Dialogue on Project Partnerships with Municipalities in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey
Existing partnerships and funding opportunities
At the end of November the Municipal Know-how for Host Communities in the Middle East programme, which is delivered by Engagement Global's Service Agency Communities in One World, invited participants to Magdeburg for a networking meeting that included a training workshop on the Middle East Quick-Starter Package. The three-day event was attended by around 35 delegates from German municipalities already taking part in the programme, as well as municipalities interested in getting involved in project partnerships with Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.
The delegates compared notes on key areas and on the wider context of municipal partnerships. They also and discussed their experiences with implementing the Middle East Quick-Starter Package and handling the accounts under German budget law. Participants workshopped issues of cooperation in the three countries and the main areas of expert exchange. The conference was opened by Dr Lutz Trümper, Mayor of the City of Magdeburg, Daphne Gross-Jansen, Division for Federal States and Local Authorities at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and Kurt-Michael Baudach, Department Head, Municipal Partnerships – States and Regions, Service Agency.
Municipal Partnerships Helping to Prevent Conflict
Daphne Gross-Jansen explained that there are now 30 partnerships with municipalities in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. 'The German municipalities involved in these partnerships in the Middle East are demonstrating great courage by working in a conflict region', she emphasised. Precisely this engagement is very important, she continued, because municipalities are close to people and therefore have an enormous effect on the lives of their citizens. 'Municipal partnerships are helping to prevent conflict', said Ms Gross-Jansen. Furthermore, she explained, municipal partnerships are promoting the integration of refugees, for instance by enabling young refugees and local youths to undergo joint training as youth group leaders, or by rehabilitating a park that refugees had used as a place to live and sleep when their numbers peaked.
Support Offered by the Service Agency Communities in One World
Kurt Baudach presented the support programmes for municipalities delivered by the Service Agency. 'The German municipalities can support their partners in many different ways, for instance with their technical expertise and their knowledge on delivering local general interest services', said Mr Baudach, who is head of the Service Agency’s department for municipal partnerships between states and regions.
The organisers had also invited the economist Dr Salam Said to come along and speak. In her presentation, Dr Said described the situation of the roughly four million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as the approximately one million in Lebanon and 900,000 in Jordan. She pointed out that Lebanon and Jordan had already been facing a difficult socio-economic situation even before the refugee crisis.
Refugees Need Not Always Be a Burden on the Host Country
This is why the situation of refugees varies widely, Dr Said explained. Although the majority of them are very poor and dependent on external support, there are examples such as the rich businessman who has relocated his factory from Syria to a neighbouring country, or the middle class family who somehow manage to rent a room and survive by doing small jobs or receiving remittances from relatives abroad. 'Refugees need not always be a burden', she said. Refugee movements can also bring economic potential, for instance when Syrian businesspeople who have become refugees invest in their host country, or when refugees integrate on the local labour market.
Workshopping Cooperation Issues
Participants workshopped issues of cooperation in the three countries and the main areas of expert exchange such as waste management, formal and informal education, local business development and social cohesion. They discussed difficulties with intercultural communication, language problems and the modest economic resources of the municipalities as major obstacles to cooperation. They identified flexibility and the ability to look beyond the immediate horizons as key prerequisites for sustainable partnerships. Municipal delegates said they would like to see the Service Agency providing more support for technical dialogue. They saw next year's international networking meeting as providing a good opportunity for that.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was integrating the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more systematically into the know-how partnerships. Vera Strasser, Head of Section in the Service Agency's Thematic Partnerships Department, addressed this topic in her presentation. In the spirit of SDG 17, all workshop participants expressed their strong commitment to building equal partnerships.