Hi everyone, I am so delighted to see all of you here. I just am overwhelmed by the number of people that are here and how far you came. And I’m just very happy to see you and I hope everyone has a great time, tonight. To our Governorate and municipal authorities; Officers from the Lebanese Civil Military Cooperation; our civil society and private sector partners, our representatives of the international donors, embassies and other development agencies; and our distinguished guests; hello and welcome.
I want to thank you for joining us to celebrate the culmination of the ten-year USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) program in Lebanon. As you can tell from its name, OTI was always designed to be transitional in nature. And so it is fitting that in 2017, exactly ten years after the program began in 2007, the conditions are now right for the U.S. Government to shift this portion of our assistance to a more standard and long-term approach. This does not mean we’re ending programs; we’re not ending assistance, we’re transitioning into something that is more steady state than it was at the beginning. And I want to say that we are here today to say that this is a success story, and it is only thanks to the hard work of everyone here that we could do this.
Today, we want to showcase your courageous work, and to demonstrate our continuing commitment to the communities, to civil society, to local government and to the private sector.
It is wonderful to see you all, as I said, we’ve come so far. You reflect Lebanon’s amazingly diverse confessional, political, and cultural traditions, and you really do, especially today, you stand as a model – in this very difficult time in Middle Eastern history – of peaceful coexistence. I think your brothers and sisters around the region can and should learn a lot from you.
Lebanon has been an essential partner of the United States, and we are deeply invested in the future of this country. Through USAID, the United States supports development in multiple sectors – in water, in education, in agriculture; support for municipal governments; and investment in employment and enterprise.
For nearly ten years, OTI has been an important part of this work. In partnership with hundreds of civil society organizations, municipal and private sector entities, USAID and OTI have supported some of this country’s most marginalized communities, but also its most inspiring activists and leaders, and many of you are here today. OTI has helped communities pursue our shared vision in a number of vital areas, including support for public services, infrastructure, training for youth in conflict mitigation and in civic education. They’ve also championed moderate voices, and helped to create inclusive public spaces, as you see on the video, including places where you can have income generating opportunities for local businesses and youth.
Although the OTI program is ending in Lebanon, the U.S. Government, through USAID, remains committed to funding the types of activities that support communities and civil society. Through programs such as Baladi-CAP and the upcoming Local Development program, we will carry forward this work. We will carry forward our support for civil society.
To the many representatives, as I said, of the municipalities and governorates around the country, thank you for being with us today. I really commend your efforts to improve the lives of your constituents every single day. To our international donors and development agency and embassy representatives thank you for joining us today. And I really hope you will take advantage of today, to walk around, meet new people, see these groups and see where future opportunities for partnership may lie.
And mostly to all our partners across the country: you have inspired us. You have inspired us with your brave action in the face of insecurity and crisis. And I sincerely thank you for your work to address the needs of your country.
What I see today, what I see here, gives me great hope for Lebanon’s future. This group of activists – youth, community leaders, concerned citizens – you have all chosen not to allow others to define your lives and choices. And that’s very very impressive given what we have seen in the region today. You have taken into your own hands the responsibility to improve and strengthen neighborhoods; to defy forces that incite violence; and to reject intolerance. You respect diversity as a way of life and that is not something we see everywhere.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends, thank you very very much for being with us. Thank you for everything you’ve done during the entire life of OTI in Lebanon, and we are very very much looking forward to continuing to work with you over the longer term. But before we do that, I just want to say stop take a minute, look around and enjoy the evening thank you very much.