9 March 2009
Under the Patronage of his Excellency, the Prime Minister of Lebanon Fouad Siniora, The Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), the Embassy of the state of Palestine in Lebanon, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) the foundation stone for the reconstructions of Nahr el-Bared Camp in North Lebanon was laid on 9 March.
The laying of the foundation stone comes after progress in clearing the site, supported by de-mining operations, has been significant. At least 50 per cent of the camp has now been cleared of the rubble, under the supervision of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Handicap International.
Thanking the UN and the Lebanese Government, the Ambassador of the state of Palestine to Lebanon Mr. Abbas Zaki reiterated that: “the commitments of the donors are still not enough to complete the reconstruction process according to the design that was agreed on. In addition the money that is present currently does not allow us to drive forward the reconstruction process to the ultimate desired end if the donors do not pay their commitments. Hence, I invoke you to exert all the possible to meet the financial due which guarantees the launching of the reconstruction process without stops so as the honest promise will be fulfilled in front of our eyes on ground and to return back to this empty place to see it vital and full of life.”
In his address on the occasion, the Chairman of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee Ambassador Makkawi said: “Securing resources for the reconstruction of the camp is our first priority and main concern. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed, is contributing, and will contribute to this humanitarian endeavor. I am aware that today is a historical moment, and a turning point. It is a momentous occasion for the Palestinian refugees of Nahr el-Bared and for the 250 Lebanese families who also live inside the old camp. Today is also a momentous day for our shared vision of a better future. The dignity and prosperity of the Palestinian community is also a Lebanese interest. We support and confirm the rights of the refugees, most important among them their right of return to Palestine in accordance with UN resolutions and Arab peace initiative.”
“Setting the corner-stone for a reconstructed Nahr el-Bared camp has taken a long time coming but now that this day has dawned we recognise it for what it is: a moment of joy, a moment of real achievement,” said Karen AbuZayd, UNRWA Commissioner General in her address during the ceremony.
The Commissioner General noted that there were still a number of challenges. Thousands of people would continue to be displaced for months to come, living either in rented housing or temporary shelters; socio-economic recovery of the camp and its surrounding areas were yet to be achieved and she furthermore pointed out that current funds did not suffice to reconstruct the whole camp. She therefore appealed to the donor community to come forward with pledges that will allow the reconstruction project to go through to the end, and in the meantime enable the Agency to provide people with the relief and early recovery support they need until that day they can move back to their camp.
“It has taken us quite some time to get to where we are today. […] We will not allow the immensity of the task still ahead to discourage us,” said AbuZayd at the end.
UNRWA had launched in September 2008 an appeal of $445 million for the reconstruction of Nahr el Bared and the surrounding villages. UNRWA has received so far $42 million. The master plan for the reconstruction of Nahr el Bared is divided into eight packages, the money received thus far is sufficient to construct the first two packages, enabling thus more than 500 displaced families to return to the camp.