Event Reports

Civic Participation and Local Development: Building Effective Communities in Jordan - 7. Apr. 2010

by Lea Johanna Collet, Martin Beck
Event: Regional WorkshopDate/Place: April 7th, 2010, Al-Balqa Applied UniversityConcept: Dr. Khaled Awamleh, Dr. Martin Beck Organization: KAS Amman, Visions Center For Strategic and Development Studies

1. Program Overview

Wednesday, April 7th , 2010


Dr. Khaled Al AwamlehVisions Center for StrategicAnd Development StudiesAmman, Jordan

Dr. Martin BeckResident Representative of theKonrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Dr. Raad Al AdwanLocal Development DirectorateMinistry of Interior-Jordan

Ambassador HE Ms. Andrea ReichlinEmbassy of SwitzerlandAmman, Jordan

Dr. Omar Al-RimawiPresidentAl-Balqa Applied University

HE Mr. Herr Nayef Soud Al-QadiVice Prime Minister andMinister of InteriorAmman, Jordan

First Session: Decentralization and Institutional Capacity Building for LocalAdministration

Decentralization and Local Public Administration in Jordan

Dr. Raad Al Adwan - Local Development DirectorateMinistry of Interior - Jordan

Institutional Capacity Building and Local Development

Dr. Jihad Abu Alsondas - Dean, Faculty of Planning and Management

Moderator: Mr. Salame Hiari - Mayor of Greater Salt Municipality

Second Session: The Role of Municipalities in Local Development

How to Empower and Run a Municipality – A German Perspective

Dr. Christoph Strünck - Professor of Political Sciences University Siegen

The Role of Greater Salt City in Civic Participation and Local Development in Jordan

Ms. Khaleda Khleifat

Moderator: Dr. Raad Al Adwan - Local Development Directorate, Ministry of Interior-Jordan

Third Session: Public Media and Local Development in Jordan

Public Media and Social Responsibility

Ms. Reem Obeidat - Senior Consultant/Trainer for LeadershipDevelopment Media Gender and Communication

Media and Local Development in Jordan

Dr. Basim Al – Tweissi - Director of the Center of Studies andCommunity Department. Al-Hussein BinTalal University, Ma’an Jordan

Moderator: Dr. Amjad Al- Kadi - Director and Manager Audiovisual Commission

General Discussion of Finding

2. Objectives

With the first competitive elections in 1989 Jordan’s late King Hussein paved the wayfor enhancing the political participation, which is a substantial component of a functioningpolitical system. King Abdullah II initiated the first measures to improve the political, social and economic framework of a political and equal participation. He therefore founded a royal commission in 2005 towork out a decentralization plan for Jordan’s political system. This plan aims at enhancingthe political participation of citizens on the local community level, creating an open,transparent and citizen friendly political system and delegating power form the highlycentralized government bureaucracy to the governorate and community level. Thoughit is the main objective of the regime to stabilize the prevalent political order with itslimited opportunities of political participation, Jordan’s citizens should take the governmentby its word and should seize the chance of widening the civic participation.

During the workshop on April 7th, 2010, organized by KAS Amman and the Visions Center for Strategic and Development Studies at the Salt University of Applied Sciences, 20 experts discussed with over 300participants from the private, public and scientific sector the possibilities to improve the civic participation and the local development in building effective communities in Jordan in the context of the decentralizationplan launched in 2005 by the government.

3. Details

Dr. Khaled Awamleh opened the conference thanking all experts, participants and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Amman and gave a brief introductory overview on the workshop program emphasizing that the workshop aims at supporting the municipalities so that they could play a major role in conflict resolution in the future.

Dr. Martin Beck, Resident Representativeof the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Amman,pointed out that the workshop can betracedback to the promising initiative of King AbdullahII to decentralize the political decision-making process in Jordan.However, this decentralization processshould further enhance the capacities ofmunicipalities and strengthen the participationon the local level. The governmentshould therefore take measures to help citizensgetting the opportunity to take part indecision-making processes and to implementtheir interests on the local level.Hence, the government has to provide themunicipalities and governorates with thenecessary financial means.

Both Dr. Awamleh and Dr. Beck statedthat the KAS-Visions Center workshop isparticularly important as it is the first coordinatedeffort between the government,represented by the directory of the local developmentat the ministry of interior, municipalities,local media departments, institutionsof higher education and advocacygroups to organize a joint event on localdevelopment and civic participation in governoratesand local communities.

Dr. Al Adwan pointed out to the importantrole of the present international and politicalexperts as well as the representatives of theSalt municipality. The Swiss ambassador,

Ms. Andrea Reichlin, evinced her interestin the topic of civic participation. In view ofher long life experience with the Swiss politicalsystem, she welcomed the opportunityto talk about the direct democraticstructures of one of the most decentralizedcountries in the world. Not only in Swiss buteverywhere else is the state dependant onthe active interaction with its citizens.

She then depicted briefly the Swiss politicalsystem. Swiss citizens can vote for parliamentand the institutions on the communal,cantonal and national level. In addition theycan submit a petition for referendum or voteon a referendum to express their views onlaws and rulings. From two to four times dothe Swiss vote on national, cantonal andcommunal affaires per year. Whereas theSwiss local communities have their ownpublic administrations and enjoy decision makingautonomy in domains such as security,education, health care and transportation,the autonomy of the public administrationand decision-making is even higher.

The cantons have own constitutions, governments,parliaments, courts and lawswhich are in line with the institutions of thefederation. This political decentralized systemfacilitates the participation of the citizensin the decision-making process.

Dr. Rimawi reflected on the important roleof universities in educating the students insubjects such as social economics as a basisfor local development. In developing a socialmarket economy and strengthening thesocial structures, the government couldpush for sustainable local development.

The vice prime minister and minister of interior,Mr. Nayef Soud Al-Qadi expressedhis joy over inaugurating this series ofworkshops. In view of the national parliamentaryelections, scheduled for the fourthquarter of 2010, the importance of measuresto enhance the active participation ofcitizens in the decision-making process issteadily increasing. The cooperation betweenthe public sector and local institutionsshould be improved decisively in the futurein order to guarantee more transparency,civil rights, accountability, economic securityand prosperity. Therefore the governmenthas to implement a comprehensivesystem of democracy, local developmentand security. The workshop of KAS and theVisions Center will enrich in this regard theactivities of the ministry of interior.

After the welcome speeches Dr. Al Adwanpresented in his lecture on “Decentralizationand Local Administration” the decentralizationplan of the government. A new committeeworks since 2009 on compiling the financial, political, organizational and judicialframework for the implementation of thedecentralization plan. The decentralizationenvisions a delegation of power, capacitiesand resources on the governmental andcommunal level.

The capabilities and financial means of the12 governorates have to be strengthened insuch a way as to enable the civil society toparticipate at the political life of the state onall levels. The huge socioeconomic gap betweenthe rural and urban population showsthat the decisions of the government do notalways reflect the needs and priorities of thecitizens.

In the following Dr. Jihad Abu Alsondastalked about the six possible steps to improvethe local capacities. The needs of thelocal development should be identified, educationalprograms for the formation of municipal,communal and local employeesshould be developed, suitable effective legalmeasures should be decreed, a committeefor local development activities and a nationalobservatory centre for measuring theindicators of the local development processhave to be established. To build local effectivecommunities the private sector has furthermoreto contribute to the local developmentprocess.

In the discussion the participants and expertstalked about the role of already establishedlocal organizations in the decentralizationprocess. They also examined if thedelegation of government competences tothe governorates means initiating a trulynew political system in Jordan.

Professor Christoph Strünck gave in hislecture a short overview on the essentialpillars of civil society in Germany. He underlinedthat self-government at local level isenshrined in Germany’s constitutional law.Germany has about 14.000 municipalities inwhich the citizens vote for a mayor, who isthe representative of the people and thelocal public administration and their districtrepresentatives in the city. The two maintasks of the local government are to attractand keep businesses and to take care forneedy people, since the municipalities predominantlyprovide public services in Germany.

Hence, he talked about the main groups ofthe civil society, i.e. the associations, citizengroups, local political parties, local mediaand non-profit-organizations.He then focused on citizen loans as a newsource of local revenue: citizens lend moneyto the city and will get it back with a fixedinterest rate. The city uses the money forexample to refurbish schools.The German experience shows clearly thatthrough the decentralization of the politicalsystem the citizens can assert their right ofparticipation and their preferences in thesocioeconomic process.

Ms. Khaleda Khleifat focused on the roleof the Salt municipality and its public administrationstructures. Salt is not only theeldest municipality but also the most populatedarea in Jordan.

Though the municipality can decideautonomously on certain topics, the city andregional administrations in Jordan enjoyonly a limited freedom of action as they aredependent of the central government concerningthe financing and administration ofpublic services and infrastructures. Thiswould constrain the communities decisivelyin their communal activities.

Thanks to the great support of the privatesector, there are numerous logistical projectsto improve the city planning.

After the seconded session the participantsdebated whether the German decentralizationof the political system is a possiblemodel for Jordan and if this transformationwould be advantageous of disadvantageous.

Ms. Reem Obeidat opened the third sessionanalyzing a picture of a young Jordanianstreet child, published in one of Jordan’snewspapers, to discuss the communicationmethods of print media.

She considered the fact that the media inJordan does not report on social and humanitarianproblems as problematic andsaid that this is the main reason why themedia does not contribute to local development.Therefore, the media should be moreopen and improve its quality standards inreporting to serve as a real exchange platformfor citizens.

She added that the media plays a significantrole in the decentralization process as acommunication tool between the nationaladministrative and the local level.

Dr. Al-Tweissi identified in this respect themedia as a key tool in the local developmentpolicies and transformation process ofthe Jordanian society. The support of thelocal media in the different governoratesshould be a crucial task of the governmentin order to push for its reform measures andto bridge the gap between the north andthe south and between the rural and theurban population in Jordan.

The media is not only an indispensable connectorbetween the public and the privatesector, but it allows the citizens to participateactively in the decision-making process.To enhance transparency, accountability,to combat corruption and to diversifythe economic structures, the infrastructureof the media has to improve significantly.

In the final discussion participants and expertscommented on the role of the mediain Jordan. Due to the tribal structures in society,some participants considered a socioeconomictransformation through the influenceof the new media as unrealistic.

The experts were of the opinion that thoughthe development of the local media is notfully accomplished yet, it plays a crucial rolein the local development process.

The governor of Salt, Mr. Fawaz Irshedat,stated in the discussion on the workshopoutcome his view about the upcoming nationalelections advocating a more transparentand open election campaign.

To achieve real democratic results votersshould not jeopardize the election resultsdue to family and client structures.

Professor Strünck pointed in his finalcomment to the important role of women inthe local development process. He underlinedthat their participation, a positive investmentclimate and education are themost relevant pillars for a social, culturaland economic local development.

Dr. Beck remarked finally that the Jordaniangovernorates and local communitiesshould campaign for more financial aid bythe government as it is the case in Switzerlandwhere 30 percent of the total publicexpenditure goes to the local level. Similarresults should also be achieved in Jordan inorder to enhance the local developmentprocess and the civic participation.

4. Conclusion

As a first coordinated effort between thegovernment, represented by the directory ofthe local development at the ministry of interior,municipalities, local media departments,institutions of higher education, advocacygroups, the joint workshop of theKonrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the VisionsCenter for Strategic and Development Studieson civic participation and local developmenthas paved the way for future discussionson decentralization.

The participation of the vice prime ministerand the minister of interior, Mr. NayefSoud Al-Qadi, and of the Swiss ambassadorMs. Reichlin as well as of other highranking experts showed that political decision-makers in Jordan consider working onconcepts of local development, civic participationand decentralization of the politicalsystem as highly important.

The workshop fulfilled the function of bringingtogether experts from different sectorsto discuss explosive topics such as the decentralizationof power and financial resourcesin Jordan. The feedback in theworkshop was positive. The participants enjoyedthe opportunity of a free exchange of opinions on such rarely debated subjects.The lively contribution of the participantsand experts clearly showed that there is amajor interest in attending a following eventand continuing the decentralization talks.The workshop was recorded by importantJordanian television channels as Jordan TV,JoStar, 7Stars und Nourmina TV ans wascovered by famous daily newspapers suchas al-Dustur and al-Ghad. Short commentsand reports on the workshop can be alsofound on several websites aswww.fananews.com, www.shbeebnews.net,serajjnews.com or www.albalqanews.net.An overview on the main articles can befound under: http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_546-1442-1-30.pdf.

April 7, 2010
Al- Balqa Applied University, Salt City
Civic Participation and Local Development: Building Effective Communities in Jordan