Expanding Economic Opportunities in Protracted Displacement

Miki Takahashi, Michael Moroz, Jonathan Peters, Jason Pronyk and Richard Barltrop

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 45-48



The ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’ conference in London in 2016 set an ambitious target to create up to 1.1 million new jobs for refugees and host communities by 2018—but there was no clarity around how, where, and for whom these jobs would be created. A 2016 joint assessment by the ILO, UNDP and WFP in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria identifies several approaches to generating economic opportunities in refugee-hosting countries, which have been successful in at least one country and are potentially replicable in the region, including: (1) expanding access to EU market, e.g. widening access to certain Jordanian exports to the UK has stimulated investment and employment of Jordanians and Syrians; (2) facilitating Syrian private investment and allowing Syrians to start businesses and access industrial infrastructure, e.g. in Egypt and Turkey this has led to economic growth in some sectors and the employment of both nationals and refugees; (3) expanding refugees access to information, e.g. establishment of community centers in refugee hosting areas in Turkey to share information about work opportunities; (4) encouraging aid organizations to use direct, local procurement; (5) providing concessional financing for infrastructure; (6) allowing Syrians to provide services for other Syrians, e.g. employment of teachers and medical workers in Turkey; and (7) including both refugees and host communities as beneficiaries in all projects. The joint assessment also highlights challenges relating to: coordination, work permits (insufficient on their own to expand meaningful employment opportunities for Syrian refugees), vocational training, information, and designing humanitarian assistance to encourage work. The authors argue that the formulation and implementation of evidence-based policies requires close engagement between relevant national bodies and international organizations offering assistance, and steady support from international donors. Additionally, further thought needs to be given to the types of jobs national and international actors are trying to create. Key risks include: donors fail to deliver the level of concessional financing expected by host countries; and economic pressures and/or political developments change attitudes of host countries towards assisting refugees.