U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth H. Richard today launched a two-year technical assistance program for 38 Lebanese municipalities and unions of municipalities, in the presence of municipal leaders from all Lebanese regions.
During her remarks, Ambassador Richard emphasized that the United States Government has been a strong supporter of municipalities for decades; municipalities are critical contributors to Lebanon’s social and economic development.
This activity is part of the Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment CAP (BALADI CAP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The $15 million project provides tailored technical assistance to municipalities and civil society organizations (CSOs) to strengthen their internal systems and business operations. It also supports networks of local organizations to advocate for issues of public interest.
The program launched today provides technical assistance to help municipalities improve their internal financial management and governance structures through better organizational development, financial management, public outreach, information and communication technology, and disaster management. The program also supports selected Lebanese municipalities in managing the complex environment created by the influx of Syrian refugees into local communities.
Following is Ambassador Richard’s statement, as prepared:
Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to join you today to unveil an initiative that we hope will bring about positive change for municipalities across Lebanon.
For decades, the United States Government has been a strong supporter of municipalities. We know that this is where government is closest to the people.
And it is where the most fundamental characteristic of democracy is seen – and that is participation by the citizens in their government.
As we all know, municipalities are critical contributors to Lebanon’s social and economic development. However, municipalities do not always get the resources and assistance they need to deliver basic services to their communities. This is why, since 1998, the United States government has been working hand-in-hand with municipalities and the communities they serve.
We work together to improve administrative capacities and expand resources to start and to sustain important community initiatives. Over the past ten years, we have invested over 75 million dollars to help municipalities build the essential foundations for strong local government and to address the needs and aspirations of local communities.
Through this assistance, we have helped improve relations and communication between citizens and government, and supported the development of core democratic values, including legitimacy, accountability, transparency, and effectiveness.
Today, the Municipal Technical Assistance Program is rolling out country-wide support to 105 municipalities. This program will apply the proven expertise of the USAID-funded BALADI-CAP program to strengthen municipalities in critical areas such as: organizational development, financial management, disaster management, and information and communication technology. Not only will this program enable municipalities to acquire the skills, experience and capacity to meet public demand for quality basic services, but we hope it will also foster a climate for new businesses to prosper.
I would particularly like to commend the efforts of the municipalities present here today for their commitment to serving their communities and country. I am confident that this project will promote municipal sustainability and high quality service delivery for the people of Lebanon now, and over the long term.
We are thrilled to be working with you, and we wish you the best as you embark on this program.
If I can say one just informal note. I think it is particularly important at this time in Lebanon’s history. You have a government now at the national level after too long. You have a president. You have a council of ministers and I hope we – together with you in partnership – are helping move the country forward. I think municipalities are a critical, critical part of that, and this cannot be done in a country like Lebanon only at the national level. So I frankly think that what you are doing is perhaps more important than what is happening in any other level. So I thank you for your service. I thank you for your public service, because that’s what this is, and for your dedication to helping your communities and your fellow Lebanese. I am very honored to be with you today, and my very best wishes for the rest of the program.