Statement by Anders Pedersen on the launch of the 2020 Jordan Response Plan

Statement on behalf of the international community by the UN RC/HC Anders Pedersen on the occasion of the launch of the 2020 Jordan Response Plan.

Your Excellency Prime Minister of Jordan, Dr. Omar Razzaz,

Your Excellency Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Dr. Wissam Rabadi and all ministers here present,

Ambassadors, Representatives of International and National NGOs, United Nations Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen:

I am deeply honored to be with you today for the launch of the 2020 Jordan Response Plan (JRP) and to make this statement on behalf of the international community in Jordan. The hard work on the planning, implementation and monitoring of the JRP over the last six years has proven to be a catalyst to, and cornerstone of, the strong partnership that exists today between the international community and the Government of Jordan.

Since the launch of the first JRP in 2014, we have collaborated  to ensure that Syrian refugees and the often vulnerable communities in which they live, continue to receive the life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance they need.  Over the years, this assistance has evolved to increasingly focus on integrated, dignified solutions that increase the resilience and choices of people in need.   

With the Syria crisis now in its tenth year, Jordan remains a global example of unwavering hospitality and inclusiveness for over 657,000 Syrian refugees. We know that this generosity has come at a cost to the country’s finances, its infrastructure, and indeed, its eco-system. The international community has continued to recognize its role in helping to shoulder these additional costs as a partner to support programmes and initiatives for refugees, but also to advance the lives of Jordanians. 

This year, the JRP was validated under the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Guided by the National Preparedness and Response COVID-19 Plan, Jordan has from the very beginning of the crisis taken decisive actions to protect everyone living in the country from the direct public health effects of the pandemic.  During those initial days and weeks, we worried that COVID would spread to the country’s most vulnerable areas, in particular, crowded refugee camps and densely populated poor areas. Strong planning and joint collaboration between UN, NGOs, international partners and Jordanian authorities quickly put public health measures and plans in place to protect these vulnerable communities. These efforts reinforce the efficiency and efficacy of an inclusive national system, which provides for all those living in Jordan.

Recent UN, World Bank, IMF and OECD global and regional analyses indicates that this unprecendeted crisis will have stronger multiplier effects on economies than any previous crisis, both in terms of damage to key sectors and speed of recovery. This means that the response will require a more comprehensive, collaborative and inclusive approach to address the many challenges the country, and indeed the world will face in the months ahead.   

In Jordan, the socio-economic consequences of COVID have been exacerbated by pre-existing conditions: the Syria crisis, regional instability, high unemployment and low economic growth. The pandemic’s consequences will take a particularly heavy toll on Jordanian and refugee families, whose self-sufficiency relies primarily on informal and day labour. We commend the steps the Government took to integrate vulnerable households into labour protection schemes. We likewise welcome the expansion of work permits for refugees into new sectors, recognizing that permits do not systematically translate into additional jobs and revenue generation, but do offer a critical layer of protection and formalization for workers.

We welcome that from 2021, agreed criteria will be used to assess vulnerability, independent of refugee and legal status that will help advance inclusive and equitable social protection objectives. The ongoing joint comprehensive vulnerability assessment will help standardize the characterization of those most vulnerable, looking beyond status to individual needs to inform resource distribution. 

With the conditions for safe and dignified return to Syria not yet present, the vast majority of the Syrian refugees are expected to remain in Jordan for the foreseeable future. We must therefore recommit our support to Jordan, with resilience at the core of our efforts.  We must also find a way to ‘recover better’ from the pandemic not only from the health emergency, but also to ensure social protection, primary healthcare, child care, housing, education access and municipal services continue, and are able to provide for all those in need.  Despite many challenges, we have an opportunity – and an obligation - to continue to evolve our response through innovative solutions supported by joined up thinking, planning and support for the nexus of humanitarian, development and peace initiatives.

We also look forward to building on the ‘Jordan Compact’ as a unique model between Jordan - as a generous refugee hosting country - and the international community - to provide economic and political incentives.  By continuing to open up restrictive policy environments and providing support for inclusive growth that benefits Jordanians and Syrian refugees alike, we will ensure that gains made in recent years are not lost. Wider inclusion of refugees into Jordan’s health and educations systems continued will continue as important Compact initiatives. In the short term, we will work with the Ministry of Education to reduce the discrepancies in school contact hours between the first and second shift, which now stands at 200 hours. In the longer term, we – together with all education actors – will support risk analysis and comprehensive risk planning to gradually phase out the double-shift system lead by the Ministry of Education.

The 2020 JRP has taken critical steps to align its objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as with the promise of the Global Refugee and Migration Compacts, to which Jordan is a signatory.  Additional steps to provide livelihood opportunities and formalize the working status of Syrian refugees will also be prioritized by expanding international support for new financing schemes. This will include expanding eligible sectors for refugee labour, allowing refugee workers to enroll in social security and other government-led mechanisms, as well as promoting self-sufficiency of workers, especially women and youth. We also look forward to the issuing of the promised directive on cash for work permits, which was to be disseminated to labour directorates in order to clarify procedures and implementation modalities.

Going forward, we will continue to emphasize our work through government-led processes and systems.  This includes working with the Government to support gender-based analyses of programmes to ensure that new legislation protects workers, appropriately expands social security and social protection programs, including the National Assistance Fund, and importantly, does not inadvertently exclude women, women-headed households and women-led businesses, either for Jordanians or refugees.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future.  We must remind ourselves that we are still in the midst of it, with the obligation to protect ourselves and those around us. This year more than ever, the international community needs to re-affirm its commitment to support Jordan on its trajectory to realize sustainable development, essential for its own prosperity and stability. As an international community, we must support Jordanian efforts to maintain regional security and uphold the global good. Let 2020 be a year where by working together, we once again demonstrate what a strong global partnership can achieve.  Let us work together to ‘recover better’ by applying best practices, including innovations that address humanitarian needs and take advantage of recovery and development opportunities to improve the lives of refugees and Jordanians alike. 

Finally, I take this opportunity to highlight that 2020 has been designated as the international year of nurses and midwives. With the additional demand that the COVID emergency has placed on the health care system, it is fitting that we recognize nurses, midwives and indeed all health workers for the hard work and sacrifices they have made over the past days, weeks and months.  Thank you all health workers in Jordan, especially those on the frontlines of the COVID response for your outstanding commitment to saving lives and caring for those in need.

In closing, on behalf of the international community in Jordan, let me express my most sincere thanks to you, Prime Minister.  I also wish to extend my personal thanks to you Minister Rabadi and your colleagues at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, for your exemplary leadership and partnership without which our collaborative work would not be possible.

Thank you!


Speech by
Anders Pedersen
UN Resident Coordinator and
Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan
RC Pederson
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labor Organization
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Food Programme
World Health Organization