The 4 August 2020 Beirut Port explosion caused widespread destruction to homes, businesses, infrastructure, and disrupted economic activity. It also struck the vibrant, cultural heart of Beirut, recognized for its social and cultural identity with a historical built environment embedding a concentration of cultural landmarks, heritage buildings, restaurants, bars and other social spaces that attracted both tourists and residents alike.   

In March 2021, through funding from the Embassy of Japan in Lebanon, UN-Habitat initiated a holistic project for post-explosion recovery and reconstruction in the most vulnerable areas impacted by the explosion. The project’s key interventions include:

  1. Reviving the Rmeil Cluster:
  • Restoring and strengthening 11 multi-story buildings of heritage-value from a Build Back Better approach through multiple innovative and forward-thinking techniques, while safeguarding housing, land and property rights of tenants.
  • Developing the skills of 100+ men and women to take part in the rehabilitation works.
  1. Rehabilitating key public spaces affected by the explosion:
  • Improving the operations, response capacity and functions of the Beirut Fire Brigade Center.
  • Rehabilitating and reactivating two public spaces: William Hawi and Laziza Parks.
  • Upgrading and repairing key public infrastructure in three alleyways in Maraach neighbourhood in Bourj Hammoud.
  • Installing 15 handwashing stations to mitigate COVID-19 community transmission
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UN-Habitat staff supervising rehabilitation work of heritage building damaged in Beirut port explosion.

UN-Habitat staff supervising rehabilitation work of heritage building damaged in Beirut port explosion. [UN-Habitat]

Partners.

Name of the partner

Website

Partner category

Municipality of Beirut

https://beirut.gov.lb/

Governmental

Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA)

 

Governmental

Order of Engineers and Architects – Beirut (OEA)

https://www.oea.org.lb/

Governmental

Campaign for Children of Palestine (CCP Japan)

https://ccp-ngo.jp/

NGO

PARC Interpeoples’ Cooperation (PARCIC Japan)

https://www.parcic.org/english/

NGO

Live Love Lebanon

https://livelovebeirut.com/

NGO

Rashet Kheir

https://rashetkheir.org/

NGO

How UN-Habitat collaborates with the key partners

As the lead agency within the United Nations system specialising in cities and human settlements, UN-Habitat played a key role in the immediate and long-term response following the Beirut Port explosion – on multiple levels: on-ground response through technical teams deployed at the most affected municipalities, undertaking coordination and damage assessment – Beirut and Bourj Hammoud; co-leading the shelter sector response with UNHCR immediately set-up under a specific explosion response coordination system under the Humanitarian Coordinator; extensive inputs to the Rapid Damage Needs Assessment led by the World Bank for housing, culture and municipal services chapters, and the subsequent Reform Recovery and Reconstruction (3RF) Framework (WB/EU/UN/Government of Lebanon-led) which continues to guide the recovery and reconstruction today. UN-Habitat continues its efforts under a broader urban recovery framework for Beirut, which involves continuous collaboration across all levels of actors, United Nations, governorate and municipality of Beirut, Directorate-Generals of Antiquities under Ministry of Culture, and Public Housing Cooperation under Ministry of Social Affairs, the Lebanese Armed Forces (who were at the frontline of the response on behalf of the Government of Lebanon) and many others.

In March 2021, the Japan Supplementary Budget granted USD 2.16 million to UN-Habitat to support the post-explosion recovery in Beirut. In this project, UN-Habitat worked in close coordination with the Municipality of Beirut, the Beirut Governor’s Office, the Order of Engineers and Architects (OEA) and the local community to plan, design and implement the project and make it tailor-made for the city. At the field level, the cooperation with Live Love Lebanon and Rashet Kheir also facilitates the rehabilitation of the damaged heritage buildings and the restoration of public spaces. Additionally, UN-Habitat’s cooperation with CCP Japan and PARCIC Japan ensured respectively the installation of the 15 handwashing stations accompanied with awareness raising activities and the implementation of the cash-for-work programmes with the local communities. UN-Habitat managed the coordination between all stakeholders involved in the project.

Beneficiaries

Name

Function

Quote

H.E. Mr. Okubo Takeshi

Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon

 

“I am extremely happy to share the news with the Lebanese people that we have launched the important project in partnership with UN-Habitat for reconstruction and recovery from the destructions caused by the Beirut Harbour blast, embodying our deepest sympathy with those Lebanese friends and partners who were severely affected by the tragic event. There is no better time than now to deliver speedy services to the people in pains and sufferings as the socio-economic situation is rapidly deteriorating in the country after the blast. Japan is strongly committed to extending its helping hand to those people in dire situation as a friend in need.”

Jamal Itani

Mayor of Beirut

“The restoration of the city’s heritage after the Beirut blast will make a huge difference to our community. Together, united, we can inspire hope and create a better tomorrow for Beirut – strengthening and restoring the city after the blast.”

Taina Christiansen

Head of the UN-Habitat Lebanon Country Programme

“As the emergency humanitarian response to the Beirut blast has ended, this project is crucial in supporting the city’s holistic recovery through rebuilding buildings and infrastructure that forms the character of some of Beirut’s most heritage-rich neighbourhoods.”

Claude Helou

First Lieutenant at Fire Brigade Beirut

“The explosion came and destroyed everything. The first thing we needed was to keep all the information we had. Here I appreciate UN-Habitat providing us with the digital network system, to get our work back on track and start again after the explosion.”

Project manager

Name: Wael Sinno

Unit/Branch/Office: Area Coordinator for Beirut and Mount Lebanon at UN-Habitat Lebanon

Email: wael.sinno@un.org

Physical address: Beirut, Lebanon

Social inclusion.

Human rights

The project adopts a human rights-based approach and follows the “Do No Harm” principles, seeking in particular to ensure inclusive participation and no one is left behind. Vulnerability criteria are included in the selection of beneficiaries. Households with vulnerable members such as female heads, widows, elderly and/or persons with disabilities will be given priority in the selection process.

 

Gender equality

The project works on ensuring the gender balance of the beneficiaries from the community. This is done by providing platforms and opportunities for grassroots women to have a voice in local urban development and the global urban agenda where possible.

 

Children, youth and the elderly

The project puts youth at the forefront of change at the local level where possible, acknowledging the critical role of youth in the rebuilding efforts as a catalyst to more meaningful representation and decision making for future sustainability. This is done through engaging youth in skill development and cash for work opportunities. By engaging in the reconstruction work, youth will become self-reliant and positively impact the overall stability of affected communities.

 

Disability

The need of people living with disabilities is fully considered in rehabilitating the damaged residential heritage buildings and the communal spaces. Walkability and accessibility are improved for the elderly, people living with disabilities, chidren and all alike to make them safely access all buildings and facilities.

More information about the project

The project contributes to preserving national heritage as the damaged buildings were built in the French and Ottoman eras. While the worsening socio-economic situation in Lebanon continues to deepen, this project also helps mitigate the effects of the crisis by providing community members with cash-for-work after they have acquired the necessary construction and rehabilitation skills through tailored vocational training sessions. Youth groups of vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees are engaged and employed for the project’s construction and rehabilitation activities, supporting the revitalisation of the local economy and enhancing the community’s sense of ownership. Moreover, energy-efficient solutions and environmentally sound materials are promoted in the design and implementation of the rehabilitation works to achieve better the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and combat climate change.

The issue of housing and property rights constitutes an essential component of the project and is within the mission and scope of UN-Habitat Lebanon, and the programme attaches great importance to this issue as it has and continues to seek its redress since the beginning of the project with the aim of protecting the rights of the population. UN-Habitat Lebanon has conducted a number of interviews with the families and listened to their fears and apprehensions and is working to address them within the scope of its mandate.