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03 Aug

New Publication on Energy Resilience and Refugees

Following a high-level workshop held in Amman on 19-20 April 2016, a report has now been published. It was co-authored by Adel Elsayed Sparr, Deputy Director at the WANA Institute, Glada Lahn, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, and Owen Grafham, Project Coordinator at Chatham House, was made possible by kind support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The paper aims to highlight some of the projects that are attempting to overcome water and energy challenges, which have emerged – and deepened – in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis. It is based on a summary that reflects the challenges and solutions that participants discussed during the workshop, and also builds on an internal background paper presented in advance of the same workshop. This work is being undertaken as part of the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) – an international partnership that began in 2015 to promote sustainable energy delivery in situations of forced displacement. This entails not only a shift to cleaner energy sources and services for refugees but also projects that bring benefits to host countries and communities and incorporate plans for sustainable finance. 

Jordan is one of the focus countries for the MEI for 2016–17. The Kingdom has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees since it gained independence in 1946, with the majority of them successfully integrating into the country’s vibrant, peaceful society. The latest and largest rise in Jordan’s population resulting from the Syrian crisis beginning in 2011 (variously estimated at 7–14 per cent), has inevitably increased pressures on public services and already strained water and energy resources. Fuel, power and water use have risen sharply since 2011, as have subsidy bills for the government. Simultaneously, public facilities are costing more. State schools, for example, must run double shifts to cope with the demand, doubling their electricity and water bills for the Ministry of Education. Low- to middle-income Jordanians are feeling the pressure from inflation, a housing shortage and unemployment, all of which are perceived to be exacerbated by Syrian and Iraqi refugees and the influx of foreign aid agencies. Meanwhile, the majority of Syrian refugees are living below the country’s poverty line. Most live in towns and cities, with households spending a high proportion of meagre and dwindling incomes on energy and water. Access to power and clean water in the camps, coping with extremes of temperature and rising costs of energy for the humanitarian agencies remain issues of deep concern.

Recent research on energy use in large-scale refugee crises globally has shown that planning is usually ad-hoc and focused on short-term aid delivery, and often damaging to local environmental and market conditions. Jordan is exceptional in having national response and resilience plans aimed at channelling aid and financing to enable it to manage these pressures as well as improve the lives of both refugees and Jordanians. This is a new approach with relevance to other countries facing similar circumstances, particularly Lebanon. Based on discussions at the expert workshop held in Amman in April 2016, this report discusses how foreign assistance and partnerships might most effectively achieve energy objectives in ways that contribute to social cohesion and long-term sustainability. The experience and views documented add to a nascent understanding of how humanitarian actors should engage in the face of a large-scale refugee settlement in urban areas.

Read the full report here

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