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 IRC recommends that the following actions are taken in 2017:

To overcome policy barriers faced by refugees, the Government of Jordan should:

  1. Implement a Protection Guarantee to help existing rights become a lived reality, by ensuring refugees have safe, accessible, and affordable pathways to obtain Ministry of Interior documentation that allows freedom of movement and provides a credible basis for formal recourse in the event of exploitation, harassment, or abuse.  
  2. Immediately delink work permits from one job/employer and expand the number of sectors and professions open to refugees, en route to a general right to work for refugees.
  3. Rapidly simplify, incentivise and promote business formalisation processes, especially by improving availability of credit information and access to credit.

To improve the design and implementation of the Jordan Compact, donors, in conjunction with the Government of Jordan, should:

  1. Support self-employment opportunities by: 
    • Introducing a Business Booster Package, or a cash grant programme, to stimulate the creation of new enterprises and promote the growth of existing ones; and
    • Exploring opportunities in the gig economy and other freelance work that allow for flexible hours and choice. 
  2. Expand new trade access policies to firms outside Special Economic Zones that meet the current requirement of employing at least 15 per cent of refugees by year one and 20 per cent by year two.
  3. Favour investment in SEZs that are most proximate to refugee and host residential areas to maximise linkages with the local economy and in sectors such as technology, that offer higher quality job opportunities.
  4. Implement gender-specific employment solutions that reflect the unique constraints faced by women in accessing employment, and enhance support for female labour force participation so that the number of work permits held by women grows from 2 per cent to 15 per cent by the end of 2017.
  5. Provide refugees with the material support and information needed to access employment opportunities, such as subsidised transportation and childcare; for example, ensure that SEZs have childcare on site, provide bus passes or free travel for employees, and create a digital portal for employment information.

To improve the management of the Jordan Compact, partners should:  

  1. Consult refugees to better understand and address their unique constraints and needs, and then design interventions that can help them overcome those barriers.
  2. Develop an accountability mechanism with an annual review and adjustment process for key actors including Government of Jordan ministries, the World Bank, donor governments and UN agencies, setting out key tasks and measures for implementation for each Compact promise and dates for milestones to be met.