HRW urges Lebanon donors not to distribute aid through government

HRW urges Lebanon donors not to distribute aid through government
The rights watchdog said funds should
be disbursed directly to those in need and to organisations able to distribute aid immediately and transparently.
2 min read
16 September, 2020
International donors have pledged around $300 million to aid Lebanon [Getty]

Human Rights Watch has urged international donors assisting Lebanon following the 4 August explosion in Beirut to ensure that their funds reach those in need and avoid channelling donations through the Lebanese government, which has been accused of corruption and incompetance.

The rights watchdog said in a statement that funds should
be disbursed directly to those in need and to organisations who are able to distribute aid immediately and transparently.

"Lebanon’s urgent need for aid should not be an excuse to press international donors to hand over money to the Lebanese government, which has already squandered billions in previous aid and whose staggering incompetence caused this humanitarian catastrophe," said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Corruption helped destroy Beirut, so protection of basic economic rights and public oversight need to be the bedrock to rebuild the city."

Following the devastating explosion that killed 212, wounded thousands and destroyed homes and businesses across large parts of Beirut, 36 countries pledged 253 million euros (around $300 million) to help the disaster-stricken country.

Lebanon's government resigned in the wake of the August blast, but key figures remain in power - including President Michel Aoun.

Beirut has rejected an international investigation into the explosion - which has been blamed on government incompetance - saying it would carry out its own probe aided by foreign experts.

HRW has warned that the Lebanese government "has not shown any ability to channel aid in a way that would fully protect the economic and social rights of the entire population without discrimination".

Since the end of its civil war in 1990, Lebanon has received billions of dollars in aid and soft-loan packages, however studies have shown that the funds were often squandered through corruption and mismanagement, according to HRW.

A 2018, study by the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) found that 98 percent of the country's citizens believe that corruption is a very large or somewhat large problem in Lebanon.

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have also protested against government corruption since October 2019 in nationwide demonstrations that have been met with violence from authorities.

HRW has urged donors to conduct oversight in disbursing aid and has said that agenies should regularly report on their activities, as well as that of their partners on the ground.

"While ordinary citizens and civil society are in the streets of Beirut picking up the pieces, the government is impotently sitting on the sidelines," Majzoub said.

"Lebanon's donors should empower Lebanese civil society to ensure that aid gets to those who need it the most."

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected