Last week, I was pleased to spend four days in Amman in Jordan. In the context of the current humanitarian crisis, we have made a long-term commitment to help build capacity and resilience in Jordan in terms of people and systems. This trip was designed to further develop a number of projects focussed on capacity-building that we are hoping to launch with partners in the country.
Such a University-to-country approach is unique at Bath, but then so too is the current predicament of the country: bordering Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is seen as an island of stability by thousands seeking to escape conflict in their own countries.
An estimated 40% of Jordan’s population are refugees – mainly from Syria, but also from Iraq, Somalia, and Ethiopia - and of the remaining population almost half are Palestinian – often third and fourth generation. Yet while Jordan has received more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, it has few natural resources and faces severe problems of water scarcity, poverty, housing shortages and food insecurity.
The six-person delegation from Bath represented a variety of collaborative research and teaching projects, with a focus on capacity building, whether through education, housing, water or energy.
Over the course of the four days, we met with representatives from Jordan’s four leading research universities, the British Council and British Institute, as well as key United Nations agencies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which are working in the context of the refugee crisis. Listening to Jordanian colleagues and regional experts in these meetings was crucial in helping us fine-tune and further develop our projects, in order that they will have greater impact.
The enthusiasm with which our projects were received in each meeting not only made me feel proud to be associated with such creative and committed colleagues, but also confirmed to me that our approach is the right one.
For obvious reasons, we can’t go into the details of the projects at such an early stage, but I will keep you posted as our initiatives develop. This is just the beginning of a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and co-operation.