Having worked in Jordan since 2011, we established our representative office in Amman in 2016 to provide logistical, administrative and technical support for our expanding programmes, as well as a regional hub for our work in the Middle East. GPG’s political development work in Jordan arose in response to a request from the Royal Court and has put the UK at the heart of the reform process in the country, successfully supporting real changes in parliament and sectors of government. Political and economic development are closely linked, and in 2018-19, GPG completed a research project commissioned by the Foreign Office, Department for International Trade and DFID, to examine the business environment in Jordan and identify potential synergies between the UK and Jordanian markets, based on focus groups, in-depth interviews and a survey of key business and policy stakeholders.
Political Reform in Jordan
The aim of the reform agenda in Jordan, as expressed by King Abdullah II in his ‘roadmap for political development’, is to move towards a system of democratic parliamentary government, in which policy-based political parties represent citizens’ views; the government is drawn from members of parliament; there is a constitutional monarchy, which gradually reduces its involvement in political affairs; and a process of democratic decentralisation brings decision making closer to the citizen. In order to reach these objectives, institutional reforms in parliament and government will need to be combined with an increase in citizen engagement so that top-down reforms are combined with bottom-up changes in political culture to reach a situation where parliament and government can be said to be inclusive and representative. This is a long-term agenda, but without visible signs of progress, there is a danger of disillusionment, particularly among sectors of the population who feel excluded from established politics, thus risking Jordan’s position as an island of stability in a volatile region.
Since 2012, GPG’s project has supported more efficient structures in parliament, reducing the time it takes for legislation to pass into law, improved working practices between the government and parliament, built capacity to implement decentralisation through a new tier of regional government, and provided consistent discreet support to the
Royal Court on the ongoing political reform process.
Connecting Parliament and the Public: Combining specialist technical advice with support for widening committee consultative processes, GPG has worked to support legislation and scrutiny in a range of policy areas:
GPG supported the Code of Conduct Committee to draft and pass the first Jordanian parliamentary code of conduct. We arranged an exchange of experience with the Moroccan parliament to learn from successful innovations which had been implemented in a similar context.
- GPG assisted parliamentary committees to undertake consultative inquiries in key policy areas, including decentralisation, political reform and economic development. We leveraged UK expertise in key policy areas (for example from HMRC, UKTI and the Northern Ireland devolved bodies as part of Economic and Investment Committee’s important 2014 inquiries into the Inward Investment and Income Tax Laws). Our support included a study visit to Northern Ireland, to learn from the innovative approach to inward investment in a challenging postconflict context.
- GPG’s regional seminars for Arab parliamentarians have enabled key change agents to share experience and develop new strategic approaches to the common challenges they share. They are an effective means of facilitating peer-to-peer learning and support. Events have focused on issues such as women’s political leadership, financial and budget oversight, strategic approaches to constituency demands and building collective action within parliamentary blocs and political parties.
- We worked directly with the Legal Committee on its revision of the parliamentary bylaws at an early stage in the project, drawing on GPG’s significant international experience of rules reform. These changes laid the foundations for much of the progress made by parliament since, including formalising the role of the blocs and speeding the passage of legislation.
Policy-based Parliamentary Blocs and Political Parties: Jordan’s political parties are small, poorly represented and enjoy little public trust. There are too many political parties with similar political orientations that fail to collaborate effectively. GPG provided an effective programme of support to politicians in Jordan to support development of the political party system and foster collective action by politicians in the run-up to the 2016 parliamentary elections.
- Our support resulted in increased knowledge and understanding among political parties of the key factors that will enable them to engage effectively with citizens. Among the changes we have seen are a number of coalition agreements between parties, prompted by discussions during our pre-election event for political parties; more formal internal structures for party management; decisions by certain parliamentary blocs to run as a group for elections; and higher awareness of the need for inclusive internal structures, particularly in encouraging participation by women and young people.
- Through a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) approach, we identified the longer-term political incentives towards forming and sustaining a bloc/party which need to be more clearly applied. They include processes for appointing Ministers, deciding on legislative priorities and allocating funding and regulation for parties.
- GPG helped the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs develop the content of the 2015 Electoral Law and Political Parties Law and provided advice on the regulation and funding of political parties to further promote political party development.
- Despite the considerable political sensitivities that accompany international political party assistance, particularly in a place such as Jordan, we have successfully navigated these challenges during our project through our local knowledge, political acumen and trusted relationships with key political actors.
More Effective Executive-Legislature Relations: In any well-functioning political system, government and parliament need to interact on numerous issues, including the introduction and passage of legislation, as well as parliamentary oversight mechanisms such as committee inquiries and questions from MPs. GPG used our unique relationships with all parts of the Jordanian political system to bring together actors from Parliament, the Royal Court and the Executive to consider how each side needs to play an appropriate role in the system, but also to co-ordinate their efforts to achieve the goals of political reform.
- GPG helped the Ministry of Parliamentary and Political Affairs to create a network of ‘liaison officers’, one in each government ministry, tasked with overseeing departmental relations with parliament, with support from the Ministry, alongside a joint parliament-government liaison protocol document. An equally significant achievement was strengthening both informal working relationships and constructive formal interaction between staff in each body.
Democratic Decentralisation: Decentralisation in Jordan has the potential to reinforce the political reform agenda and to promote further the development of democratic political participation not just at local level but linked to and supportive of structures of democratic parliamentary government.
- GPG provided a programme of support for parliamentary committees to scrutinise the proposed Decentralisation and Municipalities Laws. In addition to technical advice, we promoted inclusive consultation techniques, including a consultation meeting with over 100 Jordanian mayors.
- Under the new legislation, a new tier of regional government was elected in 2017. GPG worked with these Councils in 3 pilot areas to develop practical processes and techniques to move democratic decentralisation from theory into practice, using the example of the UK , but adapting it to suit the Jordanian context. We supported the Governorate Councils of Madaba and Karak to hold their first consultative evidence sessions with local citizens on priority local development issues and to make specific policy recommendations for development in their local area.
- By linking elected women politicians at all levels (parliament, governorate, municipality, locality) within a regional network, GPG has facilitated collective action on issues of importance to women and girls, focusing on women’s economic empowerment. In addition to producing clear policy-focused recommendations which are now being funded at Governorate level in Jerash, this process supported female representatives to play an active role in decision-making.
Economic Development, Trade and Investment
Jordan and the UK have a long-standing strategic, political and cultural partnership, which both countries value greatly. In economic terms, however, the value of trade and investment flows between the two countries does not match the political partnership. There is no lack of ambition on the part of either Jordanian or UK business, and the creation of new market opportunities would benefit both countries. As part of the UK-Jordan Partnership, GPG was commissioned to examine the underlying political and economic drivers of trade and investment between the two countries and make recommendations to increase these links.
On the basis of an extensive primary data collection process both in the UK and Jordan, GPG examined the current status of the UK-Jordan trade relationship, identified potential synergies and growth sectors, and made recommendations on how to minimise barriers or limitations to trade and investment between the two countries. The research also examined Jordan’s trade environment more broadly, in support of the UK’s strategic objective to contribute to growth and stability in the country and to use its aid spending to drive prosperity and self-sufficiency.
“GPG staff and consultants take the time to get to know the people they work with and to listen to and understand their concerns and interests. […] This approach is made possible by GPG’s use of expert associates with highlevel practical experience of politics and governance in their professional careers. This experience enables them to communicate effectively with project interlocutors to understand the context in which they are working and to work with them to devise appropriate and workable solutions based both on technical expertise and political understanding, promoting a locally-owned process of self-sustaining reform.” (DFID Evaluation of GPG’s Jordan Political Reform Project)