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The international community unveiled a new plan for recovery after the Beirut port blast. Here’s what’s in it

The international community unveiled a new plan for recovery after the Beirut port blast. Here’s what’s in it

The massive explosion at the Beirut port on Aug. 4 heavily damaged the surrounding areas. (AFP)

BEIRUT — The World Bank Group, European Union and United Nations announced Friday that they are joining forces to set up a fund aimed to cover an estimated $2.58 billion in post-Beirut port explosion recovery and rebuilding costs over the next 18 months. But the bulk of the money is contingent on reforms that may never come.

While short-term humanitarian aid will come with no strings attached, the international organizations said the approximately $2 billion needed for major reconstruction projects will be contingent on government reforms — including, in the first place, formation of a government.

“If there is no formation of the government very quickly and a government that actually is going to accelerate the implementation of the reform agenda, we will be very much limited in the kind of support we can provide, and a lot of the donors have also been very clear that their support will be very limited,” UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon Najat Rochdi said in a call with reporters Friday.

What is the new plan?

As the post-explosion response moves from the immediate emergency phase to longer-term rebuilding, the World Bank, EU and UN are creating a financing facility to channel funds from international donors for the next phase of the recovery. The funding for the short-term projects would be primarily grants, with concessional loans and private financing for the longer-term reconstruction.

Among the projects to be funded are grants and small loans to help repair damaged businesses and houses, rental assistance for vulnerable households displaced by the blast, and repairs to damaged infrastructure, as well as technical advice on government reform programs.

The bulk of the cost of reconstructing the port is not covered under the plan; World Bank regional director Saroj Kumar Jha said the port reconstruction would ideally be carried out under a public-private partnership.

How much aid has come in so far, and where did it go?

At least $340 million in international aid has come to Lebanon since the blast, Rochdi said, including through a UN-run appeal and a French-led fundraising initiative.

In the days immediately after the explosion, international teams flew in to set up ad hoc clinics for the wounded and to search for survivors under the rubble, while governments sent shipments of food aid and medical supplies.

On Aug. 9, French President Emmanuel Macron — still hopeful at the time that his intervention could spur political and economic stabilization — organized an international donor conference in which countries around the world pledged a total of 253 million euros (about $300 million).

After a second conference held this week, Macron’s office announced that donors had exceeded their initial pledges, with a total of 280 million euros having been disbursed, including 47 million in both cash and in-kind contributions from France. However, they did not give a breakdown of how much each country gave or of how much was given in cash and how much in in-kind donations of supplies and manpower.

A separate appeal by the United Nations has so far raised commitments of about $155 million, of which about $91 million had actually been paid as of Friday. The largest donors to the appeal were the EU and European Commission, with more than $20 million paid to date and another $20 million committed, and the US, with about $19 million paid and another $11 million in the pipeline.

Most of the donations given through the appeal went to UN agencies and large NGOs. The US, for instance, gave to the World Food Program and the UN’s refugee agency, as well as to the NGO Caritas for its migrant center.

Gaps and coordination issues

Even with the large amounts of money spent, thousands of damaged houses have yet to be repaired with the onset of winter. The most recent situation report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that out of the 73,000 to 80,000 damaged apartments, as many as 18,500 cannot be repaired with the resources currently available.

One issue has been the decentralized nature of the response, with the Lebanese government largely sitting on the sidelines. The state’s aid efforts were largely handed off to the army, which sent soldiers to hand out food boxes, survey damaged houses and eventually to make partial compensation payments to some of the owners.

Meanwhile, dozens of small NGOs and ad hoc volunteer initiatives had already descended to the streets to clean up rubble, distribute food and, later, to make small home repairs. But without central coordination, the result was sometimes chaotic.

An assessment of the post-blast aid efforts by the consulting group Siren Associates noted that “multiple needs and damage assessment surveys were conducted by multiple entities, often leading to contradictory outcomes and resulting in growing confusion among Beirut residents regarding which stakeholder was to provide aid or cover repair costs, and which process to follow.”

In the meantime, they found, “The state was not coordinating the numerous community-based relief efforts, and offered very limited communication between public entities and civil society. … There was no clear coordination between the different stakeholders across the public sector, civil society, and international community.”

The new World Bank/EU/UN plan, at least on paper, aims to create a more centralized and coordinated process.

“All partners … will have a place at the table and will be included in the decision-making process at all levels,” Ralph Tarraf, the EU ambassador to Lebanon, told reporters.

Officials said the funds will be monitored by an independent oversight body, with advisory and steering committees made up of representatives of the international organizations and donors, Lebanese government officials, business groups, and NGOs and civil society organizations.


BEIRUT — The World Bank Group, European Union and United Nations announced Friday that they are joining forces to set up a fund aimed to cover an estimated $2.58 billion in post-Beirut port explosion recovery and rebuilding costs over the next 18 months. But the bulk of the money is contingent on reforms that may never come.While short-term humanitarian aid will come with no strings attached,...