Investing in a more stable and prosperous Middle East

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Franck Bousquet
Franck Bousquet

Franck Bousquet is the World Bank’s Director of Regional Programs, Partnerships and Integrated Solutions in the Middle East and North Africa Region

Conflict has created a regional crisis so severe in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that it now has global implications. The more than 15 million people displaced, as refugees and internally-displaced persons, by conflicts such as Syria’s have come to represent the highest figure for forced displacement since World War II in the Middle East and Europe.

In Lebanon, Syrian refugees add another 25% to the country’s total population of about 4 million; in Jordan, they comprise at least 15% of 6.5 million. Given that both these countries, not rich themselves, are providing a global public service by hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees between them, it is now of utmost urgency that the whole international community share the responsibility of providing Lebanon and Jordan with the medium- and long-term development support they need to support both refugees and the local communities that host them. International inaction at this juncture could threaten the stability of Jordan and Lebanon, and further destabilise the region and its neighbours.

Working alone is not an option. And with this in mind, the World Bank has developed a bold new strategy aimed at addressing both the consequences of conflict and instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and their underlying causes. No institution, including the World Bank Group, can provide a comprehensive response to the crisis on its own, and so we joined hands with the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank. Over the last six months, we three have been working to rally the international community behind a new and innovative financing initiative that has been jointly developed.

International inaction could threaten the stability of Jordan and Lebanon, and further destabilise the region and its neighbours

The ‘New Financing Facility Initiative for MENA’ has two principal objectives. The first is to provide concessional financing to support refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. This can be accomplished by combining grants from countries supporting the initiative with loans from multilateral development banks to raise $1bn in grants from donors over the next five years. These grants will be leveraged to provide $3-4bn in highly-concessional loans for Jordan and Lebanon. The second task is to raise the volume of financing needed for post-conflict reconstruction and economic recovery for countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Here the objective is to set up a facility that would use guarantees from countries supporting the initiative to provide financing additional to what the multilateral development banks will be lending.

This initiative will create a unique platform for donor nations, beneficiaries, multilateral development banks and the United Nations to strengthen coordination between humanitarian and development organisations to provide a holistic response to the extraordinary challenges faced by countries in the MENA region.

Representatives from 26 countries and nine regional and international organisations have already come together with the World Bank, UN and IDB to work out a roadmap for the details and implementation of this initiative. When the group met most recently in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, its participants recognised the proposed initiative was ideal for bridging the humanitarian–development divide.

No institution, including the World Bank Group, can provide a comprehensive response to the crisis on its own

This week, on 15th April, the heads of international and regional organisations, as well as government ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the G7 and a range of European countries, will gather at the World Bank Group’s headquarters in Washington to pledge their support for the initiative, creating a unique opportunity to begin providing urgent financial support to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Now is the time to unite around a coherent strategy to provide the humanitarian and longer-term development support the region so desperately needs. Building a path toward peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa is a global priority and will require a global commitment.

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