Amman and Athens Collaborate with the International Rescue Committee to Tackle Urban Migration

Around the world, cities are magnets for refugees, migrant youth, and the internally displaced; 60% of refugees and 80% of internally displaced people live in cities, and migrant youth today are 40% more likely to move from rural to urban areas than prior generations. All three of these groups face challenges settling in to their new homes, especially when it comes to securing employment. A lack of economic stability is an additional chronic stress on these marginalized communities—one which can negatively impact the resilience of a city overall.

100RC member city Amman, the capital of Jordan, is the second-largest host of refugees per capita in the world. An estimated 28% of all Syrian refugees have settled in the Amman metropolitan area, and the 87% increase in Jordan’s overall population over the last decade has increased youth unemployment by 30% nationwide. Currently, more than 70% of Amman’s population is under twenty-five years old—and this age group has the highest rate of unemployment in the city, is underrepresented in decision making and is completely disenfranchised from the social, economic, political and cultural conversation of their community – making them a target for recruitment by extreme radical groups.

Many of the initiatives in Amman’s Resilience Strategy aim to address the stress of youth disenfranchisement, such as by creating spaces for younger generations to fully participate in the development of their city, promoting on the values of inclusion, solidarity, and tolerance, expanding youth employment programs to include migrants and young refugees, organizing an annual job fair to bridge gaps between the education and employment sectors, and offering incentives to spur the creation of startups and incubators to capitalize on the drive and energy of these young people and turn Amman into an innovation hub for its region.

During the Athens Network Exchange, CROs and partners shared resettlement and integration challenges that cities currently face, and innovative best practices they can adapt or from which they can learn.

Meanwhile, following the global economic crisis of 2008, the nation of Greece suffered a particularly sharp and long-lasting decline in economic prosperity. By the end of 2012, youth unemployment peaked at almost 60%— as compared to an average 20% rate across the European Union at that time. Simultaneously, its location turned Greece into a gateway European destination for many refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants fleeing war and intense hardship in nearby regions, notably Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, and northern Africa.

Approximately one-third of all refugees moving to Greece have settled in the capital city of Athens, also a member of the 100RC network, putting a further strain on the city’s already-diminished resources. In their Resilience Strategy, Athens developed a variety of initiatives which will address the needs of this community to the benefit of the city as a whole, such as providing business permits for refugees and immigrants, or creating a digital platform to connect the unemployed and underemployed with jobs.

Boosting employment opportunities for marginalized youth has a range of benefits, including reducing crime and strengthening the city’s economy as a whole. Recognizing this on October 4, 2017 the International Rescue Committee (IRC)—one of 100RC’s Platform Partners—launched a new partnership with Citi Foundation. The public-private-partnership, called ‘Rescuing Futures,’ is a part of Citi Foundation’s larger Pathways to Progress Initiative, through which they have pledged more than US$100 million to supply 500,000 young people around the world with job training by 2020. Specifically, Rescuing Futures will support nearly 1,000 young people ages sixteen to twenty-four with business training and startup grants.

Credit: International Rescue Committee

Through this program, 100RC member cities Amman and Athens, along with the city of Yola in Nigeria, are jointly receiving a US$2 million grant for a 2-year pilot program to help their vulnerable migrant youth—such as the thousands of persons in Yola displaced due to Boko Haram—start their own businesses, in turn generating reliable income while contributing to the local economy. According to a study by Citi Foundation, 69% of global youth dream of starting their own business, and 55% of employed global youth are working in an industry that they don’t aspire to work in. By supporting livelihood and employment and fostering economic prosperity, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, states that “this project will have a life-changing impact on some of the most marginalized youth around the world.” Amman and Athens are using this funding and additional technical support from the IRC to implement the initiatives identified through their Resilience Strategy development process, and moreover are collaborating and sharing their learnings and best practices as they confront similar challenges and build brighter futures for all.