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A Conversation with His Excellency Pierre Bouassi, Minister of Social Affairs, The Republic of Lebanon

Lebanon faces no shortage of challenges, from hosting the highest number of refugees per capita to dealing with Hezbollah to grappling with radicalization and economic difficulties. The Middle East Program hosted Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bouassi for an intimate conversation on his country’s complex realities.

Date & Time

Oct. 11, 2017
10:00am – 11:15am


5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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A Conversation with His Excellency Pierre Bouassi, Minister of Social Affairs, The Republic of Lebanon

Lebanon is home to the highest number of refugees per capita, hosting approximately 1.5 million refugees in a country of only 6 million people. The country’s weak infrastructure, challenging economic conditions, and the growing radicalization of youth and refugees place a heavy burden on the Lebanese state. In addition, the rise of tensions between refugees and their host communities are affecting the country’s fragile sectarian balance and increasing insecurity in the region.

In this conversation, Lebanon's Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bouassi discussed the current refugee crisis and its impact on his country and the region.

This event is being presented as part of the Lebanon Ideas Forum, a partnership between the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and Safadi Foundation USA

Key Quotes by the Minister

On Society in Lebanon

"The main challenge is to bring back to the mentality, in fact to the Lebanese culture, the idea of supporting the weakest elements of our society."

"We have other issues, after the war or even some things not related to the war, which is a very high level of handicap people, whether physical or mental handicap. A lot of orphans. More and more addicted people, elderly people as I said…So all these components of the society, somebody should take care of them and with the bad economic situation, whether on the local level or regional level, which was even worsened by the arrival of the Syrian refugees. We have a lot of Lebanese now, it’s said now, 28 percent under the line of poverty."

On Refugees

“My approach is .... first to separate the humanitarian and the human dimension from the political dimension. Humanly speaking, they are victims. They are human beings, we have to support them. They have to have the capability to eat, to have shelter, to go to school, to have medication…The main thing is to say, they are here now, but as soon as possible they need to go back home because first, it’s better for them and second because there is no way that Lebanon can support this burden economically speaking as I said, socially speaking, labor market speaking."

On Aid

“What I would like to ask is…three things: expertise, coordination, and means. Mainly this. It’s not about putting more money, it’s about spending better. To spend better, you need expertise and coordination…I would like to have more exchange with the American side about this.”

On Hezbollah

“The Hezbollah is a very complex phenomenon…now they are in the cabinet of course, two ministers, and the Parliament. And, of course, they have a lot of popularity in the Shi’ite community. At the same time, they are fighting of course…they have the military means, they fight in Syria, they are present in Iraq, they are present in Yemen, they are present in Bahrain, maybe in the United States. They create a kind of huge pressure on all the Lebanese political class…Our position as Lebanese forces is very clear on this. Regardless how popular Hezbollah is, regardless how powerful Hezbollah is…there is only one way to strengthen this country called Lebanon, is the national pact…which is a double pact between citizens, like in every country, that rely upon the state, that protects everyone…and second, between communities…They are powerful, they are willing, they are popular, and they are wrong. That simple. And we just cannot accept [Hezbollah] no matter what the cost is.”

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Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more

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