Interview with Mr. Marwan Hamadeh
Minister for the Displaced
In February 2001, the Lebanese NGO Forum
(LNF) has conducted this interview with Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, Minister for the
Displaced, at headquarters.
Q (1): What was
the state of the 'Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) file'?
* The 'Displaced file' was opened
following the Taif agreement (1989). This agreement gave every Lebanese
displaced the right to return to his hometown.
When nominated Minister for
the Displaced, Deputy Walid Jumblatt launched the return process and made sure
to keep it far from any political interference. Since then, all the successive
and former governments, including the present one, have been trying to continue
the implementation of the return program in its different aspects.
Consequently, a return plan was prepared and sought not only to organize the
return of the displaced to their towns and villages but also included the
reconstruction and renovation of their houses. In addition, the plan also
foresaw compensation payments for the second -generation of displaced families,
to encourage the return of the youth. Finally, the plan comprised the
restoration of religious sites, cemeteries and other projects related to the
infrastructure of the villages of return.
The return program set two main
1- The reconciliation (In areas where wartime
massacres took place)
Until the present moment, 60% of reconciliation
initiatives have been completed, only 11 reconciliation cases are still under
way and will be achieved in the coming six months or during the summer. Based
on this, we could say that the political and technical aspects of the displaced
file have been closed. We still hope that the problem of the squatted houses
will resolved by the mid-March so that all illegally occupied properties will
be recovered, in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
2- The restoration and
renovation (already completed)
Renovations in Beirut and the 'green line'
(border line that divided Beirut in two parts - east and west - during the war)
will require about 18 months because of the necessity to undertake evaluations
of the losses and damages in order to establish estimates to compensate
families. A specific law, issued last summer, stipulated that residents who had
already renovated their houses at their own expenses would be entitled to
compensations (known as 'completed renovation').
back to top
Q (2): To what extent the Displaced file is
subject to political interference?
* We do not deny that there was previously some
political interference in the 'Displaced file'. However, today, there is a
consensus between all the present political forces on the ground, and mainly
between the President of the Republic and the government, on the necessity to
exclude the displaced question from any political influence.
want to assure that the ministry is on equal distance from the different
political parties, determined to abide by the set deadlines and to close this
file for good.
Also, we would like to remind that the first years during
which we were in charge of the displaced file were not easy, due to the
psychological sequels generated by the 17 years of violence.
back to top
Q (3): How public participation contributed
to the implementation of the return program?
* During 1998, the displaced committees were
very active. After the 1998 elections the municipalities replaced these
committees, except in the villages where the reconciliation process are still
under way. Indeed in these villages, in addition to the role of the
municipality, there is a committee of residents and returnees to facilitate the
return of the displaced.
Also, lebanese NGOs have participated in this
effort and collaborated with the United Nations and the European Union to
strengthen the return process. These grassroot NGOs played a major role in
facilitating the dialogue between local residents and returnees, organizing
social and cultural activities, effectively creating a positive and favorable
atmosphere encouraging (conflict-resolution) negotiations in many villages, as
well as supporting health and environmental activities.
Private and public
schools engaged in these local initiatives and contributed to the
reconstruction of some villages.
back to top
Q (4): How is the return program budget
* The budget has been set and determined within
the framework of the government budget to which an additional appendix was
added, to cover:
- the compensations for the second-generation of displaced
- the 'completed renovations',
- the compensations for the
'second families' (second-generation of squatters to be evicted)
program needs around one thousand two hundred billions Lebanese pounds to cover
all the expenses mentioned above. The implementation phase is expected to be
completed by mid-2002.
back to top
Q (5): What are the future prospects for the
* The newly appointed Cabinet (October 26,
2000) has undertaken a series of procedures to speed up and achieve the return
process: renting large spaces to accommodate engineer offices and to receive
inquiries; developing an information network to manage thousands of new
applications, buying new cars to speed up the ministry's and the Central Fund's
technical assessments of the sites and finally allocating the necessary funds
to cover these actions.
In addition to that, the new program has adopted a
systematic approach, whereby each file will be completed and dealt with village
by village and region by region, so that all the files will be closed according
to a specific plan of action and a timetable. This plan of action will enable
us to end the cases of displacement in the cazas (districts) of North Lebanon
and the Bekaa Valley, in a period of 3 months; and in Beirut and Mount Lebanon
in a period of 18 months.
back to top
Q (6): When will the return program be
* The program is expected to be achieved in one
year and a half. Having said that, the sequels of the 'Displaced file' will be
purely on an engineering level and some other matters will remain pending, but
there will be no need for the Ministry of the Displaced to exist anymore,
except perhaps for the Engineering unit and the Central Fund.
* * * * * * * * * * * *