By Heba Kanso
BEIRUT, May 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new strategy to improve life in Jordan's fast-growing capital aims to provide work for its under-employed young people, and relieve the strain on its services and resources as Syrian refugees have poured into the country.
Amman has about 4 million residents, more than 42 percent of Jordan's total population, according to the document released on Thursday as part of the city's participation in 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), a network helping cities around the world face up to social, economic and environmental challenges.
Because of the refugee crisis, triggered by Syria's civil war, now in its seventh year, Amman has seen its population swell, putting pressure on its ability to serve residents.
"This has contributed to an 83 percent increase in public debt, a 30 percent increase in youth unemployment, a 40 percent increase in demand for water, and a 17 percent increase in rental costs," the report said.
Amman's Chief Resilience Officer Fawzi Masad said around 10 percent of the city's population were refugees.
"Anything we do for the local community, refugees will be part of it," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
The Jordanian government says the country is home to 1.4 million Syrians, of whom around 633,000 are registered with the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
A centre will be set up in Amman to help refugees integrate into Jordanian society, assisting them to register their businesses and look for housing, while giving them access to the same information as Jordanian citizens, Masad said.
The resilience strategy - which aims to build a smart, innovative and environmentally proactive city - must include all groups, he added.
"Most of our population is young and we don't have a lot of projects directed to them. We want to change that," he said.
There will be five new community centres to support young people in their search for jobs, involve them in developing smart solutions such as solar energy or clean transport, and help bring new technology to Amman, with the goal of boosting the economy and equipping them to be its future leaders.
The Rockefeller Foundation has committed $164 million to its 100RC initiative to help cities adapt and thrive amid climate change, migration and other shocks.
The funding pays for cities to appoint a chief resilience officer and develop a strategy to deal with local stresses. It also offers a network of member cities that can share and learn from their experiences.
Masad, along with the Greater Amman Municipality and 100RC developed the city's strategy, also aimed at improving Amman's lack of proper public transport, ageing infrastructure, traffic congestion and limited natural resources like water and energy.
Masad said the strategy would not be easy to implement as it needed a lot of human and financial resources, but he remained optimistic it could be accomplished over the next decade.
"I hope at least 90 percent of it will be finished within the time frame," he said.
(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)