Jordan’s political background
The events of the 2011 showed an appetite for more democratization within the Jordanian people. H.M. King Abdullah II responded by demonstrating his willingness to support comprehensive political reform in the spirit of gradual democratic transition and economic development. In this context, a series of policy reforms pertaining to the electoral system and administration of political parties have been initiated. For example, the new political parties law of 2015 contributed to increasing the number of registered parties (from 33 in 2012 to 49 in 2019). Despite this, political structures are still developing and the general perception is that political parties remain often dominated by personalities rather than policies. Jordanians also consider corruption as one of the most serious issues in the country.
The outbreak of the civil war in neighbouring Syria has also had a profound impact on Jordan. As of January 2019, Jordan had received over 670,000 Syrian refugees, which placed more pressure on the country’s limited resources. Prior to the Syrian conflict, Jordan already faced several political and economic challenges such as the deteriorating state of the economy, water scarcity, and unemployment.
With the rising number of parties and a large proportion of the population being under the age of 35, Jordan has a clear trajectory towards democratization if the right support is provided. This is especially true for its youth population: both inside parties and as part of the wider political system, young members are already contributing to democratic reforms in the country.
NIMD in Jordan
The core aim of NIMD’s work in Jordan is to capitalize on the democratic momentum and invest in the country’s democratic culture. This is done through interparty dialogue, training for women and young people, and exchange trips between Jordanian activists and their counterpart in Europe and the Middle East.
NIMD’s programme in Jordan has two distinct elements; the Jordan School of Politics and the EU-funded “EU Support to Jordanian Democratic Institutions & Development (EU-JDID)” programme.
NIMD works in Jordan through a country office in Amman, and actively seeks collaboration with government institutions and similar appropriate organizations operating in the country.
Jordan School of Politics (JSoP)
The Jordan School of Politics (JSoP) was launched in early 2019 following the establishment of NIMD’s country office in Amman. JSoP is targeting youth in political parties and aspiring young politicians through cooperation with the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs (MoPPA) and the Ministry of Youth (MoY).
For the current year, the activities of JSoP are designed to help the parties and activists develop their capacities ahead of the general elections scheduled for 2020. The training programme covers core political knowledge such as political and democratic theory, electoral systems, political parties, constitutions and legislations. Participants also are given technical skills and knowledge needed for politicians, such as media training, communication for political parties, critical thinking, economy and political analysis. Gender equality and women’s political participation are mainstreamed in all aspects of the programme.
As well as building trust and democratic values through this formal training, JSoP hosts political dinners: informal meetings where Jordan’s politicians speak directly with JSoP students. The first of these saw participants talk about the role of parties in Jordan’s political future, and several more are scheduled for the rest of the year.
JSoP students also take part in exchange trips with peers from the Tunisia School of Politics, during which they can pool knowledge and share their experiences and best practice. Other exchange trips happen in the Netherlands, when JSoP students will meet and learn from Dutch officials and politicians. The advantage of these peer learning sessions is that students can freely exchange ideas with people from different backgrounds and seize new opportunities – something that training sessions alone can’t always provide.
EU Support to Jordanian Democratic Institutions & Development (EU-JDID)
NIMD is part of a four-year project, starting in 2017, entitled “EU Support to Jordanian Democratic Institutions & Development (EU-JDID)”, which aims to support Jordan’s reform process towards the consolidation of deep democracy. In addition, the project promotes the inclusion of women and young people in national policy and decision-making processes, leading to a more tolerant and democratic political culture.
The project is funded by the European Union and implemented by a consortium led by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and composed of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), the French Agency for Media Cooperation (CFI) and NIMD.
NIMD is supporting interparty dialogue platforms, which provide spaces for political parties to meet and discuss salient issues. In addition to facilitating the set-up of these spaces, the project will also proactively facilitate the debate and ensure the inclusion of all relevant actors, including MPs, women and youth candidates.
NIMD is simultaneously providing a two-phase training programme that aims initially to develop the skills and knowledge of senior party members, before then providing parties with hands-on training in strategic planning, policy and manifesto development, and public outreach. This will empower parties to target voters and lead them to pursue an electoral behaviour based on political parties’ policies and manifestos and not individual affiliations.
The project is also aiming to strengthen political parties in internal management and organization and support the participation of women and youth in political life in general.
To support the capacity of MOPPA, NIMD provides means for political parties to resolve any queries they have regarding the administration of parties and interparty relations.
With this multi-faceted approach promoting stronger institutions and building bridges between elected institutions and citizens, we hope to support Jordan’s reform process towards the consolidation and deepening of democracy.
The EU-JDID programme is financed by the European Union.