In his address at the Lions Mediterranean Conference, President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, said: "When a group of people gets together and takes "service" as its motto, and when the founder of the project sets the framework of his project by harnessing the elite's talents and capacities to develop its society, and working for the others, there is no doubt that a lot is expected from this group, especially if it got together and started off during a dark period of human history, when the world was undergoing the tragedies of World War I.
Against this background, the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) embarked on its activities in 1917 and became, year after year, the largest service association in the world, bearing witness to the will of good, peace and giving, even in the darkest and harshest circumstances.
And here it is today, a hundred years after its expansion, serving across all the world's continents, especially in the fields of environment, health and improvement of social conditions, and holding a permanent seat in the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Remarkably, it has won the Global Award for Transparency and Credibility for the seventh consecutive time in a row.
Welcome to Lebanon in the 22nd Regional Conference of the Lions Clubs in the Mediterranean basin.
If we go through the topics of your meeting today, from the concerns of environmental pollution and growing problems due to manufacturing and consumption, to the treatment of the residues and harm caused to nature, to sustainable development and the problems and social repercussions of displacement..., we find that they all match challenges that we are facing and trying to solve.
Indeed, a clean environment is the right of every human being, and any harm caused to nature affects them directly because nature is a living and balanced world which relies on three interconnected and complementary pillars: humans, fauna and flora, and any flaw in any of these pillars will certainly affect the survival and persistence of the world. I have already undertaken to protect the environment, in my inaugural speech, and this can only be achieved by making a reconciliation between man and the nature, and adopting a peace treaty between man and the tree and between him and the animal. I therefore insisted on the execution of the hunting law which regulates the bird hunting process so that it does not to remain arbitrary, rather defining a clear season for it, also specifying the species that are allowed to be hunted. I also seek to make Lebanon a safe passage for migratory birds. Moreover, I worked for the adoption of the law on the protection and welfare of animals, as I continuously support forestation campaigns to combat desertification.
As for sustainable development, it is at the core of my interests today because it is essential to solve the problems of the present and meet its needs, while getting practically ready for the requirements of the future to make it better.
These are just a few of the challenges ahead, and we are determined to face them. There remains the most difficult challenge which was thrust upon us by the region's wars, namely the crisis of the Syrian displaced. This tragedy, which we have tackled since the beginning with human solidarity, turned into a problem that outweighs our capacities and abilities to bear the subsequent burdens from all aspects: economy, security, society, infrastructure, water, electricity, hospitals, schools... Imagine the damage caused to the environment due to lack of infrastructure to accommodate 1.5 million displaced on a land whose population density has reached 600 people per square kilometer.
We are worried that the international community still insists on linking the return of the displaced to the political solution in Syria, in other words postponing the return sine die, while having the certainty that Lebanon is no longer capable of bearing this burden, and while being aware of the poor conditions in which the displaced are living in camps that neither protect them from cold nor from heat.
As you are an association which provides service in most of the countries of the world, we hope that you will convey our suffering, and that of the displaced as well, and put pressure where you can to urge the world to help them return to their country and territories as soon as possible.
Choosing Beirut to hold your regional conference while the region is going through a state of instability, bears important indications for Lebanon and its capital Beirut, the city of dialogue, encounter, openness and peace.
This is how we see our country, a land of encounter and dialogue amid a world boiling with extremism and the rejection of the other. Indeed, with its plural society, Lebanon is the antonym of unilateralism; it is the model of the fundamental challenge of the 21st century, the challenge of "living together", fighting extremism, the terrorism dictatorship and the rejection of the other.
I have therefore already submitted to the United Nations an initiative to nominate Lebanon as an official and permanent center for the dialogue of civilizations, religions and ethnicities. I launched the project of the "Human Academy for Encounter and Dialogue" in view of educating young generations from all over the world, especially in the Middle East, in order to draw them closer to each other and get them to know the other civilizations, to facilitate their proper integration on the path of evolution of human civilization, enlightening them and immunizing them in the face of extremism.
This project has taken today the practical road for execution and we intend to have it submitted to a vote during the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly. There, too, we hope to have your support, being the association which believes in peace, encounter and dialogue, and seeks to serve in all countries with no discrimination.
Once again, it gives me pleasure to welcome you on the Lebanese territories, and I salute the participating delegations who work in the field of selfless service, with all my wishes of success for your conference."
Source: National News Agency