Lebanon's social and political crisis two years after the explosion at the port
Institutional Communication Service
5 August 2022
More than two hundred people died in the explosion in Beirut on 4 August 2020. Two years after the event, however, the consequences Lebanon is facing are not only about casualties and property damage. The explosion "certified the existence of a deep and unstoppable crisis," explained Martino Diez, scientific director of the international foundation Oasis and a member of MEM's scientific committee, in an interview by Francesco Pellegrinelli in Corriere del Ticino along with the Rector of Beirut's Saint-Joseph University and member of the scientific committee Salim Daccache along with young change-maker Sarah Hermez. The fifth MEM Summer Summit will be held on the Lugano campus from 18 to 27 August.
The explosion exposed "in all its gravity, the absence of the state," Diez explained, dwelling especially on the Lebanese political system's inability to react to the economic crisis and generate change. This is also seen in the judicial inquiry into the blast, halted due to political pressure from Hezbollah. "The investigation," Daccache explained, "is hampered by the obstructionism of the ministers named by the magistrate as being responsible for the explosion. Last November, Hezbollah staged a demonstration calling for the magistrate's suspension, and the rally degenerated into an armed clash between civilians. "Hezbollah rejects the investigation claiming that it is being rigged by Western powers against Iran and its representatives in Lebanon."
In Lebanon, seats are allocated on a confessional basis, which, according to Diez "fuels patronage relations and blocks any reform in the country." The challenge is to "overcome the confessional model while guaranteeing the freedom of worship that still exists in the country today."
This year's Summer Summit will address the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the Middle East and Mediterranean region. For Lebanon, these consequences are mainly food insecurity since domestic agricultural production is insufficient. "Traditionally, Lebanon has been considered a rich country, a destination for its neighbouring countries", Diez explained. "Now, however, for the first time, the Lebanese want to flee, even clandestinely, to Europe."
The population also faces the consequences of the depreciation of the Lebanese lira. "Inflation has almost wiped out the middle class," explained Sarah Hermez, a young Lebanese businesswoman and guest speaker as a young change-maker at a previous MEM Summer Summit. Hermez runs a free fashion school for young designers, "a place where one can go every day, and learn a business, build a future." Because "even though the outlook is not reassuring, we want to give these young kids a future."