SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 3 August 2021, Tuesday |

A roundtable on civilian-military cooperation and challenges to economic stability in Lebanon

The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the National Forum for Human Security (NHS) initiated a roundtable on the challenges to economic security in Lebanon and the need for greater civil-military cooperation. The roundtable was convened in a hybrid setting at the Lebanese Army’s Civil-Military Directorate (CIMIC) in Fiadiyeh. Speakers included Director General Elie Abi Rashed, Colonel Iyad Al Alam, National Human Security Forum’s Director Dr. Imad Salamey, and representative of KAS Ms. Valentina von Finckenstein.

The roundtable was attended by a number of representatives from the Lebanese Government, security agencies, civil society, and international organizations. Also present was the head of the UN political unit Alaa Abdalaziz and representatives from the European Union, the UN, the US Embassy, the British Embassy. The discussion was moderator by Dr. Elie Mekhael.

Valentina von Finckenstein, representative of the KAS considered that: “The NHS Forum and KAS are setting a focus on the connection between economic deterioration and security as the economic crisis is worsening rapidly: and we already see the impact of these developments on the security situation very clearly. As Lebanon has only limited resources to address these security issues, coordination becomes all the more relevant in order to have a more effective crisis response, avoid the duplication of efforts and to ensure human security.”

Dr. Imad Salamey emphasized that the economic crisis in Lebanon had become a direct threat to the country’s existence, and that the goal of these discussions is to strengthen civil-military cooperation in responding to economic emergency. The severity of the economic situation facing the Lebanon was described by the World Bank as the worst economic disaster in history,  which would likely undermine the social safety and national stability of the country.
He added: “thus it is of most urgency to explore ways and means to defend our country from a looming and imminent threat. We resort to the Lebanese army for support as we trust in this institution the ability to protect and defend Lebanon from internal and external threats.  We are confident that civil-military cooperation is an essential safeguard that can help protect our country from the devastating repercussions of economic collapse.”

The Army Stands Ready to Protect Lebanon
Director of CIMIC, Colonel Elie Abi Rached, declared that economic stability is essential components for the wellbeing of Lebanon. He added that the preservation of stability and the protection of the Lebanese people is the aim of the state as a whole, including its military and security institutions. He concluded that in times of national crisis the army can only take on its responsibility to defend the country against instability. After all, the role of the army is key in helping build public confidence in government institutions and insure the safety and wellbeing of the public as whole.
He added: “the army founded CIMIC to ensure ongoing dialogue with civilian organizations and to support them confront daily challenges. It utilizes its resources for that purpose while cooperating with partnering states and international actors.” He cited the head of the LAF’s General Joseph Aoun statement that addressed the international conference in support of the Lebanese Army by stating that “the army is the only institution that is still standing strong in providing assurance for stability and security in Lebanon.” He extended his respect to the soldiers who stood their grounds protecting the people of Lebanon despite their deteriorating salaries and rising economic difficulties. Allies support to the Lebanese Army at this very challenging time is proven most critical.

Civil Military Cooperation to Support Lebanon
Colonel Iyad Al Alam of CIMIC explained the strategic vision and the activities of CIMIC. He considered that human security can complement national security.  He suggested that during times of crisis social safety can be best protected in sustaining development at all levels.
“The army,” he said, “has supported the civilian population and CIMIC has been created for that purpose.” He added that this project has been proven to be the most efficient in both formation and outcomes.  “Since its foundation in 2015, CIMIC has implemented more than 226 projects in different domains throughout the different regions in the country… they have been completed in partnership and the support of the Dutch Government, the European Union, and the Fund for Economic and Social Development.” Colonel Al Alam described CIMIC’s projects as rooted in its strategic vision to support the unity and progress of Lebanese society. Our first objective is to protect domestic stability while overcoming current economic crisis. He concluded by asserting that the army provides the greatest source of confidence for the country, and therefore the prospective assurance for economic recovery.

The UN Supports Civilian-Military Cooperation
The head of UN political unit, Mr. Alaa Abdelazziz, considered civil military cooperation as a critical mean in confronting contemporary economic crisis. He added that “the UN supports every opportunity that encourages the international community and the members of the Security Council to support the Lebanese Army. We reaffirm to the international community that the Army is the sole safeguard against chaos and serve as a guarantee for national unity.” In reference to the Conference for the Support of the Lebanese Army, which took place in Paris on the 17 of June with the participation of 18 countries and the EU and UN, he declared that the goal is to support the Lebanese Army to overcome the current economic crisis among its rank-and-file. He informed the participants that the UN is “in an ongoing contact with General Aoun to set in place a structure capable of ensuring the implementation of the conference recommendations and pledges.”  He asserted that “the UN reaffirms its support to the Lebanese Army and urges the Lebanese politicians for a speedy government formation to implement needed reforms.”

Participants
Participants in the meeting made several recommendations and suggestions. They included those proposed by Dr. Zena Mhanna representing Amel Association, Mr. Assem Abi Ali advisor to the Minister of Social Affairs and the Director of Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, Captain Vladi Sharabji from Internal Security Forces – Public Affairs Office, Director of USIP’s Middle East Programs Dr. Elie Abou Aoun, Engineer Ms. Salaam Namani from Makhzoumi Foundation, Dr. Roubina Shahin head of the National Committee for the Prevention of Violent Extremism, Professor of Political Science Dr. Joseph Helou, expert in counter terrorism programs  at the EU delegation Ms. Fransesca Farrisi, and expert in humanitarian response at UNOCHA Ms. Joelle Harfoush.  The meeting included an open discussion where proposals and recommendations were made to best confront the economic crisis through civil military cooperation and include:

Recommendations on Civil Military Cooperation for Economic Security
-Support social cohesion by fostering unity around the army, being a main source for public confidence and representing a safeguard against chaos and insecurity.  Mobilize efforts to insure financial support and needed resources to help it fulfill its mission.
-Strengthen civil-military cooperation with international institutions to develop common agenda for crisis response plans and to optimise local and international resources for recovery.
– Facilitate civil society cooperation with the army in insuring local stability.
-Reaffirm the importance of civil-military cooperation to insure emergency response plans specially in the distribution of essential items (pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries, etc.) and insuring appropriate access to critical services.
-Have the military benefit from the civil society’s capacities in:
* mapping needs around the country and in areas of socio-economic poverty.
* conducting fund raising and grant writing while reaching out to international donor
* Compiling economic and strategical research that can benefit military response plans
* Establishing open communication channels between the civilian and military in emergency response.
-Strengthen the cooperation between the National Human Security Forum and CIMIC in order to maintain dialogue to determine priorities and engage other CSOs to optimize resources and coordinate emergency response action plans.
-Develop human security strategy based on the civil military cooperation in response to crises.