JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Refugee Education Fund are funding a two-year US$10 million initiative with SPARK, an international non-governmental organization, to support refugees and vulnerable communities in Jordan and Lebanon.
Employability and jobs are very important, but quality and decent jobs are scarce commodities. Lebanon and Jordan have the highest unemployment rate in the Middle East, at almost 30% and 23% respectively, according to the ILO. The fragility of the situation in these countries is making opportunities rare, with increased social tension causing more conflict.
The IsDB, as an AAA rated multilateral development bank that works to promote social and economic development and Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Refugee Education Fund have developed a 2-year regional program with SPARK that aims to support the “Skills Training Education Program” (STEP) in Jordan and Lebanon.
The new program aims to skill up entrepreneurs, modernize existing curricula, connect participants to the labor market, create sustainable jobs and offer training and internship placements, among many others.
It is expected that at the end of the project, many participants will have started their businesses, SMEs will have scaled up and men and women will be equipped with market-relevant technical skills through training.
Jordan faces enormous challenges, perhaps most significantly, the need to effectively help to contribute to the poverty reduction of refugees and vulnerable members of the host community.
The structural problems of the Jordan economy such as high inflation, energy and water resource security and management challenges, as well as high unemployment rates, worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simultaneously, Lebanon is dealing with some internal issues including a crashing economy (in 2020, the GDP growth rate was -25%), the impact of COVID-19 and the aftermath of the Beirut explosion.
There is increasing acknowledgement within the international development sector for the need to engage youth to fully use their specialized skill sets. Offering scholarships or training is not enough anymore, rather the consensus is that young men and women need tailored job opportunities and internships based on their field of studies and training.
This program is one of many joint projects provided by SPARK and the IsDB since 2018, and if it takes after its predecessors, it will surely have a large positive impact on the local communities at hand.