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Mr. President, Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland is very pleased for the invitation to take part in the International Support Group for Lebanon. This is an important moment for Lebanon and the need for a united and committed response from the international community to the challenges faced by Lebanon is evident. Lebanon’s stability has been Finland’s long term interest, as demonstrated by our UNIFIL participation which already spans several decades. We are also taking further steps nationally in order to promote Lebanon’s stability.
The most pressing challenge for Lebanon is undoubtedly the massive influx of refugees. I want to commend President Sleiman and the Lebanese authorities for their willingness to shelter such an amount of refugees despite the effects and costs this is having on their society. The efforts of the Lebanese people are enormous and they deserve the deep gratitude of the entire international community.
In turn, the international community must further step up its efforts in burdensharing and provide Lebanon with increased help and assistance. Finland is doing its own efforts in this regard. So far we have contributed 20 million euros in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian crisis and its regional effects and have already decided to exceed the 7 million euros announced at the Kuwait pledging conference in January.
In addition to addressing the immediate humanitarian effects of the crisis, the need for mid to long term development aid must also be addressed. In this regard we welcome the World Bank’s launch of a multi-donor trust fund for Lebanon, to which we aim to contribute 3 million euros. In addition to this, we also aim to contribute 5 million euros for the Lebanese education sector through the UNICEF-led ”No Lost Generation” -initiative.
The security challenges facing Lebanon have also become more pressing. In spite of the recent terrorist bombings, the vast majority of the Lebanese people and society has not allowed itself to be provoked into escalating the violence, which is still reassuring.
Finland has already for a long time contributed towards Lebanon’s security with our participation in the UNIFIL operation that dates back to the early 1980’s. Last November, Finland made the decision to increase further our contribution in UNIFIL by taking the lead role in a Finnish-Irish battalion and increasing our troop contribution to 350. Along with the EU, we are also looking into possibilities to further support the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Finally we should also highlight the responsibility of also those countries not here today. Everyone can and should do a lot more to support peace and stability in Lebanon and condemn and isolate all these forces promoting terrorism and instability.