By the Jordanian Women’s Union  

In the framework of a partnership with Forus in the MENA region, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) is offering different pieces of reflection about the current context for civil society organisations in several countries of the region. Discover the first one written by ANND member Jordanian Women’s Union about civil society in Jordan. 

The Jordanian Women's Union, in partnership with the Arab NGO Network for Development, organized a workshop entitled “Civil Society, Reality and Challenges,” where the participants discussed the importance of unifying the legislations that regulate the work of civil society organizations with the aim of improving the work of these organizations, given that they are an important partner in development, defending human rights, and protecting the interests of vulnerable groups in society. 

The participants of the workshop, which was held at the Union headquarters on February 14, 2021, in the Jordanian capital Amman, stressed the importance of putting the work of civil society in its proper framework, through review and self-criticism, developing a system of work values ​​for civil society, and repositioning it as an important and steady partner of the state. Participants represented several parties, from civil society organizations active in human rights in general and semi-official bodies represented by the National Center for Human Rights, as well as an official government entity represented by the Legislation and Opinion Bureau. 

Given the restricted nature of civil society’s work in Jordan, partly due to the lack of appropriate legislation for CSOs work and therefore the existence of multiple and arbitrary restrictive procedures and practices, the main outcomes and conclusions drawn by participants in response to the current situation included:  

1) The need to amend the system of laws governing democracy and work in line with the Jordanian constitution and international human rights standards, as well as the law on public associations, the law of parties and the law on public meetings 

2) The necessity to activate the Freedom of Information Act;  

3) The need to improve the enabling environment for civil society, eliminatthe restrictions imposed on it, and halt interference in the administration and internal affairs of these organizations, in conjunction with the importance of training and qualifying public and government administration personnel in charge of law enforcement, regulations and instructions;  

4) The necessity of increased coordination between civil society organizations and the strengthening of coalition building. 

More importantly, this dialogue resulted in an increased collaboration among the participating CSOs who agreed to form a steering committee to follow up on the recommendations, lead on lobbying and advocacy campaigns as well as plan upcoming training activities with certain ministries. 

Although more and diversified actions are needed to mitigate the risks associated with increased restrictions on civil society in Jordan, this dialogue provided some hope for civil society because it set a certain framework and coordinated actions for the near future, which could in turn partially ease its working environment.