Joint regional report
Brussels conference 2018: PROMISE TO PRACTICE, Following through on commitments to support the future, of Syria and the region
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The conflict in Syria has created the largest displacement crisis in well over a generation, possibly since the second world war. Six million people remain displaced internally, more than five million are registered as refugees in neighbouring countries and over a million more have fled to Europe or elsewhere. Despite a moderate increase in return of mostly internally displaced people in 2017, the last year saw three newly displaced Syrians for every person who returned home. The recent escalations of violence in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta dramatically underline the point that Syria’s conflict, and the ordeal for its civilians, is far from over.
The international community has made significant financial and political commitments to address the massive scale of this crisis, in particular through two major conferences, held in London in 2016, and Brussels in 2017. A follow up conference will be held in Brussels on 24-25 April 2018.
Last year’s Brussels conference saw pledges of US$6 billion, and a further US$3.7 billion for 2018-2020. This funding has meant millions of people inside Syria can access humanitarian assistance. It has supported refugees and poor host communities, as well as the governments in neighbouring countries who have shouldered much of the response. It remains as vital as ever.
Furthermore, donors and host countries at these conferences adopted a “comprehensive approach” to responding to the refugee crisis. They made commitments to attempt to ensure refugee families and the poor communities that host them can access work and education. These commitments aimed to create 1.1 million jobs in the region, for example, and ensure all refugee children were in school by the end of the last school year. They subsequently recognised the importance of giving refugees legal protection in order to achieve these goals, and the need for resettlement of vulnerable refugees and other safe and legal pathways beyond the immediate region.
Yet, as the Syrian crisis enters its eighth year, the lives of many of the five million refugees in neighbouring countries have seen little improvement, and the number of refugees offered resettlement has actually fallen since the commitments made last year.
This reports details the commitments made in previous years and tracks their implementation. It then offers specific recommendations for those gathering this year for the second conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” in Brussels, to ensure the ambitious and comprehensive approach is translated into real changes in the lives of refugees and vulnerable communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The stakes are high: failure to follow through on or properly fund these commitments would carry serious consequences, including many people returning to Syria before it is safe to do so.
Importantly, 39 aid agencies and 3 interagency bodies call on the conference to reaffirm that the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified returns of refugees, in accordance with international law, are still not in place.2 We also call on participants to agree to an accountability mechanism, based on international best practice, to ensure that the necessary funding pledges are disbursed and the ambitious policy pledges committed to at the first Brussels and London conferences are implemented.
Jordan INGO Forum (JIF); Lebanon Humanitarian INGO Forum (LHIF); Syria INGO Regional Forum (SIRF)
Arcenciel; ABAAD; Action Against Hunger (ACF); ActionAid; Akkar Network for Development; Al Majmoua; Act for Human Rights (ALEF); Amel Association International (Amel); Basmeh w Zeitooneh;Bibliotheques sans frontieres; Catholic international development charity (CAFOD); CARE International; Caritas Lebanon; Caritas Switzerland; Christian Aid: Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA); Dorcas; Danish Refugee Coucil (DRC); Finn Church Aid; Human Appeal; International Rescue Committee (IRC); Lebanese Center for Human Rights; Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST); Makassed Association; Makhzoumi Foundation; Médecins du Monde (MdM); Mercy Corps; Norwegian Refuge Council (NRC); Oxfam; People in Need; SAWA for Development and Aid; Save the Children; SHEILD Association; Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS); Syria Relief and Development; Tabitha; Union of Relief and Development Associations (URDA); Youth for Development; World Vision International
Cover Photo: Eduardo Soteras / DRC
Specific recommendations for Jordan
While acknowledging the many positive steps taken, donors and the government of Jordan should undertake the following steps to improve the design and implementation of the Jordan Compact:
- Stimulate the creation of new enterprises and promote the growth of existing ones by:
- incentivising and promoting business-formalisation processes, especially by simplifying procedures and improving access to credit
- promoting self-employment opportunities for Syrian refugees through the gig economy and other freelance work that allows for flexible hours and choice, and by extending the recently announced home-based business instruction to Syrian refugees, allowing them to open and register home-based businesses.
- Accelerate efforts to reduce informal work by reducing work-permit restrictions, creating more flexible quotas in the service sector, and expanding the sectors and professions open to refugees. Labour conditions in the formal job market should also be improved and better scrutinised by the Ministry of Labour.
- Expand new trade access policies to qualifying firms outside Special Economic Zones and closer to urban hubs, which agree to meet the requirement of employing at least 15% of refugees by year one and 20% by year two.
- Introduce diversified targets to include micro-economic indicators of household welfare, such as increased in household income, improved retention rates and the opening up of additional sectors to Syrians. Particular attention should be given to gender with specific indicators assessing both Syrian and Jordanian women’s engagement in livelihoods programmes.
- Stimulate the creation of new enterprises and promote the growth of existing ones by:
- Continue to expand access into the formal education system and certified non-formal learning opportunities whilst strengthening quality by addressing the space shortage and expanding school coverage in priority areas, as well as investing in teacher training, remuneration and benefits.
- Address livelihoods and protection barriers through better coordination across sectors by:
- expanding child-sensitive social-protection programmes, including providing conditional cash transfers to increase school attendance and retention, and improve parents’ access to long-term livelihood opportunities
- improving unregistered refugees’ access to services through a consistent application of the regularisation process and an enhanced Urban
- Help schools and the Department of Education to use the Education Management Information system to better manage school enrolment
- Increase the accountability and efficiency of the education strategy by making learning outcomes and quality the measure of success, and by including refugees in the national education strategic plan.
- Make registration procedures easier for Syrian refugees in host communities by allowing those who have not been able to re-register with MoI or UNHCR to do so, particularly those who left the camps without going through the procedures. There should also be a periodic review of the ongoing urban verification exercise and the regularisation process.
- Ensure due process is respected in cases of deportation and forced relocation to camps, and provide anyone at risk of deportation to Syria with the opportunity to access legal support.
- Expedite the screening of Village 5 residents in Azraq camp, with clear and transparent screening procedures communicated to refugees. Ensure refugees already screened out of Village 5 are granted the same rights to movement and work as other camp residents.
- Alleviate suffering for the population of concern residing at the north-eastern border (berm) by upholding their right to seek asylum and ensuring their access to humanitarian assistance and support services, including by making sure more people can access the nearby clinics.
- Delay the implementation of the new policy so that all health providers can prepare financially and logistically for a change in health coverage.
- Establish, with the collaboration of health partners, a list of life-saving care that will remain covered as per the previous policy.