ILO donors visit refugee response frontline in Jordan

Donors examine outcomes of ILO employment programmes for Syrian refugees and Jordanians.

Press release | 30 January 2017
© ILO/Khalil Al Jermi

Mafraq, Jordan (ILO News) - Representatives from various development partners supporting the ILO in Jordan visited the cities of Mafraq and Irbid to witness first-hand how the UN agency is working to ease the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the local labour market.

The delegation included representatives from countries backing the ILO’s Regular Budget Supplementary Account (RBSA), which provides un-earmarked core funding to the ILO to help increase its capacity to deliver and achieve results at the country level.

Members of the delegation spoke to Syrian and Jordanian workers in areas where ILO interventions to promote employment are in place. They also held discussions with government officials and worker and employer representatives on challenges and opportunities faced by on-going interventions.

The ILO said the focus of the three-day visit, which concluded on Thursday (January 26) was to examine how RBSA funding in the context of the Syria refugee crisis has been instrumental in rapidly addressing emerging needs.

“Today we saw the results of efforts that we studied in recent years,” said Gilbert Houngbo, ILO's Deputy Director-General for Field Operations & Partnerships during a visit to Mafraq, one of the areas heavily affected by the influx of Syrian refugees.

“We want to give our donors an opportunity to see what the value added is by their contribution.”

Over recent years, the ILO has used a significant tranche of its RBSA funding to launch activities targeting both Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan. These include advocating for the government to facilitate Syrian refugees’ access to work and livelihoods through giving them work permits in specified sectors in line with Jordanian labour regulations and enhancing employment opportunities and livelihoods in Jordanian communities hosting Syrian refugees.

The ILO also helped draft three-year local economic development plans for Irbid and Mafraq aimed at generating employment in various industries. Pilot projects were implemented in Employment Intensive Investment Programmes (EIIP), aimed at generating jobs, while improving infrastructure.

“I have met and talked with Syrian refugee families in Mafraq today. I was really impressed by their positive attitude and in particular, by the smiles on their faces despite their challenging destiny,” said the representative of the German mission in Geneva. “And if we as donors, through the good work of the ILO, have helped make them smile, then I believe we are going in the right direction.”

The delegation included representatives from Sweden, Norway, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, which back ILO’s RBSA funding. Also on the mission, there were representatives from other donor countries, including Canada, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and South Korea, which also support ILO programmes.

A large part of these efforts includes encouraging female employment, for both Jordanians and Syrians, in a number of sectors.

Syrian Um Mohammad1, has been working as a farmer in Mafraq since 2013 without a work permit. She recently found out about an ILO-supported initiative, which allows agricultural cooperatives to apply for work permit on behalf of workers. “I got my work permit through the cooperative and am now waiting for the farming season to begin,” she said. “I hope that more farms will be willing to employ me now that I have a permit.”

Ansam Al Shawashreh is an unemployed 19-year-old Jordanian who joined an ILO awareness raising session for Jordanian and Syrian women in Irbid aimed at encouraging their involvement in intensive employment initiatives, such as road maintenance work. “I want to work and earn money, and I want to change society's perspective about women in the labour market,” she said.

The ILO’s Syria refugee response is part of the agency’s Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) in Jordan, aimed at reducing Decent Work deficits and strengthening national capacity to mainstream Decent Work in social and economic policies. RBSA gives the Jordan office the flexibility to focus funding on the areas of greatest need and opportunity to achieve the results agreed in the DWCP.

“What I have noticed is that the partners are happy by what they are seeing,” said Houngbo. “Hopefully in a year or two from now, RBSA will be expanded, not only for Jordan and refugees but for the broader ILO mandate.”

Not her real name