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His Majesty: ‘We cannot turn our backs on refugees, because that is who we are’

By JT - Dec 14,2023 - Last updated at Dec 14,2023

His Majesty King Abdullah participates in the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva and delivers the keynote address (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday said that welcoming refugees has become an integral component of Jordan’s national identity, underlying the importance of international support to the Kingdom’s response plan for the Syrian refugee crisis. 

His Majesty’s remarks came during the keynote address he delivered on Wednesday at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, co-convened by Jordan, Colombia, France, Japan and Uganda, and co-hosted by Switzerland and UNHCR.

 

Following is the full keynote address by His Majesty:

 

“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

High Commissioner Grandi,

 

Your Excellencies,

My Friends:

 

I would like to thank Switzerland and the UNHCR for co-hosting this forum. And my thanks also to our fellow co-convenor nations for recognising the need to bring the spotlight back to a major global issue, an issue Jordan is all too familiar with.

Jordan hosts nearly 4 million refugees of different nationalities, including almost 1.4 million Syrians. All in all, this is over a third of our 11 million population.

In an increasingly volatile region, welcoming refugees has become an indelible part of Jordan’s national identity. We cannot turn our backs on refugees, because that is who we are.

But Jordanians have been increasingly feeling that the world is turning its backs on them, as refugee hosts.

As serious crises compete for international attention, the plight of refugees and their host countries has taken a backseat. But this is a lapse that the international community can ill afford.

 

My friends,

 

Just a few months ago, I stood before the UN General Assembly and urged the world not to forget Syrian refugees.

And now, as we speak, we find ourselves dealing with another internal displacement crisis in the region. Over 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom are themselves refugees, have been forced to flee their homes amid a relentless bombing campaign.

With all eyes on Gaza, the international community must recognise, more than ever, that band-aid solutions are no longer feasible, and that global crises demand long-term responsibility-sharing.

Jordan is pushing for a more coordinated humanitarian response in Gaza. We are supporting the Palestinians and UNRWA in any way we can. But our country is still bearing the heavy costs and burdens of the refugee communities in our midst.

And let us be clear about the scope. In Jordan, UNRWA registers 2.3 million refugees; UNHCR registers more than 730,000 others; and nearly a million more are not covered by either agency.

International partners are essential, and our response plan for the Syrian refugee crisis has been world-recognised, yet, it has never been fully funded. Indeed, international funding to meet pledges has been steadily declining. So far this year, we only received around 22 per cent of the response plan’s needs—the lowest level ever.

The rest is covered through Jordan’s national budget. This has raised the challenge of additional expenditures, and placed even more pressure on our strained resources, especially water, as we struggle to cope with the dual impact of the refugee crisis and climate change.

With one of the lowest water shares per capita in the world already, the challenge of covering the water needs of our people, as well as refugees, has become extremely dire. One vital mega-project we are hoping will alleviate this emergency envisions desalinating Red Sea water from the Gulf of Aqaba, and supplying it to major population areas.

And we remain committed to providing refugees with education at our schools, medical services at our hospitals, and access to livelihood opportunities, but sufficient funds are key to enable us to continue providing basic services.

With no clear long-term commitments in flexible international funding, the vulnerability of refugees and Jordanian host communities will grow even more precarious.

And the severe shortfall in funds for key agencies like the World Food Programme and UNHCR is negatively affecting the level of services, including cash assistance, education, and healthcare.

After cuts in World Food Programme assistance to vulnerable refugees this year, a deterioration in food security and self-reliance has become a painful reality for the vast majority, with 91 percent now being food insecure, compared to 63 percent before the cuts.

 

So my friends,

 

For many years, we and other host countries have been offering shelter, education, healthcare, jobs, and resources to refugees at a great cost to our own economic progress.

But we recognise that this is a long-term commitment that we are undertaking on behalf of the international community.

And likewise, the international community cannot resort to short-term solutions and move on to the next crisis.

Jordan has often warned of the dangers of leaving a lost generation behind, yet, instead of making headway in resolving this ever-evolving and expanding refugee crisis—and even as new displacement crises emerge—we see attention waning.

We cannot afford for this to continue. Our global community cannot thrive if its most vulnerable are left behind.

Let’s make this forum count.

 

Thank you.”

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