As British Ambassador to Lebanon Dr. Ian Collard departs Lebanon, the following is the farewell op-ed by Ambassador Collard reflecting on his one year at post, entitled ‘Working for the future Lebanon deserves’:
“After an eventful year serving as the British Ambassador to Lebanon, this week I will leave your uniquely beautiful country to return to my own. I am sad to go. I have greatly enjoyed my Lebanese experiences. Exploring stunning landscapes, delving back through your archaeological history, tasting your delicious food, and above all meeting so many of you on my travels, from north to south, into the mountains and the Bekaa. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and sharing with me your culture, your counsel and your wisdom.
Lebanon may be small, but it is in several respects perfectly formed. Lebanon enjoys many of the ingredients necessary for success, in particular a foundation cemented in its rich and deep history, complemented by a modern vibrancy, entrepreneurship and undeniable human capacity.
Yet, the jewel of the eastern Mediterranean is not living up to its potential. Many of you are suffering amid the ongoing failure of Lebanon’s powerbrokers to serve your interests – the interests of the Lebanese people.
If the ingredients are present, the recipe for a brighter future is also clear and within grasp. It is clear that Lebanon’s broken economy desperately needs the support of an IMF deal.
In my meetings with politicians and bankers, most seem not to want to accept that Lebanon must do everything that is asked in order to receive an international rescue package. There can be no Lebanon exceptionalism any more. Lebanon must adopt the necessary laws, open the books without preconditions, and reset the banking sector. The alternative is more and more of you forced into increasingly desperate measures to survive.
Reform, done now, is the key to resolving Lebanon’s economic woes. Now is not the time for politicking. Never has it been more critical for your leaders to take the necessary decisions, however challenging that may be. They owe it to you to deliver better governance, transparency and accountability. They must show compassion and a commitment to bettering the lives of their fellow country people. Public interest must outweigh personal interest.
The UK’s priorities remain clear. The British government is committed to supporting Lebanon’s stability and security. We have deepened and broadened our partnerships with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces. Our support to the education sector has helped build a better future for Lebanon’s youth, those who will be the future generation of Lebanese leaders. We will continue to provide humanitarian support to the most vulnerable, advocate for their rights, and stand up for those at risk of prejudice and persecution.
Lebanon matters. In 2019, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said that Lebanon was a “symbol of diversity, tolerance and resilience”. She wished for continuing strong bonds of friendship between our two countries for many years. As I depart as British Ambassador, I share her ambition. I am proud that we, the United Kingdom, continue to fulfil our role as your steadfast friend – a friend of the Lebanese people.”
Source: National News Agency – Lebanon