Social cohesion in Badr Nazzal: Bringing the local community and refugees together


Ana Feder, Mediterranean City-to-City Migration Project (MC2CM), ICMPD Malta

Amman is the capital and most populated city of Jordan. It is also its economic, political and cultural centre. Situated at the centre of the Middle East region, Jordan has a long history of migration acting as both a vertical and horizontal corridor for migration throughout the region. The country has always been open to migrants and people fleeing their home countries and in need of assistance. Relative to its own population, Jordan stands as the second largest refugee-hosting country in the world, with refugees representing more than 30 percent of the total population. Despite this fact, Jordan has not signed up to the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention and does not have legislation that regulates the status of refugees.

The Municipality of Greater Amman consists of twenty-two districts and divides clearly into two socio-economically and geographically distinct parts. Whereas the western districts are mainly inhabited by upper-class households, the east is almost exclusively comprised of middle- and lower-class households.

Approximately 30 percent of Amman's 4 million inhabitants report as foreign-born and the influx of migrants into Amman has sharply increased since 2013, with the mass arrival of Syrian refugees. In 2016 alone, more than 435,000 Syrians were reported as residing in Amman[1]. On the whole, despite this increase, the city has responded effectively to meeting the needs of both new and settled communities. Throughout the city, essential municipal services are provided to people regardless of their country of origin or nationality. Nevertheless, for a number of districts in Amman, the growth of refugee communities has caused increased pressure on municipal infrastructure and public services, particularly regarding education, transport, public spaces, waste management, and the provision of energy and water.

This case study concerns Badr Nazzal, a district located to the south of Amman's city centre. In response to growing levels of need within the district, the French Agency for Development (AFD) has initiated a partnership between the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), the French Red Cross (French IFRC) and the Jordanian Red Crescent (Jordanian IFRC). The project emerging from this cooperation follows a social cohesion approach and aims at strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations, improving living conditions, expanding the social communication between refugees and the local community and establishing community-based activities and capacity building opportunities. Through various micro-initiatives, the project also aims to promote social cohesion by fostering the emergence of a district-based identity, common to all residents irrespective of background.

The main objectives of the Badr Nazzal project centre around providing improved access to social, economic and cultural opportunities for refugees as well as promoting initiatives that bring refugees and the host community closer together. Project activities promote universal human rights and have thus focused on the facilitation of refugee access to work and medical care. Additionally, the project aims to create spaces of encounter, where people can meet and where barriers inhibiting exchange can be collectively dismantled. Such spaces are provided through local charity bazaars; through the rehabilitation of local parks (e.g. Shura park and Jordan park); and through the creation of social networking programmes such as football training courses for children.

The present case study seeks to highlight the latter two initiatives; namely the rehabilitation of the Shura and Jordan park and the organisation of training courses for young footballers within the local community – a group that includes both Jordanian and Syrian children.

The overall Badr Nazzal project is comprised of several short-term initiatives, each delivered with relatively modest budgets. This mode of operation encourages active community participation through the regular delivery of tangible short-term impacts.

The rehabilitation of local parks succeeded in redesigning public spaces to meet evolving local needs. The community's satisfaction with the renovation project is made visible through an increase in park visitors. This, in turn, creates further opportunities for social interaction between the host community and refugees. District employees have confirmed an observable increase in park usage by members of both the refugee and host communities.

Equally important, the visible involvement of Syrian refugees in the implementation of project activities has had a positive impact on their wider social inclusion, mitigating the threat of social segregation and countering localised discrimination. Furthermore, it can be argued that the employment opportunities provided for 15 Syrian refugees during the renovation activities enabled them to build a daily routine and offered a form of psychosocial support to a frequently traumatised community.

Similarly, the football training programmes have also worked positively towards improved social cohesion in Badr Nazzal. During the programmes, project managers have observed noticeable improvements in the way that children participants behaved and engaged with each other. Playing football together enabled them to cross social and cultural divides. Overall, 50 children participated in the football training course – 25 Jordanian children and 25 children from Syrian families – and the beneficiaries of this initiative generally showed increased acceptance of children from other backgrounds.

This case study presents just two examples from a number of initiatives connected with the Badr Nazzal district social-cohesion project. The broader project is subject to an overall evaluation as conditioned by the support provided by the AFD (timeline tbc). Similar initiatives are also supported in other districts of the Greater Amman Municipality, although these are almost exclusively located in the eastern part of the city, where most of the Syrian refugees currently live.

[1] UNHCR, information from Jordan Times, Aug 7, 2016,