“We will put our money where our mouth is” promises Lebanese minister of Finance at the launch of Social Watch report in Arabic

“Poverty eradication and women empowerment are our priorities” said Lebanese minister of Finance, Raya Haffar Al-Hassan at the joint launch of the Social Watch report in Arabic and the Arab Assessment of the Millennium Development Goals that took place in Beirut on July 9. Speaking in Behalf of the Arab NGO Network for Development, Ziad Abdel Samad welcomed the minister as “one of us”, remembering her past association with civil society organizations and with the United Nations system, for which she worked before joining the government. He welcomed the public discussion of the budget that is currently happening “for the first time in Lebanon” and challenged the minister to go one step further and invite civil society organizations to actually participate in the elaboration of future budgets.

Mona Hamman, director of the regional office of the United Nations Development Program highlighted the main challenges in the Arab region, like vulnerability of a majority of the population, high unemployment, particularly among youth and gender inequities. She welcomed the “put people first” message of the Social Watch report, which is “completely consistent with the human development concept that the UNDP has been promoting for two decades”.

On behalf of the Social Watch international secretariat, Roberto Bissio emphasized the common message coming out of over sixty national Social Watch reports: “investing in people, expanding and promoting health and education, access to clean water and to adequate housing is not just an ethical imperative but also the best stimulus package for the economies in these times of crises”.

The launch of the two civil society reports provided an opportunity for a public debate between government authorities, civil society organizations from several Arab countries and United Nations experts. “The Social Watch and ANND reports help introduce transparency and accountability and are catalytic to improve government policies and laws and to increase participation in decision making” said the minister of Finance. 

“The global crisis has aggravated social gaps, but we are promoting public policies that benefit people if their daily life”, she argued. Reinvigorating the middle class, improving the efficiency of social services, targeting social and geographic disparities and empowering women to actually benefit from the opportunities opened to them by the new electoral law were quoted as priorities for her ministry by Ms. Raya Hassan. “This will improve competitiveness and enhance the business environment” she added.

The problems related to migration and disparities were highlighted in several interventions from civil society representatives during the open debate.