Any aid for Lebanon must go directly to the people, Macron says

Some donor countries are wary to write blank cheques to a government blamed to be deeply corrupt

French President Emmanuel Macron and the UN are co-hosting a virtual donors' conference on Sunday to solicit international aid for Lebanon, whose capital Beirut was devastated by explosions on Tuesday that left more than 150 people dead and a quarter of a million homeless.  "We must act quickly and efficiently so that this aid goes directly to where it is needed," Macron said in his opening remarks for the conference, held by video link from his summer residence on the Mediterranean.

Macron called on the Lebanese government to act responsibly to safeguard the country's future. "It is up to the authorities of the country to act so that the country does not sink, and to respond to the aspirations that the Lebanese people are expressing right now, legitimately, in the streets of Beirut," Macron said. He also promised he would be returning to Lebanon on 1 September to check on results. 

Some foreign governments are wary about writing blank cheques to a government perceived by its own people to be deeply corrupt. The explosions amplified the anger of many Lebanese. The political class was already under enormous pressure from a protest movement that rejects it as inept, corrupt and beholden to the country's myriad sectarian groups rather than the national interest.

Macron on Thursday became the first world leader to visit Beirut after Tuesday's double explosion and warned Lebanese leaders that while international aid would be forthcoming deep change was needed to resolve the country's problems. Speaking in Beirut during his visit, Macron said that the conference aimed to mobilise funding from Europe, the US and regional states to provide medicine, care, food and housing, but he also called for transparency and said any aid would go "directly to the people" as well as relief groups.

"We will also put in place clear and transparent governance so that all of this aid, whether it is French aid or international, is directly channelled to the people, to NGOs, to the teams in the field who need it, without any possible opacity or diversion," he said.

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