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Water Management in Jordan in Response to the Syrian Crisis: Between Neoliberal Pressures and Social Tensions

L’article d’Eliott Ducharme, suite à son master réalisé grâce au financement de ce programme, est disponible en ligne sur Jadaliyya

Since 1948, the Kingdom of Jordan has taken in a considerable number of refugee populations fleeing conflicts in Palestine, Iraq and now Syria. While this brings the country significant international aid, it also raises the question of the capacity of urban public services to handle this new demographic pressure. These public services, heavily subsidised for reasons of social stability, are in a state of chronic crisis, and are unable to meet user demand. This has led to sharp socio-spatial inequalities, growing popular discontent, worrying tensions between “native” Jordanians and Jordano-Palestinians, and growing stigmatisation of Syrian refugees. This article looks at the impacts of the “Syrian crisis” on water management in North Jordan, which is host to seventy percent of the refugees.

An understanding of these issues requires an historical perspective on water distribution and the formation of state-controlled, centralized water distribution network. The chronic problems of the water system impact powerfully on the way the authorities handle the “Syrian crisis,” in particular in their relations with western funding agencies, which are heavily involved in the issue of water, providing both funds and technical assistance. In fact, the response to the refugees’ burning issue conjures several “rationalities of government:” a recurrent conflict between neoliberal ideas (privatization, cuts in government subsidies for basic goods, new public management) conveyed by the international aid agencies, and the more ambiguous position of the Jordanian government, increasingly constrained as it is, to meet the requirements of its funders, while trying to spare the population and manage their strong expectations of accessing services cheaply. à suivre