Amman is one of the Middle East’s thriving metropolises. It is the political, cultural, and commercial center of Jordan and a successful regional economic powerhousce. Amman is home to around 4 million residents, more than 42% of Jordan’s total population.
Despite its turbulent history, Amman has grown to be a regional hub in the Middle East, providing a strong example of tolerance, progress, and peacefulness. Amman – whose ancient name, Philadelphia, means the ‘city of brotherly love’ – has shown resilience throughout the ages, welcoming Circassian people in the 19th century, Palestinians in the 20th, and Iraqis and Syrians in the 21st century. In Amman, we see the resilience building process as the continuation of an age old tradition rather than a new approach.
Amman is divided administratively into 22 districts, each with a high level of autonomy to deliver city services. The municipality controls all of its services, except for zoning, planning, infrastructure, design and construction, which are carried out centrally in the Municipality main offices .
Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) is financially independent, with a large percentage of its revenues self-generated through service taxes, fees and investment projects. The remainder comes from part loans.
Amman has a strong banking industry. However, in recent years, Amman’s economy has suffered the knock-on effects of the global financial crisis and regional conflicts. Tourism has also dropped and unemployment has risen; economic growth is at a six-year low of 2.5%.
Despite these challenges, Amman is the fourth most visited city in the region, with more than a million tourists arriving each year and associated revenues in excess of one billion USD. Amman is also a popular destination for medical tourism, which contributes over one billion USD to the economy annually.
Unemployment in Amman is high – currently around 15% – especially amongst women and young people. The Syrian crisis is not helping. Despite not being legally allowed to work until recently, non-Jordanian migrants have long competed for low-paid casual work in the informal sector, which accounts for more than 40% of all national employment. Recent legislative changes mean that Syrian refugees will now receive identity cards, helping them to access the formal job market. This is expected to have an impact on employment rates and the overall economy.
Amman has a varied topography and diverse climate. Extreme micro-climates mean that snow is not uncommon in the western and northern parts of the city, whilst at the same time rain is frequent in the center and east, and high temperatures are a challenge in the south-eastern parts of the city.
Amman has a long history of tolerance towards refugees and migrants, having accommodated new populations following the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 1948, the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, the Gulf Wars in the 1990s and early 2003, the recent Iraq war, and ongoing Syrian conflict.
Jordan’s population increased by nearly 87% in the last decade, reaching 9.5 million in 2015.
The majority of this growth came from nonJordanians, who represent around one third of the Kingdom’s population (2.9 million), of whom 658.000 are registered Syrian refugees.
The sharp rise in the city’s population has placed a huge strain on the city’s resources and infrastructure, including water, education, unemployment, transportation, housing, and medical services. This has contributed to an 83% increase in public debt, a 30% increase in youth unemployment, a 40% increase in demand for water, and a 17% increase in rental costs.
Despite these pressures, in Amman we are proud of our diverse identity, which we see as a strength. Diversity and tolerance are vital to our past, our present, and our future. They are also at the heart of our resilience strategy.
Amman’s resilience challenges
As a city that has grown rapidly and adapted to accommodate large migrant populations throughout its history, we are already familiar with the concept of resilience. But as other pressures such as climate change, lack of economic diversity, and resource constraints increase, we are now facing new challenges for which we must prepare.
The following table shows the infrequent shocks and ongoing stresses that affect Amman identified by our stakeholders in the working groups.
• Economic crisis
• Major infrastructure failure
• Flash / surface flood
• High energy costs
• Water shortage
• Lack of natural resources
• Limited access to financial assistance
• Major influx of refugees and/or asylum seekers
• Changing demographics
• Low quality services especially in health and education
• Lack of affordable housing
• Lack of diverse livelihood opportunities
• Traffic congestion/ lack of public transport system
Summary of City Assets
Agenda setting workshop
January 2016 at Amman’s Al-Hussein Cultural Center
The Agenda Setting Workshop was the first step towards the development of Amman’s Resilience Strategy. The workshop brought together diverse stakeholders to introduce
them to the 100RC initiative, familiarize them with resilience concepts, and identify Amman’s critical resilience challenges. It was attended by around 100 people.
Appointment of City Resilience Officer (CRO) and Amman Resilience Team
Eng. Fawzi Masad was appointed as CRO and the Office of Resilience was established. The Resilience Team was initiated to support the CRO in developing Amman’s city resilience strategy.
Preliminary Resilience Assessment (PRA) and identification of Discovery Areas
The PRA was released in August 2016. This summarises all the activities carried out in Phase I. From it, five Discovery Areas were identified:
1. Efficient institutional financial planning
2. Comprehensive urban development
3. Effective legislation
4. Resourceful environment
5. Robust community
A final cross-cutting Discovery Area was also identified:
6. Improve Amman’s ability to cope with sudden increase of population
• Diagnostic activities helped us to understand how the city is currently performing, to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, gaps in knowledge, and opportunities for collaboration and strategic action that could bring broader social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits.
• Diagnostic activities were carried out to develop more detailed research and analysis of our selected Discovery Areas, in order to improve our understanding of the issues and uncover potential opportunities and actions that could be addressed through the Resilience Strategy. More than 60 opportunities were produced either
through Working groups discussions, research, analysis, comparative analysis with
other cities, or extension of an existing program/action/ initiative already underway.
Bringing together the findings of the discovery area analysis and diagnostic work, we used the Resilience Lens tool to collate a list of practical, viable, resilience building opportunities that we could realistically implement over the short and longer term. The tool helped us assess the resilience contribution of the opportunities and their practical viability in the real context of the city to create the Field of Opportunity.
During the Field of Opportunity (FoO) workshop, we prioritized the opportunities with the Steering Committee to identify a set of resilience-building, implementable initiatives to take forward in the final strategy, and identify our resilience goals. Five pillars and 16 goals were identified for Amman.
From this we started to develop the pillars, goals and actions that form the basis of the resilience strategy. The pillars are:
• An integrated and smart city
• An environmentally proactive city
• An innovative and prosperous city
• A young and equal city
• A united and proud city
Amman became the capital of Transjordan in 1921. The city grew rapidly from a first recorded area of 2km2 in 1925, to around 19km2 in the 1940s. By this time, Amman had an estimated population of more than 33,000.
Expansion spread across the slopes of the mountains to accommodate large numbers of Palestinian refugees fleeing the Palestinian conflict in 1948. By 1967, the city’s population swelled to over 500,000 people, spread over an area of around 42km2.
Urban sprawl brought neighbouring villages into the city of Amman. Palestinian refugees continued to settle in the city. By the late 1980s, Amman’s population rose to around 1.5 million, with an area of around 530km2
A re-evaluation of the Amman Master Plan has led the city to reconsider merging the new
districts to Amman, the City now spread on area of approximately 800km2. In recent years, successive conflicts in Iraq and Syria have brought new waves of refugees to the city, driving its population to more than 4 million.
Non-Jordanians represent around one third of Jordan’s population.