The Beirut Port explosions created immediate and urgent humanitarian needs, but also longer-term consequences to the country with a large population of refugees and is affected by a confluence of crises. COVID-19 cases are increasing alongside social tensions and civil unrest. According to the New York Times, Lebanon is also facing “its worst economic crisis in decades, with its currency collapsing, businesses shutting, prices for basic goods skyrocketing and the threat of hunger looming for its poorest people”.
Yet in a recent article, The New Humanitarian highlighted how national Lebanese groups are stepping up and responding to the Beirut Port explosions. It is in this context that the private sector can also make meaningful contributions. In fact, based on CBi experience, companies are often among the first responders in any given crisis – delivering relief items and providing other lifeline services to people in need. Local companies invest in their communities before anything happens and will continue to do so when disasters strike, benefitting from peer-to-peer knowledge sharing beyond borders.
While the private sector in Lebanon has been severely affected, there are at least two important ways in which they can support their communities. First, companies need to ensure that they have the capacity to resume operations as quickly as possible. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – that make up over 90% of Lebanese businesses – are particularly vulnerable. Business continuity planning is critical for building resilience in normal times and is particularly important during times of crisis. Economic activities can serve as a stabilizing force, helping societies get back on their feet faster. Second, depending on their resources and capacity, companies can distribute food and non-food items, provide shelter, make financial or in-kind contributions to aid organizations, help rebuild infrastructure, and much more.
While CBi does not have a private sector Member Network in the country, it is working with partners to mobilize local, national and international private sector support to the response and recovery activities:
In partnership with OCHA and the UN Global Compact, CBi developed a UN Business Guide for the Beirut Port Explosions. The document provides an overview of how the private sector can support the UN-led response and recovery efforts through financial and in-kind donations, commercial offers and contributions to longer-term recovery.
CBi has created an Emergency page to share information and guidance for private sector entities willing to support the response and recovery efforts. The page is updated regularly as new resources such as the UN Women Gender Flash Report come out.
The CBi Secretariat is providing technical support and guidance to the Global Compact Network Lebanon. Several CBi Member Networks have demonstrated the value of engaging the private sector in disaster management and can serve as models or provide examples of private sector contributions.
CBi promotes the UNDP socio-economic impact assessment that is being conducted to understand the impact of the explosions on and immediate needs of households. The UN Country Team, led by the Resident Coordinator, works with partners in Lebanon to develop an overall recovery strategy.
Companies can invest in business continuity planning, share information, make financial contributions, provide in-kind support and contribute to longer-term recovery. Whether in Lebanon or abroad, we encourage you to take a moment and consider how you could make a difference to the lives of those affected by the explosions. Let’s work together to ensure the people get the assistance they urgently need.
Photo credit: UNDP Lebanon/Rana Sweidan