CFID & IRC Event: Creating Jobs for Refugees

By Francesca Bowen

(This event was hosted at the Institute of Directors in London on 21st February 2017).

Conservative Friends of International Development and The International Rescue Committee (IRC) hosted a panel discussion on creating jobs for Syrian refugees with Rory Stewart MP OBE, Minister of State for International Development, Rt Hon David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, His Excellency Mr Mazen Homoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the UK, Annemieke Tsike-Sossah of the IKEA Foundation, Yonca Dervisoglu Brunini of Google and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington.

Last year the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference held in London pledged to create one million jobs for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This event provided a forum to evaluate the progress following the IRC’s recently published report ‘Creating Jobs for Syrian Refugees: A Case Study of the Jordan Compact’.

Rory Stewart firstly paid tribute to the IRC Report in highlighting Jordan’s pivotal role in shifting the international community’s focus from short term fixes to a longer term more structural response. Jordan’s commitment to issuing 280,000 work permits as well as providing education for children to ensure individuals can be self-sufficient and make their own choices in the future.

DFID works closely with the IMF and Jordanian public sector in order to focus on macroeconomics. By providing the analytical tools to figure out where best to invest, Jordan is investing in public infrastructure such as renewable energy which will provide the 1M+ jobs needed to balance supply and demand. The key take away is that the changes must be driven by the Jordanian government and refugees. The UK Government and DFID listen, guide and support them through the process.

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Jordanian Ambassador Mazen Hamoud detailed the goal of the Jordanian Compact was in one part employment the other part financial sustainability in order to conclude a win-win-win situation: refugees, Jordan and the international community.

Hammed highlights that in a protectionist world where the Western economies are reducing immigration, Jordan has offered openess and long term integration plans. Less than 10% of refugees are in camps, free vocational centres have been set up and more than one hundred sites are open for refugees to receive work permits. Hammed emphasises the success of this model and that it should be adopted internationally.

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Yonca Brunini, VP of Google EMEA emphasised the importance of private investment. Developing the InfoHub app (with IRC) to help refugees in transit, the 20,000 Chrome Books donated towards the crisis, and the 5x increase usage of google translate in Germany for visual signs into arabic are all positive examples of how technology can help fix short term issues. Of the total $16M spent towards the crisis so far, Google is also invested in education, providing training in digital skills. Yonca predicts 1M new jobs in tech will needed to be filled in the Middle East and Africa.

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David Miliband noted that the cross party dialogue and collaboration of international development is an enormous strength of the UK government and one that is commended around the world for its speed and determination to execute its work. DFID is the global leader in both policy and practice.

David offers some perspective on myths about international development. The first being the idea that it is a short term problem: it is unlikely refugees can return home for decades, in fact less than 2% went home last year. The second myth is that the West bear the burden of the crisis. In Jordan, there are 89 refugees per 1000 population; whereas just 1.9 in the UK and in the US a total of just 12,000 have been allowed to enter since the crisis began.

With this disparity, it is vital that countries like Jordan build an economic pillar that ensures locals also thrive. International aid budget, government leadership, NGO work and a significant private element all play critical roles needed to support the Jordanian Compact.

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AnneMieke Tsike-Sossah from the IKEA Foundation’s strategy is to create opportunities for refugees without depending on external resources. Ikea leverages its own job opportunities to employ refugees, provide culture and language workshops and play a part in the solutions (e.g. invest in renewable energy in Jordan).

The Next Generation Program being run in Jordan is accelerating business opportunities by creating a range of textile products to export out, and therefore contributing to the larger economy.

Key Takeaways

David suggests that we must reshape humanitarian sector so it becomes a force or independence, not just economic survival. We must recognise and support Jordan for delivering on a global public good.

Yonca believes in equal access to technology and education through working with partners such as the IRC.

Anne-Mieke and the IKEA Foundation is shaping a unitary response. The key is to work with local people and communities, somewhere big businesses cannot always reach.

Rory notes we must recognise the enormous suffering. Whilst this is a macroeconomic issue, we must not lose sight of what it feels like to be a refugee.