Minister: Jordan Receives 60 Percent of London Conference Pledges

Amman, Feb. 13 (Petra) -- Jordan has received about 60 per cent of the total value of pledges donors made during a 2016 conference in London to support the Jordan Response Plan designed to address burdens arising from a massive influx of Syrian refugees, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, said on Monday.

The minister told a joint press conference with the ambassadors of the European Union (EU), Britain, Germany and Norway, and the United Nation's (UN) Resident Representative that only 36 per cent of the value of pledges made in 2015 were fulfilled but in 2016 the ratio increased to 60 per cent. 

He added that there are agreements of additional commitments for 2016 amounting to $522 million that are being still negotiated and will be signed during the first half of 2017.

According to Fakhoury, Jordan has secured an amount of $923.6 million in the form of soft loans concluded in 2016, including $834.6 million channeled to support the state's budget and $89 million to finance developmental projects. He said this soft financing was pledged by donors and banks during the London conference. 

He stressed the importance of this funding to cover a financing gap in the budget through reducing interest rates, extending grace and repayment periods, as that would help in restructuring public debt in accordance with the fiscal reform program agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The minister thanked EU members for supporting Jordan, saying such support enabled the Kingdom to secure additional regional financing windows, including the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the "Madad Fund", as well as the support that was provided through a World Bank-run soft financing mechanism.

He said the government, with the support of donor countries and bodies, has taken the necessary measures to increase the number of Syrian refugee students in schools, taking into account maintaining the level and quality of education provided for Jordanian students.

Also, in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and through donor's support, the minister indicated that the government is working to enroll Syrian refugee children in catch-up education programs in order to prepare them for schools in the coming years.

Fakhoury expressed appreciation for the international support to the education sector, but he said the challenges in this sector remains, especially financing the Ministry of Education's plan to cover the costs of public education services for the Syrian refugee students. He indicated that such cost is put at $1 billion for the 2016-2018 period.

Fakhoury also emphasized the importance of signing the joint decision between Jordan and the EU on simplifying rules of origin to pave the way for Jordanian products to benefit from customs exemptions and preferential terms under the Jordan-EU Association Agreement.

In this regard, the minister said the government, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply and the Investment Authority with the support of the British Department for International Development (DFID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has implemented a project to support and rehabilitate 20 Jordanian factories and linking them with a number of European importers and distributors to help them export their products to European markets.

He added that the project will be expanded to include a larger number of factories to maximize the benefit from the decision on simplifying the rules of origin.

The minister said the Kingdom has been working with a number of countries and donors to expand this project soon and build on the outcome and success of its first phase, in addition to expanding technical assistance to companies to enable them meet European market's standards, hence increasing exports. 

He also noted that coordination was also underway with a number of partners to hold forums and conferences designed to lure in foreign investments and promote Jordanian products abroad. 

While acknowledging that additional international support helped in covering part of Jordan's needs last year, the minister indicated that financial, economic and social hardships still persist underlining the need for maintaining the momentum and continuity of such kind of support in 2017. 

Fakhoury emphasized that extending more support is needed to maintain the level of basic services provided to the Jordanian citizens and Syrian refugees and safeguard the Kingdom's resilience and stability at these exceptional times. 

He said Jordan has "reached the point of saturation" when it comes to holding the burden of Syrian refugees on behalf of the world. He added that Jordan counts on a forthcoming conference to be held by the European Union in the spring this year to pledge more support to the Kingdom. 

British Ambassador in Amman, Edward Oakden, said London's 2016 conference culminated with doubling international support to the Jordan Response Plan, adding that the support reached unprecedented levels.

He added that his country had also stepped up its support to Jordan by more than double and that means "tangible benefits for Jordanians". Oakden spoke about the various forms of assistance his country provided to Jordan, noting that the UK has been supporting initiatives that help youths find jobs. 

EU ambassador in Amman Andrea Matteo Fontana said the bloc and its members fulfilled ambitious commitments they made in London a year ago from now. In 2016, the ambassador noted, the EU pledged around $1.4 billion to Jordan, including $1 billion in the form of grants.

The EU's and its members' pledges made up around 71 per cent of the total value of commitments the international community made at the conference, Fontana said, pledging that the EU will remain committed to supporting Jordan to grapple with this major challenge and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen the economy. 

German Ambassador to Jordan, Birgitta Maria Siefker-Eberle, thank the Kingdom for hosting more than 655,000 registered Syrian refugees and said her country had fully fulfilled the $525 million pledge it made to Jordan in 2016. 

Norwegian Ambassador in Amman, Sissel Breie, said: "After six years of the Syrian crisis, the support extended to neighboring countries, that host the majority of Syrian refugees, continues to be a main priority.....Norway has pledged nearly $2.1 billion to Syria and neighboring countries at the London conference, which makes us the fifth largest donor to the Syrian crisis."

She said more than a third of the Norwegian support was channeled to the education sector. In this context, Breie thanked the ministry of education for its tremendous efforts for the integration of all children in the formal education system.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan and UNDP Resident Representative at the UNDP Jordan Country Office, David McLachlan-Karr, said the Jordanian government has introduced a series of concepts that are changing the game in the response to the Syrian crisis.

He added: "The Jordan Response Plan acknowledges that the Syrian refugees deserve a decent life and it recognizes the exorbitant price Jordan and its citizens shoulder in order to provide such a global benefit so generously."

According to a statement distributed by the Embassy of Kuwait during the press conference, the total value of pledges the Arab Gulf state made at four donor conferences on Syria amounted to $1.6 billion, of which $1.4 billion had been already paid. 

The statement said Kuwait was committed to fulfilling the remainder of pledges it made to Jordan to help the Kingdom cope with the burden of Syrian refugee crisis.

Jordan, donors endorse new refugee response plan

AMMAN ( Jordan Times) — The government and the international community on Thursday endorsed a $7.6-billion three-year Jordan Response Platform (JRP) for the Syria Crisis.

The JRP for the Syria Crisis 2017–2019 is a call for further collective action to respond to the crisis, and it builds on the paradigm-shift and resilience-focused approaches adopted to proactively respond to the protracted humanitarian and development challenges, according to the plan’s literature.

The platform was approved during a two-hour meeting that was attended by Prime Minister Hani Mulki, ministers, ambassadors, diplomats,” as well as high-level officials and civil society representatives.

Mulki reiterated during the meeting Jordan’s commitment to upholding its moral obligations towards Syrian refugees, even though it carries “more than its fair share of the response”. 

“Jordan has been pioneering a resilience-based approach as outlined in our rolling response plans that we jointly developed and in adopting a paradigm shift in dealing with Syrian refugee by turning the refugee challenge into an economic opportunity as proposed in the Jordan Compact,” Mulki told the gathering, referring to a document issued during the London refugee conference in February last year outlining commitments by Jordan towards Syrian refugees and pledges by donors to help in the mission.

The premier stressed the importance and “invaluable” support of the international community in shouldering the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan because it helped Jordan remain resilient “in a very difficult regional setting”.

“The situation in Syria and the unprecedented refugee crisis have been globally recognised as the worst humanitarian disaster the world has faced since the World War II, posing an increasing threat to global security, development and economic growth,” Mulki said.

“It is a crisis whose magnitude continuously demands a collective response equal to the scale of the challenge,” the premier added.

But Mulki was quick to add that the Kingdom needs the continued support of its partners because it has reached its maximum capacity with no fiscal space remaining under the new International Monetary Fund programme, nor in terms of resources, existing physical and social infrastructure or government services.


Jordan tops list of refugee-host countries — Amnesty

AMMAN — Jordan has topped a list of 10 countries that host more than half of the world’s refugees, according to an Amnesty International (AI) report released on Tuesday. 

“Just 10 of the world’s 193 countries host more than half  of its refugees. A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbours to a crisis,” said AI Secretary General Salil Shetty in a statement to present the report. 

Jordan, which has taken in over 2.7 million people, was named as the top refugee-hosting country, followed by Turkey with over 2.5 million refugees, Pakistan with 1.6 million and Lebanon which hosts over 1.5 million people, AI said in a comprehensive assessment of the refugee crisis titled "Tackling the global refugee crisis: from shirking to sharing responsibility". The 10 countries, which collectively shelter 56 per cent of the world’s 21 million refugees, account for less than 2.5 per cent of the global economy, AI said, noting that many of the world’s wealthiest countries “host the fewest and do the least”. 

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Speech of His Majesty King Abdullah II At the Plenary Session of the 71st United Nations General Assembly

In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate,

Praise be to God,
Prayers and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad,

Mr President,
Thank you.

Allow me to express today my highest regard for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his dedication and tireless efforts to advance the cause of peace and global harmony. I have deeply appreciated our work together in these last ten years.

Mr Secretary General,
Your Excellencies,
As I stand here today, elections to Jordan's national parliament are coming to a conclusion. It is one more step on our country's positive, evolutionary path – a path to which we have insistently conformed, despite regional turbulence and a massive refugee burden. It represents an achievement that is largely credited to our citizens – especially our young people – who have stubbornly held on to Jordan’s heritage of unity, strength, and forward-looking spirit in spite of the odds. And it is these very odds that make these elections a true triumph of progress over regression.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we gather here today, there are forces at play, in my region and beyond, whose sole purpose is to stack the odds against the core values that bind our common humanity. I, of course, refer to the network of extremist terrorists who have dominated headlines lately and seek global dominance as well. They want to wipe out our achievements and those of our ancestors; to erase human civilisation, and drag us back to the dark ages.

The question we must ask ourselves as we face this, the battle of our generation, is: what will our legacy be? Will we pass on to our children a world dominated by dread and division? Where safety and security will be at the forefront of their minds as they board a plane, attend a concert or football match, or stroll through a mall? Most important, are we doing what must be done to confront and decisively defeat this evil force, so that our children can live in a world where fear and suspicion are replaced by human camaraderie and hope, where they can reach their fullest potential and add to the stockpile of human achievement accrued over the ages?

As much as I wish it were otherwise, sadly, the answer to that question is no. How can we be effective in this fight when we haven’t clearly defined who the enemy is? Who are we fighting with and who are we fighting against?

I am struck, today, after several years facing the global war on terror, with the lack of understanding of the true nature of Islam that I find among many Western officials, think tanks, media leaders and policymakers. I find myself stating the obvious again and again: False perceptions of Islam and of Muslims will fuel the terrorists’ agenda of a global struggle, by polarising and factionalising societies, East and West – each side stigmatising the other; each driven deeper into mistrust and intolerance.

Muslims – a quarter of the world's population; citizens of every country – have a central role in the future of our planet. Muslim men and women bring to the world a rich heritage of civic responsibility, justice, generosity, family life, and faith in God. When others exclude Muslims from fulfilling their role, by prejudice or ignorance of what Islam is – or on the other hand, when the outlaws of Islam, the khawarej, attempt to mislead some Muslims, by deforming our religion through false teaching – our societies’ future is put at risk.

My friends,
When the outlaws of Islam, the khawarej, murder; when they plunder; when they exploit children and reject the equality of women before God – they abuse Islam.

When the khawarej persecute minorities; when they deny freedom of religion – they abuse Islam.

Islam teaches that all humanity is equal in dignity. There is no distinction among different nations or regions or races. The Qur'an forbids coercion in religion. Every citizen is guaranteed the state’s protection for their lives, families, properties, honour, privacy, and freedom of religion and thought.

Muslims believe in the divine origin of the Bible and the Torah. God says in the Qur’an:
Say, ‘We believe in God, and that which has been revealed to us, and that which has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes; and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord; we make no division between any of them; and to Him we submit’.
[Aal ‘Imran, 3:84-85]

Indeed, in the Qur'an, the prophet mentioned most is Moses – named 136 times. Jesus, whom we call 'Christ Messiah', is named 25 times. His mother Mary, called the 'best of all women in creation', is named 35 times. And there is a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Maryam’.

The khawarej deliberately hide these truths about Islam in order to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. We cannot allow this to happen.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Understanding that this is a battle we must fight together – all religions, and all of us who believe in the dignity, freedom and well-being that is the birthright of every individual – then we can turn toward our common enemy and examine through a clearer lens the unique nature of our foe.

Let me state clearly that these radical outlaw groups do not exist on the fringes of Islam, they are altogether outside of it. Thus we refer to them as khawarej, outlaws of Islam. They declare the entire civilised world as the enemy, and all people, military or civilian, as ‘fair game’. They aim to incubate satellite "caliphates" in every country in the world in order to extend their reach. They also expand fast and wide through their mastery and exploitation of modern technology and social media.

To confront this non-traditional enemy we need non-traditional means – a new mindset, new partnerships, and reformed methodologies.

For Muslims, first and foremost, this is a fight for our future. All elements of our community have a role: not only mosques and religious centres, but media, schools, and community leaders. Let no one be misled. Traditional Sunni Islam and all of its schools of jurisprudence, decisively reject the ideas and claims of takfiri jihadists. Muslims need to help identify and counter the outlaws of Islam who pick and choose, cut and paste religious texts, to twist and distort true Islamic teaching.

The international community, also, faces a fight for the future. The war will not be fought on the battlefield alone. Our adversary has put the fight in every place where humans live and interact: airports, cafes, city streets. Security cooperation is imperative – but equally important is a holistic approach. We need to open up new channels between continents and nations; within countries; and among people.

This means reforming the way we communicate, share information, and use our technologies. The very same modern communication tools used against us must be employed for us, and we can do this while respecting the important issue of privacy. Creative innovators in the private sector, especially in the technology sector, are vital to the future and must be brought on board.

Ours is a global fight. The focus must not stop with the Middle East, but reach far beyond – in West and East Africa, in South East Asia, and the Balkans.

In Syria, a military approach will leave no winners, only losers on every side, and further civilian suffering. An end to violence ultimately demands a political process, one shepherded by a unified global vision and led by all components of the Syrian people.

In Iraq, international support remains critical as the government and people continue to uproot the khawarej. However, key to achieving and sustaining any success is an inclusive approach engaging all components of the country in the political process and in state institutions.

My friends,
As we pursue these goals, our international community must also take responsibility towards those whose lives have been crushed – millions of refugees, victims, and impoverished.

And we cannot decisively defeat the scourge of terror and violence without decisively rooting out the injustices that provide its fertile ground. From the prisons of Abu Ghraib, to the streets of Kabul and schools in Aleppo, injustice and humiliation have left tremendous human suffering in their wake.

No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the denial of a Palestinian state. I say: Peace is a conscious decision. Israel has to embrace peace or eventually be engulfed in a sea of hatred in a region of turmoil.

Safeguarding Jerusalem is a key concern ... the Holy City; a strategic linchpin not only for my region but for the world.

This is a priority for me personally, and for all Muslims. We utterly reject attacks on Muslim and Christian Holy Sites ... and any attempts to alter the historic Muslim, Christian and Arab identity of the Holy City. As the Custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, I will continue my efforts to protect these places, and stand up against all violations of their sanctity, including attempts for temporal and spatial division of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif.

My friends,
Perhaps the central and most vital battleground for this defining war of our generation is the mind. The despicable, damaging ideology of hate, murder and self-destruction, spread in crash courses online and elsewhere, must be confronted with a counter-narrative of hope, tolerance and peace.

Together in this General Assembly and in our regions, countries and communities across the world, we have the power to create that counter-narrative. Let us show we also have the will to act.

Thank you.

Minister: Jordan at ‘saturation point’ in dealing with refugee crisis

Jordan has reached the saturation point and its maximum possible ability to bear the Syrian refugee burden, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury told representatives of donor countries and UN organisations recently. 

According to a ministry statement, e-mailed to The Jordan Times Saturday, Fakhoury said the refugee influx has put large pressures on the Kingdom’s resources, particularly water, finance and social infrastructure. 

The minister made the remarks during a meeting with ambassadors and diplomats of donor countries, and representatives of UN agencies on Thursday evening to review pledges announced at the London donor conference in February and the Jordan Compact to deal with the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, which was prepared in cooperation with the UK, the World Bank, the EU and several partners from donor countries supporting the Kingdom.

Fakhoury said that in light of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund over the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), the government would limit fiscal space in its spending choices in order to address the budget deficit and the public debt. 

The lack of action by the international community to support Jordan, which he said is shouldering the Syrian refugee burden on behalf of the world, would affect the Kingdom’s ability to continue its duties towards the refugees.