excellency the President of the Republic. Yesterday, we met the Prime Minister.  The Lebanese people, with their latent wealth, need someone to lend them a helping hand, especially in times of successive crises, including the common global and the local, transient and emergency. 

Al Kabbaj concluded “We in the Arab Republic of Egypt are fully prepared with the Executive Council and within the framework of its efforts, to extend a hand of support to the Lebanese civil society through the Egyptian civil society, as large associations. We convey to you the greetings of the Arab Republic of Egypt, president, government and people. And Mr. President Abdel  Al-Fattah Al-Sisi always directs the government, the people and civil society to make every effort to support the Lebanese people to pass from adversity to relief.

We ask God for Lebanon’s unity, security, safety and peace. We are confident in its human and natural strength. You will rise stronger than before, in a country of prosperity and development soon”.

Source: National News Agency