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61 INGOs review Jordan Compact pledges ahead of Brussels conference

‘More is needed to aptly respond to needs of refugees, hosts’

By Camille Dupire - Apr 23,2018 - Last updated at Apr 23,2018

In this recent photo, a Syrian refugee carries water at Zaatari camp in the northwest of Jordan (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — A network of 61 international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) working in Jordan have recently come together to produce “Walk the Talk”, a review of the achievements and remaining challenges of the commitments made to improve the resilience of refugees and host communities in the Kingdom.

The common memorandum was published a few days ahead of the second two-day Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, which kicks off today to discuss the humanitarian support to the region and the bolstering of the UN-led political peace process, co-chaired by the EU and the UN.

“As the international community and the government of Jordan are expected to renew their commitments to supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan, the Jordan INGO forum [JIF] has reviewed the progress made and gaps in relation to the Jordan Compact, two years after its signature,” said JIF advocacy coordinator Mathilde Vu, noting that the publication aims to “provide a detailed assessment of the major commitments made in the livelihood and education sectors, and offer an evidence based comparison between what was committed, what has been achieved and what we recommend”.

Dubbed “Walk the Talk”, the common publication started by highlighting the several areas of improvements in terms of school attendance, noting that the enrolment of Syrian refugee children in public schools increased from 126,127 children in 2016-2017 to 130,382 in 2017-2018. 

A total of 6,000 out-of-school children were provided with certified non-formal education, such as catch-up and dropout programmes, while 209 double-shift schools opened across the country. Some 118,107 children, including those vulnerable in host communities, were also provided with non-certified learning support services, according to JIF.

The forum further commended the government’s decision to extend a grace period enabling all children to enrol in schools regardless of their nationality and documentation status, noting that it also allowed refugee children who had missed the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year to enrol in the second semester.

“Opening school to all children, regardless of the documents they possess has been a very positive step — but, once again, very much focused on enrolment numbers. We now need extra efforts to reinforce the quality of education, and tackle the underlying barriers to education, which are mainly poverty driven,” Vu told The Jordan Times, stressing that these indicators “are not comprehensive enough. School enrolment numbers say nothing on actual school attendance, school retention or the quality of education. Unfortunately, the reality of dropping out has been overlooked, whereas we know that a large percentage of school Syrian refugee children in Jordan were at one point enrolled in education and have since dropped out”.

She cited the 68 per cent of drop out rate of previously enrolled Syrian refugee children, underscoring that the formal system remains “overburdened, with overcrowded classrooms and condensed teaching time in double-shift schools”.

While acknowledging the many positive steps taken in the educational sector such as large teacher training programmes and the establishment of a national centre for curricula development, the advocate pointed out that “it is clear that the enrolment target set in the compact was not achieved, as the quality of education and of the learning environment have dropped and violence in and around school constitute a strong concern.”

“Ultimately, Syrian refugees still face poor employment prospects upon completing basic education, despite the efforts exerted by Jordan to largely facilitate their access to work permits,” she commented on the livelihoods aspect, adding: “While the numbers of registered workers are progressing, work permits do not necessarily mean new jobs, decent working conditions or increased revenue generation for Syrian refugees.”

“Poverty levels remain very high and restrictions still impose barriers on access to formal work in specific sectors or to skilled positions and it remains extremely difficult for Syrian refugees to create and register their own business,” Vu continued, calling for “more flexibility to yield real results”.

Currently in Brussels to represent the views of the 61 INGOs working in Jordan, Vu voiced their hope to see “both Jordan and the international community renewing their commitment to supporting Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, both in terms of financial pledges but also additional reforms that strengthen their resilience”.

“We are particularly attentive to the protection of refugees, which is a condition sine qua non for the implementation of the Jordan Compact: the questions of legal registration, freedom of movement and the respect of the principle of non-refoulement should be reconfirmed in Brussels,” she concluded, noting “INGOs will continue monitoring the commitments from Brussels, and give reality checks as we move forward.”

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