The FINANCIAL — The Concessional Financing Facility (CFF), an international initiative to address the impacts of the Syrian refugee crisis, announced the first financing today to support refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. Only three months after a pledging session in Washington, DC that raised over US$140 million in initial grant contributions, and US$1 billion pledged in loans that will separately generate further grant contributions, the facility has been made operational, supporting two projects totaling over US$340 million.
The two projects approved at the first steering committee meeting of the CFF will improve job opportunities for over 200,000 Syrian refugees, and address the urgently needed rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure in Jordan. The economic opportunities project and the Ain Ghazal wastewater project will be supported by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), respectively, subject to approval by their respective Boards. Moving forward, the objective of the CFF is to raise a total of US$1 billion in grants over the next 5 years in order to provide Jordan and Lebanon with around US$3-4 billion in concessional financing to support refugees and host communities in key sectors such as jobs, education, health and infrastructure. In addition to these two initial projects financed by the CFF, recently the World Bank announced that it would provide US$100 million in concessional financing to Lebanon to improve the quality of its education system and enroll all Lebanese and Syrian refugee children in schools by the end of the 2016-17 school year.
Alain Bifani, Director General of Lebanon’s Ministry of Finance commended the World Bank on its role in coordinating efforts among multilateral development banks and the United Nations to create a source of concessional financing for middle income countries. Bifani underscored that “it is critical to support middle income countries like Lebanon and Jordan with concessional financing given the unprecedented magnitude of the challenge they are faced with, due to the additional pressure of the influx of refugees on the economy.”
The first steering committee meeting of the CFF convened representatives from Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and the European Union (EU) – the eight donors who announced pledges to the facility in April 2016, as well as additional observer countries. At the meeting in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Senior Policy Advisor Monique Bouman from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that in August of this year the Netherlands will provide the Facility with an additional 15 million Euro for projects in Lebanon, according to The World Bank Group.
The facility also brought together representatives from various multilateral development banks and the United Nations in order to strengthen the critical nexus between humanitarian and development assistance, and ensure a coordinated international response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
“Dealing with long-term displacement crises requires innovative responses. Humanitarian support and development assistance need to be coordinated in order to increase the capacity of host communities and institutions from day one,” said Philippe Lazzarini, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon. “Through close coordination and collaboration with the World Bank and other partners and donors, important concessional development assistance will be available for Lebanon to improve economic conditions, create jobs and transform the crisis into new opportunities.”
Jordan and Lebanon also presented their respective pipelines of projects that could potentially benefit from concessional financing through the facility. Furthermore, both countries provided an overview of how they will ensure that operations targeting refugees and host communities are well coordinated among development institutions, the United Nations, and the wider donor community.
“This facility will play a significant role in contributing to building the resilience of Jordan’s host communities and boost economic growth so that we are able to provide basic services and economic opportunities to both Jordanians and Syrian refugees,” said Saleh Kharabsheh, Secretary General at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in Jordan.
Going forward the overall goal of the CFF is to provide critical medium- and long-term development support to refugee populations as well as impacted host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. Richard Teuten, Deputy Director of International Financial Institutions Department at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, said, “The CFF represents an effective way for the international community to collectively address the effects of refugee crises faced by these two middle income countries. It is an innovative way to address the longer term development needs, not only of refugees but also those hosting them.”
“It is critical that today we begin to finance projects to support vulnerable populations in Jordan and Lebanon,” added Franck Bousquet, World Bank Director for Regional Programs and Partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa, “these countries have made enormous sacrifices to meet the global responsibility of providing refuge from conflict, and it is vital that the international community unite to provide the long term support that will help them both withstand shocks and continue to develop and prosper.”
Conflicts and instability across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have caused over 15 million people to flee their homes over the past five years. This has taken an enormous humanitarian and economic toll on the MENA region, representing as well the largest forced displacement crisis since World War II.