BEIRUT: The Embassy has been celebrating in recent weeks.
There was a Wedding – on Saturday night a colleague married, the couple looked radiant, and the party was full of Lebanese life. We’ve had an award from Her Majesty The Queen, who at New Year recognised Lea Baroudi of MARCH for her inspiration in creating peace, hope and opportunity in Tripoli and Beirut. And many of us have taken the opportunity to delight in the OSCAR nomination for Capharnaum, a remarkable film with challenging issues at its core. Alf Mabrouk, Nadine Labaki, and good luck on 24 February.
Then on the last night of January, we celebrated again: Lebanon had formed a new Government. And it had more women in it than ever before, including the first female Interior Minister, not just in Lebanon but across the Arab world.
The last few months have been frustrating for Lebanese citizens and their friends, and with Celebration now comes Responsibility. Relief-filled and welcome as last Thursday night was, the road ahead will require perseverance, ownership, and political skill. The PM has tweeted “To Work”. He is right.
The economic plan agreed in Paris in April (CEDRE) stands, and the welcome commitment of the PM and outgoing Ministers, including at the London Lebanon-UK Business and Investment Forum, will not reform the Economy by itself. Critical as that is, questions of security and sovereignty also hang in the air. How can Lebanon ensure long-term stability amidst regional conflict?
The UK will stand with the Lebanese people as you navigate these lanes, supporting and challenging. We will continue to support the Army and the ISF, to help your State control your security. We will intensify our work on Education, and continue listening and responding to the needs of citizens in over 220 municipalities (the Baalbek Health Centre I saw last week showed what can be done with an idea and some will). We will work with Lebanese female Parliamentarians, as we did last week in Edinburgh and London.
We will step up our assistance on economic development, providing almost $100m, and will put our expertise where it is most needed. Working with Lebanese partners, we will deliver more bilateral trade and investment. And we will maintain and deepen our commitments for refugees in Lebanon, thereby helping to reduce the (enormous) burden here.
But ultimately the Lebanese, not international partners, will determine success. Your friends cannot pass laws, approve expenditure, tackle corruption, or make appointments. We cannot represent you to the outside world. The UK wants Lebanon to succeed, and to become more wealthy, stable, sovereign and secure. But we cannot decide for you how to do that.
On our side, the UK made our own decision to leave the European Union. In implementing that vote, we are reminded of the difficulty of forging consensus and the challenge of compromise. The most important decisions facing a country and its citizens are often the most difficult. But it is the job of governments to work out how to do this, and the British Government is not going to cede that responsibility, nor should it wish to. Only Governments govern.
The UK is making tough political choices, in particular about our economic shape and future. So is Lebanon. Neither process is easy, but both are necessary. And only we can decide our own futures.
So while we both grapple with these decisive but essential choices, the UK will remain alongside Lebanon, intensifying our relationship in security, service provision, economy and trade, and between our peoples. We will spend more in Lebanon in 2019 than we did in 2018. We will help you towards the better, brighter future that you deserve.
Mr. Chris Rampling MBE is the UK's new ambassador to Lebanon.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.