Jordan is a lower-middle-income country, with a population of 10.5 million. Efforts of political, social and economic reform started a decade ago and were largely stalled after the start of the Syria crisis and the quality of the services declined especially in the education and health sectors.
Jordan remains a resource poor, food-deficit country with limited agricultural land, no energy resources and scarce water supply. Jordan, being one of the most water scarce countries in the world, is facing an aggravating imbalance between the demand and the available supply of fresh water.
A major challenge facing Jordan remains to reinvigorate the economy and the labour market. Jordan shows a bloated public sector in combination with a week private sector. Unemployment is a major concern especially for women and youth, according to the Department of Statistics, unemployment soared to 19.2% in the second quarter of 2019.
Jordan is coping with a large influx of refugees having fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Approximately 665,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, and the government estimates that the total number of Syrians in the country is around 1.4 million. So far, return movements remain marginal and are not expected to grow in the near future. Since the re-opening on Nasib-Jaber Border with Syria, in October 2018, approximately 30,000 have returned to Syria, in one year. While 22% live in camps, the vast majority are so-called "urban refugees", scattered across villages and towns, seeking shelter wherever available. An estimated 15,000 asylum seekers are currently stranded at the north-eastern border of Rukban between Jordan and Syria with extremely limited access to humanitarian aid.
In addition, 2.1 million Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA, of whom 18% are living in 10 refugee camps across Jordan. An estimated 16,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) are hosted in Jordan.
Poverty among refugees is widespread. The inability to find legal decent work coupled with insufficient levels of assistance is pushing a growing number of Syrian refugees to adopt negative coping mechanisms such as child labour and child marriage, engaging in informal and precarious work conditions or unsafe returns to Syria.
The number of (non-Syrian) migrant workers in Jordan is estimated to 1 million, out of which 370,000 are registered officially with the Ministry of Labour, the majority being Egyptians with other migrants coming from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh, working in agriculture, construction, garment, tourism and domestic work. More than half of them are undocumented, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation, detention and deportation.
The long duration of hosting a big number of refugees impacts Jordan considerably and amplifies existing systemic weaknesses. Therefore Switzerland complements its primarily humanitarian engagement with development efforts through South Cooperation and the Global Programs Water and Migration and Development.
Swiss Cooperation Programme Middle East 2019-2022
The overall goal of the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Middle East 2019-2022 for Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq is to contribute to protect and empower conflict-affected and vulnerable persons, to reconstruct lives, to reduce fragility, to prevent and transform violent conflicts and to generate development perspectives, to promote good governance and protect human rights, refugee laws as well as the respect of IHL.
Switzerland focuses on four domains of interventions: Protection and Migration; Education and Income; Water and Sanitation; and Conflict Prevention and Peace Promotion. The Transversal Themes are Good Governance as well as Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The latter will be addressed both through mainstreaming gender and a continuation of stand-alone SGBV projects. Durable solutions for displaced persons are promoted where possible in accordance with context developments. In Jordan, Switzerland aims primarily at meeting the urgent needs of refugees as well as mitigating tensions between local communities and refugees, while also addressing more generally migration related challenges. The estimated annual budget for Jordan is CHF 22 million.
For insights on the activities under the Swiss Cooperation Programe Middle East, please refer to these stories:
Previous Cooperation Programmes: