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In Search of Work - Creating Jobs for Syrian Refugees: A Case Study of the Jordan Compact

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Executive Summary

The war in Syria has raged on for six years, causing a staggering 11 million people to flee for their lives — the largest refugee crisis of our time.

More than six million are displaced inside the country, and nearly five million have fled to nearby countries in search of safety. But many, including the 1.7 million Syrians registered in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon, are living in precarious circumstances.

On 4 February 2016, the international community came together at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London, hosted by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations (UN) to bring more resources and assistance to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of those affected by the crisis. Participants of the conference stepped up in significant ways: donors pledged US$12 billion in new financing until 2020 plus US$40 million in new loans, and the World Bank negotiated ground-breaking concessional financing agreements with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The conference outcomes and pledges were reflected in three distinct agreements with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey known as ‘compacts’.

The one year anniversary is an important moment to reflect on progress against these compact agreements, and determine how to ensure better outcomes for refugees and host communities in the immediate and longer-term. This report evaluates progress against the Jordan Compact to date and outlines the lessons the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has learned through its work on refugee livelihoods, including its Million Jobs Challenge initiative. Based on these findings, we aim to inform governments, humanitarian and development stakeholders on the challenges still facing Syrian refugees in Jordan who are trying to find work.

We commend the Jordan Compact partners for bringing new financing and making strides towards necessary policy changes; however, progress towards improving economic opportunities for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians has been slow and uneven. The Compact is a new type of partnership which perhaps explains some of this. It also reflects, in part, the economic, social and structural challenges in the Jordanian context, such as high unemployment rates and a poor investment climate, as well as revealing weaknesses in the Compact’s design and management.

At the same time, there are opportunities to improve the Compact and better align efforts with the facts on the ground, including refugees’ experiences with the work permit and business formalisation processes, and the specific vulnerabilities that women face in search of safe and decent work. We support the overall approach of the Compact because it has the potential to bring real improvement to the lives of refugees in Jordan however, it is important to be clear that this is not a substitute for donor countries meeting their obligations to host refugees within their own borders.

This report concludes with recommendations including an annual review and subsequent adjustments to the Jordan Compact to ensure that more sustainable job opportunities are generated and the needs of Syrian refugees and Jordanians are met. It calls on the Government of Jordan to reform its work permit and business formalisation processes; on donors and the Government of Jordan to modify their investment strategy, accounting for the specific needs of refugees; and on all Compact partners to establish a better accountability mechanism.