Can We Turn the Refuge Crisis Into Opportunity?

By: Marwan Moasher

تم نشره في Wed 30 March / Mar 2016. 12:39 AM
  • مروان المعشر

World Bank studies indicate that the average duration of war and catastrophe refuge is 17 years. Which means the assumption that Syrian refugees will soon return to their home country is historically baseless; evident of this is that very few Iraqi refugees in Jordan have returned to Iraq, even though the “war” there ended more than 13 years ago.

Accordingly, the international community’s approach, adopted by Jordan, should not address humanitarian aspects alone, and leave out the questions of development for refugees, in spite of the difficult economic conditions Jordan endures. And this is not by grace giving to be attained, at all, nor is it suicidal to say that the development of refugee communities is a must. On the contrary, it is vital to the soundness of any policy addressing issues and concerns entailed by hosting refuge; any approach that pillars only on humanitarian aspects without the provision of jobs, education, and health services to refugee communities, contributes to the rise of extremism in the heart of our homes. In turn; a real security problem. And any approach that does not consider local communities on the other hand, will increase tension and hostility towards refugees, and will be massively revoked by citizenry.

Evidently, an effective approach then, has to take into account the needs and requirements of local and refugee communities combined, or else; fail. The latest London Conference signifies international donors are beginning to realise the potentiality of such an approach, and they are beginning to comprise new views entailing developments for both, comprehensively.

But what does this mean for Jordan? Jordan provided what other states did not, save for Lebanon, in the contexts of aiding and helping Syrian refugees. And this has to be remembered, and in return Jordan must be given the support it needs to address this growing crisis. More so, it is not enough to demand more —albeit necessary, grants. More importantly, these grants must be invested in a development plan that raises the economic capacities of Jordan significantly, to create new employment opportunities, because the current growth rate —no more than 3 per cent, is not enough to face the Country’s own current economic crises, let alone the impending issues of refuge in Jordan; how do you reckon it will be with 1.3 million Syrians among us?

Creating jobs for Syrian refugees may begin with the substitution of Asian labour in designated industrial areas for example, or in other sectors Jordanians do not so excitingly tend to. This is a good start, but it is far from sufficient. If we do not invest in-bound additional funds, no matter the size of capital, in developmental capital expenditures that base for an increased demand for Syrian and Jordanian labour, then we are going to face a very difficult challenge by all means; economic, security-wise, and societal. A challenge that cannot be met while wishfully dreaming that Syrian refugees will soon go back to their homes, even if a political settlement is presented tomorrow.

Indeed, the crisis can be turned into opportunity. And it is not impossible to invest in the unemployed energies of Syrian refugees, while in parallel creating jobs for Jordanians. Yet this requires wise economic management of the current and given dynamics, with an integrative, strategic perspective that does not address things in isolation from one another, taking into account that refugees may at least remain in Jordan for the next two decades. Moreover, this policy requires deeply founded partnerships to be constructed between private and public sectors, which is lacking today due to the dominant mistrust on both sides.

Needless to say, we are going through an emergent circumstance. But this is not an excuse not to invest these circumstances in the formulation of a fundamental developmental policy that goes beyond pioneering grant propositions and applications to global donors for more aid that is often not employed for the aims of sustainable development, as much as it is exploited by the reinterring system, that —today is the concrete obstacle holding back our progress to safety.