A Development Impact Bond for Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities

The 9-year Syrian conflict has created the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, displacing more than 11 million Syrians from their homes, including nearly 6 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of Syrian refugees are hosted in three neighboring countries: Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

Worldwide there are 70M forcibly displaced persons and 26M refugees. Forced displacement crises are becoming more protracted in nature. International humanitarian organisations and host country governments save countless lives by taking on the tremendous challenges of meeting refugees’ basic needs in and outside camps.

But most refugees continue to live in poverty, while host countries face increasing pressures on their social support, infrastructure and education systems. With the belief that refugees are unlikely to leave their host country in the short term, the focus on longer term development and the creation of livelihood opportunities need to be significantly reinforced.

Terms of the bond

  • Status: Final negotiations, launch in April 2020

  • Countries: Jordan & Lebanon

  • Target population: Syrian refugees and vulnerable members of host population in Jordan & Lebanon

  • Impact metrics: # of businesses still active after 10 months, increase in household consumption after 2 years

  • Duration: 4 years, possibly over multiple rounds

  • Amount: $ 12m - $ 20m program budget

  • Expected return: 6% IRR

  • Outcome funders: Ikea Foundation, other foundation(s) and development aid agencies

  • Investors: DFIs & HNWI

  • Service providers: Near East Foundation for the first tranche(s) of the DIB, SPARK for a potential second phase. Following which we hope to grow the DIB in multiple phases, using a bottom-up approach.

The service provider

Livelihoods program focused on job market integration are a key aspect of improving economic conditions for host communities and displaced individuals. But most development actors are ill-equipped to operate in situations of flux. At the same time, humanitarian organisations are in the process of building up their livelihoods assistance capacity, which is their most underfunded intervention stream. Also, annual funding cycles and insufficient focus on results have led to disappointing outcomes. Empowering the implementing partner with the flexibility to adapt implementation to changing circumstances on the ground should lead to efficiency gains and better results.

The first phase of the Refugee Livelihoods DIB will support the scale-up of a vocational, entrepreneurship trainings and start-up grants program targeting up to 9,000 refugees and host populations in disadvantaged urban areas of Jordan and Lebanon over 3 ½ years. It aims to lead to the creation of up to 5,750 sustainable home-based enterprises, providing pathways to self-reliance mainly to women, female-headed households, and young males and females, who are the new missing-middle in refugee livelihoods response policies despite being most impacted by identity-related protection risks.

“The robust M&E framework and sharing the learnings will generate the urgently needed evidence to catalyse funding at scale of inclusive livelihoods programming in humanitarian contexts. The DIB also aims, thanks to its highly visible nature, to make a significant contribution to the alignment of goals, policy changes, plans, and resources of public and private actors committed to alleviating the refugee crisis.”

Béatrice Delperdange, project lead

The expected impact

The first tranche of the DIB should lead to a significant amount of people benefiting from the program, both refugees & host communities. We expect:

  • 4275 direct beneficiaries in Jordan, 2280 in Lebanon

  • 30 to 50% being refugees

  • 80% being women

  • Creation of 4190 sustainable micro-enterprises

Impact story: Asma, syrian refugee in Lebanon

“When I went to see how the houses were destroyed, it was a very difficult feeling. Fifteen or sixteen years were taken away within a moment.”

Asma operates a local cooking business in Jordan. Her prepared meals and catered goods have gained a reputation in her neighborhood and demand for her product has grown, allowing the family to pay down their debts and meet their needs. She is proud of what she has been able to achieve with this activity saying, “I have a stronger personality now. I want to make sure my product is perfect, unique, and different from the other products in the markets.”

She has gained confidence and independence, especially with regard to decision-making on where to spend money, saying, “Now if my kids ask anything from me, I can do it.”

Asma’s outlook is much different than just a few years ago in 2013 when Asma and her family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria after their neighborhood was raided and bombed leaving their home destroyed. Like nearly 80 percent of the refugees who seek safety in Jordan, Asma’s family chose not to remain in a refugee camp and moved into a low-income community in Jordan’s urban sprawl.

Although she and her husband found informal work cleaning houses, cars, and cooking for neighbors, they were unable to earn enough to meet the family’s basic needs. Describing this time, Asma said, “The monthly money that my husband was making was not enough to cover all of the monthly expenses. It ran out the middle of the month.”

Asma and her family faced many of the logistical and emotional challenges that confront refugee families starting over in a new place—difficulties finding sustainable, safe, and dignified jobs, accruing debt during the resettlement process, limited access to credit, feelings of isolation, acclimating children who have experienced trauma to new lives and new schools.

The strain of these challenges reach beyond the refugee community to the host community as well—resulting in declining income and rising poverty, unemployment, and debt. Without help, vulnerable families often resort to harmful strategies such as begging, early marriage, or child labor to get by.

Through NEF-led trainings, Asma learned how to develop a business model, market her products, interact with customers, set prices, and enter into new markets. With the project grant she received at the completion of the program, she purchased a refrigerator for food preservation, giving her as she says, the “push” she needed to really get started.

Asma’s household has seen a 50 percent increase in income from her cooking business. Her customer base continues to grow, and she is planning to invest in additional equipment and another refrigerator to keep up with increasing demand. The family has now started to save some money for the future and emergency expenses which brings Asma and her husband great peace of mind.

On overcoming the challenges she and other refugees face as they rebuild, Asma says,

“Why should we feel as though we are weak? We have to prove our presence in our community and defy anything that comes our way. For the sake of our children and for future generations, we should show them that we must never give up.”

Sources: UNHCR; Convergence Design funding Grant portfolio

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