An independent report conducted by UN experts charged that the destructive actions of Lebanon’s political and financial leaders are responsible for forcing most of the country’s population into poverty, in violation of international human rights law.
The report follows a country visit to Lebanon and an investigation into the root causes and impacts of the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in history.
Lebanon is suffering through a financial crisis that the World Bank has said could rank among the world’s three worst since the mid-1800s in terms of its effect on living standards.
Its currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since fall 2019, food prices have increased more than 11-fold, while poverty has drastically increased where 75% of the Lebanese lives below the poverty line.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, stressed that “impunity, corruption, and structural inequality have been baked into a venal political and economic system designed to fail those at the bottom, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“The political establishment knew about the looming cataclysm for years but did little to avert it. Well-connected individuals even moved their money out of the country, facilitated by a legal vacuum that allowed capital to flow out of the country. Truth and accountability must be sought as a matter of human rights.”
With parliamentary elections on 15 May, the UN expert called on the next government to place accountability and transparency at the “heart and centre of its actions,” starting with publicly disclosing its own finances and conflicts of interest and demanding that Central Bank officials do the same.
Lebanon’s man-made economic crisis started in 2019, and today the country stands as “a failing State”, the UN expert said. He cited current estimates that put four in every five people in poverty.
“There is no accountability built into the latest rescue plan, critical to restoring the lost confidence of the population and the financial sector. We’re talking about national wealth that belongs to the public in Lebanon and that was squandered over decades of mismanagement and misplaced investments by the Government and the Central Bank,” he added.
The UN expert called on the incoming government to commit to improving its human rights record in all spheres by reducing inequality, fighting corruption and impunity, building strong and resilient social protection, education, and healthcare systems, and placing the interests of the public above private profits.