AMMAN — A group of international experts, officials and activists met in Amman over the past two days to discuss new “bold and new initiatives” that deals with refugee problems worldwide.

“The old protocol for dealing with refugee issues is outdated and this is an international effort that aims to find bold and new initiatives to deal with international refugee response system,” said former minister Marwan Muasher on Tuesday.

Muasher was speaking during a press conference, held by the World Refugee Council (WRC) and the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), held at Rotana Hotel in Abdali.

Muasher, told the press that WRC members heard from Jordanian government officials, civil society representatives — including young people and refugees — as well as technical and financial experts “who offered perspective and called for more support of their efforts”.   

“Jordan is currently host to an estimated 1.4 million registered and non-registered Syrian refugees; 51 per cent are children,” according to Muasher, who is one of the WRC councillors.

He added that Jordan has welcomed refugees from the Syrian conflict and has made significant efforts to provide basic services, from food and water to healthcare and education. 

But every country has limits to its capacity, Muasher, who is the vice president for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East, added.

Funding for host communities and providing support to refugees directly “is more important than ever and efforts must be made to counter donor fatigue”, he added. 

Meanwhile, the chair of the WRC and former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy outlined the tasks of the council including confronting the structural and political constraints of the current refugee system and developing new, effective, predictable, fair and just approaches to international cooperation for protecting refugees.

It also aims to promote “our findings and research globally and regionally in the context of the negotiation of a Global Compact for refugees”, Axworthy told the press.

“Many of the things we’ve heard in Jordan confirm the need for this group to push for a transformation of the global refugee system,” Axworthy, who has worked extensively on human security, refugee protection and human rights in Canada and abroad, added. 

Axworthy praised Jordan’s handling of the refugee crisis saying the Kingdom has been in the “centre of the storm in this region for many years”.

 “The burden on Jordan is big and the efforts that were exerted by the Kingdom to resettle the refugees was amazing and brought a lot of admiration from around the world, given the limited resources of the country,” Axworthy added.

The WRC is also concerned about the security and challenges of protecting refugees in Jordan and the Syrians who will eventually return to their home country, Axworthy stated. 

“Surveys among refugees in Lebanon and Jordan show that security is the number one issue affecting desire to return, preventing the majority from returning even though they want to return home,” the former Canadian minister added.  

He also touched on the fact that there were 10 countries, which he did not name, that pledged to help resettle refugees “but that only three complied with their pledges”.

As a result, many refugees today “are suffering from economic hardship and hunger”, Axworthy noted.

“Our role here is to change the current system to ensure that all countries that pledged to help refugees to comply with its pledges and find a better solution to resettle refugees worldwide,” Axworthy added.

Shaima Al Zarooni, also a WRC councillor, said during the press conference that “one of the biggest challenges for refugees is finding opportunities to work and support their families in a new country, having left behind their livelihoods.” 

This is especially true for the most vulnerable among them: women and children, who have few options available, Zarooni, who is the founder and president of Camp01, a US-based public benefit corporation, which enables partners and clients to plan and manage humanitarian and development projects worldwide for vulnerable populations, said.

 “The message we heard loud and clear from refugees and civil society organisations this week was that refugees themselves must be part of the discussion and the solutions,” according to Zarooni, a former director of Special Initiatives for HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.

She also stressed that the private sector can play an important role for host communities.

One way to do this is, Zarooni added, was by developing programmes that integrate refugees into the workforce based on the employment needs of specific industry sectors.  

Muasher concluded by saying that the meeting is expected to come up with recommendations to the UN to applied worldwide on “new ways of responsibility sharing and financing host countries to be able to deal with the burden of refugees”.

The WRC is a group of leaders, innovators and influencers aimed at devising a new, predictable and cooperative refugee system. It was established by the Centre for International Governance Innovation in May 2017 to compliment the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’  consensus-driven effort to produce a new Global Compact for refugees in 2018.

Meanwhile, ARDD is a non-governmental organisation that was founded in 2008 to address the gap in free legal services for marginalised groups and refugees in Jordan. ARDD maintains nine offices throughout Jordan, including two in Zaatari and Al Azraq refugee camps, as well as international office in Lebanon.

This article first appeared in The Jordan Times