Dr. Hasan Youness, University Lecturer and Strategic Advisor for UN Global Compact Lebanon
August 28, 2020
Submitted by Angela Weck
Lebanon faces seemingly insurmountable challenges right now. However, the country has demonstrated its resilience and ability to heal deep divisions within its borders. But will the massive explosion in the port on August 4 be the final straw?
Dr. Hasan Youness is the face of a new Lebanon. He is young, well-educated, and dynamic. He loves his country, and is committed to working toward a positive future. But even this dedicated professional feels his resolve wavering as he considers the compounding impact of the destruction in Beirut on the shaky political and economic situation in Lebanon today.
Professor Youness offered a historical perspective that illustrated Lebanon’s ability to rise above the ashes of civil war, border conflicts, and foreign occupation. He noted that the power-sharing system of their parliamentary democracy government is designed to minimize internal conflict between the major religious groups in the country (Maronite Christian, Sunni, Shi’a and Eastern Orthodox Christians), but that there are at least 18 religious groups represented in Lebanon’s government. The very system designed to deter conflict has more recently become the source of that conflict as demographics and political priorities have changed. Moreover, political parties do not cut strictly along religious lines, leading to additional challenges that have both positive and negative impacts. In fact, religious differences, in many cases, have given way to common calls to end government corruption and stabilize the economy. Adding 1.5 million refugees from the conflict in Syria and the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the country, the country seemed resigned to collectively work to avoid a humanitarian crisis across the country.
The explosions in the Beirut port threw everything back into disarray, to say the least. The Lebanese people immediately jumped into action to help each other in ways large and small. But when the extent of the destruction became clear in loss of life, property, and essential grain stores, and that its cause could have been prevented by a government that should have been doing its job, the tensions within the country have risen again. Worse, the direction of the next steps is not clear. The entire cabinet of President Michel Aoun has resigned, but they have taken on the role as a “caretaker” government until another can be appointed in negotiations between the president and the parliament. Since many in the country view the entire government as corrupt, frustrations have mounted, and the momentary unity in the face of adversity has given way to social divides and economic crises.
Can Lebanon find its way again? For people like Dr. Hasan Youness, there is still hope. But even he is uncertain how deep the well of hope goes for his countrymen.
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