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New LAF CIMIC Centre in south Lebanon to better serve communities

UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) today hailed the opening of the LAF’s new regional centre for civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) in Marjayoun as a new chapter in the cooperation between the two forces in south Lebanon. In their remarks after opening the Spain-funded and UNIFIL-supported regional centre in the south-eastern Lebanese town, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary and senior LAF officials said the centre will play a key role in better serving the residents of the UNIFIL area of operation in south Lebanon. “An accessible, functioning LAF CIMIC Regional Centre in the south will be of great support in our shared mission of building a lasting peace and stability for the people of the south,” said Major General Beary. “Today marks the achievement of UNIFIL’s initial objective of enhancing our CIMIC partnership with LAF.” He also hailed the “special event” as a “new chapter” in the LAF’s CIMIC efforts in south Lebanon. Major General George Chraim, representing the LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun, said the new centre – which is the third in the country – will make a positive impact in the areas of education, health, environment and humanitarian assistance. “We are gathering here today to open a new season of civil-military cooperation, which includes many tangible achievements and contributions making positive impact in the society and national development,” said Major General Chraim. Spain, which is a major troop contributing country (TCC) of UNIFIL, provided the required funding to construct the building. At today’s opening ceremony, Chief of Staff of the Spanish Joint Command Major General Francisco Draco Carbo said the LAF CIMIC regional centre was “another proof” of the Spanish and UNIFIL’s commitment to the Lebanese society. He said it was undertaken with the common goal of boosting Lebanese institutions. “The project financed by Spain and UNIFIL has not only allowed the construction of the required facility but also give modern equipment needed for the development of activities,” said Major General Carbo. After the opening of the centre today, LAF CIMIC chief Brigadier General Elie Abi Rached expressed his excitement about undertaking joint CIMIC projects with UNIFIL peacekeepers in the future. “We are going to conduct many projects here in south Lebanon, which will strengthen the relations between the Lebanese Armed Forces and our community here,” he said. The opening ceremony was also addressed by the Acting UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Dahler Kardel, who said the new centre was the evidence of LAF’s continued efforts in the extension of state authority. “Initiatives like this have the potential to make a crucial contribution to the preservation of Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty,” she added. “The United Nations remains committed to supporting these crucial goals.” UNIFIL’s Chief of Civil Affairs, Albagir Adam, said with the new LAF CIMIC centre in the UNIFIL area of operation, there is an expectation that LAF personnel will work hand-in-hand with UNIFIL peacekeepers in boosting service delivery to the communities. “LAF is already patrolling with our troops, but now with LAF CIMIC, it will be another opportunity that they have more contact with the population,” he said. “I would also like to appeal to our TCCs and other donor community to support LAF CIMIC with more equipment, with more projects.” UNIFIL has its CIMIC units right across the Mission’s 1,060 square kilometre area of operation – from headquarters in Naqoura to battalions – carrying out small-scale projects directly benefiting local communities. UNIFIL for the first time, in 2016, involved its strategic partner, the LAF, in implementing CIMIC projects in the communities. Since 2006, UNIFIL and its TCCs have implemented about 3,400 projects with the total cost of about US$ 44.6 million. UNIFIL’s engagement with LAF on CIMIC dates back to 2008/2009, when the Mission launched an initiative to enhance the partnership with LAF in the area of civil-military cooperation and community outreach. Since then, a close dialogue with the CIMIC Directorate of LAF has been maintained and UNIFIL has provided technical advice and various training courses when requested.