It is 9:30 pm on Tuesday 25 October, 2016. A bus stops in front of a hotel in Jerusalem. Mayors from the Jordanian municipalities of Mafraq, Sarhan, Hosha, and Rabiet Al-Kura step off it, along with 17 of their peers. They are under some pressure because, at the end of their two-day visit, they have to leave by 8pm, when the bridge at the Jordanian–Israel border closes. Most of them are coming to Palestine for the first time, and are to be joined by four Turkish officials who share the same interests and concerns.
Since the Syrian crisis began almost six years ago, these 25 Jordanian and Turkish mayors have faced a similar challenge: how to manage the impact of Syrian refugees on their municipalities? In host municipalities, population increase has had a huge impact on infrastructure and the delivery of public services. Mayors from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey have had to set out their priorities in terms of waste management, housing, and social cohesion.
Among these, the disposal of ordinary household garbage or solid waste is the most acute issue; if not done properly, it has a negative effect on people’s wellbeing, as well as on economic activities and environment. But waste management is very costly, and often delivered by municipalities with very limited financial resources.
Mayors in Jordan and Turkey wanted to find out what they could do. Now, on this October evening, they were all set to hear how Bethlehem and Hebron governorates had gone about disposing of solid waste, particularly within the fragile political context in which they operate