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Brussels meet on Syria: Transforming refugee crisis into refugee opportunity

Jun 29,2020 - Last updated at Jun 29,2020

Jordan and Germany share many values. When we look at the crisis in Syria, it is foremost the humanitarian approach towards refugees that both countries have been demonstrating for years, in very close cooperation with UNHCR. Together, we have been following and applying humanitarian principles in action.

Today, on June 30, 2020, the Brussels IV Ministerial Conference titled "Supporting the future of Syria and the region" is being held. With the conflict entering its 10th year, the situation in Syria and the region remains highly concerning: The dire humanitarian situation, with millions of Syrians internally displaced and having sought refuge in Syria's neighbouring countries, is now being further compounded by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important to recall that the Syria crisis is not primarily a refugee crisis. The number of refugees from Syria is, in reality, only the symptom of a far-reaching crisis in international cooperation. The international community has not managed to find a solution to the conflict in Syria thus far. We believe a solution can only be political and not achieved by military means.

With the focus today in Brussels on Syria and the region, we would like to draw the attention to the situation in Jordan and to what the Kingdom has achieved in past years. We would also like to underline our joint aim of working towards even greater solidarity in the approach towards refugees, greater international cooperation among the host countries and more multilateralism! This means that, firstly, we must share the load among more and broader shoulders — a joint goal of the Global Refugee Forum in late 2019, which Germany and UNHCR co-convened. And, secondly, we must offer refugees the prospects for living self-determined lives. Lives in dignity.

Germany will continue to support both of these objectives, in its double role as the second biggest bilateral donor to Jordan and as the fifth largest host country for refugees worldwide. In recent years, we have seen how it is not easy, even for a country of Germany’s size and economic strength, to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees. Yet how much more difficult must this be for a country with fewer resources like Jordan?

Jordan deserves our greatest respect and recognition for hosting a large number of Syrian refugees. With the support of the international community, Jordan has made significant progress during the last years and as a consequence, the lives of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians have improved: Access to education, housing and public services such as water and electricity are now available to more refugees and vulnerable Jordanians than ever before. 

Nevertheless, continued support is needed, both for delivering assistance and implementing necessary reforms. This is why Germany and the European Union will continue to help Jordan, and also to look after refugees which have been generously included in national response plans from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Germany as Jordan's second largest bilateral donor supported the country since 2012 with 3.3 billion euros. In 2019 alone, the German government made new commitments totalling 880 million euros. When German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Jordan on June 10, 2020, he underlined that the Kingdom responded swiftly and decisively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Germany is supporting the Jordanian government in this important task with 32 new testing devices and 23,000 testing kits.

UNHCR is and remains one of Germany’s largest and most important partners in the field of humanitarian assistance. In the past five years, Germany has more than tripled its contributions to UNHCR. In 2020, Germany is aiming to maintain its support to UNHCR’s ongoing programmes at similar levels as last year and has provided an additional 35 million euros dedicated to UNHCR’s COVID-19 response.

Another important aspect is to improve refugees’ prospects for the future. To do so, we need to invest in their education. Jordan is setting an example in this regard, thereby following a key aim of the Global Compact on Refugees. When it comes to the field of higher education, Germany is making available 13 million euros in 2020 for an initiative that is called DAFI, named after one of the most famous German refugees, namely Albert Einstein. Last year alone, the DAFI initiative — which is implemented by UNHCR — has awarded 8,347 fellowships to refugees in 54 countries. With 700 DAFI students supported in Jordan, the Kingdom ranks among the top five host countries.

The fact that people flee from war, hunger, natural disasters or persecution is as old as humanity itself. It will not go away. However, by acting in concert as today in Brussels, we can manage to better deal with the effects of displacement. If we continue to build the capacities of refugees then what may appear to be a refugee crisis will in reality become a refugee opportunity.

 

Birgitta Siefker-Eberle is the German ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Dominik Bartsch is UNHCR representative in Jordan

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