Lebanon is a new priority country of Polish development cooperation. Polish non-governmental organisations will be able to implement development projects aimed at providing assistance to Lebanon by supplementing and strengthening Polish aid which has been provided so far and which has covered humanitarian measures and initiatives carried out by Polish Embassy in Beirut. Development assistance will focus on:
1. supporting human capital, by improving the quality of formal and informal teaching at all levels of education, improving teaching conditions at all levels of education, increased access to social services of persons belonging to groups at risk of exclusion;
2. protection of the environment by improving waste and water management, including increased access to water and sanitary infrastructure, increased access to renewable energy sources, mitigating the consequences of climate change and human activity, including deforestation, desertification and soil degradation processes;
3. supporting entrepreneurship and the private sector by boosting entrepreneurship, especially among youth and women, as well as creating new jobs, increased access to technical education and vocational training, including retraining, increased competitiveness, effectiveness and innovation of producers and cooperatives, especially in the agri-food sector.
The Syrian conflict, ongoing since 2011, and the influx of Syrian refugees have significantly hampered the economic growth of Lebanon. The Lebanese population has been affected by higher unemployment, limited access to social services (especially education and healthcare), and the degradation of natural environment. There is also need for continued and comprehensive support of Syrian refugees, who left their country seven years ago.
Despite efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education its strategy for 2017-2021 titled “Reaching All Children with Education, RACE II” aimed at providing access to education to all school-age children, the mass influx of Syrian migrants poses a great challenge for the Lebanese education system. Out of 586,500 school-age refugees, over 250,000 still do not receive any education. Only about 6 percent of Syrians aged 15-18 attend public secondary schools or technical vocational schools. Furthermore, providing access to education to disabled people remains a major challenge. Despite offering high quality education, the Lebanese higher education system also requires support, as it does not respond to the current needs of the job market.
High unemployment rate and illegal employment were a major problem for the Lebanese economy even before the Syrian crisis. According to World Bank analyses conducted at that time, the Lebanese economy would need to increase it labour market six times in order to guarantee employment to persons entering the job market for the first time. Not only did the influx of refugees, who have been unable to take up employment, increase unemployment rate on a national level, but it also increased informal economy and widened the gap between different parts of the country and age groups (the unemployment rate among youth is three times higher than the national rate). The situation could be improved by existing and newly undertaken initiatives of private entrepreneurs. Currently, their initiatives are hindered by limited access to financing and the lack of necessary qualifications among the labour force.
According to World Bank data, the number of inhabitants of Lebanon exceeded six million in 2017, which constitutes 50 percent growth over merely 10 years (4,057 million in 2006). Such a significant demographic shift, resulting mostly from the growing migratory pressure, has an impact on Lebanon’s natural environment and resources.
Furthermore, Lebanon struggles with the consequences of climate change and human activity, including desertification and deforestation. In order to counteract the continuing degradation of the natural environment, in 2014 its Ministry of Agriculture launched work on the National Afforestation/Reforestation Programme (NARP), also known as 40 Million Trees Programme. The programme aims to increase the share of forests from 13 percent to 20 percent of Lebanon’s area by 2030 and to adapt natural ecosystems to climate change.
Energy, water and waste management infrastructures also require urgent investment, as many years of neglect and a sudden increase in the number of users have caused them to be ineffective.