Official speeches and statements - August 27, 2020
Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, visited Marseille yesterday to take part in the launch of the humanitarian operation A Ship for Lebanon, as part of the air and sea bridge established by France following the explosions in Beirut on August 4.
The Aknoul, a ship chartered by the CMA CGM Foundation, set off for Beirut. Under the partnership between the CMA CGM Foundation and the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ crisis and support unit, it is transporting a cargo of humanitarian donations for the Lebanese people, provided by public- and private-sector stakeholders: the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Solidarity and Health, regional authorities, the conference of directors-general of university hospitals of France, national and international NGOs, voluntary organizations, United Nations agencies and businesses.
The Aknoul is taking more than 2,500 tonnes of reconstruction equipment, essential foodstuffs, hygiene products, rescue vehicles and medical equipment which will make it possible to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic and care for injured and sick people in the city’s hospitals.
When the ship arrives in Beirut, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, through the action of the crisis and support unit and the French Embassy in Lebanon, will support the unloading of the aid and ensure the donations are handed to the beneficiaries identified: in particular Beirut hospitals, the Lebanese Red Cross and the many local voluntary organizations involved in the emergency response to help the Lebanese people.
In this period people often remember something General de Gaulle said when he was in Beirut in July 1941: the Lebanese people’s heart has always beaten to the rhythm of France.
And if I can allow myself to paraphrase, I could say today that Marseille’s heart beats to the rhythm of the Lebanese people. (...) We’ll be extremely vigilant to ensure that these donations, these goods that are soon going to arrive in Beirut are indeed allocated to those in greatest need, and the services of the French Embassy in Beirut are in charge of ensuring that these goods do get to where they must. (...)
The French President and I visited Beirut a few days ago. The President intends to return there shortly. And we were able to see the scale of the suffering: 186 dead, 6,000 injured, hospitals destroyed, a population dazed, people not knowing where to start with the essential rebuilding. And also a lot of expectation and hope in relation to France. And France is duty-bound to step up, because it’s always stepped up for Lebanon, especially at the most difficult times. And today there’s a major humanitarian emergency, which is being played out in four complementary types of emergency.
First of all there’s an immediate health emergency, and the convoy and ship that are going to leave will partly rectify that. An immediate health emergency by virtue of the injured people I mentioned. And also by virtue of the pandemic that is currently developing at considerable speed in that fragile country, to such an extent that Lebanon is now back in lockdown. You can imagine: the explosion and then a new lockdown. And so it’s also moral support which we must provide and which this ship will deliver.
There’s a food emergency. And the donations made by some of you, some stakeholders present here, some businesses present here, will enable us partly to rectify that.
There’s an educational emergency; even though that’s not the target of A Ship for Lebanon, it doesn’t mean we haven’t sensed the scale of the issue. (...) Just think that nearly 20% of the pupils in French schools worldwide are in Lebanon. And Lebanon is a substantial part of the French-speaking world, and educational revitalization is essential, and in this regard we’ve allocated necessary emergency funding to enable schools to start up again - quite simply because when schools restart, hope is reborn.
And there’s also a reconstruction emergency. When you see the state of the port, when you see the state of the houses, of the surrounding buildings, when you see the state of the CMA CGM headquarters near the port, you really see the effort and scale this is going to involve.
So a comprehensive humanitarian emergency taking the form of a health emergency, a food emergency, an educational emergency and a reconstruction emergency. That’s the challenge for France. And your contribution is essential in this matter. And that’s why, on his return from Beirut at the beginning of August, the President wanted to organize, in partnership with the United Nations, an international donors’ conference which enabled 250 million euros to be released to make reconstruction possible. That’s the humanitarian emergency.
But beyond that, there’s also a political emergency. (...) Despite its seriousness, the humanitarian emergency shouldn’t conceal the political emergency, and we shouldn’t say, "we’re going to rebuild, we’re going to do all that, but we’ll forget the rest". No! And France is mindful of the seriousness of this political, social and economic crisis: half the population live below the poverty line, there’s a lack of cash flow, there’s an energy crisis, there are questions about how the country can be governed in the future. So it’s a country that was on the brink of despair before the explosion. And we shouldn’t forget, after the explosion, despite the international community’s effort, that this key moment was already on the table then, and that this difficulty must be acknowledged so that a government with a mission can be constituted which, we hope, will enable the Lebanese to once again stand up to their history. (...)