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HDI ranking: 100/187
HDI score: 0.700
Jordan has attempted political reforms to encourage participation and democratic behaviors as the government takes steps toward devolving its powers.
Local governance at a glance
- Jordan is divided into 12 governorates, 93 municipalities and the Greater Amman Municipality (EuropeAid, 2011).
- Governorates are headed by a King appointed governor. Municipalities are governed by an elected mayor and council (EuropeAid, 2011).
- Municipalities, supervised by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, are not part of the central government and “not seen as local public entities with broader local responsibilities” (EuropeAid, 2011).
- 25% of municipal council seats are reserved for women (openDemocracy, 2013).
Civil society actors include
- Partners-Jordan works to advance civil society and Jordan’s social and political development by promoting mediation and conflict management and encouraging citizen participation (Partners-Jordan, 2014).
- The work of the Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development includes monitoring elections, polling and political analysis, promoting decentralization and local governance, monitoring the performance of elected councils, promoting civic education and women’s empowerment (Al-Hayat Center, 2013).
- The Nazaha Project is a national campaign established in 2013 to promote awareness about citizens’ right to information (Nazaha Project, 2014a).
Capacity building institutions
- The Institute of Public Administration provides technical training to build national and regional institutional capacity in the public sector through administrative and financial consultations (JIPA, 2010).
- The Vision Institute for Civil Society Studies (VICSS) is a Jordan-based think tank that promotes democratic reform and empowers civil society leaders. The think tank conducts research, trains and strengthens the capacities of civil society activists, provides consultancies on civil society issues and serves as a hub for sharing knowledge on these issues in Jordan. VICSS has trained youth to hold municipalities accountable, and on citizenship and participation (VICSS, 2013).
- The Visions Center for Strategic and Development Studies provides consultancies on “institutional restructuring, public finance management approaches, local development issues and master planning” to local municipalities and other public sector actors (Visions Center, 2014).
- Municipalities have many sources of income: the central government, investment of municipality property, revenues or fees from municipal land and areas, fees from businesses in their jurisdiction, contributions from national and international institutions, and loans from development banks. However, their right to collect these taxes and fees is limited (EuropeAid, 2011; UCLG, 2007).
Key initiatives for participatory local governance
- In 1994, Jordan revised its 1955 municipal election law to allow for mayors to be directly elected in municipalities except in Amman. Nationwide municipal elections were first held in 1995 (NDI, 1995).
- A new municipal law was enacted in 2007 that reversed the 2001 Municipal Law in which all mayors and half of the council members in a municipality were to be appointed. The 2007 law reauthorized the election of council members and mayors (except in Amman). The 2007 municipal law includes a quota for women in municipal council seats, allows joint membership in the parliament and municipal councils and reduces the voting age from 19 to 18 years of age (Carnegie, 2007).
- In 2007, Jordan became the first country in the Arab world to enact an Access to Information Law (Nazaha Project, 2014b).
- Jordan held municipal elections in 2007, which saw a voter turnout of 50% (Al Monitor, 2013).
- The country held municipal elections again in 2013 amid a “difficult economic situation” and “hard regional times” (Al Monitor, 2013).
- In November 2013, Jordan’s King Abdullah announced in a speech that executive powers would be further devolved to elected officials, however, progress is yet to be made on this (Freedom House, 2014).
- Currently, a law on a local governance and a new municipal law have been drafted to “improve the representation and the authority of municipal and local councils” and “enhance citizens’ participation in decision making” (The Jordan Times, 2014; Albawaba, 2014).
Challenges for participatory local governance
- Many municipalities lack resources, face debt and are overstaffed with little productivity. Municipalities also lack cooperation among neighboring municipalities, technical expertise and transparency (UCLG, 2007).
- Municipalities have revenue raising powers, but most have problems in collecting fees and taxes from individuals (UCLG, 2007).
- There are no clear laws that designate the roles of municipalities and the central government through the appointed governors (UCLG, 2007).
- Municipalities play a minor role; “municipal jurisdictions appear to cover only 3.6% of the whole territory (…), so there are significant territories under direct control of the State” (EuropeAid, 2011).
- Although municipalities have begun conducting elections again, the central government holds significant control to intervene at the local level (UCLG, 2007).
- The 2013 municipal election saw political parties boycotting, a very low voter turnout, vote-buying, violence and theft at polling stations (Al-Monitor, 2013).
List of sources:
Albawaba, 2014: “A two way street? Jordanian government seeks public’s feedback on ‘reform drive’.”
Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, 2013: http://www.hayatcenter.org/index.php/en/.
Al-Monitor, 2013, Al-Samadi, T.: “Jordan’s Local Elections See Low Turnout.”
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Carnegie), 2007: “Arab Political Systems: Baseline Information and Reforms – Jordan.”
EuropeAid, 2011: “The Quest for Decentralizing Government in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Some Preliminary Findings of a Situation Analysis.”
Freedom House, 2014: “Jordan.”
Jordan Institute of Public Administration (JIPA), 2010: http://jipa.gov.jo/ar/index_en.shtml.
National Democratic Institute (NDI), 1995: “Democracy and Local Government in Jordan: 1995 Municipal Elections.”
Nazaha Project, 2014a: http://nazaha-jo.org/about-nazaha/.
Nazaha Project, 2014b: “The Right of Access to Information: the Jordanian Experience.”
openDemocracy, 2013, Pietrobelli, M.: “The politics of women’s rights promotion in Jordan.”
Partners Jordan, 2014: http://www.partners-jordan.org/about.php.
The Jordan Times, 2014, Al Emam, D.: “New municipalities law aimed at entrenching decentralisation.”
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), 2007: “UCLG Country Profiles: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
Visions Center for Strategic Development and Studies, 2014: http://jordanvisions.org/.
Vision Institute for Civil Society Studies (VICSS), 2013: www.vicss.org.jo.