14 December 2017
Category : Opinion
Sustainable local services in the north of Jordan
The Qudra project helps to alleviate the strain that the war has imposed on this region
The Syrian refugee crisis has been felt in neighbouring countries and particularly in Jordan that, after taking in around 700,000 Syrian refugees, has become the country to accept the second largest number of refugees in relation to its native population.
The majority of the Syrian refugees in Jordan, who are fleeing the armed conflict that has ravaged their country for more than five years, have settled in the border towns in the governorates of Irbid and Al Mafraq, an area that has been the focus of the Qudra project. Only a small proportion of the refugees, around 20%, have been housed in UNHCR camps.
Geographical and human factors are behind the initial concentration of Syrian refugees in the areas of Jordan bordering Syria. The affinity of the peoples on both sides of the Syrian-Jordanian border is not only the result of geography but it is also explained by historical, cultural and even family ties.
Many of the host municipalities have seen their populations swell and with this the demands on services: from the most basic including street lighting and refuse collection to the urban services needed to organise the settlement of the new neighbours and provide the municipalities with basic infrastructure.
The important challenge resulting from the influx of Syrian refugees is not the only one to which the municipalities in northern Jordan have had to respond. In 2015, the Jordanian government launched an ambitious programme of municipal decentralisation that is posing huge challenges in rationalisation and improvement for the local administrations in order for them to deliver greater levels of political autonomy and economic efficiency.
The response of the Jordanian municipalities facing these challenges has included strengthening the management capabilities, particularly in economic and financial aspects, on which the sustainability of public services and the financial autonomy of these administrations depends.
International aid along with the Government of Jordan is accompanying the administrations in this reform process. In particular, and on the initiative of the European Commission, the Madad Fund is funding a number of lines of cooperation aimed at strengthening the local councils in the north of Jordan. The Qudra Project is a part of this programme that is being coordinated by GIZ, a German cooperation agency. It promotes specific activities aimed as strengthening the capacity of the Jordanian municipalities to improve the services they provide and guarantee their financial sustainability. These activities have been entrusted to the Spanish cooperation bodies AECID and FIIAPP. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IEF), a body at the service of the Spanish Public Treasury that undertakes research and the training of civil servants, has studied the situation and designed cooperation activities and selected a number of expert civil servants.
Sharing of experience
The cooperation strategy is based on the sharing of management experiences between Spanish and Jordanian civil servants. The Spanish experts, in close collaboration with Jordanian civil servants from the municipalities of Ramtha, Sarham and Mafraq, will design and implement reform programmes in the areas of economic and financial management in line with goals primarily defined by indicators relating to financial sufficiency and efficiency in the provision of public services. The experiences gained in undertaking these reforms will be extended to other municipalities in the region and to the entire Jordanian local public sector through training activities. Good practice manuals will also be published that will summarise the experiences gained in carrying out these reforms and the training materials used.
This project represents a valuable opportunity to share the management experiences of the Spanish civil servants with local officials in the Kingdom of Jordan. It will also help to alleviate the weight that the armed conflict has imposed on the region by laying the foundations for improvements in the quality of life of everyone living in these municipalities, refugees and local people alike.
Javier Hernández Pascual. Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)
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