Mulqi: Jordan’s Capacities Maxed Out on Syrian Refugee Crisis

تم نشره في Wed 5 April / Apr 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Prime Minister of Jordan Dr Hani Mulqi - (Archives)

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Hani Mulqi said that Jordan has reached its maximum carrying capacity due to the Syrian refugee crisis whether in terms of available resources; fiscal space, existing physical and social infrastructure, or capacities of government services.

He said that without the continued support of the international community this will negatively impact our overstretched ability to continue providing necessary services to Syrians whilst maintaining service levels without adversely effecting Jordanian citizens or risking our hard-earned development gains.

The prime minister made the remarks during his participation in conference in Brussels, dubbed "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region", co-chaired by the EU, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, Kuwait and Qatar and attended by delegations representing 70 countries.

Following is the full speech of Prime Minister Hani Mulqi:

High Representative and Vice President Frederica Mogherini,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to start by sincerely thanking the co-hosts for their efforts and support in holding this conference.

Today, we meet again in the spirit of global giving, reciprocity and fair-burden sharing to address the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and its impact on hosting countries. Your partnership and support in shouldering the impact of the Syria crisis on Jordan has helped us stay resilient in a very difficult and unprecedented regional setting. Jordan’s commitment and sacrifices are well known to the world. And as Jordanians, we stand on highest moral ground in terms of hosting refugees.

The Syrian catastrophe has continued for far too long. Its disastrous consequences have spread in the Middle East and beyond into Europe and elsewhere. This crisis must come to an end. And it must end through a political solution as there can be no military solution to this crisis. Jordan has been working tirelessly with all partners to reach a peaceful political resolution that fulfils the aspirations of the Syrian people and safeguards territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria. Jordan, therefore, supports the Geneva process, as the only platform for agreeing on a political solution, on the basis of Geneva 1 and UNSCR 2254.

We also support the Astana talks as a serious and necessary effort to consolidate a ceasefire across all Syrian territories. Efforts to establish a comprehensive ceasefire, and reach a political settlement must go in parallel. We must do everything we can to stop the killing and end the ongoing destruction. If we fail refugees and host countries, we push the region into the anger and despair. And let us not forget that it is on the loss of hope that radicalism and terrorist ideologies thrive.

Let's prepare Syrian refugees for the task of rebuilding their country, when the canons fall silent and peace prevails again. Let us also work collectively and with international community for the safe return of all refugees to their home as soon as conditions allow for it and in accordance to international law and interests of host countries.

For decades, Jordan, in spite of its limited resources, has always done the right thing especially for those who sought its borders for refuge. The number of registered refugees with UNRWA and UNHCR reached 2.8 million, which makes Jordan the highest registered refugees hosting country worldwide both in absolute and relative terms. We have been also contributing our pivotal share in terms of regional and global peace, stability and security in an unprecedented manner.

Jordan has been setting a model by carrying out a global public good in terms of hosting Syrian refugees and providing the needed services in spite of the tremendous military, security and humanitarian burdens and challenges the country is facing. We are currently hosting about 1.3 million Syrian refugees with only half of them registered with UNHCR. This represents a 20 percent ratio to the Jordanian population and this is equivalent to 100 million refugees being hosted by the EU, not factoring that EU, on average, is more than 500 percent wealthier than Jordan in terms of per capita income.

This sudden influx, and the protracted nature of the crisis now in its seventh year, has pushed our absorptive capacity to its limits. It is impacting all aspects of life in the Kingdom. According to recent studies, the direct cost of the crisis since 2012 has amounted to USD10.6 billion (averaging USD2 billion per year), while the indirect costs are estimated at an annual average of USD3.1-3.5 billion.

Spill-over from the regional crisis has resulted in growing needs, regressed hard-earned development gains, impacted economic growth, increased public debt, in addition to impacting the country’s sustainable development path. Additional investments made over the past few years to accommodate for the sudden influx has led to a significant increase in operation and management costs across service sectors. We are in a situation that has exacerbated poverty and unemployment in many host communities nationwide posing serious risks to social cohesion and national security.

The London Conference brought together leaders from around the globe to meet the challenge of helping those whose lives have been impacted by the worst humanitarian crisis of all times, while also trying to respond to the growing needs of neighbouring host countries. Today’s conference marks yet another major milestone in further shaping the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis, as we meet again to sustain the momentum of London and respond to remaining needs and gaps.

Last year, Jordan and its partners proposed a holistic approach that turns the refugee challenge into an economic opportunity. The Jordan Compact adopted in London is about investment and growth, not just aid and relief. It sets a path to grow investment, boost trade, create economic opportunities, advance reforms, strengthen financial stability, as well as improve the resilience of local communities.

With the support of the international community, 2016 witnessed some good results:

* For the first time funding of the Jordan Response Plan reached about 61 percent compared to about 30 percent funding in previous years.

* Relaxed rules of origin reached with the EU increases the potential for more trade and investments thus creating jobs and training opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

* About 90 percent of registered Syrian refugee children are now enrolled in our public schools.

* 45,000 work permits were issued to Syrian refugees in camps and host communities in sectors open to non-Jordanian workers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jordan is fatigued and has reached its maximum carrying capacity whether in terms of available resources; fiscal space, existing physical and social infrastructure, or capacities of government services. Without the continued support of the international community this will negatively impact our overstretched ability to continue providing necessary services to Syrians whilst maintaining service levels without adversely effecting Jordanian citizens or risking our hard-earned development gains.

Going forward and as we implement the Jordan Compact, it is critical to continue investing successfully in the Jordan model and its Jordan Compact. This requires sufficient resources to rebuild host communities and support host countries. International community must sustain and increase grant funding to the Jordan Response Plan especially priority infrastructure projects in host communities as stipulated in the Jordan Compact and in view that over 90 percent of Syrian refugees are hosted outside refugee camps.

Moreover, Jordan must be provided with increased budgetary support grants and concessionary loans to support the financing gaps Jordan is facing as stipulated in the Jordan Compact and as per the calls of the IMF to the international community. It is, therefore, critical to continue supporting innovative financing schemes such as frontloading the World Bank Global Concessional Financing Facility. We also count on the EU and other partners to assist us in benefiting from simplified rules of origin decision and to attract more investments into the designated development zones.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Even in light of these challenges, Jordan embraces its position at the geographic, political, and economic crossroads of the region. We are proud to stand as a pillar of reform, stability, moderation, inclusion, cooperation and development. We are prepared to serve as a base for future rebuilding and reconstruction efforts in Syria and to the reconstruction efforts across the wider MENA region when the political circumstances allow.

In conclusion, I reiterate our sincere appreciation to your continued efforts and support, however, increased and sustained support remains critical for our collective stability, security and resilience. Let me remind us all, if refugee-hosting countries neighbouring Syria are inadequately supported and left to fail, these needs will not disappear, rather the crisis will simply spread further and the cost in human suffering will be appalling. It is, therefore, incumbent on the international community to collectively sustain momentum since London, increase support to Jordan while addressing gaps so as to continue doing the right thing as we have been doing in Jordan throughout our history.

The conference will seek to: assess where the international community stands collectively in fulfilling commitments made at the London conference in February 2016, reconfirm existing pledges and identify additional support to Syrian inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries, as well as to the respective host communities; boost support for a lasting political resolution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process under the UN auspice, and consider the prospects for post-agreement assistance once a genuinely inclusive political transition is firmly underway.

(Petra)

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