Saturday, May 01, 2010

Senior USAID Official Visits Lebanon, Discusses U.S. Aid with Ministers

From April 27-30, 2010 United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Anne Aarnes visited Lebanon to highlight U.S. assistance projects throughout Lebanon. During her visit, Ms. Aarnes held informal discussions with the Minister of Education Hassan Mneimneh, Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar, Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil, Minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziyad Baroud, and Minister of Environment Mohammad Rahhal about current U.S.-funded assistance programs in Lebanon and potential new programs in the coming year.

Ms. Aarnes discussed the ongoing U.S. support for economic development programs in Lebanon, which totaled over $67.5 million in 2009 and $109 million in 2010. In conversation with the ministers, Ms. Aarnes outlined just some of the major accomplishments and planned for new activities that USAID is supporting:

In support of the Ministry of Education’s five year strategy emphasizing the critical nature of basic education in Lebanon, USAID is planning a new robust Basic Education Development program. This new planned activity will build on the success of the ongoing $11.6-million Lebanon Education Assistance for Development (LEAD). LEAD focuses on renovating schools in need of repair, providing computer and science labs to public schools, and supporting the expansion of after-school activities by building the capacity of school staff and headmasters.
The $8.2-million Strengthening the Independence of the Judiciary and Citizens program which recently completed reconstruction of the Beirut Enforcement Court, is in the process of renovating the Judicial Training Institute in Ashrafieh. Technical assistance through this program supports the Ministry of Justice develop a long term judicial sector strategy.
Two new water projects totaling $27.5 million will provide technical and infrastructure assistance to the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Water Establishments and the Litani River Authority. These programs will ensure more efficient use of water resources in Lebanon. An ongoing $18-million water treatment program is developing small wastewater treatment systems to protect the upper Litani River Basin and the health of local communities.
Technical support is being provided to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities as the Ministry ensures citizen access to voting and registration, citizen awareness of processes and election guidelines.
The $4.4-million Lebanon Business Linkages Initiative program builds the capacity of small and medium size enterprises to be part of the economic value chain with the purpose of increasing their sales and export revenues.
Ms. Aarnes explained why the United States’ support through USAID is such a vital part of the U.S.-Lebanese relationship: "USAID works alongside the Government of Lebanon to improve the lives of the Lebanese people through development projects that foster stability and democracy. Our programs focus on strengthening governing institutions and civil society organizations to be more responsive to Lebanese citizens; job creation and income generation; improving student achievement; and improved water management and environmental protection. USAID helps to build a better future for Lebanese citizens through cross-cutting programs focusing on youth, reconciliation throughout Lebanese society, and opportunities for women through targeted microfinance and education programs."