Human Rights Watch says Lebanese authorities are not granting their citizens the right to electricity, which is necessary for the internationally protected right to an adequate standard of living.
Lebanese authorities have failed to enforce the right to electricity by mismanaging the sector for decades, Human Rights Watch said in a recently released report.
The US-based watchdog said on Thursday that electricity should be regarded as an internationally protected right necessary for an adequate standard of living.
“The electricity crisis in Lebanon has left people in limbo and drastically limited people’s access to critical rights such as food, water, education and health care,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“The plight of Lebanon illustrates why access to safe, clean and affordable electricity is not just a utility, but a human right that the state must uphold.”
In a survey of more than 1,200 households, HRW and the Consultation and Research Institute (CRI), a local research firm, found that the electricity crisis has pushed people into poverty and reduced their access to basic necessities, including food, water and health. , in turn, exacerbated inequality.
The government currently supplies electricity for an average of one to three hours a day. Residents who can afford it supplement the government’s supply by paying for access to private generators.
Nine out of every 10 households surveyed said the cost of electricity affected their ability to pay for other essential services.
In addition, generators run on fuel, leading to extensive air pollution that “affects the environment and health and contributes to a worsening climate crisis”.
Human Rights Watch pointed to three decades of mismanagement of the electricity sector by Lebanese authorities as the main cause of the current state of affairs.
Instead of appointing members of an independent electricity regulator to run the industry as required by law, the Council of Ministers exercised almost complete control over the industry with little transparency and accountability.
“Politicians and politically connected individuals have used the electricity industry to further their political goals, including handing out jobs at the government-run company to make huge profits from lucrative contracts, often at the expense of the state, and to generate profit. from the private generator market,” the report said.
The Lebanese economy has been embroiled in a deep financial crisis since October 2019. In March 2020, the crisis culminated in the country’s first bankruptcy.
While power outages have been a persistent problem for decades, it became a full-blown crisis in the summer of 2021, when the Lebanese state failed to secure the foreign currency needed to buy fuel.
The rapid devaluation of the Lebanese lira — which lost more than 95 percent of its pre-crisis value — as well as supply chain bottlenecks and fuel shortages have caused electricity, water and gas prices to rise by 595 percent, the report said. . .
In addition, an explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200, injured 6,000 and left 300,000 people homeless, caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including transportation, energy, water supply and sanitation.
The United Nations estimates that more than two-thirds of the Lebanese population now live in poverty.
“Lebanon must take immediate action to strengthen the electricity sector and reverse the ongoing erosion of fundamental economic rights,” Fakih said.
“The government should invest in renewable energy sources that create jobs, reduce pollution and give people in Lebanon access to reliable, safe and clean electricity.”