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UN, World Bank chiefs to visit Jordan next week

By Khetam Malkawi - Mar 19,2016 - Last updated at Mar 19,2016

A Syrian refugee rides a bicycle at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, some 90km northeast of Amman, in late February (Photo by Muath Freij)

AMMAN — Leaders of two influential world organisations are due in Jordan before the end of this month to communicate the international community’s commitment to supporting the Kingdom and other countries of the region as they cope with the consequences of conflict and instability.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia from March 24 to 28, said a World Bank statement sent to The Jordan Times on Saturday.


The statement added that the two leaders will be also joined by the President of the Islamic Development Bank Group Mohammed Ali Al Madani in their visit to Lebanon. 

“The joint visit aims to communicate the international community’s commitment to support the region as it copes with the consequences of conflict and instability, and to strengthen the growing partnerships between the organisations,” the statement said.

During their visit to Jordan that hosts more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees, Kim and Ki-moon will visit refugees and hosting communities. “The visit will also focus on addressing widespread youth unemployment through improving the quality and relevance of education, and promoting economic empowerment and opportunities,” according to the World Bank.

The visit also comes ahead of the International Conference for the new Financing Initiative to support the MENA region which will take place next month, a follow up on Lima 2015 announcement where the three institutions announced a new Financing Initiative to support the MENA region.

The April event will be co-chaired by Kim, Ki-moon and Al Madani – ministers from G7, Gulf Cooperation Council and broader European countries, as well as the heads of various international and regional organisations, where they will gather at the World Bank Group headquarters to pledge their support for the new Financing Initiative to support the MENA region.

In a meeting in Lima last October, the three leaders announced a joint initiative to scale-up financing in the MENA region to help countries hosting significant refugee populations, countries impacted by conflict, as well as countries that have significant investment needs to achieve economic recovery.

A separate World Bank document on this initiative sent to The Jordan Times said “Financing Initiative is now gathering steam”. 

Over 50 countries and organisations participated and agreed to finalise the design of the innovative financing initiative in 2016. 

The proposed financing initiative consists of two distinct mechanisms to support countries impacted by conflict and economic slowdown, as well as those affected by large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons.

Under the first mechanism, guarantees from donor countries would be leveraged in order to issue special bonds, including sukuk or Islamic bonds, to finance economic recovery and reconstruction projects.

In the second mechanism, grants from donor countries would be used to provide concessional finance to middle-income countries of the region hosting the bulk of refugees.

“This initiative will create a unique platform among multilateral development banks and the UN to strengthen coordination on development assistance to the region at this critical juncture,” according to a World Bank statement.

It added that at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference that took place in February in London, the World Bank Group announced that it will triple its investments in the region as compared to the previous five years. 

“Funding from the new Financing Initiative to support the MENA region combined with current programmes is expected to total about $20 billion over the coming five years. Furthermore, the new Financing Initiative to support the MENA region aims to raise $1 billion in grants from donors over the next five years, which will be leveraged to provide $3 billion to $4 billion in highly concessional loans for Jordan and Lebanon.” 

In addition, in response to the current crisis, the World Bank Board of Directors have taken the extraordinary measure of approving $200 million in direct concessional financing to create jobs and increase access to education in Jordan and Lebanon.

Last month, executive directors from the World Bank Group visited the Kingdom as part of a regional tour that also includes Lebanon, to witness first-hand the scale and acuteness of the refugee crisis in these countries, and to explore with stakeholders the needs and priorities of the refugees as well as the hosting communities.

The board, which represents over 62 countries and close to 46 per cent of the voting power of the World Bank spent two days looking very closely at what the regional situation has been and to what extent it is negatively impacting government services and host communities.

At a press conference following that visit, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said Jordan is currently negotiating with the World Bank over a $500 million loan for the year 2016 under new and simplified terms Jordan had previously not been entitled to due to its ranking as an upper-middle-income country.

Fakhoury said such concessional loans are usually given with an interest rate of less than 3 per cent, and “we are negotiating with the World Bank to obtain these loans at 1 per cent interest and a longer grace period”.


Jordan secured the waiver during the refugee donor meeting in London on February 4, where officials negotiated for easy lending and grants to shift international response to the Syrian refugee crisis from an emergency and relief mode to a sustainable development mode. 

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