The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, today finished his visit to Lebanon, which focused on gender equality, food security, climate change and recovery from crises.
During his visit, Minister Sajjan met with several government officials and development partners. He spoke with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, as well as Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament, and Hector Hajjar, Minister of Social Affairs. During these conversations, he spoke about the need for Lebanon to make the reforms necessary for the country to access International Monetary Fund resources to deal with its financial and economic crisis, how it was essential to move forward with the independent investigation into the Beirut port explosion, the importance of gender equity and economic opportunity and what more Canada can do to support Syrian refugees and the Lebanese people in host communities.
Minister Sajjan engaged with women civil society activists to discuss the challenges of and opportunities for advancing women’s rights and empowerment in the country. He also sat down with women entrepreneurs to discuss how Canada can continue to support the engagement of women in all sectors of Lebanon’s economy to build its economic resiliency in the face of challenging economic circumstances. Supporting that engagement is why he announced that Canada is providing $5 million in funding to UN Women to increase women’s participation as leaders; this funding will help ensure women, in all their diversity, fully participate, lead and engage in political institutions and decision making in all political and civic spaces in Lebanon.
Minister Sajjan met with UN Development Programme, World Food Programme and World Bank representatives to discuss challenges, needs and priorities in development and humanitarian assistance in the country.
The Minister also visited the Bachoura Primary Healthcare Center, part of the United Nations Population Fund-supported Makassed HealthCare Bureau, and learned about Canada-funded programming offered at the centre, including in health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and sexual and gender-based violence services.
In Saida, Minister Sajjan visited a Mouvement Social [social movement] centre supported by Save the Children through the Education Cannot Wait fund. While there, he spoke with youths and teachers and gained insight into challenges facing Lebanese and refugee children and youths in accessing quality education and employment opportunities. The Minister also toured a plant laboratory, the beneficiary of a Canada-funded project implemented by Mercy Corps, that has implemented an innovative approach to germinating potato and banana seedlings to support more sustainable agriculture. The Minister discussed the need to stimulate the development of innovative enterprises.
Minister Sajjan also travelled to Bekka, where he visited an informal tented settlement and met with Syrian refugees living there. He learned of the assistance they are receiving and the challenges they face, including a lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene, education, health care and sexual and reproductive health and rights support. He also met representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF to gain insight into what more Canada can do to support Syrian refugees.
The Minister also met with an informal agri-processing group supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. He learned about challenges of and opportunities for women-led cooperatives and women farmers in the current economic and food security crisis and how Canada’s support is assisting them in overcoming social, cultural and economic barriers.