Jobs Make the Difference: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities

New study provides pragmatic suggestions to help in creating decent employment and expand economic opportunities for Syrian refugees and communities hosting them

Apr 5, 2017

Brussels - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Food Programme (WFP) launched today, on the side-lines of the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, their joint report entitled “Jobs Makes the Difference: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities.” The six-country study argues that expanding access to economic opportunities for those affected by the Syrian crisis must be a priority. However, it is equally makes it clear that the current response to the crisis, despite recent successes, is unlikely to be sufficient.

The Syria crisis has entered its seventh year and its impact extends far beyond the region. Neighbouring countries remain at the front line, providing a global public good, but the number of Syrian refugees is at an all-time high, exceeding 5 million for the first time since the start of the crisis.

In the Supporting Syria and the Region conference – held in London in February 2016 – countries hosting refugees from Syria and international community agreed to creating 1.1 million new jobs for Syrian refugees and their hosts. Host nations committed to opening their labour markets and supporting businesses through improved regulations and the international community committed to supporting employment creation programs and concessional financing. The private sector committed to providing new investment. The ambitious promise of the London Conference to create 1.1 million jobs by 2018, requires both rapid action and rapid reflection on what is working and what is not. This UNDP, ILO, and WFP study is designed to achieve the second goal.

Jobs Makes the Difference is a bottom up analysis that draws largely on qualitative data, primarily drawn from around 120 interviews on the humanitarian and development aspects of the crisis, conducted with representatives from business communities, governments, NGOs, donors and international organizations in Egypt, Jordan, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, and supplemented with a review of existing studies and verified through expert consultations.

“People affected by the Syria crisis need peace and security first-and-foremost. However they also need jobs, and they cannot wait for the crisis to end in order to make ends meet,” said Mourad Wahba, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States. “The Jobs Makes the Difference study recognizes the central role that host countries in the region play in responding to the protracted crisis, and acknowledges the important policy shifts that they have pursued to get people affected by the crisis back to work”

Alongside Mourad Wahba, the launch of the study featured a panel including, Ruba Jaradat, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Arab States, ILO; Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, WFP; Ingrid Gabriela Hoven, Director-General, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany; and H.E. Martin Bille Hermann, State Secretary for Development Policy, Denmark; and was moderated by Amin Awad, Regional Director, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Panellists confirmed that structural vulnerabilities of the economies in the region and the dismal track record across the region in creating jobs render the London goal of achieving 1.1 million new jobs extremely challenging. The underscored that such a goal requires significant investments in terms of partnerships, knowledge, technology and financial resources and that no single agency or government institution can achieve it alone. They stressed that the time for coalitions and long-term investments has come and warned that should a greater investment in livelihoods and jobs not be mobilized now, the negative consequences of the crisis will continue and deepen.

The key conclusion of the “Jobs make the Difference” assessment is that only a well-coordinated joint effort can achieve the immediate scaling up of employment generating opportunities, as well as greater effectiveness, accountability and consistency. In response, several UN agencies, including, FAO, ILO, IOM, UNDP, UN HABITAT, UNHCR and WFP have agreed to bring the UN’s collective knowledge, capacities and resources together in an integrated partnership for decent work and livelihoods, based on their comparative advantages and technical expertise.

UN agencies and partners in Syria and neighbouring countries continue to deliver innovative and impactful employment interventions to strengthen the self-reliance and the resilience of host communities, refugees and internally displaced people.