LONDON, February 4, 2016—World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today announced that the World Bank Group will be tripling its commitment to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the next five years to nearly US$20 billion to address the consequences of conflict and to help countries recover and rebuild.
Speaking at the UK’s Supporting Syria and the Region conference, Kim said, “It is imperative that we rise to the challenge of the humanitarian crisis at hand, and that we do so in a way that supports development for generations to come.”
To support countries hosting large numbers of refugees, the World Bank Group is working on an extraordinary measure to provide US$200 million dollars in concessional financing to help create jobs and increase access to education in Lebanon and Jordan.
“More than 2 million refugees from Syria are now in the neighboring countries of Jordan and Lebanon,” said Kim. “The world owes a great debt to those two nations, who have generously helped Syrians, even though it has meant great sacrifice for their people and their economies.”
In addition, the World Bank Group in partnership with the Islamic Development Bank and the United Nations has launched an initiative to expand the amount of financing available to the region. For Jordan and Lebanon, the MENA Financing Initiative aims to provide concessional financing by using grants from donor countries to buy down interest on loans. The goal is to raise US$1 billion dollars of grants from donors to leverage between US$3 and US$4 billion dollars in concessional finance. A second facility aims to support countries in rebuilding and recovering from the consequences of war and fragility by tapping international financial markets to issue special bonds, including sukuk/Islamic bonds.
“In short, we are doing all we can to find innovative ways to help these countries,” said Kim. “One prominent example is that Prime Minister David Cameron, His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan and I began discussing, in September, how best to create jobs for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees. We are exploring the creation of special economic zones, and encouraging investments in municipal projects and labor intensive work. Our purpose is to create mutual benefit for the host communities as well as the refugees.”
The Government of Jordan, UK’s Department for International Development, and the World Bank Group, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector arm are working on a proposal for special economic and industrial zones near Jordan’s border with Syria. The project aims to give refugees more job opportunities by attracting foreign investors and supporting the relocation of displaced Syrian businesses.
“We’re determined that our resources will be put to immediate and long-lasting use,” concluded Kim, “to create jobs, to educate children, and to provide economic opportunities for both Syrian refugees as well as their generous hosts in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”
These financing initiatives emerge from a new strategy for the World Bank in the MENA region that aims to work with partners to address the causes of instability. The goal is to promote measures to rebuild the relationship between the state and its citizens, boost the resilience of countries coping with the consequences of conflict and hosting large numbers of refugees, strengthen mechanisms for regional cooperation and prepare for recovery and reconstruction.