Livelihoods for Syrian Refugees: Transitioning from a Humanitarian to a Developmental Paradigm

Publication date: 1 Apr 2017 Organization: eda

Several countries that have been hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees since 2011 have recently started experimenting with integrating them into their respective labour markets. This development can be seen as part of a paradigm shift in which host countries are changing their policy assumptions with regard to Syrian refugees. Instead of designing policies from a ‘temporary and humanitarian’ perspective, governments are increasingly seeking more ‘developmental and (semi-)permanent’ solutions.

The drivers of this change in thinking are country-specific, but include the acknowledgment of the protracted nature of the Syrian crisis and the unsustainability of providing social protection (education, housing, health care) to large numbers of Syrians, while receiving little in state revenues in return. Especially for Syria’s neighbours, increasing the self-reliance of refugees is becoming particularly critical in the context of insufficient funding and the fact that, given political developments in key donor states, the international community is likely to press more often for ‘solutions in the region’.

This paper examines this shift in thinking from ‘humanitarian’ to ‘developmental’ in the Turkish and Jordanian contexts. Through these two case studies, the authors discuss the current state of employment and employability of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey, assess related policy trends and analyse the role of the international community in bringing about and nurturing this paradigm shift. The paper concludes with a set of policy recommendations at the level of both international diplomacy and international business, aimed at assisting Jordan and Turkey in their respective quests to enable dignified and productive livelihoods for Syrian refugees.

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