Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher

Former British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

5th June 2015 Beirut, Lebanon


Last month, we launched the UK Lebanon Tech Hub. You can see a clip of a drone delivering my speech – for the first and last time, I can suggest that Enrique Iglesias take note.

I normally try to write speeches while running. Jogging with bodyguards makes me look like the poor man’s slow Madonna, so this is usually on a treadmill. The morning of the launch was one of those infuriating sessions when the belt keeps stuttering and you can’t get the rhythm right. I started thinking about this as a metaphor for Lebanon. I was listening to Bowie – ‘Ground Control to Major Tom, the circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong’. Then I got thrown off by a power cut.

Maybe it was not such a bad metaphor after all.

Recently I was at the launch of another brilliant programme, led by the Lebanese Education Minister and backed by donors, to get 200,000 kids into school. This was one of those events that you assume is hard to oppose: imagine 200,000 teachers, engineers and doctors, and then imagine those 200,000 in ten years without education. Yet one critic came along and told us it was all a conspiracy against Lebanon. He was basically saying – the treadmill is broken because you’re all against us, please give us a new one.

And it struck me that this is what all of us who care about Lebanon are up against. A lack of belief. Fatalism. The idea of the Lebanese as victims. Or survivors at best.

I don’t believe Lebanon is just a country of victims and survivors. I believe Lebanon is a country of heroes. I meet them every day, on the school run, keeping their businesses and families going, choosing to coexist against the odds.

When I met the entrepreneurs working with the Tech Hub, I didn’t see people asking for help, but asking for oxygen.

They weren’t there to argue over the past, but to own the future.

They weren’t debating which countries were holding them back, but how to take Lebanon forward.

They weren’t blaming the world, but embracing it.

These innovators won’t kick a broken treadmill, however many times it throws them off. They will build a new one.

People often quote back at me something I said a few years ago about the next Sykes/Picot. Many spun this as evidence of a fresh conspiracy against the region. What I said, and believe now more strongly than ever, is that outsiders won’t shape the new Lebanon. It is Lebanese ideas, creativity, ingenuity. And when these talented, smart, ambitious innovators have done that, and created the jobs we all need them to create if the Middle East is to get back on track, I hope that they will say that we were on their side.

We need to stop arguing about who broke the treadmill. ‘Now its time to leave the capsule if  you dare’ …..


  1. Tim Fletcher keeps amazing us with his thoughts and passion for Lebanon. Excellently said.

  2. Gosh I can remember wandering around a still darkened and desolate Beirut towards end of war listening to Lou Reed and Berlin in particular — plus ca change…

  3. Another master piece your excellency. I still remember your blog about the vision of the Lebanon in 2020. The Lebanese need stop blaming others for their own failures. They remind me of army full of officers but no soldiers. Everyone see Lebanon in his own way and everyone wants the bigger piece of the pie – how about they elect a president and stop blaming the outsiders.

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About Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011. Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford…

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011.

Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford College), graduating with a First class degree in Modern History. He has an MA in Modern History, and is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College for International Studies, Oxford.

He is married to Louise Fletcher and they have two sons, Charles (born 2006) and Theodor (born 2011). Tom enjoys political history, cricket (Strollers CC), and mountains, and is the co-founder of 2020 (a progressive think tank).

Tom was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year’s Honours, for services to the Prime Minister.