The Lebanese President, General Michel Aoun, delivered a speech at the launching of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference held at Biel, whereby he stressed that “Lebanon suffers the repercussions of a war in which it has no say, and the burden it bears is far greater than its ability to withstand.”
He pointed out that “most of all, we are concerned that the international community is linking the return of displaced people to a political solution. The experiences of displaced peoples around the world waiting for political solutions are not reassuring, however.”
The President’s speech reads as follows:
I feel pride and joy as I stand before you today, watching you respond to your nation’s call, coming to it from the four corners of the world, meeting and gathering, listening to it and having it listen to you.
Your roots are still entrenched here, in this land; you go away, emigrate, build yourselves a new life in new countries, you succeed there, you excel, you innovate, but there remains inside of you something that always attracts you to Lebanon, your motherland — it is nostalgia, yearning, belonging, dreaming, it is all these feelings combined, all of which I see sparkling in your eyes today.
The Lebanese Diaspora Energy conferences (LDE) are among the most important achievements which were fulfilled. I hereby laud the efforts of all their officials and activists. Their importance resides first in gathering the Lebanese Diaspora and reaching out to it. Thanks to these conferences, it is no longer a Diaspora scattered in all the countries of the world, but has rather become “the Lebanese Diaspora” which communicates, meets and reunites. Second, these conferences are important because they link the ’emigrant Lebanon’ to the ‘resident Lebanon’, whether through the ambulant conferences held consecutively in the countries where there is a Lebanese community – and how numerous they are – or through the annual conference held in Lebanon; and the objective is one: reaching out to the Lebanese potentials abroad, consolidating the ties between them and Lebanon, and benefiting by their expertise in all fields.
My fellow Lebanese coming from all over the world,
Lebanon is at the threshold of a new phase on which high hopes are placed. In fact, the parliamentary elections which were held a few days ago generated a new House of Representatives where all the political forces have been represented according to their sizes, thanks to the new electoral law which was based on proportionality for the first time in the history of Lebanon, and which granted you too the right to vote wherever you are; so all the Lebanese, wherever they are, have their active and influential voice in the course of politics in their country, and it is up to them to use this voice and not smother it and shut it up anymore as it was the case with the largest part of our citizens during the last elections.
True representation which is provided by the proportional law will ensure a political stability that Lebanon needs to face the challenges ahead at all levels; the differences in opinions and positions regarding some issues, and the contradiction in approaches to solve some problems will express themselves in the Parliament where are represented all the political opinions and forces which shall all bear the responsibility of working together to face these challenges, and to pursue as well the march towards lifting up the nation, for Lebanon needs today, more than any time before, further solidarity among its citizens, and making the national interest prevail over any other interest, whether individual, partisan or confessional.
The first challenges – rather dangers – we are confronted with are the pressing regional and international situation. Lebanon is suffering from the fallout of a war in which it has no say, and the subsequent burden it is carrying exceeds by far its endurance, because it tackled the crisis of the Syrian displacement from the principle of brotherhood and humanitarian solidarity, but the displacement turned into a pressing problem threatening it from all angles, especially after the number of people residing in Lebanon increased shortly by 50% of the country’s population; it is a load that even great countries cannot bear, let alone Lebanon, the country with a small area and limited resources, a country which already suffers from a high demographic density, an economic crisis and a high rate of unemployment, and which is renowned for being a country of emigration and not a country of settlement, and you are the best witnesses thereto.
What stimulates the most our concern and suspicion is that the international community is linking the return of the displaced to reaching a political solution, while the experience with the issues of displaced peoples in the world and waiting for the political solutions are not at all reassuring.
Many witnesses are found in the neighboring countries: Cyprus, for instance, which was split by war in two halves in 1974. A large part of its people fled to Lebanon but returned as soon as a ceasefire was declared, and did not wait for the political solution which has not been reached to date. In fact, the cities of the northern part of the island are empty of their inhabitants, especially the Ghost Town which turned from a touristic city full of life to a fenced and completely deserted city inaccessible to anyone for forty-four years, because the time for the solution has not come yet.
Another witness, and maybe the most significant with the greatest suffering, has not returned – and the solution belongs to the unseen world -, I mean the Palestinian people whose tragedy began seventy years ago, in 1948, when the waves of its displacement and refuge started incrementally, till Palestine was emptied of most of its citizens who scattered over the Diaspora countries, of whom Lebanon had the largest share. Some of the elderly still hold the key of their homes, passing it on to their children and grandchildren, pending the political solution, the implementation of Resolution 194 and the right of return, and with them Lebanon is waiting because the Palestinian refugee crisis has also worn it out…
My fellow Lebanese coming from the Diaspora world,
The greatest of the dangers we are confronted with is the international stance about the displaced, expressed in the co-chair declaration issued by the United Nations and the European Union at the Conference on “supporting the future of Syria and the region” held in Brussels, implying a masked settlement that contradicts our Constitution and goes against our sovereignty, and which we will absolutely not allow.
Your role is pivotal, you who represent Lebanon’s outreach to the world, especially that among you are some whose voice is heard in the decision-making countries. So be a civilized lobbying force, acting in line with rules and regulations, to compel the international community to reconsider its positions.
Another role awaits you, namely convincing the countries where you live to support Lebanon’s candidacy in the United Nations to be a permanent center of dialogue between the various civilizations, religions and races; indeed, with its plural society, Lebanon is the antipode of unilateralism, and a model for living unity within pluralism and diversity. It managed to preserve its unity despite a surrounding explosive neighborhood. Although it was affected by the lingering ebullition in the region, which heated up the positions and declarations therein, they all remained under the ceiling of national unity, thus providing protection for Lebanon, and preventing the spillover of any spark to it.
Lebanon faces another challenge, the economic situation, and during the coming period, our interest will focus on the economic project. I am confident that we shall succeed in this mission, especially if all the political forces stand genuinely together to face the crisis because they undoubtedly sense the critical socioeconomic situation besieging our society.
Here too, your role is vital, for you are packed with capabilities and exceptional human, scientific and economic potentials.
Soon, we will finalize the economic plan which will set a conception about tackling existing problems, discovering the areas of strength in the economy and defining the productive sectors where we can invest.
Lebanon has proved its credibility to the resident and non-resident, Lebanese and non-Lebanese investors, in terms of firmly holding on to the fundamental economic rights and freedoms, and its banking system which complies with international banking norms and regulations, all of which constitute a guarantee for investment in Lebanon. I therefore call on you to contribute to the economic recovery, investing your expertise and potentials to ensure its success, investing in your country, in the sectors that suit you… Our soil is fertile and any seed you sow in it must sprout, grow and give abundant produce.
It is you who have planted this land; your roots are here and your branches there. I am confident that you will not allow the roots to be affected by dryness, for those who know best the meaning of a nation are those who have experienced emigration.
Long Live Lebanon!”