Lebanon is in the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The economy is in sharp decline and the political system is on the verge of implosion.
This situation is dramatic not only for the Lebanese but also for the Near and Middle East. Indeed, this country is at risk of reliving a civil war and Hezbollah could take power
A crisis without precedent
Lebanon’s economic collapse is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century, the World Bank says in a damning report. “The economic and financial crisis is likely to rank among the ten, or even three, most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century,” the report said.
The currency has lost about 85% of its value and poverty is devastating a country once considered a beacon of prosperity in the region. Entitled “Lebanon’s Wreckage: Top 3 Worst Global Crises,” the report states that these sudden economic collapses are usually the result of war
According to the UN, 55% of the population now lives below the poverty line. 40% of the active population is unemployed.
The country’s debt is now approaching $100 billion, or more than 170 percent of GDP. In March, the Government announced that it was unable to pay the first tranche of its debt ($1.2 billion) and all of its dollar-denominated treasury bills.
The authors of a UNICEF report estimate that famine affects 30% of children in Lebanon, noting that “Lebanese children are bearing the brunt of one of the world’s worst economic collapses in recent times.
The lives of the inhabitants of the Land of the Cedars are marked by serious shortages, especially of medicines. The situation is such that the Government will offer the most disadvantaged households a ration card.
The risks and solutions to this crisis
There is a great risk that Lebanon will return to civil war and that Hezbollah will grow stronger.
As in many countries in crisis, the extremist movements will compensate for the lack of the state by providing aid to families. The latter, and this is normal, will give their votes to these movements in case of elections.
In order to avoid a bloodbath and a conflagration in the region, the Western world and the monarchies of the Gulf must urgently come to the bedside of Lebanon.
The Lebanese society has no more confidence in its politicians, which is largely responsible for the collapse of the Lebanese economy for 18 months. The economic crisis is largely attributed to corruption and mismanagement by the political elite. The UN report states that “the political responses of the Lebanese leadership to these challenges have been grossly inadequate”
Civil society must unite not only to propose solutions but above all not to leave the field open to Hezbollah. In that purpose, Christians, Druzes and Muslims must sit at the same table and propose a new governance.
This new governance will have to get rid of the “tricks” of the former leaders and will have to think about Lebanon’s place in the Middle East.
In October 2020, Israel and Lebanon began discussions to define their maritime border, but after two rounds of meetings, the negotiations have stalled. The reason is simple: internal rivalries in Lebanon.
Daniel Meir, a researcher at St. Joseph University in Beirut, explains that “the stakes of those negotiations are also political: internal rivalries in Lebanon over the issue of hydrocarbon exploitation are intense between certain religious leaders. There is currently a struggle for what I call the ‘sovereignist monopoly’: the oil and gas issue is at the heart of a rivalry between Nabih Berry (President of the Lebanese Parliament, Amal), Michel Aoun (President of the Lebanese Republic, Free Patriotic Movement) and Hezbollah. They are theoretically allies, but they are fighting over this issue to see who will get this sovereignist monopoly.
Lebanon must evolve and finally recognize the State of Israel, which will then be able to sign numerous bilateral trade agreements, as it did with the Gulf States
Claudine Aoun, daughter of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, is mistaken when she says “that peace could be envisaged, but all the problems must be solved first.” She should have explained that many of the problems could be solved after peace is signed
Lebanon must change its economic, social and international policies very quickly before a civil war breaks out. On June 29, the daily newspaper L’Orient-le Jour headlined that “The security forces and the army are called upon to be ready.”
Co-Director international Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue