Event Reports

Civic Participation and Local Development: Building Effective Communities in Jordan

by Martin Beck
Event: International WorkshopDate/Place: May 27th, 2010, Mu’tah University- KarakConception: Dr. Khaled Al-Awamleh, Dr. Martin Beck, Organisation: KAS Amman, Visions Center For Strategic and Development Studies

1. Program Overview

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Opening Session


‘’Dr. Khaled Al-Awamleh’’

Visions Center for Strategic

And Development Studies


‘’Dr. Martin Beck’’

Resident Representative


Amman Office – Jordan

‘’Ali Al-Shora`a’’

Gouvernor of Karak City

Karak – Jordan

‘’Dr. Raed Al-Adwan’’

Local Development Directorate

Ministry of Interior

Amman – Jordan

‘’Prof. Abdelrahim Al-Hunaiti’’

President of Mu’tah University

Karak – Jordan

Dr. Marouf Al-Bakheit

Vice President of Mu’tah University

First Session: Decentralization, Administrative Regulations and Civic Society in


Decentralization and Human Rights from a Legal Perspective

‘’Dr. Mohammad Shawqi’’

Director of International Law Forum

University of Cairo, Egypt

Decentralization and Local Public Administration in Jordan

‘’Dr. Raed Al-Adwan’’

Local Development Directorate

Ministry of Interior

Amman – Jordan

‘’Moderator: Dr. Marouf Al-Bakheit’’

Board of Chairmen

Mu’tah University Karak

Second Session: Municipalities, Women, Men and Private Sector Participation in Local Development

The Role of Local Observatories in Planning for Local Development

‘’Dr. Jihad Abu Al-Sondas’’

Dean of Planning and Management

Al-Balqa Applied University

Al Salt – Jordan

Media Women Role in Local Development

‘’Sawsan Zaideh’’

Building a Municipality: How to Assure Participation of Men and Women Alike in Local Development

‘’Dr. Renate Reiter’’

Professor for Political Sciences

University of Hagen – Germany

‘’Moderator: Dr. Hussein Mahadeen’’


Mu’tah University Karak – Jordan

Final Discussion

Moderator: Dr. Raed Al-Adwan Governor Ali Al-Shora’a

Dr. Jihad Abu Al-Sondos

Dr. Martin Beck

Dr. Khaled Al-Awamleh

Dr. Renate Reiter

Prof. Mohammad Shouqi

Sawsan Zaideh

Dr. Amjad Al-Shraideh

2. Objectives

With the first competitive elections in 1989

Jordan’s late King Hussein paved the way

for enhancing the political participation,

which is a substantial component of a functioning

political system. King Abdullah II

initiated the first measures to improve the

political, social and economic framework on

the way of fair political participation. He

therefore founded a royal commission in

2005 to work out a decentralization plan for

Jordan’s political system. This plan aims at

enhancing the political participation of citizens

on the local community level, thereby

creating an open, transparent and citizen friendly

political system and delegating

power form the highly centralized government

bureaucracy to the governorate and

community level. Though it may be the

main objective of the regime to stabilize the

prevalent political order with its limited opportunities

of political participation, Jordan’s

citizens should take the government by its

word and should seize the chance of widening

the civic participation. During the workshop

on May 27th, organized by KAS Amman

in cooperation with the Visions Center for

Strategic and Development Studies at

Mu’tah University in Karak, participants and

experts exchanged ideas and opinions on

local development. The topics discussed

covered, among others, the fair representation

of men and women on the local level,

the role of the private sector and of the local

community, the decentralisation project

of the government and the central government’s

role in the process of decentralisation.

3. Course of the event

Dr. Khaled Al-Awamleh, Director of the

Visions Center, opened the second day of

the workshop. In his welcoming speech he

talked about the key role of the university in

the field of regional and local development.

The mission of the university should not

only be to produce new knowledge, impart

and apply it, but also to promote human

resources as the basis of social development.

The training of stakeholders and experts

in economy, politics and society is one

of the most important pillars of sustainable

national and regional development.

Dr. Martin Beck, Resident Representative

of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Amman,

pointed out that the workshop can betraced

back to the promising initiative of King Abdullah

II to decentralize the political decision-

making process in Jordan.

However, this decentralization process

should further enhance the capacities of

municipalities and strengthen the participation

on the local level. The government

should therefore take measures to help citizens

getting the opportunity to take part in

the decision-making processes and to implement

their interests on the local level.

Hence, the government has to provide the

municipalities and governorates with the

necessary financial means.

Both Dr. Al-Awamleh and Dr. Beck stated

that the KAS-Visions Center workshop is

particularly important as it is the first coordinated

effort between the government,

represented by the directory of the local development

at the ministry of interior, municipalities,

local media departments, institutions

of higher education and advocacy

groups to organize a joint event on local

development and civic participation in governorates

and local communities.

The governor of Karak, Ali Al-Shora’a,

mentioned the celebrations of the 64th anniversary

of Jordan’s independence. He

stressed that since its independence, the

country has faced many challenges. The

government has to plan and implement a

comprehensive development strategy that

guarantees the participation of all Jordanians

in the political decision-making process.

Dr. Shawqi opened the first session of the

workshop with a speech on the “Role of Decentralisation

and Human Rights from a Legal

Perspective”. At the beginning he defined

the concepts of decentralisation and

democracy. According to him, decentralisation

means political reform measures taken

to shift administrative, fiscal and political

functions to regional and local levels of administration.

He defined democracy as the

government of the people, by the people,

for the people. The people are the highest

sovereign and highest authority of political

action of the state. Nevertheless, the people

do not rule directly. Modern democracies

are marked by political and social institutions

like parliaments and political parties

which limit the participation of the majority

of the people to legally regulated participatory


Subsequently, Dr. Shawqi discussed in his

presentation whether decentralisation and

democracy could be ranked among human

rights. From his point of view, article 21 of

the UN Human Rights Charta of 1948 and

article 25 of the International Covenant on

Civil and Political Rights of 1966 clarify that

decentralisation and democracy are part of

the human rights because everything that

generates human rights is a human right

itself. According to the UN Charta and the

International Covenant, everyone has the

right to equal accession to public offices, to

participate in public affairs directly or by

freely elected representatives. The people’s

will is expressed in periodic and genuine

elections which have to be held on the barrs

of universal and equal suffrage and in secrecy.

These elections express the will of

the people and are the basis of the authority

of government.

Dr. Al-Adwan presented in his lecture on

“Decentralization and Local Administration”

the decentralization plan of the government.

Since 2009 a new committee has

been working on compiling the financial,

political, organizational and judicial framework

for the implementation of the decentralization

plan. Decentralization envisions a

delegation of power, capacities and resources

on the governmental and communal

level. The capabilities and financial means

of the 12 governorates have to be strengthened

in such a way as to enable the civil

society to participate at the political life of

the state on all levels. Yet, the huge socioeconomic

gap between the rural and urban

population shows that the decisions of the

government do not always reflect the needs

and priorities of the citizens.

In the discussion, different options on how

to face the marginalisation of organisations

of the civil society were discussed. Furthermore,

questions were raised on whether

democracy is a suitable concept for the Arab

world, whether democracy might also have

some negative effects and whether a political

system coined by tribal structures could

be more beneficial to Jordan.

Dr. Renate Reiter! opened the second session

of the workshop and presented different

options to design participation in local

communities. She stated that there are differences

between traditional forms of political

representation such as in presidential or

parliamentarian systems of government and

new forms of participation. She then focused

on participation of men and women in

local elections and their representation in

local institutions. Regarding the passive

vote, there are nearly no differences between

men and women; both sexes are affected

by a significant decline of participation

in elections and in political interest in

Germany. In comparison to France, where

there is a balanced representation of men

and women in local councils and high rank

executive positions, women are underrepresented

in Germany. In the following,

Dr. Reiter discussed reasons for unequal

representation in local councils: mainly,

equal representation depends on the form

of election law. Contrary to the system of

majority voting, proportional representation

abets balanced active participation. Besides,

quotas in political parties should secure career

opportunities for women. Moreover, an

unequal representation of men and women

prevails in local political and social networks.

Unequal time resources and genderspecific

tasks inhibit equal representation of

man and women in politics, economy and

society. Quotas, party competition, strategies

of parties and social networks that improve

career opportunities of women and

new forms of grassroots democracy promote

a more equal representation on the

local and national level.

Sawsan Zaideh talked about the women

quota that has been introduced on the national

level in 2003. The problem with the

quota is that due to the Jordanian election

law it favours women from rural and less

populated areas. The new election law for

2010 will raise the women’s quota from six

to twelve seats. Currently, women are under-

represented in the political system of

Jordan because of the weak party structures

that do not encourage women’s candidature.

Furthermore, the media do not support

women in improving their social position.

The media only occasionally promote

the participation of woman to alter Jordan’s

outward image.

Then, Dr. Jihad Abu Al-Sondas presented

the role of local monitoring in planning for

local development. Urban observation centres

are necessary to assure correct implementation

of the government’s development

plans. In order to engage local communities

in the development and implementation of

communal development plans, they should

get the opportunity to observe and evaluate

the project development and outcomes.

At the end of the workshop, Dr. Beck

stressed that the Jordanian governorates

and local communities need more financial

support from the central government.

Dr. Al-Adwan explained that the results of

the workshop and the feed back to the decentralization

plan would be communicated

to the Ministry of Interior. Dr. Reiter and

Sawsan Zaideh emphasized the important

role of women in local development and

civic participation as agents of gender specific


4. Conclusion

As a first coordinated effort between the

government, represented by the directory of

the local development at the ministry of interior,

municipalities, local media departments,

institutions of higher education, advocacy

groups, the joint workshop of the

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Visions

Center for Strategic and Development Studies

on civic participation and local development

has paved the way for future discussions

on decentralization.

The participation of the governor of Karak,

Ali Al-Shora’a, as well as of other highranking

experts, showed the mportance of

discussing concepts on local development,

civic participation and decentralization. The

workshop fulfilled the function of bringing

together experts from different areas who

discuss highly significant issues such as decentralizing

power and financial resources.

Especially the contribution of Dr. Reiter on

equal representation of men and women

provided the audience with a new perspective

of gender segregation and equality in

political participation.

The feedback on the workshop was very

positive. Many participants used the opportunity

of a free exchange of opinions on

problems that have not been discussed in

Jordan so far, to have their say on important

issues such as the role of local communities

in the government’s decentralization

plan. Participants expressed their interest

for follow-up events.