Avatar photo

Hugo Shorter

British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

21st November 2016 Beirut, Lebanon

To 365 Days of Independence

Mabrouk, Lebanon! There is a positive new mood in the country. Posters have gone up, and flags been hoisted. Just last week I was treated to a truly stately guard of honour and credentials ceremony at Baabda Palace, and was honoured to finally present my credentials to President Aoun. It has been a long time coming.

It is particularly heartening to see a ‘made in Lebanon’ President, which the international community has been calling for.  It’s clear to me that the President was elected thanks to local initiatives and without foreign direction. Lebanese leaders came together to prioritise the country’s interest and reached a compromise amongst themselves on the way forward. With the election of President Aoun, and the energetic action of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, there is a real opportunity for the reawakening of political institutions.  Long may that new-found spirit of compromise continue, on all sides!

Today’s Independence Day parade, the first in three years, illustrates the reactivation of state institutions resulting from the election of a President. And a new government is necessary to complete the process.  Reactivating the state will build confidence that the economy will pick up, as necessary government decisions are taken on fiscal sustainability, business climate and urgent infrastructure.  And an active government presents the opportunity for Lebanon to attract further support from the international community. It is key for the government to speak to international partners with a unified voice, but also to demonstrate effective implementation of programmes for Lebanese and refugee communities. Donor money follows successful programmes.  The more the government shows it can do, the more international support there can be.

So it has been very positive to see so much momentum behind Prime Minister Hariri’s negotiations to form a Cabinet.   All of us in the international community, but more importantly all the Lebanese I have spoken to on the subject, hope to see it formed soon so it can start work, make progress on reform, and seize the opportunities on offer.

It is notable and welcome that the President has said he will be a President for all, and in line with international agreements. This is an important framework for the international community, who need to know – and see in the state’s actions – that one side will not be unduly favoured over another, and that UN Security Council Resolutions and the Baabda declaration will be respected. Only the state can legitimately represent, defend and protect all Lebanese.

Importantly, the election of a President also means everyone is ready to get started on preparations for the long overdue parliamentary elections next year.  Like the Lebanese people, all in the international community look forward to the elections happening on time – if possible according to a modernised election law.  But in addition to the debate about the best electoral system to represent the Lebanese, a new law is also an opportunity to strengthen electoral processes to protect the integrity of the vote, and to find ways to bring more women into Parliament.  Lebanon must update the precious democratic tradition which has made it a beacon in the Arab world.

This year’s Independence Day festivities celebrate a President Made in Lebanon. It is fitting that the LAF will lead the parade, as the defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and the backbone of the country’s stability. We are proud partners of this great institution.

I previously wrote about Independence Day 2 when calling for a Lebanese solution to the Presidential impasse.  But of course independence is not just for a day. Make it a whole year of independence. The President and the incoming Government have an important job to do now. And there is only one nation they should serve: Lebanon, and its people.

1 comment on “To 365 Days of Independence

Comments are closed.

About Hugo Shorter

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun. This…

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun.
This is his first Ambassadorial position coming straight from personally advising the Foreign Secretary on a wide range of Foreign Policy priorities as Head of External Affairs for Europe Directorate. In this role he has accompanied the Foreign Secretary on a monthly basis to the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, helping negotiate EU foreign policy decisions in areas such as crisis management, sanctions and military operations. He has also co-ordinated the UK’s foreign policy work on G7/8, including during the UK G8 presidency in 2013 and the G8 Summit at Lough Erne. This work comes after an early-career focus on defence, security and trade policy, and successful postings as Minister Counsellor for Europe and Global Issues, Paris and Deputy Head of Mission, Brasilia.

Hugo Shorter, like many Lebanese, has a special connection to Brazil, having grown up there and attended school in Rio de Janeiro, before taking degrees at Oxford University and the École Nationale d’Administration.

He arrives in Lebanon with his wife Laura and three children.