The Heart of the Nation
In 2007 Jeremy Chivers took over from me as the Stabilisation Advisor at the British Embassy in Beirut. In the next decade Jeremy designed and managed a comprehensive, coherent progamme of assistance to Lebanon, recognised in the 2017 New Year's Honours list, in which Jeremy was awarded an MBE for services to UK/Lebanon relations.
At the heart of Lebanon's stability sits the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), often cited as the only truly functioning national institution in the country, encompassing as it does members drawn from all of Lebanon's sectarian tapestry. At a time like now when once again the country is without a government and elections this year produced a dismal turn out, this has perhaps never been truer.
Meeting Jeremy last night in Beirut I was delighted to be presented with a copy of his new book, Heart of the Nation, which is a beautiful series of photographs taken by Jeremy over many months as he accompanied all arms of the LAF, documenting as the cover states 'the honour, loyalty and sacrifice' of the LAF. This book is more than just a testament to Jeremy's commitment to Lebanon's stability and its armed forces. The proceeds of the sales go to Lebanese veterans and their families and will he hopes be followed by additional fundraising steps that contribute to the wellbeing of the LAF's personnel, including the families of those who have paid the ultimate price.
It is easy to lose heart when looking at the Middle East but this book and the organisation it chronicles give reason not to lose all hope in coexistence, the rule of law and the value of sacrifice. At the same time the UK's support to the LAF over that period highlights a key tenet of stabilisation programming - think long term, be unwavering in one's commitment to legitimate national institutions, and demonstrate commitment in word and deed, something the Heart of the Nation personifies.
Alistair Harris, CEO of ARK