COOP Champions

Amaal Bani Awwad, National Project Coordinator at ILO Jordan

COOP Champions features ILO colleagues from around the world working on cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. It highlights their contributions, and shares highlights of their experiences, current work, and future aspirations.

Article | 21 April 2021

Could you tell us about yourself? How did you get interested and involved in your work at the ILO?

Amaal Bani Awwad
I work as a national project coordinator for the ILO’s ‘Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities’ in Jordan, also known as the PROSPECTS partnership, which brings together the ILO, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank, with support from the Government of the Netherlands.

My focus is on the career counselling and employment services aspects of the programme, which provides supports to both Jordanian host community members and Syrian refugees.

Prior to joining the ILO, I had worked for twenty years in the field of employment, mostly with Jordan’s Ministry of Labour, where I worked in various departments, such as that of labour inspection, and aspects related to the formalization of non-Jordanian workers. I have also worked extensively in career guidance and job placement services.

These experiences and areas of expertise have led me to work with the ILO.

What has been the focus of your work with cooperatives in Jordan at the ILO?

When I first joined the ILO in 2016, my work focused on promoting the formalisation and regulation of Syrian refugees in Jordan’s labour market. This was the same year the Jordan Compact was signed, reducing the barriers of formal employment to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

This was the start of my work with cooperatives.

The ILO partnered with cooperatives to provide better employment support and advance livelihoods opportunities for refugees and host communities, particularly those working in the agricultural sector. After an initial assessment to better understand the capacities, strengths and weaknesses of agricultural cooperatives in Jordan, we partnered with 24 cooperatives.

My role in this process was to support these cooperatives in providing employment services to Syrian refugee workers, such as facilitating the process of the work permit application and referring them to the farms. This was the first time in which cooperatives in Jordan took on such a role.

Our role as the ILO was to build their capacities and raise their awareness on the importance of flexible work permits, labour rights and responsibilities, and decent work principles so they could, in return, sensitize workers on these critical issues. We have also been working with them on ways to facilitate linkages between job-seekers and employment opportunities on farms.

Since then, our collaboration with cooperatives has continued to grow. Through ILO technical and financial support, cooperatives were able to help establish 38 joint business ventures between Jordanian and Syrian refugees. These initiatives created over 250 jobs for women and men, but equally important, they helped foster collaboration between members of both communities, where they were able to work side-by-side, to set up small businesses and create jobs and livelihoods opportunities for themselves and others.

In my current role under the PROSPECTS partnership, I continue to work closely with cooperatives. Through the programme, we have supported the establishment of six Agriculture Guidance and Employment Units (AGEUs) to enable cooperatives to provide career guidance and job placement services to Jordanians, Syrian refugees and migrant workers in the agriculture sector. These units have further strengthened the role of cooperatives in creating jobs and promoting decent work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where such support is greatly needed.

Under PROSPECTS, we are also working in other areas that contribute to the development of the cooperative movement in the country. We recently adapted and translated ILO’s training materials on cooperatives and have trained cooperative members on those tools, in collaboration with the Cooperatives Unit of the ILO and the International Training Centre of the ILO in Turin. We are also working closely with the Government of Jordan and the Jordanian Cooperative Corporation on the development of a national strategy for the cooperative movement, which will be launched soon.

How do you see the future of cooperatives in Jordan in relation to key issues such as forced displacement, rural development and food security and youth and women’s employment?

Cooperatives around the world play a critical role in achieving sustainable development at the socio-economic level. They provide opportunities for the establishment of business ventures, which help tackle unemployment and poverty particularly among the most vulnerable.

In Jordan, cooperatives play a role in economic development mainly in rural development, food security and the employment of young women and men, and I believe this will continue to grow.

This will be further achieved through the regulation of existing cooperatives or through establishing new ones, which are autonomous, inclusive and self-reliant, based on universal cooperative values and principles, so that they can realise their objectives in contributing to the sustainable development of Jordan and its people.

Jordan continues to host large numbers of refugees who have been forced to flee their home-countries in search of security and safety. Cooperatives have played and continue to play an important role in addressing some of the labour market challenges that have emerged as a result of these crises, by supporting vulnerable groups, be they host community members of refugees, to find decent employment and livelihoods opportunities, which are formal and which contribute to a decent and dignified way of life.

Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for allowing refugees to become members of cooperatives or allowing them to establish cooperatives. This will greatly facilitate their access to decent livelihoods opportunities, which in return would allow them to contribute to enhancing productivity in the sectors where they work and to the societies that are hosting them.