Lebanon’s economic crisis has impoverished the country’s people and brought the state to the brink of collapse. Millions of people in Lebanon are destitute and need humanitarian aid.1 The crisis has hit everyone: Lebanese and refugees alike. And the country’s public institutions and services, on which the poor must now rely, are only barely functioning.
International donor assistance is addressing some of the crisis’s worst effects, in ways that Lebanon has never experienced. For years, aid agencies have supported Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Now, however, the international community is increasingly providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Lebanese as well. And donor support goes even further, propping up public institutions. Donors are helping pay for Lebanon’s public education, health care, social assistance, security, and more—even sponsoring partial salaries for teachers and soldiers. It’s the type of aid, donors told me, that ordinarily goes to countries devastated by war.2 In 2022, UN agencies alone provided $300 million in assistance to or through Lebanon’s public institutions—a quarter of the size of Lebanon’s public spending for the year.3
This aid addresses humanitarian needs in Lebanon, but it also comes with serious drawbacks, and it might be creating other long-term problems. Lebanon increasingly relies on this assistance, as its own state and institutions show signs of atrophy. This aid also risks perpetuating exploitative elite rule, solidifying new relationships of dependency, and further diminishing the country’s already impaired sovereignty. International donors, by choosing where to direct their aid, could be effectively deciding which of the country’s public institutions survive.
Lebanon faces a vexing dilemma: how can it receive aid to address a genuine national crisis, while also avoiding a downward spiral of aid dependency and state breakdown? Lebanon and its foreign supporters, including the United States and other Western donor countries, have mostly avoided an open and honest accounting of the many ad hoc streams of aid, and a serious conversation about the trade-offs involved. They now need to wrestle with uncomfortable questions about whether current assistance makes sense; whether it is contributing to the development of the country and its institutions; and how to square the interests of foreign donors, the Lebanese government, and Lebanon’s people.
There are no easy solutions, but a better way forward begins with fully mapping this aid so donors can additionally coordinate their assistance—and so the Lebanese people can fully understand this aid, and its lasting consequences for their country.
This report is based on more than forty interviews with donor country officials, representatives of international and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Lebanese officials and politicians, and Lebanese experts, among others. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.4 The research presented here is not comprehensive in its accounting of donor assistance or in its survey of the workings of Lebanon’s state. Its interviews are biased to the capital Beirut and to national institutions, as opposed to subnational bodies outside the country’s center.
The report aims to jump-start a difficult but necessary conversation. First, it documents the effects of Lebanon’s crisis on the Lebanese state and how foreign donors have responded. Second, it lays out the serious dilemmas and debates posed by this external aid, weighted against the equally serious costs of letting Lebanon further fail.
Part I. Lebanon’s Multi-Crisis
Lebanon is not just suffering an economic collapse. It is undergoing a more multidimensional crisis of its politics, society, and economy—and its state.
Decades of economic mismanagement led to Lebanon’s present disaster.5 The country’s rentier economic model relied on continuous capital inflows, but by 2019—despite Lebanese authorities’ increasingly gimmicky, unsustainable attempts to attract new money—those flows had reversed. Then, in October 2019, massive anti-government protests prompted the country’s already weakened banks to shut their doors and deny depositors access to their savings. This attempt to preempt a bank run prompted a crisis of confidence that rendered the country’s interlinked state, central bank, and commercial banks all insolvent.
Lebanon proceeded to suffer one blow after another. In March 2020, the country defaulted on its dollar-denominated external debt. It was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and then, on August 4, 2020, by a massive explosion at Beirut Port that devastated the capital.6
Since then, Lebanon’s crisis has only deepened. International donors have conditioned much-needed rescue funds on structural reforms implemented as part of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program.7 The country’s ruling elites have not carried out those reforms; they evidently prefer an alternative, non-IMF course.8
Lebanon’s GDP has contracted by almost 40 percent since 2018, wiping out 15 years of economic growth.9 GDP is projected to contract a further 0.5 percent in 2023.10 Lebanon’s currency, the lira, has lost 98 percent of its value. More than half of Lebanon’s population is now believed to be living in poverty.11
Lebanon’s private sector has recovered, somewhat. Imports returned to precrisis levels in 2022, at $19 billion—although this was seemingly due to businesses hoarding goods ahead of an anticipated increase in customs duties.12 Likewise, the real estate sector has improved from a low in 2020.13 Luxury shopping reportedly witnessed an upturn this summer, during a more successful tourism season.14
Lebanon’s public sector, on the other hand, has not recovered. Public expenditures in 2022 fell to an all-time (nominal) low of $1.2 billion, down from $17.6 billion in 2018.15 In real terms, public expenditures and revenues are on track to decline by 88.8 and 84.3 percent, respectively, between 2018 and 2023.16 The World Bank has called it “a massive hollowing out of the state.”17
A Failing State and Bureaucracy
Lebanon’s crisis has devastated its state institutions and bureaucracy.
After the end of Lebanon’s 1975–90 civil war, Lebanon’s political factions used the state and its civil service mainly to reward their supporters and clientelist networks. The division of Lebanon’s civil service according to a postwar power-sharing arrangement yielded a state that was simultaneously larger and less effective.18 Over time, it grew even less capable; capital expenditures were crowded out by personnel costs, interest payments on debt, and transfers to the country’s spectacularly wasteful power utility, Électricité du Liban.19 A controversial 2017 law increasing public sector salaries further destabilized the country’s finances.20 The government imposed a public sector hiring freeze in 2018, but that only led to a shortage of dedicated staff and the increased use of noncontract daily workers and outside consultants.21
Public sector wages and pensions now dominate public spending. Lebanon’s public sector today includes an estimated 250,000 workers and 120,000 pensioners.22 Among the country’s public sector employees are 80,000 personnel in the Lebanese Armed Forces, and a further 25,000 police in the Internal Security Forces.23 Between 1995 and 2017, personnel expenses ranged between a quarter and third of public spending. That jumped in 2017 and then further increased with the onset of Lebanon’s present crisis. Since 2020, personnel expenses have represented more than half of public spending;24 in the government’s draft 2023 budget, they are set to increase to roughly 60 percent.25
The extreme depreciation of the lira has decimated state employees’ income. Teachers salaries are now worth about $90 a month.
Yet that increased personnel expense is a much larger proportion of what is now a much smaller state budget. Overall public spending is not enough for public sector employees to live and work, or for the state to continue operating normally. The extreme depreciation of the lira has decimated public sector employees’ lira-denominated salaries, pensions, and other benefits.26 Teachers’ salaries, for example, are now worth roughly $90 a month.27 The government has provided some relief to public employees, but nothing sustainable.28
State institutions still function, at a minimal level; they have not collapsed entirely. But absenteeism has skyrocketed, as higher fuel prices have meant many employees cannot afford the daily commute to work.29 Public servants have repeatedly gone on strike to demand adjusted wages and benefits, disrupting services.30 Many skilled, experienced public employees have left the civil service altogether.31 Government buildings lack basic office supplies, or fuel to run generators.32
Ministry of Social Affairs employees now make between $50 and $75 a month, Minister Hector Hajjar told me in an office populated with electric fans to cope with the summer heat. “You see how we’re sitting now in offices where you’ve got no elevator, you’ve got no electricity, you’ve got no stationery, you’ve got nothing,” said Hajjar. “We’ve entered a state of paralysis, because of the budget. Despite that, though, we’re still working.”33
Some ministries have devised ad hoc solutions to support staff and keep people working. Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib told me his ministry’s staff are paid a $200 wage supplement monthly: $100 from contributions by diplomats stationed abroad and paid in dollars, and $100 from a six-month commitment by a wealthy Lebanese expatriate.34 Other ministries have not managed to come up with similar fixes. “We’re just surviving, doing all we can,” said Minister of Information Ziad Makary.35
Lebanon’s crisis has also taken a toll on its military and civilian security services. The Lebanese army is the country’s largest public sector employer. Like their civilian colleagues, soldiers’ wages have also been crushed by lira depreciation.36 The army has taken steps to relieve pressures on the rank and file and to prevent desertion, including permitting troops to work second jobs that are not illegal or “degrading” and providing free transport between soldiers’ home areas and their postings.37 Civilian security personnel have been hit even harder. Lebanon’s army can at least provide its personnel with military health care and other in-kind benefits; civilian security agencies cannot.38
Collapsing Public Services
Lebanon’s crisis has similarly debilitated public services on which ordinary Lebanese depend.
Public service delivery in Lebanon had long been poor, weakened by decrepit infrastructure and endemic corruption.39 “Dilapidated” public service provision permitted elites to enrich themselves with lucrative public contracts and private substitutes—including waste collection, generator power, and private schools and hospitals—and allowed sectarian political factions to supplant the state with their own services.40
“There are many rich people and elites here who have managed to insulate themselves from the state,” said one international official. “They live despite it—they have their own schools, their own hospitals, their own insurance. So they’re not engaged, because they don’t use these services. You end up with this low-revenue, low-service equilibrium.”41
Lebanese elites’ failure to responsibly steward the Lebanese state and provide citizens with basic services has repeatedly led to unrest. In 2015, a choking trash crisis triggered large protests in Beirut and an activist movement that subsequently attempted to break into the country’s closed politics.42 And the country’s October 2019 protests were precipitated by two episodes that starkly illustrated how Lebanon’s ruling elites had ill served the country’s citizens. Days before protests broke out nationwide, Lebanese authorities had proved incapable of subduing wildfires across the country. The Lebanese public was outraged to discover that firefighting helicopters purchased by private Lebanese donors in 2009 had fallen into disrepair after successive governments had failed to pay for their upkeep.43 Almost simultaneously, Lebanon’s government announced a new tax on voice calls over WhatsApp and other messaging apps.44 Lebanese reacted angrily; many used WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family because rates on the country’s two state-owned mobile providers were some of the highest in the region. These elite failures helped push angry Lebanese into the streets, where smaller initial protests grew in size and transformed into a more total rejection of national leaders’ corruption and incompetence.
Now, public services have broken down at just the moment that Lebanese who can no longer afford private schools and health care have resorted to cheaper public alternatives.45 Lebanon’s monetary chaos, dramatic budget cuts, shortages of basic goods, and the departure of skilled employees have all contributed to collapsing services.46
There are many rich people and elites who have managed to insulate themselves from the state,” an international official said. “They have their own schools, their own hospitals, their own insurance.
The dysfunctional Lebanese power utility had, for years, failed to provide most of the country with a full twenty-four hours of electricity. In 2021, though, the government’s inability to afford fuel imports reduced state-provided electricity to almost nothing.47 Recently, state electricity provision has improved by a few hours thanks to a purchase of Iraqi fuel oil for power generation, but public offices, service infrastructure, businesses, and private residences all still mainly depend on diesel generators for power.48
Extreme power shortages have, in turn, impaired water systems, health care, and telecommunications networks.49 Lebanon’s water infrastructure has repeatedly neared collapse because of shortages of state-provided electricity, the expense of diesel for generator power, and the prohibitive dollar costs of maintenance.50 In 2022, Lebanon had to briefly contend with an outbreak of cholera that spread from Syria.51 “That the cholera outbreak was over so fast was a miracle,” a Western aid official said.52
Lebanon’s health care system, meanwhile, had previously been based on state reimbursements to private and semi-public hospitals for specialist care and expensive medications.53 Today, the Ministry of Public Health cannot afford to compensate hospitals, and the country’s insurance system has broken down.54 Large numbers of Lebanese unable to pay hospital bills upfront in dollars have resorted to primary health care centers that previously served mostly Syrian refugees.55 The country has had shortages of key medications because of a halt to subsidies for imports and a lack of hard currency.56 By one estimate, 40 percent of doctors and 30 percent of nurses have left the country.57
Public education has been disrupted for three years, first because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then because of months-long strikes by public school teachers protesting their hugely devalued wages and benefits.58 The education system has lost an estimated 10,000 teachers.59
Local municipalities have also struggled to keep functioning. For funding, they had relied almost entirely on transfers from the central government’s Independent Municipal Fund, but today the value of those transfers has been reduced to almost nothing.60 Municipal elections originally scheduled for May 2022 have been repeatedly postponed. Many municipal councils have dissolved.61
Dwindling Public Funds
The decimation of Lebanon’s public spending and its resulting impact on services have added to the hardship of ordinary Lebanese.
Private substitutes for failing public services have become hugely more expensive. The cost of subscriptions to neighborhood diesel generators spiked when the government ended effective subsidies for fuel imports in 2021 and the price of fuel skyrocketed.62 Meanwhile, the cost of a household’s water needs—including water trucking for household use and bottled drinking water—almost doubled between July 2021 and July 2022.63
Remittances from Lebanon’s large diaspora have softened the blow for some, including newly impoverished members of the country’s professional class and elderly pensioners.64 Yet remittances are no substitute for a real social safety net, and they are not distributed equitably.65 Remittances made up 31.7 percent of Lebanon’s GDP in 2022, the second-highest ratio in the world.66 Yet that ratio was mainly due to the collapse of Lebanon’s GDP; the $6.8 billion in remittances Lebanon received in 2022 was only a slight increase over the $6.5 billion that the country received annually, on average, between 2012 and 2021.67
In the absence of an IMF program and a real stabilization of Lebanon’s public finances, the government still has some resources with which it can pay for public institutions and services. But those resources are very minimal: state revenue collection declined to 6.6 percent of GDP in 2021, among the lowest rates globally and far below the 15 percent minimum recommended by the World Bank.68 These low revenues repeated in 2022, according to World Bank estimates.69 Lebanon’s traditionally poor revenue collection has been further complicated by a growing cash economy, which the World Bank estimated at $9.86 billion in 2022, or 45.7 percent of GDP.70
State revenue collection may now be turning around. In May, the Ministry of Finance finally raised the exchange rate used to calculate customs duties and value-added tax (VAT) to nearly the market rate.71 The country also still has a portion of the “Special Drawing Rights” it received from the IMF in 2021.72 While the government’s draft 2023 budget increases revenues from 2021 and 2022 lows, however, those projected revenues remain, relative to GDP, below both Lebanon’s precrisis levels and rates in other comparable economies.73 Draft budgets for 2023 and 2024 also reportedly include large deficits, even as the country’s new central bank governor has repeatedly warned that he will not dip further into central bank reserves to finance the government’s deficit spending.74 How the government will fund its proposed spending is unclear.
Donors’ Contributions Over Time
Amid Lebanon’s crisis and the collapse in its public finances, international donor support for the country has only become more important.
Foreign donor assistance is not something new to Lebanon. Between 1991 and 2022, Lebanon received roughly $22.6 billion in development assistance, including $8.9 billion in grants and $13.7 billion in loans.75 Over that period, donors provided nearly $5 billion in grants to Lebanon’s security sector, as well as roughly $4.7 billion for water and $3 billion for transportation, mostly in loans.76
Over time, though, the mix of donors supporting Lebanon changed, as did donors’ approach.77 Notably, assistance from the Gulf dried up almost entirely after 2016; that year, Saudi Arabia cut off billions in assistance for Lebanon’s army and Internal Security Forces after Lebanon failed to side with Saudi Arabia at the Arab League.78 Remaining donors adopted a tougher, more conditional line, in light of Lebanon’s repeated failure to satisfy reform commitments. Of the $11 billion pledged at a major donors’ conference in 2018, very little was actually disbursed, because the Lebanese government failed to carry out promised reforms.79
Since the start of Lebanon’s crisis in 2019, international donors have mostly refused to provide new development assistance to the Lebanese government. This refusal hardened in the wake of the 2020 Beirut Port blast, after which activists and civil society representatives urged donors to deliver aid directly to the Lebanese public and circumvent the state.80 The World Bank has continued to provide project financing with more targeted reform components. But other large-scale development assistance has remained conditional on Lebanon carrying out basic reforms and reaching a full agreement with the IMF.81
In parallel, though, foreign donors have been funding a large humanitarian response addressing the impact of Syria’s conflict on Lebanon. Since 2011, Lebanon has received huge numbers of refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring Syria. Today, Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrians and more than 300,000 Palestinian refugees.82 Of these Syrian refugees, nine in ten are living in poverty.83 This major influx of refugees—more than a quarter of Lebanon’s total population of 5.9 million people—has additionally strained Lebanon’s infrastructure, services and public finances.84
The Lebanese government and the UN announced the Lebanese Crisis Response Plan, or LCRP, in 2015.85 The LCRP, in its annual iterations, has become the organizing framework for the Syria refugee response in Lebanon.86 In contrast with development assistance to Lebanon from bilateral donors and international institutions—which is conditional and reform-oriented—assistance under the LCRP is principally humanitarian, and thus needs-based and unconditional.
Since the outset of Lebanon’s crisis in 2019, international donors have launched new aid appeals for Lebanon itself—that is, aid unrelated to the Syrian conflict. In December 2020, the World Bank, UN, and EU launched the two-year “Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework” (3RF) to respond to the Beirut blast.87 And in 2021, the UN announced a Lebanon Emergency Response Plan (LERP) dedicated specifically to Lebanon.88 LERP programming is similar to that of the LCRP, but it is much smaller than the LCRP; the UN appealed only for $200.2 million for the LERP in 2023, compared to $3.59 billion for the LCRP.89
Since 2015, Lebanon has received $9.3 billion in assistance under the LCRP.90 In 2022, donors contributed nearly $1.2 billion to the LCRP (compared to a $3.6 billion appeal).91 Annual donor contributions to the LCRP have remained roughly consistent, from one year to the next.92
Assistance under the LCRP has targeted Syrian refugees, vulnerable Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. In 2022, aid provided under the LCRP reached roughly equal numbers of Syrians and vulnerable Lebanese (991,759 and 954,450, respectively), as well as more than 80,000 Palestinians.93
The Lebanese government decided early in Syria’s conflict not to establish formal refugee camps for Syrians in Lebanon; instead, Syrians live in rented homes and so-called “informal tented settlements.” Today, displaced Syrians live in 97 percent of municipalities across the country.94 Both the sheer number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and their distribution nationwide necessitated an aid response that worked through existing systems, and that additionally supported Lebanese host communities to mitigate refugee-host tensions.
In 2022, UN agencies delivered more than $300 million in support to or through Lebanon’s public institutions.95 Support “to” institutions includes, for example, funds for the operation of water infrastructure, and supplies of medical supplies and medicines; support “through” institutions includes payments for students’ school fees and subsidies for health consultations.96
Between 2015 and 2019, LCRP support to or through public institutions steadily increased, reaching a high of $245 million in 2019. It decreased to $183 million and $146 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively, because of COVID-19-related movement restrictions and closures of public education and health facilities; exchange rate fluctuations; and shortages of basic inputs such as fuel and electricity.97 In 2022, however, such funding was higher than ever.
Donors’ refusal to provide development aid and the collapse of the Lebanese state’s expenditures have made donor assistance for public institutions, including aid under the LCRP, even more significant. The more than $300 million in aid provided by the UN to these institutions in 2022 is an even more striking figure when compared to national public spending that year, which was just $1.2 billion.98
Donor Support Takes New, Unusual Shapes
Foreign donors are now supporting an array of public institutions and services in Lebanon, in ways that go beyond more traditional foreign aid.
International support for Lebanon’s public institutions is not unprecedented. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), for example, previously funded some support functions in Lebanon’s government to help implement projects.99
Since the onset of Lebanon’s crisis, though, foreign support has taken on new, more unusual forms. Notably, Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approached Western diplomatic missions to ask if they could take on the operating expenses of a Lebanese ministry, in a kind of “adoption” or “twinning” arrangement joining a donor with one public administration.100 Ministry officials asked foreign counterparts if they could provide in-kind support such as solar panels, said a Lebanese diplomatic source, or just office supplies and stationery.101 Abdallah Bou Habib, the foreign minister, said his ministry is even now encouraging Western missions to provide support. “They’ve got to adopt ministries, to strengthen them,” he said.102
In another example of nonstandard foreign assistance, the Turkish government paid to renovate five damaged floors in the new building occupied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the August 2020 Beirut blast. Turkey provided this contribution based on an agreement between Bou Habib and the Turkish foreign minister at the time, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.103 Turkish development agency TIKA is also renovating the studio of Tele Liban, Lebanon’s public television station.104
Most donor assistance, however, seems focused on education, health care, and security—the Lebanese army, in particular. As one Western diplomat put it, these are systems that are absolutely essential, and that would likely be even more costly to reconstitute if they collapsed entirely.105 But foreign donors’ support is not limited to just these priority sectors; donor money is propping up institutions and services across the Lebanese state. And in more than one instance, donors are actually helping to pay public sector employees’ salaries. “All donors hate doing salary support,” the diplomat said. “It’s just money down the drain.”106
“All donors hate doing salary support,” the diplomat said. “It’s just money down the drain.”
In theory, much of this assistance has a development component; but a lot of it just seems intended to keep these basic institutions alive and working.
Teacher “Incentives” and “Productivity Allowances”
International donors led by the EU and Germany have extensively supported public education in Lebanon, most recently through a unified funding mechanism established by UNICEF in 2022.107 By one estimate, donors provided $2.5 billion in assistance to public education in Lebanon between 2011 and 2021.108 Over the course of the 2022–23 school year, UNICEF spent more than $70 million on assistance for education.109 This is a huge portion of education spending nationally—the 2022 national budget allotted only the equivalent of $114 million for education.110
Most of this international support has gone to paying children’s school fees.111 But for the past two years, foreign donors have also supplemented wages for teaching staff for “first shift” morning classes for Lebanese students, in addition to paying salaries for teachers and staff working “second shift” afternoon classes for displaced Syrians.
In fact, it was foreign donors’ interest in supporting Syrian refugees’ education that obliged those donors to pay Lebanese teachers teaching Lebanese students earlier this year. In January, first shift teachers went on strike to demand improved wages and benefits.112 As the strike was ongoing, the Lebanese government also shut second shift classes for Syrian children, even though second shift salaries were fully paid by international donors.113 “It’s not permissible for our children to not learn while others’ children are learning,” a senior official at the Ministry of Education told the BBC.114 Donor country representatives were perturbed. Their funds for the second shift also support first shift education; for example, improvements to school facilities carried out under the LCPR benefit both cohorts, and many first shift teachers also get paid for teaching in the afternoon.115
The teachers’ strike ended in March, after an agreement to repurpose UK grant funding for education to pay dollar-denominated “productivity allowances” to first shift staff for the 2022–23 school year.116 The UK had similarly agreed to pay “incentive” payments to first shift staff the previous school year.117 This latest agreement to pay so-called productivity allowances was conditioned on a commitment by the Lebanese government to secure funding for teacher salaries for the subsequent school year.118 As of this writing, the government has not delivered on that commitment.119
A Parallel Primary Health Care Network
In the health sector, foreign donors are largely directing their support to primary health care and preventive care.
This is not how Lebanon’s health system has traditionally been organized, nor is it consistent with the Ministry of Public Health’s prior role of reimbursing hospitals for care and subsidizing imported medicines. Accordingly, most of this international support has gone to primary health care centers; to international agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF; and to international NGOs like International Medical Corps.120 Lebanon’s primary care centers are almost all owned by NGOs or charities, not the Lebanese government. The health ministry regulates these centers and supplies them with in-kind support, but it does not control them.121
International donors, again led by the EU, support roughly half of Lebanon’s approximately three hundred primary health care centers.122 Treatment for these centers’ poor and vulnerable patients is heavily subsidized; in many cases, the fee for a consultation is only 30,000 Lebanese lira (roughly $0.34).123
Donor money does not go directly to the Ministry of Public Health.124 It does fund some projects that support the ministry, however. WHO, for example, has supported the ministry in establishing a logistics management system and implementing the MediTrack system to track subsidized drugs.125 The World Bank has also redesigned an existing health project to enable the Ministry of Public Health to contract with and purchase services from primary health care centers.126
Firass Abiad, the health minister, has said that 40 percent of the health sector is funded by foreign donors.127 Various countries have also made in-kind contributions to the ministry, hospitals, and primary health care centers, including donations of medicines and supplies and support for solarization.128
Donors have additionally helped prevent the collapse of Lebanon’s water systems, whose functioning is critical to public health. Amid a national energy crisis in 2021, the UN stepped in to supply fuel for hundreds of water facilities and hospitals.129 UNICEF has contributed to the major operating expenditures of the four public water establishments that provide water nationwide and has carried out maintenance and repairs on hundreds of water systems.130 UNICEF also funds the operations of eleven of Lebanon’s wastewater treatment plants.131
“Livelihood Support” for Lebanese Troops
To sustain the Lebanese Armed Forces, the United States and Qatar have also taken the exceptional step of paying stipends to Lebanese army personnel.
International donor support for the Lebanese army is not new. The United States, for its part, has provided more than $2.5 billion in bilateral security assistance to the Lebanese army since 2006.132 And since 2019, Washington has increased its own assistance to the Lebanese military and worked to mobilize contributions from others.133 The U.S. State Department was slated to give $150 million in foreign military financing to the Lebanese army in fiscal year 2023, and the Biden administration is likely to request the same amount for the next year.134 The U.S. Department of Defense is also able to reimburse the Lebanese army for border security and counterterrorism operations with direct transfers of funds, which military leadership has been able to use for priorities such as medical care for army personnel and their families.135
What is new, though, is salary support for army personnel. Qatar was the first country to make monthly payments of $100, in August 2022.136 The United States then initiated its payments of $100 monthly for six months in June 2023.137 U.S. assistance was delivered via UNDP; Qatar’s support was not.138 In theory, other interested donors could also contribute to Lebanese army salaries through this UNDP mechanism. However, there is little indication that other foreign supporters of the Lebanese army are prepared to do so. The UK, for example, has played an important role training and equipping Lebanese army border regiments, but there is no sign it is ready to additionally provide salary support.139
Other donor countries have provided in-kind assistance to the Lebanese army, including donations of food assistance, medical supplies, and spare parts.140 And Qatar, in addition to its salary support, has made other large contributions to the Lebanese military, including food assistance and fuel.141
Donors have also supported Lebanon’s civilian security agencies, albeit less fulsomely. The United States has provided similar “livelihood support” payments to Internal Security Forces police, also through UNDP.142 And other donors have provided in-kind assistance to the Internal Security Forces and Lebanon’s other security agencies. The UK funded a command center for the Internal Security Forces, for example, in addition to providing training and other support.143 Japan paid, via the UN’s International Organization for Migration, for a training center for the Directorate of General Security.144 And Turkey has provided food assistance to security personnel and their families.145
Parallel Social Safety Nets
International donors are also financing basic social safety nets in Lebanon, without which many vulnerable Lebanese would be left to fend for themselves. Donors now fund two schemes to support the country’s poor: the “National Poverty Targeting Program” (NPTP) and the “Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project” (ESSN).
The NPTP was established in 2011 and is fully funded by donors, including the EU and Canada.146 The ESSN, meanwhile, is funded by the World Bank. The Bank’s board originally approved $246 million in financing in January 2021, but the program was held up for more than a year after Lebanon’s parliament attempted to gut the program’s oversight component.147 The ESSN finally began payments in March 2022.148 In May 2023, the World Bank approved $300 million in additional financing to expand and extend the ESSN.149
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) implements both the NPTP and the ESSN.150 In July 2023, WFP delivered assistance for both programs to a combined 162,750 Lebanese families, or 772,200 people—nearly a fifth of Lebanese in the country.151 In April 2023, UNICEF and the International Labour Organization also helped launch an EU-funded “social grant” allowance for people with disabilities.152
By contrast, an attempt by the Lebanese government to introduce a similar social safety net program went nowhere. In June 2021, Lebanon’s parliament approved its own separate $556 million “ration card” program without actually securing funding commitments from the World Bank or other donors.153 Not surprisingly, this ration card has not materialized.
A key element of the ESSN program was the introduction of a new social registry on an electronic platform. The registry—called DAEM, the Arabic word for “support”—is meant to become Lebanon’s first unified, digitized national social registry, and to ultimately incorporate other social protection programs.154 The electronic platform that hosts the registry—a platform known as IMPACT—is itself a donor-funded project; UK implementer Siren Associates supported Lebanon’s Central Inspection in launching IMPACT in 2020.155
Assorted Other Donor Interventions
In addition to donor interventions in these key sectors, foreign donors are also supporting various other Lebanese state functions.
The World Bank, for example, provided a $150 million loan to Lebanon to finance purchases of wheat, in order to ensure affordable access to bread.156 An ambitious U.S.-backed deal in which the World Bank would have financed the purchase of Jordanian electricity and Egyptian natural gas to support power generation in Lebanon has stalled, apparently because Lebanese authorities failed to satisfy the World Bank’s reform conditionality.157
International donors are also helping sustain local municipalities through programs such as UNDP’s Local Host Communities Support Program.158 Without meaningful support from the national government, diaspora contributions and international donor assistance have become the most important sources of support for Lebanon’s municipalities.159
Even where donors are not funding public sector employees directly, Lebanon’s ministries and public administrations are working to leverage donor support to sustain their institutions and staff. Donors do not pay for municipalities’ overhead or salaries, for example, but they sometimes fund projects and activities that involve per diem “expert fees” for involved staff.160 Official interviewees described how public employees benefit from per diems and travel allowances they receive for participating in donor-funded projects or training workshops to complement their diminished wages.161
Part II. Incoherent Aid
All these forms of donor support, taken together, raise difficult questions. Is this type of support wise? What are the long-term implications of this assistance for Lebanon’s institutions and development?
It’s not clear that anyone is seriously wrestling with these questions, a fact that ought to raise concerns about this aid’s unintended effects. Donor interventions in Lebanon are, to a large extent, ad hoc and uncoordinated. UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Imran Riza has, since his arrival in October 2022, led an effort to map UN support to Lebanon’s public institutions.162 Yet donor countries, international agencies, and Lebanese officials still have only incomplete visibility on which external donors are doing what, and how they are involving themselves in the workings of the Lebanese state.
Typically, an aid-receiving country would have a ministry or other central organ responsible for assistance coordination and planning.163 The Lebanese state lacks this type of organizing body.164 Donors’ and international organizations’ own reporting and attempts at coordination cannot fully compensate.
Donor assistance to Lebanon looks the way it does today because of happenstance. No one would consciously design the way in which foreign donors are now supporting Lebanon and its public services—it is the product of more than a decade of incidental choices and accidents. Yet this donor assistance is helping to redefine the contours of Lebanon’s state and institutions.
Lebanon’s health sector, to take one key example, appears to be undergoing transformational change, but without any single actor responsible for planning and directing that change. The Ministry of Public Health, international organizations, NGOs, and donors are nearly all working to common ends, trying to reorient the sector from an expensive curative model to one based more on primary and preventive care—but working separately, in parallel.
The way assistance is now being channeled to Lebanon’s health sector is mostly a result of how the sector developed before the crisis. The primary health care centers that are now critical to a broader sectoral shift to cost-effective preventive care originated with the Syrian refugee response. “Initially, the main aim was not reforming the health system, or containing costs,” an international aid official said. “It was allowing access to basic services for this huge population [of displaced Syrians], because otherwise the system could not absorb this increased demand for health services.”165 Before 2019, these health centers primarily served refugees; Eduard Tschan, the International Medical Corps country director, estimated that only 20 percent of patients were Lebanese.166 Now, more than half of patients at these centers are Lebanese.167 Yet these centers are still owned by local NGOs, and largely independent of the Lebanese state.
This arrangement means that Lebanon’s health sector is not set up for donors to route funds through a single ministry-linked mechanism to public health care providers, as they do with public education. Instead, donors fund international NGOs that support the local NGOs that own and operate the country’s primary health care centers; and they contribute to the World Bank and WHO, which deliver support to and through the health ministry and work to strengthen its links with those primary care centers.
The Ministry of Public Health, for its part, is attempting to implement a newly announced national health strategy and use this moment of national crisis to reform Lebanon’s health sector.168 At the same time, though, it lacks control over the country’s health care providers, and over outside flows of assistance. Because of historical underinvestment in the health ministry’s systems and the effects of Lebanon’s crisis, the ministry lacks the resources and personnel it needs to play a more active, hands-on supervisory role.169 It also has to balance between its legacy commitments—its support for hospitalization and subsidies for imported medicines—and its new involvement in primary care.170
Health minister Firass Abiad described the challenge facing his ministry and the country’s health sector: “Imagine you’re a taxi driver, living hand to mouth. You hear noises, coming from the engine. If you stop to fix it, you’ll starve to death. But if you ignore it, then it will be wrecked in the future. So you have to fix it on the go. That’s what we’re doing.”171
Another concern is that donors, by supporting Lebanon’s public institutions, may simply be subsidizing the state’s existing inefficiency and dysfunction. By propping up these institutions, donor support may actually be putting off hard but necessary change and reform.
For example, donor-funded compensation for public school teachers and staff—for both “first shift” morning courses for Lebanese students and “second shift” afternoon courses for Syrians—is helping sustain Lebanon’s bloated public education payroll. Lebanon’s education ministry employs nearly 50,000 people.172 The country’s public schools have some of the lowest teacher-to-student ratios in the region, and yet the public education system has traditionally delivered underwhelming outcomes.173 Donor support for education for displaced Syrians has also yielded dubious results; after hundreds of millions of dollars in donor spending on education since 2011, roughly 60 percent of Syrian children in Lebanon are still out of formal education.174
Meanwhile, the Lebanese army employs 80,000 personnel, even more people than the public education sector. Before 2019, Lebanon’s army reportedly spent 71 percent of its annual budget on salaries, benefits and pensions; some have termed the army’s substantial wage bill “militarized welfare.”175
Foreign support is helping sustain a Lebanese army of this large size. U.S. “livelihood support” for the Lebanese army targets “more than 70,000 [military] personnel”—that is, nearly the entire force.176 Some Western diplomats have wondered if it could be worth focusing assistance more narrowly, to preserve the military’s most essential units and capabilities.177 Yet experimenting with army “force optimization,” amid an open-ended national collapse, carries major risks. Scaling down the Lebanese army now could put large numbers of militarily experienced men out of work and make them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. Experts have warned of the dangers of “entropy” if the army begins to come apart.178
“We’re not prepared to fund the whole state,” a diplomat said. “It’s beyond our ability, first of all. And politically, it seems completely unwise.”
Lebanon will eventually need to reduce its public sector wage bill, if it hopes to achieve fiscal stability.179 Yet large, arbitrary personnel cuts or forced attrition are probably the crudest, most destructive ways to accomplish that. Salary support for too-numerous military personnel and teaching staff may be ways to achieve desirable ends—sustaining public education for Lebanese and refugee children, and maintaining basic stability—that are inefficient, but still the best options available.180
In interviews, foreign diplomats and international officials voiced appreciation for U.S. and Qatari salary support for Lebanese army personnel, even if their own countries and organizations would not contribute similar assistance. The support is “essential,” one diplomat told me; maintaining the army’s cohesion is “in everyone’s interests,” said an international aid official.181
Still, some donors worry that this and other assistance could relieve pressure on Lebanese decision-makers to reform, and potentially make the government even more unaccountable.
This concern relates, in part, to a debate among donor countries and their aid partners over whether to approach Lebanon’s crisis as a “humanitarian” or a “development” case. A more humanitarian approach would entail a more purely needs-based response, one arguably agnostic to the national politics that produced Lebanon’s crisis. It would also likely mean less willingness among international actors to impose reform conditionality on aid.
Yet “the Lebanese crisis was not caused by a war or by a natural disaster,” insisted a Western diplomat. “It is a man-made crisis.” The country requires a “development-oriented” approach that links assistance to reforms by the government, the diplomat said, and to ownership by local decision-makers. Otherwise, an entirely humanitarian approach could “externalize” the crisis’s effects and shift responsibility for supporting the Lebanese people to the donor community, while Lebanese decision-makers no longer feel any particular urgency to act.182
“We’re not prepared to fund the whole state,” the diplomat said. “It’s beyond our ability, first of all. And politically, it seems completely unwise.”183
There is also the worry that donors might deliver assistance and programs that the Lebanese government cannot sustain, and create some new, open-ended dependency. Indeed, there is little apparent “exit strategy” or path to local sustainability for much current donor assistance.
Perhaps the most extreme example of ill-considered, unsustainable assistance is a set of fifty buses donated by France in December 2022.184 Lebanon’s public transport authority only had resources to operate ten buses, and then only for a handful of weeks. It didn’t manage to secure additional funding; by late January, the buses were out of commission.185
Most other donor support to Lebanon is not so clearly wrongheaded. But other assistance does, still, raise questions about whether this Lebanese government—or any other, now or in the future—can be expected to pay for some of the programs and services that donors are presently financing.
For example, maintaining the NPTP and ESSN safety net programs would require the Lebanese government to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars annually.186 What’s more, the World Bank has said that these programs’ sustainability will require “a comprehensive reform of Lebanon’s government budget within a broader macroeconomic and financial stabilization plan.”187 It seems doubtful that will happen before the end of 2026, when the ESSN is currently due to conclude.188
Lebanese leaders’ track record over the past several decades seems to indicate that they do not consider social assistance programs a priority and will not levy the taxes needed to pay for them. And questions about priorities and political will don’t pertain just to social assistance. Even with utilities such as water and electricity, authorities have so far been incapable of levying appropriately priced tariffs to cover basic operations and maintenance.
For donor-funded programs to be sustainable, the Lebanese government will have to collect taxes and fees from a Lebanese public that, somewhat understandably, does not trust it.
Donor assistance could, in theory, enable the Lebanese state to provide services for which citizens are actually willing to pay taxes. “You need taxation to provide services,” said Firass Abiad, the minister of health. “But with low trust in public institutions, people will expect to receive services before accepting to pay taxes. The role of the international community could be a catalyst.”189
Yet this would entail a fundamental shift in Lebanese citizens’ relationship with their government and state—not a small thing, particularly in these extreme circumstances.
Circumventing the State
The question of whether this donor-supported assistance can really be sustainable is further complicated by donors’ love-hate relationship with the Lebanese state. Because even as foreign donors are helping to preserve some public institutions and services, they are attempting, wherever possible, to circumvent a Lebanese government they mistrust. By working around the Lebanese government and state, these donors risk further undermining the state and making it an even less capable partner.
Foreign donors currently have very little faith in the Lebanese government’s ability to properly manage donor money, or to responsibly take ownership of donor-funded programs. In other refugee-hosting countries such as Jordan, foreign donors might contract directly with relevant government ministries and provide development funds to partner ministries.190 But because of donors’ aversion to working with a Lebanese government they consider inept and corrupt, they have mostly channeled humanitarian—not development—funds to international aid agencies and NGOs. “Trust and confidence in [Lebanese decision-makers] is at an all-time low,” said a Western diplomat.191
Yet Lebanese officials argue that foreign donors, by routing their support through non-state channels, are actually further weakening the Lebanese state. And they say donor assistance is helping create parallel structures that are unsustainable and, in their own way, unaccountable. Abiad told me that donors’ aid risks worsening existing fragmentation and dysfunction: “What it has resulted in is that even though [donor countries] talk about a strong state, they’re actually undermining the state, and fostering a parallel state—a parallel system.”192
And it’s not just Lebanese officials who have voiced these concerns. Local experts, for example, have also raised concerns about the long-term effects of an NGO-centered aid model on the country’s development, warning that Lebanon risks becoming another “republic of the NGOs.” 193 And some worry that donors’ inclination to work with NGOs has created incentives for entrepreneurial local actors to enter that space, in order to capture donor support. NGOs are “a new business model,” said one Western aid official.194 Now public institutions must compete for talent with these organizations, which can often promise higher pay.195
The steady weakening of the Lebanese state raises the prospect that, even if Lebanese leaders do muster the will to reform, the state may lack the capacity to implement those reforms. The Ministry of Finance, for example, has reportedly been largely hollowed out.196 Recently, UNDP actually enlisted youth volunteers to process a backlog of finance ministry paperwork and better enable revenue collection.197 But Lebanon needs a functioning finance ministry, among other key institutions, if it is to chart a course to stability and eventual recovery.
Donors need to work with these public institutions and think in terms of their long-term development, an international aid official emphasized to me. “If we don’t invest in the system and understand why it’s not working,” said the official, “then there’s no future, and things will just get worse and worse.”198
Tensions with Lebanese Sovereignty
Donors’ attempts to work around the Lebanese government highlight the ways in which these foreign donors’ support is in tension with Lebanon’s sovereignty. “Most donors, because of the weakness of the state, do whatever they want to do,” said Bou Habib, the foreign minister. “With their support for NGOs, they’re supporting a parallel state, and weakening the administration.”199
Indeed, donor assistance not only risks weakening Lebanon’s institutions, in more functional terms, but also further compromising the country’s sovereign independence.
The minister of social affairs, Hector Hajjar, has repeatedly clashed with donor country representatives and international officials.200 When he arrived in his position, he said, international aid agencies “would present a finished project and leave. What was asked of us was that we would just say, ‘Yes.’” He had achieved good working relationships with some organizations, he said, but others operated in Lebanon “as if . . . there’s no state.”201
In this, Lebanon’s leaders are not doing the country any favors. Lebanon’s government has been in caretaker status, without a real political mandate, since May 2022. The country has had no president since October 2022. And even if Lebanon had empowered political leadership, the Lebanese state’s lack of a central body responsible for planning or aid coordination means that donors end up dealing with individual officials and ministries, not with the full Lebanese government, or with any one interlocutor who can represent an agreed Lebanese position.
It appears that, as a result, international donors—not the Lebanese government or people—are effectively choosing where to direct aid, and which of Lebanon’s public institutions deserve saving.
And donors’ interests are not Lebanon’s interests. “The drivers for donors are very different [from] the ones for the state,” said Sabine Hatem, an economist at the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, a research institution affiliated with the Ministry of Finance. “Setting plans and designing strategies is a core government function.”202
In theory, Lebanon’s leaders could exercise their sovereign prerogative and reject this external assistance. Yet they have put the country in such an abject position that foreign donors are providing the type of assistance ordinarily reserved for countries devastated by war. In this kind of self-made crisis, it is probably impossible for Lebanon’s sovereignty to emerge intact.
Lebanese leaders “talk about sovereignty,” a Western diplomat said. “Meanwhile, they’re ready for foreigners to pay for their army, police, education, infrastructure.”
Lebanese leaders “talk about sovereignty,” a Western diplomat said. “Meanwhile, they’re ready for foreigners to pay for their army, police, education, infrastructure.”203
This tension seems clear in donors’ support for Lebanon’s military and security services. Take one recent episode: in April 2023, the Lebanese army began detaining and arbitrarily deporting displaced Syrians, including refugees registered with UNHCR.204 Lebanese army leadership reportedly told foreign diplomats that the move came in response to a wave of popular anti-refugee vitriol and was an attempt to preempt local vigilantism and violence.205 U.S. salary support for Lebanese army personnel was just about to come online, though, and after the United States and other foreign donors objected, the military halted deportations in May.206 U.S. “livelihood support” began the next month.207
Lebanese army leadership has previously insisted that foreign assistance is a necessity, and that the military has only accepted this aid “according to principles.”208 But realistically, how independent can a military remain if another country is paying its soldiers’ salaries?
Not Really about Lebanon
Tensions between the international donor community and Lebanon’s officials are not just about how donors’ interests differ from Lebanon’s—they are also about how most donor assistance to Lebanon is not, at base, really about Lebanon. Even now, the aid response in Lebanon is still mostly a Syria refugee response, albeit one that involves substantial assistance to Lebanese host communities.
The small size of the more specifically Lebanon-focused LERP relative to the LCRP, which is a response to the Syria crisis—$200 million versus $1.2 billion, respectively, in funds raised in 2022—seems to indicate donors’ limited appetite for supporting Lebanon as Lebanon.
International aid for Syrians does create inequalities, which contribute to local resentment and anti-refugee sentiment. For example, Lebanese receive less international support for obstetric care and emergency hospitalization than Syrian refugees and other non-Lebanese, whose care is covered, in many cases, by UNHCR and other UN agencies. Many Lebanese who cannot pay up front are denied treatment.209 These inequalities exist because of the Lebanese government’s failure to cover citizens’ basic needs—yet the inequalities exist, all the same, and are aggravating for many Lebanese.
Lebanon’s huge population of refugees also imposes an inevitable strain on the country’s already weak infrastructure and public services.210 “The health system here has to cater to two populations,” said Abiad, the health minister. “How is it supposed to stay on its feet?” It makes donors’ refusal to deal with Lebanon’s state “irresponsible,” he said.211
Much international aid programming for Lebanese host communities is justified in terms of buying “protection space,” or local goodwill toward displaced Syrians. Yet it’s not clear this actually works, particularly when the link between some of these projects and the international refugee response is not clear.212
Lately, Lebanese leaders have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to the internationally supported refugee response in Lebanon.213 They insist that most Syrians in Lebanon are now actually economic migrants, not refugees fleeing conflict. “Lebanon cannot afford to be transformed into a massive refugee camp on the east of the Mediterranean, with the specter of social unrest looming over its future,” warned Bou Habib, the foreign minister, at the Syria donors’ conference held in Brussels in June 2023.214 Officials have resisted, in particular, any aid that could be construed as a step toward refugees’ local “integration.”215
A Dysfunctional Relationship
Yet Lebanese leaders seem not to have presented a clearly workable alternative to the way donors are now supporting refugees in Lebanon.216 Officials have recently argued both that aid should be delivered to Syrian refugees in Syria, not Lebanon, but also that donors should support Lebanon’s state institutions.217 Yet the Syrian government has evinced little willingness to take back large numbers of refugees. And these Lebanese officials’ protests against the Syrian refugee response arguably undercut the rationale for most international assistance to Lebanon, including for public institutions. “The LCRP has mobilized aid through that [Syrian refugee] crisis narrative,” said an international aid official. “But when Lebanese officials say, ‘These refugees need to go,’ then that narrative falls apart. [Lebanese leaders] want their own crisis narrative, which won’t happen.”218
Some donors bristle at Lebanese officials’ sense of entitlement—what they see as these officials’ expectation that donors address the worst effects of Lebanon’s self-inflicted disaster, or take on the Lebanese state’s most basic responsibilities.
The most egregious recent instance of Lebanese officials overstepping with donors was when the economy minister, Amin Salam, created a minor diplomatic incident with Kuwait this past August. At the time, Salam told an interviewer that he had written Kuwait’s ruler to ask him to rebuild the grain silos destroyed in the Beirut blast. Kuwait had the money on hand, Salam said, and could reconstruct the silos “with a stroke of the pen.”219 The Kuwaiti government publicly registered its offense, insisting that Kuwait is a state that provides humanitarian assistance in accordance with actual rules and institutions.220
“What are donors responsible for?” asked one Western aid official. “Are they responsible for the government paying its own employees? Not really. But assisting the government in coping with the refugee crisis, yes.”221
Still, some Lebanese officials have a more jaundiced reading of foreign donors’ priorities in Lebanon. These officials suspect donors are less concerned with Syrian refugees’ well-being, and more worried about avoiding new large-scale migration to Europe. “It’s cheaper to keep [Syrian refugees] in Lebanon than to finance them in Europe,” said the information minister, Ziad Makary.222 A Lebanese diplomatic source warned that if Europeans believed they could safely lock refugees away in Lebanon, without helping to shore up Lebanon’s institutions, they were deluding themselves. “Eventually, there will be a lot of repercussions for Europe,” he said. “The Mediterranean is a very small geographic space.”223
Whatever donors’ real motivations, their interest in providing assistance to refugees in Lebanon does complicate their negotiations with Lebanese officials. If aid is primarily targeting this population of vulnerable non-Lebanese refugees, it becomes more difficult for donors to insist on strict conditionality with Lebanese decision-makers, or to credibly threaten to cut off aid.
How (and When) Does This End?
Where is this foreign assistance leading, then? Is this Lebanon’s new normal, for the foreseeable future?
Lebanon’s already protracted crisis seems likely to drag on.224 There is little reason to expect the country’s political elites will undergo some change of heart and embark on reforms that would threaten their status and prerogatives.
So long as Lebanon’s crisis is still ongoing, there are good justifications for much of this external assistance. And some would like donor support for Lebanon’s public institutions and services to go even further. Human Rights Watch, for example, argued earlier this year that foreign donors to education in Lebanon should cut out the country’s education ministry and basically take over its public education system.225 In August, two World Bank veterans proposed that donors build on existing assistance such as ESSN transfers and teacher “productivity allowances” to launch a “Protecting Basic Services Program” that would provide a full suite of essential services for Lebanese, indefinitely.226
Yet it seems doubtful that donors can be convinced to increase their support for services in Lebanon—or even to maintain assistance at current levels. For example, when the UK funded teachers’ “productivity allowances” in March, it did so with money it repurposed from a five-year-long program that had ended months later.227 If the Lebanese government does not follow through on its commitment to pay sufficient first shift teacher salaries for the 2023–24 school year, it’s not clear where the money for more “incentives” or “allowances” will come from.
Similarly, U.S. officials have called their “livelihood support” for Lebanese army personnel “temporary.”228 It’s not clear what happens, though, when “temporary” ends, and no other donor is prepared to supplement soldiers’ paltry salaries.
It’s possible that Lebanon is approaching some new equilibrium, in which foreign donor countries sponsor essential services indefinitely. Yet donor fatigue—or, as one diplomat called it, “Lebanon fatigue”—may also reduce donors’ willingness to put money into the country.229 Thus far, annual funding for the LCRP has held mostly steady.230 But donor countries have competing demands on their resources, including the war in Ukraine. And many donors are getting tired of dealing with Lebanese elites, and frustrated with the Lebanese government’s evident lack of will to pursue reforms. International aid officials say it is becoming harder to raise funds for Lebanon from donors.231 “I think donors are done,” one said.232
“I think the initial instinct of donors was, ‘We cannot let this sector fail,’” said Abiad, the health minister. “But I think that feeling is being eroded, the more time passes, and donors realize they’re stuck. Then their instinct becomes, ‘We don’t care, let’s get out.’”233 In areas like primary health care, there are only a handful of major foreign donors.234 If two or three key donors withdraw their support for the health sector, the system could break down.235
“They’re like vampires who haven’t fully killed their victim,” an international aid official said. “Every night, they come and drain more blood.”
Even the World Bank, which has so far remained willing to provide development financing to Lebanon, is accountable to a board whose members may be souring on Lebanon.236 The World Bank’s assistance is also mostly loans, albeit heavily concessional ones. Some international agencies and donor countries are skeptical of lending more to this Lebanese government.237
Meanwhile, tensions between international donors and Lebanese leaders are only likely to increase. As Lebanon’s crisis deepens and conditions for ordinary Lebanese worsen, an aid response still centered on the Syria refugee crisis will only become more of a focus of controversy and anger.
Feeding the Vampires
Lebanon’s crisis and the international donor response have combined to create an arrangement that is acrimonious, unbalanced, and probably unsustainable. All parties involved now face difficult choices. But as a first step, Lebanon’s international partners and the country’s officials and experts ought to catalog the many donor interventions in Lebanon and assess their costs—not just their literal dollar expense, but also their lasting effects on the country and its institutions. This type of inventory won’t solve the problems of aid dependency or dysfunctional Lebanese governance, but it will start conversations about sustainability and consequences that both donors and Lebanese officials tend to avoid. This report is an attempt to move forward those discussions.
On balance, most of this donor assistance to Lebanon is likely worthwhile. Where there are willing Lebanese partners, donor-funded programs can achieve, in the parlance of development agencies, some capacity-building aims. And even though donors may resist approaching Lebanon through a short-termist humanitarian perspective, the needs in the country are real. There are compelling reasons to support vulnerable Lebanese and displaced Syrians; the latter, most obviously, are not to blame for the fecklessness and irresponsibility of Lebanon’s leaders. Providing humanitarian assistance in an effective, cost-conscious way means working through existing systems and service infrastructure, such as public schools and water networks. Despite the evident downsides of this approach, it’s hard to see any better alternative.
Yet this assistance also entails clear costs and trade-offs, even when the argument for it is generally convincing.
There is little clear precedent for a country escaping this type of dependency. And once donors possess this leverage over Lebanese decision-makers, it seems inevitable that they will use it. That can only weaken Lebanon’s state and sovereignty, even when such leverage is deployed to what might be salutary ends.
Even then, foreign donors’ leverage is only usable in some instances, and to some ends. Lebanese leaders are unlikely to be compelled to change because donors threaten to withhold assistance to the most vulnerable Lebanese—to say nothing of aid for refugees. After all, since 2019, those leaders have shown that they will let the country’s poor and marginalized suffer rather than reform.
Indeed, donors’ support risks sustaining Lebanese elites’ parasitic relationship with the country and its people. “They’re like vampires who haven’t fully killed their victim,” an international aid official said. “The victim is in the ER, and the ER puts in blood transfusions; then every night, they come and drain more blood. Then the ER doctors come and give a transfusion again.”238
Yet without that assistance, Lebanon’s elites seem perfectly willing to leave the country’s poor and vulnerable to rely on inadequate and inequitable private alternatives, or to languish without any support at all. With no donor support, the already yawning gap between Lebanon’s haves and have-nots will widen even further. (The country’s leaders, significantly, are all haves.)
Due for a Reckoning
For Lebanese, it may be difficult watching national elites allow foreigners to underwrite the state’s most basic functions, effectively selling shares in the country’s institutions and sovereignty. Yet the compromises inherent to donor support don’t necessarily mean Lebanon ought to abjure all foreign assistance. Lebanon hosts a huge number of refugees, who are a real burden on its resources and infrastructure. And the country faces its own development challenges. It could benefit from outside support in addressing them.
Ideally, though, Lebanon’s leaders would agree on and manage that assistance in a deliberate, serious way. They haven’t, so far, and it’s not clear why they would start now, absent some complete remodeling of the country’s political culture.
Failing that, there should nevertheless be a real reckoning with international donor assistance to Lebanon. There needs to be a more open, comprehensive inventory of donors’ various interventions in Lebanon—along the lines of UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Riza’s effort to map the UN’s contributions to Lebanese institutions—and, with that accounting in hand, a frank discussion about which of these programs are genuinely worthwhile and good for the country.
For their part, donors should reassess, jointly, what assistance is properly humanitarian and nonnegotiable, and what can be made conditional on action by Lebanese decision-makers. But Lebanese, too, deserve to have a debate about this assistance, and what it is doing to their country. Even if Lebanon’s ruling elites can’t be expected to seriously engage with this discussion, there are other capable people in Lebanon who can lead—inside the Lebanese bureaucracy and at para-state bodies (like the Ministry of Finance-affiliated Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan), as well as outside the state, in the country’s media, research institutions, and universities.
Donor assistance to Lebanon has taken this shape in a sort of backward, haphazard way. Now, Lebanese need to think about what to do with this assistance, and what to do when, at some point, it ends. “The state can’t rely on aid money continuously,” said Sabine Hatem, an economist. “So, the question is: Is this money being used intelligently, with a view toward creating something more sustainable? What about the day after, when funding decreases or priorities shift?”239
Only a serious accounting of this assistance and its trade-offs can set the table for a relationship between Lebanon and the international donor community that is stable—and possibly more constructive. Donor aid may end up just mitigating Lebanon’s humanitarian suffering, even as it perpetuates abusive elite control and state breakdown. Yet it could still, in theory, help set Lebanon on a course for stability and development. For that to happen, though, all parties involved need to get a real understanding of how international donors are now paying into Lebanon. The alternative is a lot of recriminations, wasted money, and further distortions of Lebanon’s already inside-out, unequal system.
This report is part of “Networks of Change: Reviving Governance and Citizenship in the Middle East,” a Century International project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Open Society Foundations.
Header image: The headquarters building of Électricité du Liban on April 28, 2022. The beleaguered utility’s building was damaged by the Beirut Port blast almost two years earlier. Source: Marwan Tahtah/Getty images
- The UN estimates that 3.8 million people in Lebanon are in need of assistance, including 2.1 million Lebanese, 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and more than 200,000 Palestinians. “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” Government of Lebanon/UN, May 4, 2023, 15, https://lebanon.un.org/en/230732-2023-lebanon-crisis-response-plan-lcrp.
- Interviews with the author, Beirut, November, March, May, and June 2023.
- Imran Riza, interview with the author remotely, September 2023. The World Bank estimates nominal public spending in 2022 was equivalent to only $1.2 billion. “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023: The Normalization of Crisis is No Road for Stabilization,” World Bank, May 16, 2023, 4, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2023/05/16/lebanon-normalization-of-crisis-is-no-road-to-stabilization.
- Full disclosure: From 2022 until earlier this year, the author served as a consultant to political risk and development consultancy COAR Global on a contract with UNDP in Lebanon.
- “Lebanon: Staff Report for the Article IV Consultation,” IMF, June 29, 2023, 52–3, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2023/06/28/Lebanon-2023-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-Staff-Report-and-Statement-by-the-535372.
- Ben Hubbard et al., “How a Massive Bomb Came Together in Beirut’s Port,” New York Times, September 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/09/world/middleeast/beirut-explosion.html.
- Sami Zoughaib and Sam Heller, “The Shadow Plan: How Lebanese Elites Are Sabotaging Their Country’s IMF Lifeline,” The Policy Initiative/Century International, June 12, 2023, https://tcf.org/content/report/the-shadow-plan-how-lebanese-elites-are-sabotaging-their-countrys-imf-lifeline/.
- Ibid. Amin Salam, the minister of economy, expressed this common elite view in a recent interview. See Kareem Chehayeb, “Four Years into Crisis, Lebanon’s Leaders Hope Tourism Boom Will Help Bypass Reforms in IMF Bailout,” Associated Press, August 23, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/lebanon-imf-economic-crisis-reforms-corruption-8bf28edb3442fcbc82dbe436504610b4. For IMF staff’s latest, withering assessment of Lebanese leaders’ failure to advance reforms and evident lack of political will, see “IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Lebanon,” IMF, September 15, 2023, https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2023/09/14/pr23315-lebanon-imf-staff-concludes-visit-to-lebanon.
- “US$300 Million to Scale-up Support to Poor and Vulnerable Lebanese Households and Strengthen Social Safety Net Delivery System,” World Bank, May 25, 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2023/05/25/us-300-million-to-scale-up-support-to-poor-and-vulnerable-lebanese-households-and-strengthen-social-safety-net-delivery.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” x.
- “Lebanon—Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project: Second Additional Financing,” World Bank, May 13, 2023, 9, https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/document-detail/P180077?type=projects.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” x, 7; “Lebanon’s Import Bill: Jewelry before Baby Formula,” Mercy Corps Lebanon, July 3, 2023, https://mercycorps.org.lb/4649-2/.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 3.
- Philippe Hage Boutros, “Luxury Shopping Had Its Share of Sunshine in Lebanon This Summer,” L’Orient Today, September 22, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1350273/luxury-shopping-had-its-share-of-sunshine-in-lebanon-this-summer.html.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 4–5.
- Ibid., 18.
- Ibid., iv.
- Bassel Salloukh, “Taif and the Lebanese State: The Political Economy of a Very Sectarian Public Sector,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, April 10, 2019, 43–60, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13537113.2019.1565177.
- “Lebanon Public Finance Review: Ponzi Finance?” World Bank, July 2022, 33–4, 39–44, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/entities/publication/036d2419-d4d8-5abb-b25d-fa38d00a5f13. See also Alex Ray, “Public Disservice: Reforming Lebanon’s Regressive State Institutions,” Badil, May 10, 2023, https://thebadil.com/in-depth/reforming-lebanons-regressive-state-institutions/.
- Richard Salame, “State Spending and the 2017 Salary law,” L’Orient Today, July 10, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1343005/state-spending-and-the-2017-salary-law.html. See also Salloukh, “Taif and the Lebanese State.”
- “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions (2020–21),” Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, October 2022, 76–8, http://www.institutdesfinances.gov.lb/publication/rapid-impact-assessment-of-the-crisis-on-lebanese-state-institutions-2020-2021-report/; “The Occupational Survey: 92,000 Personnel in Public Sector and 72% Vacancies and 27,000 Occupations Conceal Illegal Contracting,” Gherbal Initiative, October 14, 2022, https://elgherbal.org/grains/ake7GCq81azdQ1FolzOE.
- Salame, “State Spending and the 2017 Salary Law.”
- “Cash-Strapped Lebanese Soldiers Moonlight as Mechanics, Waiters,” AFP, May 12, 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230512-cash-strapped-lebanese-soldiers-moonlight-as-mechanics-waiters.
- Richard Salame, “Business as Usual in the 2023 and 2024 Draft Budgets,” L’Orient Today, September 6, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1348612/business-as-usual-in-the-2023-and-2024-draft-budgets.html.
- Personnel expenses represented 50.8 percent of the state’s total reported expenditures in 2020, 54.8 percent in 2021, and 55.8 percent in 2022. Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 75; Salame, “State Spending and the 2017 Salary Law”; “Citizen Budget: Budget Law 2022,” Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, February 2023, 6, http://www.institutdesfinances.gov.lb/publication/citizen-budget-2022/. For 2023 figures, see Wassim Maktabi et al., “Lebanon’s 2023 Draft Budget: Aimless Expenditure,” The Policy Initiative, September 15, 2023, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/315/lebanon%E2%80%99s-2023-draft-budget-aimless-expenditure.
- Richard Salame, “Lebanon’s Civil Servants Are Leaving in Droves. They Won’t Be Replaced Soon,” L’Orient Today, November 5, 2022, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1316973/lebanons-civil-servants-are-leaving-in-droves-they-arent-being-replaced-soon.html.
- Sally Abou AlJoud, “Public School Teachers Protest Dire Conditions Ahead of School Year,” L’Orient Today, September 18, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1349752/public-school-teachers-protest-dire-conditions-ahead-of-school-year.html.
- Wassim Maktabi, “How Lebanon’s Elites Abuse the State to Get Re-elected,” The Policy Initiative, October 25, 2022, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/216/how-lebanons-elites-abuse-the-state-to-get-re-elected. Public employees have also benefited from arbitrage opportunities presented by the Sayrafa currency trading platform. See Sami Zoughaib and Wassim Maktabi, “BdL’s Sayrafa: Social Assistance of Last Resort?,” The Policy Initiative, November 28, 2022, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/238/bdl%E2%80%99s-sayrafa-social-assistance-of-last-resort. For more on the Sayrafa platform, see World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 9–12.
- Private sector employers have sufficiently increased salaries for employees to show up to work, said Abdallah Bou Habib, the foreign minister. “It’s only the public sector that didn’t adjust.” Interview with the author, Beirut, July 2023.
- “Lebanon Detainees Stuck in Limbo as Judges’ Strike Drags On,” AFP, December 8, 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20221208-lebanon-detainees-stuck-in-limbo-as-judges-strike-drags-on.
- Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 79–81. Lebanese diplomats can earn dollar wages in postings abroad, a Lebanese diplomatic source said, “but the rest [of the public sector]—judges, civil servants—the highest-ranking, managerial positions—these skilled resources have left, or are in the process of leaving.” Interview with the author, Beirut, July 2023.
- Timour Azhari and Maya Gebeily, “Public Sector Paralysed as Lebanon Lurches Towards ‘Failed State,’” Reuters, August 18, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/public-sector-paralysed-lebanon-lurches-towards-failed-state-2022-08-18/.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023.
- Interview. In parallel, the ministry has taken various steps to cut expenses. “Bou Habib: Austerity Policy in Foreign Ministry Will Remain in Effect for at Least Two Years; Amb. Adwan to Return Tomorrow, We Will Refer Information Received about Case to Justice Ministry” (in Arabic), National News Agency, June 20, 2023, https://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/سياسة/622033/بو-حبيب-سياسة-التقشف-في-الخارجية-ستبقى-معتمدة-على; “Foreign Affairs Ministry to Lay Off 15 Commercial Attachés,” L’Orient Today, August 18, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1346804/foreign-affairs-ministry-to-lay-off-15-commercial-attaches.html.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, July 2023.
- See Jad Ghoussaini, “Force for Funds: Saving Lebanon’s Army from Financial Collapse,” Triangle, December 30, 2021, https://www.thinktriangle.net/lebanon-army-financial-collapse/. Lebanese Armed Forces commander Gen. Joseph Aoun acknowledged strains on the force in an exceptional speech to assembled army officers in March 2021, in which Aoun frankly criticized the country’s political class. See “Army Commander Meets with Command Staff and Commanders of Major Units and Independent Regiments in Presence of Military Council Members” (in Arabic), uploaded to YouTube by The Lebanese Army (@TheLebaneseArmy), March 8, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdQnWKkvPHg.
- Lebanese security official, interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023; AFP, “Cash-Strapped Lebanese Soldiers Moonlight.”
- AFP, “Cash-Strapped Lebanese Soldiers Moonlight.” See also Dina Arakji, “Lebanon: New Challenges to the Delivery of Security Assistance,” ISPI, August 2, 2022, https://www.ispionline.it/en/publication/lebanon-new-challenges-delivery-security-assistance-35928.
- Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 87.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Public Finance Review,” 80.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, May 2023.
- Thanassis Cambanis, “People Power and Its Limits,” The Century Foundation, March 29, 2017, https://tcf.org/content/report/people-power-limits.
- Sunniva Rose, “Lebanese Government under Fire over Uncontrollable Forest Blaze,” The National, October 16, 2023, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/mena/lebanese-government-under-fire-over-uncontrollable-forest-blaze-1.923956.
- “Lebanon Scraps WhatsApp Fee amid Violent Protests,” Reuters, October 17, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-economy-calls-idUSKBN1WW1ZA.
- Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 91.
- Ibid., 27–53, 86–103. For a detailed sector-by-sector accounting, see World Bank, “Lebanon Public Finance Review,” 80–118.
- Maya Gebeily, “Why Are Power Outages Paralyzing Lebanon?” Thomson Reuters Foundation, October 11, 2021, https://news.trust.org/item/20210820140602-6xyah/.
- “Électricité du Liban: Implementation Begins of First Stage of Increasing Feed, as Part of Institution’s Three-Stage Plan” (in Arabic), National News Agency, January 27, 2023, https://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/economy/590721/كهرباء-لبنان-البدء-بتنفيذ-المرحلة-الأولى-لزيادة-ا.
- Gebeily, “Why Are Power Outages Paralyzing Lebanon?”
- “Water Supply Systems on the Verge of Collapse in Lebanon: Over 71 per Cent of People Risk Losing Access to Water,” UNICEF, July 23, 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/water-supply-systems-verge-collapse-lebanon-over-71-cent-people-risk-losing-access; “Struggling to Keep the Taps On,” UNICEF, July 21, 2022, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/reports/struggling-keep-taps; “When Water Becomes a Privilege: The Consequences of Shutting Down the Public Water System in Lebanon,” Lebanon WaSH Sector, October 12, 2022, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/lebanon/document/when-water-becomes-privilege-consequences-shutting-down-public-water; Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 115–18.
- Maya Gebeily, “Cholera Outbreak Hits Syrian Refugees Sheltering in Camps in Lebanon,” Reuters, October 21, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/cholera-outbreak-hits-syrian-refugees-sheltering-camps-lebanon-2022-10-21/.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, July 2023.
- See Fahad al-Sudeid, “Lebanon Is Sick with a Health System That Is as Costly as It Is Inefficient,” L’Orient Today, April 19, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1259152/lebanon-is-sick-with-a-health-system-that-is-as-costly-as-it-is-inefficient.html; and at more length in Fahad al-Sudeid, “Hospitals for the Lucky,” Synaps, March 30, 2021, https://www.synaps.network/post/lebanon-health-hospitals-clinics. The Ministry of Public Health itself diagnoses these issues in the national health strategy it debuted in February 2023. See “Lebanon National Health Strategy: Vision 2030,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of National Health, 6–9, https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/Pages/0/67043/lebanon-national-health-strategy-vision-2030.
- The Ministry of Public Health had previously been the insurance of last resort but can no longer afford to pay the hospital bills of the uninsured. Meanwhile, private health insurance is unaffordable for most people, and the country’s pension and health care scheme for private sector workers, overseen by the Ministry of Labor, is insolvent. Firass Abiad and international aid officials, interviews with the author, Beirut, July and August 2023; Richard Salame, “Long-Overdue Pension Reform, Coming Soon?” L’Orient Today, June 6, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1339689/long-overdue-pension-reform-coming-soon.html; Richard Salame, “A Double-Edged Sword: Inside the NSSF’s Accounts,” L’Orient Today, June 7, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1339803/a-double-edged-sword-inside-the-nssfs-accounts.html.
- Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Rapid Impact Assessment of the Crisis on Lebanese State Institutions,” 107–110.
- WHO coordinator in Lebanon Abdinasir Abubakar, interviews with the author, Beirut and remotely, June and September 2023.
- “Press Conference on the Extension of Lebanon’s Emergency Response Plan Introductory Remarks by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, Ms. Najat Rochdi,” United Nations Lebanon, June 16, 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/press-conference-extension-lebanons-emergency-response-plan-introductory-remarks-un-resident-and-humanitarian-coordinator-lebanon-ms-najat-rochdi-enar.
- Fay Abuelgasim and Kareem Chehayeb, “Lebanon’s Empty Schools Bode Long-Term Damage from Crisis,” Associated Press, March 16, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/lebanon-education-crisis-teachers-strike-economy-schools-0761ebdcb0f7ff4d83fc11d1fe9c0386. During the pandemic, an estimated 1.2 million children had their education disrupted for more than one year. “Education in Crisis: Raising the Alarm,” Save the Children, March 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/lebanon-education-crisis-raising-alarm-march-2021.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Public Finance Review,” 82.
- International aid official, interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023. See also Hussein Cheaito, “Local Governance in Lebanon: The Great Mirage,” Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, May 18, 2023, https://timep.org/2023/05/18/local-governance-in-lebanon-the-great-mirage/; Alex Ray, “Crushed Ballot: Ending the Suppression of Lebanon’s Municipalities,” Badil, May 24, 2023, https://thebadil.com/in-depth/crushed-ballot-ending-the-suppression-of-lebanons-municipalities/.
- David Wood, “Lebanon Needs to Hold Municipal Elections,” International Crisis Group, May 31, 2023, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/east-mediterranean-mena/lebanon/lebanon-needs-hold-municipal-elections.
- Albin Szakola, “‘National Suicide’: A Breakdown of Lebanon’s Deepening Dependence on Diesel Fuel for Private Generators,” L’Orient Today, January 14, 2022, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1287555/national-suicide-a-breakdown-of-lebanons-deepening-dependence-on-diesel-fuel-for-private-generators.html.
- Lebanon WaSH Sector, “When Water Becomes a Privilege.”
- Sarah El Deeb, “In Times of Crises, Lebanon’s Old Must Fend for Themselves,” Associated Press, June 22, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/beirut-middle-east-lebanon-coronavirus-pandemic-health-5415955ac7769803d74da5f6a29a6b2a. An international aid official noted the social reorganization this has entailed, remarking that one might encounter a judge working as an Uber driver, or soldiers installing solar power equipment. “Now the person in the village with the most money is no longer the senior civil servant,” the official said. “It’s the guy who changes dollars.” Interview with the author, Beirut, May 2023.
- “Understanding the Limitations of Remittances as an Informal Social Safety Net in Lebanon,” Mercy Corps Lebanon, November 24, 2022, https://mercycorps.org.lb/understanding-the-limitations-of-remittancesas-an-informal-social-safety-net-in-lebanon/.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 8.
- Ibid., 8.
- Richard Salame, “Rate of Lebanon’s State Revenues among Lowest Globally,” L’Orient Today, January 5, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1323562/rate-of-lebanons-state-revenues-among-lowest-globally.html.
- Salame, “Rate of Lebanon’s State Revenues Among Lowest Globally.” For a critical assessment of Lebanon’s 2022 budget, including its revenue collection components, see Sami Atallah and Sami Zoughaib, “Lebanon’s Rigged Budget,” The Policy Initiative, October 12, 2022, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/205/lebanon%E2%80%99s-rigged-budget.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 21–26.
- Fouad Gemayel, “Finance Ministry Raises Customs Dollar to LL86,000,” L’Orient Today, May 12, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1337324/finance-ministry-raises-customs-dollar-to-ll86000.html.
- “Lebanon Has Spent at Least Two-Thirds of Its IMF SDR’s,” L’Orient-Le Jour, April 5, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1333838/lebanon-has-spent-at-least-two-thirds-of-its-imf-sdrs.html.
- Wassim Maktabi et al., “Lebanon’s 2023 Draft Budget: Taxing the Many, Sparing the Rich,” The Policy Initiative, September 20, 2023, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/318/lebanon%E2%80%99s-2023-draft-budget-taxing-the-many-sparing-the-rich.
- “Lebanon’s C. Bank Will Not Print Money to Lend State, Cover Deficit—Acting Governor,” Reuters, August 25, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-cenbank/update-1-lebanons-c-bank-will-not-print-money-to-lend-state-cover-deficit-acting-governor-idINL1N3A60IJ; “‘I Will Not Lend the State the People’s Money,’ Acting Central Bank Chief Says,” L’Orient Today, September 3, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1348238/i-will-not-lend-the-state-the-peoples-money-acting-central-bank-chief-says.html.
- Mounir Mahmalat et al., “From Hariri’s Loans to Aoun’s Drought: The History of Lebanon’s Foreign Aid,” The Policy Initiative, March 8, 2023, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/270/from-hariris-loans-to-aouns-drought.
- Mounir Mahmalat et al., “How the Many Become a Few: The Great Reduction of Lebanon’s Foreign Donors,” The Policy Initiative, March 30, 2023, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/276/how-the-many-become-a-few.
- Mahmalat et al., “How the Many Become a Few.”
- “Saudi Arabia Halts $3 Billion Package to Lebanese Army, Security Aid,” Reuters, February 19, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-lebanon-idUSKCN0VS1KK. For the original commitment, see “Saudi Arabia to Give Lebanese Army $3 Billion,” Reuters, December 29, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-saudi-army-idINDEE9BS04I20131229.
- Mahmalat et al., “From Hariri’s Loans to Aoun’s Drought.”
- Miriam Berger, “Beirut Urgently Needs Aid. But Residents Fear the State’s Involvement Will Make Matters Worse,” Washington Post, August 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/08/12/beirut-urgently-needs-aid-residents-fear-states-involvement-will-make-matters-worse/.
- Zoughaib and Heller, “The Shadow Plan.”
- Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023.” For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, see “Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Emergency Appeal 2023,” UNRWA, January 19, 2023, https://www.unrwa.org/resources/emergency-appeals/syria-lebanon-and-jordan-emergency-appeal-2023.
- “Escalating Needs in Lebanon | A 2023 Overview,” OCHA, April 11, 2023, 38, https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/escalating-needs-lebanon-2023-overview.
- “The Fallout of War: The Regional Consequences of the Conflict in Syria,” World Bank, September 14, 2020, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/entities/publication/6fe38bb4-0168-5f5d-943d-e79ea80b06be; IMF, “Lebanon: Staff Report for the Article IV Consultation,” 56–7. For Lebanon’s estimated population, see Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 8.
- “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2015-16,” Government of Lebanon/UN, December 16, 2014, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/syria/document/lebanon-crisis-response-plan-2015-2016.
- For the latest iteration of the LCRP, see Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023.”
- “Lebanon Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF)—Frequently Asked Questions,” World Bank, December 4, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/lebanon/brief/lebanon-reform-recovery-and-reconstruction-framework-3rf-faq. The two-year 3RF concluded in 2023. “Co-chair Statement by the Prime Minister of Lebanon, the Un Resident Coordinator, and Representatives of Donors and Lebanese Civil Society,” World Bank, April 12, 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2023/04/12/co-chair-statement-by-the-prime-minister-of-lebanon-the-un-resident-coordinator-and-representatives-of-donors-and-lebane. For retrospective assessments, see Abby Sewell, “What Happened to the International Aid Promised to Lebanon after the Beirut Port Blast?” L’Orient Today, December 17, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1285046/what-happened-to-the-international-aid-promised-to-lebanon-after-the-beirut-port-blast.html; and Wassim Maktabi et al., “Limits of Reforms and Conditionalities in Lebanon’s 3RF,” The Policy Initiative, May 12, 2023, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/283/limits-of-reforms-and-conditionalities-in-lebanons-3rf?lang=en.
- For more on the LERP, see United Nations Lebanon, “Press Conference on the Extension of Lebanon’s Emergency Response Plan.”
- “Emergency Response Plan Lebanon 2023,” OCHA, May 4, 2023, https://lebanon.un.org/en/230731-lebanon-emergency-response-plan-2023; Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023.”
- Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 7.
- “LCRP 2022 End of the Year Funding Update,” Inter-Agency Coordination Lebanon, February 20, 2023, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/98964.
- Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 8.
- “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP): 2022 End of Year Inter-Sector Dashboard,” Inter-Agency Coordination, March 15, 2023, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/99570.
- Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 9.
- Riza, interview with the author remotely, September 2023.
- “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2021 Annual Report,” Inter-Agency Coordination, September 5, 2022, 60–73, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/95338.
- “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2021 Annual Report,” Inter-Agency Coordination, 60. Support for education, in particular, declined from $133,588,019 in 2019 to $49,759,965 in 2020 and $35,802,989 in 2021. Roughly 70 percent of this support went through public institutions, to pay for students’ school fees. Ibid., 66.
- World Bank, “Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2023,” 4–5.
- Sami Halabi, “Propping Up the State,” Executive Magazine, October 3, 2010, https://www.executive-magazine.com/economics-policy/propping-up-the-state.
- Western diplomats, interviews with the author, Beirut, March and July 2023.
- Lebanese diplomatic source, interview.
- Another floor was renovated with contributions from the Lebanese diaspora; an émigré paid to repair the building’s elevator. Bou Habib, interview. See also “Turkish Embassy Shares Country’s Humanitarian, Technical Aid towards Lebanon in 2022,” National News Agency, December 28, 2022, https://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/en/politics/584762/turkish-embassy-shares-country-s-humanitarian-tech.
- Ziad T. Makary (@ZiadMakary), Twitter status, August 24, 2023, https://twitter.com/ziadmakary/status/1694683281579462872.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, May 2023.
- “The Ministry of Education Launches the Transition Resilience Education Fund, to Support Lebanon’s Education Sector,” UNICEF, June 22, 2022, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/ministry-education-launches-transition-resilience-education-fund-support-lebanons.
- “The Cost of Education in Lebanon: Treasury and Society Expenditure,” Centre for Lebanese Studies, May 23, 2023, https://lebanesestudies.com/publications/report-the-cost-of-education-in-lebanon-treasury-and-society-expenditure.
- “UNICEF Urges National Investment to Guarantee Uninterrupted Learning for All Children,” UNICEF, August 16, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/unicef-urges-national-investment-guarantee-uninterrupted-learning-all-children.
- Based on an exchange rate of 30,313 lira to the dollar, the average parallel market exchange rate for 2022. The 2022 budget allotted 3.47 trillion lira to education. The official exchange rate used in the budget was 15,000 lira to the dollar. Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan, “Citizen Budget: Budget Law 2022,” 11. The 2022 average parallel market exchange rate is from Lamia Moubayed, interview with the author remotely, September 2023.
- For example, see Inter-Agency Coordination, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2021 Annual Report,” 66.
- Abuelgasim and Chehayeb, “Lebanon’s Empty Schools Bode Long-Term Damage from Crisis.”
- “One Million Children Left without Education in Lebanon after Public Schools Shut Their Doors,” Save the Children, January 19, 2023, https://www.savethechildren.net/news/one-million-children-left-without-education-lebanon-after-public-schools-shut-their-doors.
- “Education in Lebanon: Lessons for Non-Lebanese Stop, Education Ministry Director-General Comments: ‘It’s Not Permissible for Our Children to Not Learn While Others’ Children Are Learning’” (in Arabic), BBC, January 11, 2023, https://www.bbc.com/arabic/trending-64239758.
- Aid officials, interviews with the author, February and July 2023.
- Payments were retroactive to the beginning of the school year in October 2022. “UNICEF Welcomes School Reopening and Reaffirms Commitment to Strengthen Public Schools in Lebanon,” UNICEF, March 13, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/unicef-welcomes-school-reopening-and-reaffirms-commitment-strengthen-public-schools; “Statement by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the World Bank, and UNICEF on the Teachers’ Productivity Allowance Program for Lebanon’s Public School Teachers for the Academic Year 2022–2023,” World Bank, March 20, 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/statement/2023/03/20/statement-on-the-teachers-productivity-allowance-program-for-lebanon-public-school-teachers-for-the-academic-year-22-23.
- “World Bank Statement on Incentive Program for Lebanon’s Public-School Teachers for the Academic Year 2021–2022,” World Bank, December 23, 2021, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/statement/2021/12/23/world-bank-statement-on-incentive-program-for-lebanon-s-public-school-teachers-for-the-academic-year-2021-2022.
- World Bank, “Statement by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the World Bank, and UNICEF on the Teachers’ Productivity Allowance Program.”
- “Lebanon: New School Year at Risk,” Human Rights Watch, September 13, 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/09/13/lebanon-new-school-year-risk; AlJoud, “Public school teachers protest dire conditions.”
- In 2021, 95 percent of support for health care under the LCRP was provided at the primary health care center level. Inter-Agency Coordination, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2021 Annual Report,” 69.
- International aid officials, interviews with the author, June and August 2023.
- According to the UN, 145 primary health care centers are supported by LCRP partners. “Mid-Year Update on Support to Lebanese—2023: Under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan,” Inter-Agency Coordination: Lebanon, August 10, 2023, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/102513. For EU support specifically, see Sandra De Waele (@EuAmbLebanon), Twitter status, September 8, 2023, https://twitter.com/EUAmbLebanon/status/1700151636801237030.
- IMC country director Eduard Tschan, interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023. For a look at one primary health care center, see Thomas Schellen, “A Checkup on the Beating Heart of Healthcare,” Executive Magazine, May 3, 2023, https://www.executive-magazine.com/special-report/a-checkup-on-the-beating-heart-of-healthcare.
- Abubakar and Abiad, interviews with the author, Beirut, June, and July 2023.
- Ibid. See also “Abiad: Ministry Launches MediTrack to Track Medicine to Avoid Hoarding, Smuggling,” L’Orient Today, March 6, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1330485/abiad-ministry-launches-meditrack-to-track-medicine-to-avoid-hoarding-smuggling.html; “MediTrack Project—Track & Trace System for Pharmaceuticals,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/DynamicPages/index/6/15089/meditrack-project-track-trace-medicines-through-the-2d-barcode.
- Ronald Eduardo Gomez-Suarez, “Disclosable Restructuring Paper—Lebanon Health Resilience Project,” World Bank, June 7, 2023, https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/099060723124520164/p1634760c2ed090980a717040c4abc848cf; “Lebanon Health Resilience Project in Collaboration with the World Bank,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/Pages/6/22726/lebanon-health-resilience-project-in-collaboration-with-the-world-bank.
- “Minister Abiad Introduced the National Health Strategy—Vision 2030,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, February 3, 2023, https://moph.gov.lb/en/Media/view/67314/minister-abiad-introduced-the-national-health-strategy-vision-2030.
- “Minister Abiad Receives Donation of Medicines From Qatar,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, December 19, 2022, https://moph.gov.lb/en/Media/view/66310/minister-abiad-receives-donation-of-medicines-from-qatar; “The Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF in Partnerships with the German and U.S. Governments Will Solarize 150 Primary Healthcare Centres to Ensure Immunization and Essential Public Health Services Are Not Interrupted in Lebanon,” UNICEF, March 8, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/ministry-public-health-and-unicef-partnerships-german-and-us-governments-will; “Minister Abiad Receives a Donation of Medicines from Pakistan,” Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, March 29, 2023, https://moph.gov.lb/en/Media/view/68417/minister-abiad-receives-a-donation-of-medicines-from-pakistan.
- “WFP Lebanon: Fuel Operation Progress Report (September 2021–March 2022),” WFP, May 18, 2022, https://www.wfp.org/publications/wfp-lebanon-fuel-operation-report-september-2021-march-2022.
- “Lebanon: Humanitarian Situation Report No. 1,” UNICEF, September 21, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/documents/lebanon-humanitarian-situation-report-no-1-30-june-2023. Germany is a leading donor supporting water systems. “Ministry of Energy and Water Celebrates Eight Years of Impactful Partnership for Improved Water Systems with German Government and UNICEF,” UNICEF, August 1, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/ministry-energy-and-water-celebrates-eight-years-impactful-partnership-improved.
- International aid official, interview with the author remotely, September 2023. See also Inter-Agency Coordination: Lebanon, “Mid-Year Update on Support to Lebanese—2023.”
- “U.S. Relations with Lebanon,” U.S. Department of State, April 27, 2022, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-lebanon/.
- In May 2021, for example, the U.S. State Department and Lebanese army convened the “inaugural U.S.–Lebanon Defense Resourcing Conference” to signal U.S. commitment to the U.S.–Lebanese army partnership and discuss how the U.S. government might further contribute. “Inaugural U.S.–Lebanon Defense Resourcing Conference,” U.S. Department of State, May 21, 2021, https://www.state.gov/inaugural-u-s-lebanon-defense-resourcing-conference/.
- Jim Zanotti, “Lebanon: Background and U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, May 19, 2023, https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R44759.
- Michael Young, “A Military Lifeline,” Carnegie Middle East Center, June 16, 2021, https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/84756.
- Ghadir Hamadi, “Lebanese Army Receives Qatar’s $60 Million in Aid,” L’Orient Today, August 12, 2022, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1308367/lebanese-army-receives-qatars-60-million-in-aid.html. For the initial June 2022 announcement of Qatari salary support for the Lebanese military, see “State of Qatar Announces $60 Million Contribution to Support Lebanese Army” (in Arabic), Ministry of Foreign Affairs—State of Qatar, June 30, 2022, https://www.mofa.gov.qa/جميع-أخبار-الوزارة/التفاصيل/1443/12/01/دولة-قطر-تعلن-عن-مساهمة-بقيمة-60-مليون-دولار-دعما-للجيش-اللبناني. For more on Qatar’s involvement in Lebanon, see Bassem Mroue, “Qatar Boosts Influence in Lebanon amid Multiple Crises,” Associated Press, February 4, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/politics-russia-government-qatar-united-states-hezbollah-b6b7c51ec89aaf1d21eca6301c788d7f.
- “The U.S. and the UN Announce Beginning of Implementation of Livelihood Support Program for the LAF,” UNDP, June 23, 2023, https://www.undp.org/lebanon/press-releases/us-and-un-announce-beginning-implementation-livelihood-support-program-laf.
- “The United States Announces Rollout of the LAF/ISF Livelihood Support Program in Partnership with UNDP,” UNDP, January 25, 2023, https://www.undp.org/lebanon/press-releases/united-states-announces-rollout-laf/isf-livelihood-support-program-partnership-undp.
- “UK Commits Further £13m to the Lebanese Army,” British Embassy Beirut, December 15, 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-commits-further-13m-to-the-lebanese-army.
- “At the Direction of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian Armed Forces Send Medical Assistance to Lebanese Army” (in Arabic), Egyptian Armed Forces, February 25, 2021, https://www.mod.gov.eg/modwebsite/NewsDetailsAr.aspx?id=40606; Lebanese Army (@LebarmyOfficial), Twitter status, January 10, 2022, https://twitter.com/LebarmyOfficial/status/1480550902750715905; National News Agency, “Turkish Embassy Shares Country’s Humanitarian, Technical Aid Towards Lebanon in 2022.”
- “The State of Qatar Provides the Lebanese Army with Fuel for 6 Months,” Qatar Fund for Development, August 31, 2023, https://qatarfund.org.qa/the-state-of-qatar-provides-the-lebanese-army-with-fuel-for-6-months/.
- “The United States and the United Nations Announce Beginning of Implementation of Material Support Program for the ISF,” UNDP, April 18, 2023, https://www.undp.org/lebanon/press-releases/united-states-and-united-nations-announce-beginning-implementation-material-support-program-isf.
- “UK Support to Lebanon’s Police Force Continues,” British Embassy Beirut, December 13, 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-support-to-lebanons-police-force-continues; “UK Supports Lebanon ISF with MOU Cooperation £15.9m,” British Embassy Beirut, December 9, 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-supports-lebanon-isf-with-mou-cooperation-159m.
- “IOM Inaugurates Security Academy for Training, Education and Cybersecurity to Improve Border and Migration Management in Lebanon,” IOM, April 1, 2022, https://mena.iom.int/news/iom-inaugurates-security-academy-training-education-and-cybersecurity-improve-border-and-migration-management-lebanon.
- National News Agency, “Turkish Embassy Shares Country’s Humanitarian, Technical Aid Towards Lebanon in 2022.”
- “WFP Lebanon—Support to the National Poverty Targeting Programme in 2022,” WFP, October 17, 2022, https://www.wfp.org/publications/wfp-lebanon-support-national-poverty-targeting-programme-2022-0; “Canada Supports WFP Lebanon in Expanding Its Assistance to Vulnerable Families through the National Social Safety Net,” WFP, May 3, 2023, https://www.wfp.org/news/canada-supports-wfp-lebanon-expanding-its-assistance-vulnerable-families-through-national.
- “US$246 Million to Support Poor and Vulnerable Lebanese Households and Build-up the Social Safety Net Delivery System,” World Bank, January 12, 2021, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/01/12/us246-million-to-support-poor-and-vulnerable-lebanese-households-and-build-up-the-social-safety-net-delivery-system. Abby Sewell and Omar Tamo, “How the Government Fumbled a $246 Million World Bank Loan to Help Lebanon’s Poorest Families,” L’Orient Today, June 21, 2021, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1265858/how-the-government-fumbled-a-246-million-world-bank-loan-to-help-lebanons-poorest-families.html; Wassim Maktabi et al., “Near Miss: Lebanon’s ESSN Evades Elite Capture,” The Policy Initiative, November 21, 2022, https://www.thepolicyinitiative.org/article/details/236/near-miss-lebanon%E2%80%99s-essn-evades-elite-capture.
- “Lebanon Announces Payment of Cash Transfers to Extreme Poor Lebanese households under AMAN,” World Bank, March 14, 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/03/14/lebanon-announces-payment-of-cash-transfers-to-extreme-poor-lebanese-households-under-aman.
- World Bank, “US$300 Million to Scale-up Support.”
- “WFP Lebanon 2022 in Review,” WFP, March 20, 2023, https://www.wfp.org/publications/wfp-lebanon-2022-review.
- This includes 69,450 Lebanese families (381,000 individuals) through NPTP and 93,300 Lebanese families (391,200 individuals) through ESSN. See “WFP Lebanon Situation Report: July 2023,” WFP, August 21, 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/wfp-lebanon-situation-report-july-2023.
- “The Ministry of Social Affairs Introduces a Social Protection Programme for People with Disabilities in Lebanon,” UNICEF, April 26, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/ministry-social-affairs-introduces-social-protection-programme-people-disabilities.
- Wael Taleb, “Ration Card program Still Not Implemented as Families Continue to Suffer,” L’Orient Today, November 19, 2022, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1318592/ration-card-program-still-not-implemented-as-families-continue-to-suffer.html.
- For one narrative of the development of ESSN/DAEM, see Haneen Sayed, “How Better Social Protection Can Strengthen Lebanon’s Social Contract,” Carnegie Middle East Center, June 14, 2022, https://carnegie-mec.org/2023/06/14/how-better-social-protection-can-strengthen-lebanon-s-social-contract-pub-89967; for more, see World Bank, “Lebanon—Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project: Second Additional Financing,” 15–6.
- “IMPACT” stands for “Inter-Ministerial and Municipal Platform for Assessment, Coordination, and Tracking.” See “Bullseye: A Case Study from Beirut on Driving Governance Reform in Times of Uncertainty,” Siren Associates, June 2021, https://sirenassociates.com/case-studies/driving-governance-reform-in-times-of-uncertainty; “Statement from the British Embassy Beirut,” British Embassy Beirut, January 10, 2023, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-from-the-british-embassy-beirut; “Lebanon: Political Reform Programme annual review summary 2020 to 2021,” Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, May 22, 2023, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/conflict-stability-and-security-fund-europe-middle-east-and-north-africa-annual-review-summaries-2020-to-2021.
- “First Shipment of 33,000 Tons of Wheat Helps Rebuild Lebanon’s Stock and Ensure Access to Affordable Bread,” World Bank, February 11, 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2023/02/11/first-shipment-of-33-000-tons-of-wheat-helps-rebuild-lebanon-s-stock-and-ensure-access-to-affordable-bread.
- Leonora Monson, “Burnt Bulb: EdL Reforms Being Foiled from the Top,” Badil, June 16, 2023, https://thebadil.com/commentary/burnt-bulb-edl-reforms-being-foiled-from-the-top/. On the sanctions implications of the proposed deals, see Sam Heller, “Lights On in Lebanon: Limiting the Fallout from U.S. Sanctions on Syria,” War on the Rocks, November 10, 2021, https://warontherocks.com/2021/11/lights-on-in-lebanon-limiting-the-fallout-from-u-s-sanctions-on-syria/.
- “UNDP—Supporting Host Communities in Lebanon (2014–Mar 2023),” UNDP, 2023, https://www.undp.org/lebanon/undp-supporting-lebanese-host-communities-2014; Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 167–78.
- André Sleiman, Democracy Reporting International, interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023. For detail on donor support, see “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) 2022 End of Year Inter-Sector Dashboard,” Inter-Agency Coordination Lebanon, 2; “Mid-Year Update on Support to Lebanese—2023,” Inter-Agency Coordination: Lebanon, 2.
- Sleiman, interview.
- Makary and Hajjar, interviews.
- Riza, interview with the author, Beirut, May 2023.
- In line with, for example, Jordan’s Ministry of Planning and International Coordination. See the website of the Ministry of Planning and International Coordination, https://www.mop.gov.jo/Default/En.
- International aid official, Bou Habib, Moubayed, and Sabine Hatem, interviews with the author, Beirut and remotely, July and August 2023.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023.
- “2022 2nd Quarter Sector Dashboard: Health,” Inter-Agency Coordination: Lebanon, August 14, 2023, 2, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/102588.
- Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health, “Lebanon National Health Strategy: Vision 2030.”
- Abiad and international aid officials, interviews with the author, Beirut, June, July, and August 2023.
- Abiad, interview.
- Gherbal Initiative, “The Occupational Survey.”
- IMF, “Lebanon: Staff Report for the Article IV Consultation,” 21.
- Government of Lebanon/UN, “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2023,” 50. For estimated donor spending on education between 2011 and 2021, see Centre for Lebanese Studies, “The Cost of Education in Lebanon.” One way Lebanese authorities could, in theory, allocate resources more efficiently and better compensate teachers would be by consolidating first shift and second shift classes for Lebanese and Syrians, but Lebanese officials insist they categorically reject that idea. Lebanese diplomatic source, interview.
- The Lebanese army also has a particularly large number of expensive senior officers. Ghoussaini, “Force for Funds.”
- UNDP, “The U.S. and the UN Announce Beginning of Implementation of Livelihood Support Program for the LAF.”
- Western diplomats, interviews with the author, Beirut, April 2021 and February 2023.
- Young, “A Military Lifeline.”
- For example, see IMF, “Lebanon: Staff Report for the Article IV Consultation,” 21.
- For a fuller case for Lebanese army salary support, see Cate Brown and Thanassis Cambanis, “Why the United States Should Pay the Lebanese Army’s Salaries—Before It’s Too Late,” Century International, July 27, 2022, https://tcf.org/content/commentary/why-the-united-states-should-pay-the-lebanese-armys-salaries-before-its-too-late/.
- Interviews with the author, Beirut, May and June 2023.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, June 2023.
- “Hamiyeh Announces Launch of Buses Donated by France,” L’Orient Today, December 16, 2022, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1321824/hamiyeh-announces-launch-of-buses-donated-by-france.html.
- Richard Salame, “Rolling to a Halt: The Reasons Behind the Discontinued Operation of French Buses in Beirut,” L’Orient Today, January 31, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1326585/rolling-to-a-halt-the-reasons-behind-the-discontinued-operation-of-french-buses-in-beirut.html.
- World Bank, “Lebanon—Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project: Second Additional Financing,” 55.
- Ibid., 55–56.
- Ibid., 3.
- Abiad, interview.
- Western aid officials, interviews with the author, Beirut and remotely, July, August, and September 2023.
- Abiad, interview.
- Mona Fawaz and Mona Harb, “Is Lebanon Becoming Another ‘Republic of the NGOs’?,” Beirut Urban Lab, October 13, 2020, https://beiruturbanlab.com/en/Details/697.
- Western diplomat and international aid officials, interviews with the author, Beirut, January and May 2023.
- Richard Salame, “Faced With a Civil Service Crisis, Lebanon Brings in Youth Volunteers,” L’Orient Today, August 25, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1347430/faced-with-a-civil-service-crisis-lebanon-brings-in-youth-volunteers.html.
- For example, see “UNHCR Dollar Aid to Syrian Refugees a ‘Mistake,’ Hajjar Accuses,” L’Orient Today, May 26, 2023, https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1338582/unhcr-dollar-aid-to-syrian-refugees-a-mistake-hajjar-accuses.html.
- Hajjar, interview.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, August 2023.
- Interview with the author, Beirut, November 2022.
- Nada Homsi, “‘Kidnapped’ by the State: Deportations from Lebanon Tear Syrian Refugee Families Apart,” The National, April 28, 2023, https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/lebanon/2023/04/28/kidnapped-by-the-state-deportations-from-lebanon-tear-syrian-refugee-families-apart/.
- Interviews with the author, Beirut, June and August 2023.
- Abby Sewell and Kareem Chehayeb, “Syrian Refugees Fearful as Lebanon Steps Up Deportations,” May 3, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/lebanon-refugees-syria-arrests-deportations-356d55f1412f830b6521180c5390a869; Marion Weichelt (@SwissAmbLEB), Twitter status, May 26, 2023, https://twitter.com/SwissAmbLEB/status/1662102828981125120; “Quarterly Protection Overview: Quarter 2, 2023,” Protection Sector, August 15, 2023, 3, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/102794.
- UNDP, “The U.S. and the UN Announce Beginning of Implementation of Livelihood Support Program for the LAF.”
- “We’ve seen a lot of criticisms of the assistance coming to us,” said army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun in his March 2021 speech addressing the crisis’s effects on Lebanon’s military. “But if not for this assistance coming from friendly countries, and friendly militaries, the situation would be much worse. And whatever the size [of the assistance], we’re accepting it according to principles.” The Lebanese Army (@TheLebaneseArmy) YouTube channel “Army Commander Meets with Command Staff.”
- According to the WHO representative in Lebanon, Abdinasir Abubakar, “As more Lebanese become vulnerable and require assistance, there is not enough international support for hospitalization for vulnerable Lebanese, compared to support for refugee hospitalization. If international support for hospitalization among vulnerable Lebanese is not maintained, it can lead to anti-Syrian sentiment.” Interview with the author remotely, September 2023. See also “2022 2nd Quarter Sector Dashboard: Health,” Inter-Agency Coordination: Lebanon, p. 3.
- World Bank, “The Fallout of War.” Some have made well-intentioned attempts to argue otherwise, in an apparent attempt to resist anti-refugee sentiment. For example, see Cathrine Brun and Ali Fakih, “Debunking the Dangerous Myth That Refugees Are an Economic Burden in Lebanon,” The New Humanitarian, September 26, 2022, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/2022/09/26/Syrian-refugees-Lebanon-economics.
- Western diplomats, interviews with the author, Beirut, May and August 2023.
- “President Aoun Heads Meeting with Attendance of Ministers Bou Habib and Hajjar to Coordinate Lebanese Position at Brussels Conference” (in Arabic), Presidency of the Lebanese Republic, May 5, 2022, http://www.presidency.gov.lb/Arabic/News/Pages/Details.aspx?nid=27057; “President Mikati Heads Two Meetings to Discuss File of Syrians Displaced in Lebanon” (in Arabic), Republic of Lebanon: Presidency of Council of Ministers, April 26, 2023, http://www.pcm.gov.lb/arabic/subpg.aspx?pageid=22834.
- “International Ministerial Meetings,” European Council, June 15, 2023, https://video.consilium.europa.eu/event/en/26868.
- Lebanese diplomatic source and Hajjar, interviews.
- For the Lebanese government’s latest proposal, see “In Serail Session Yesterday, Cabinet Approves Working Paper to Organize Management of Syrian Displaced File” (in Arabic), National News Agency, June 14, 2023, https://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/ar/سياسة/620785/ورقة-العمل-لتنظيم-ادارة-ملف-النازحين-السوريين-كما. It is unclear whether this document has the full backing of Lebanon’s government and various factions.
- Abiad, Makary, and Western diplomats, July 2023.
- “Lebanese Economy Minister to Sputnik: I Appealed to Kuwait to Rebuild Grain Silos in Lebanon” (in Arabic), Sputnik Arabic, August 1, 2023, https://sputnikarabic.ae/20230801/وزير-الاقتصاد-اللبناني-لـسبوتنيك-ناشدت-الكويت-بإعادة-بناء-إهراءات-القمح-في-لبنان-1079680660.html.
- “Kuwait Rejects Lebanese Minister’s Statement on Foreign Loans,” Kuwait Times, August 5, 2023, https://www.kuwaittimes.com/kuwait-rejects-lebanese-ministers-statement-on-foreign-loans/.
- Zoughaib and Heller, “The Shadow Plan.”
- Bill Van Esveld and Ramzi Kaiss, “Donors in Brussels Should Act on Lebanon Education Crisis,” Human Rights Watch, June 14, 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/06/14/donors-brussels-should-act-lebanon-education-crisis.
- Ishac Diwan and Haneen Sayed, “Lebanon Needs a Renewed Donor Support Strategy,” Middle East Institute, August 22, 2023, https://www.mei.edu/publications/lebanon-needs-renewed-donor-support-strategy.
- “Support to Lebanon’s Reaching All Children with Education Plan (RACE II),” Development Tracker, accessed September 5, 2023, https://devtracker.fcdo.gov.uk/projects/GB-GOV-1-300239/summary.
- UNDP, “The United States Announces Rollout of the LAF/ISF Livelihood Support Program in Partnership with UNDP.”
- Diplomat, interview with the author, Beirut, June 2023.
- “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP): 2022 End of Year Inter-Sector Dashboard,” Inter-Agency Coordination.
- Interviews with the author, Beirut, August 2023.
- These include the EU, the World Bank, the United States, France, Canada and Japan. Tschan, interview.
- International aid officials, interviews.
- According to a Western diplomat: “Their capacity to provide support depends on the willingness of the boards at these institutions—which isn’t obvious—in the next years, if leaders here aren’t willing to reform and help their population, to do the right things.” Interview with the author, Beirut, May 2023.
- Western diplomats and international aid officials, May, June, August 2023.