UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Olivier De Schutter, in a report published Wednesday, condemned the Lebanese government and the central bank for the country’s worst economic and financial crisis, which has pushed most of its population into poverty. The report categorises the crisis as entirely manufactured by failed government policies which makes the Lebanese government and the central bank responsible for human rights violations.
The report follows the Special Rapporteur’s November 2021 visit to Lebanon to assess whether the government’s anti-poverty policies were consistent with its human rights obligations. The current government was formed after a 13-month hiatus following the resignation of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet in August 2020.
The report particularly blames the Lebanese central bank, Banque du Liban, and the mostly insolvent banking sector, which collapsed in 2019. De Schutter points out that the lack of transparency and accountability in the central bank’s operations, along with pervasive conflicts of interest with several members of the elite political class, has created this unprecedented economic crisis. The report states that while the central bank is an independent institution, it is bound by international human rights law as it is an organ of the state.
The UN expert criticised the government for failing to take any action to avert the economic crisis despite several international organisations raising the alarm since at least 2015. Decades of mismanagement and misplaced investments by the government and the central bank has squandered national wealth and wiped out people’s lifetime savings.
The report also criticises the lack of social security mechanisms for most public services, including electricity, education and healthcare, with the government resorting to subsidising the private provisioning of these services. It particularly lambasts the underinvestment in public education and healthcare and the partial removal of subsidies on essential medicines.
The UN expert also found that Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon face disastrous conditions, with 88 per cent living below minimum survival conditions.
With parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on May 15, the Special Rapporteur has urged the incoming government to fight inequality, poverty and corruption and provide strong social protections. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to provide nearly $3 billion in aid if the new government implements a slew of economic reforms to rebuild the economy and strengthen transparency.