Time for Jordan to Stop Eliminating Accountability Platforms
Jordan’s civil society organizations are one of the main “checks” on government and key guardians of accountability. They monitor elections, assess the level of transparency and follow up on government’s plans to improve the public sector.
The government of Jordan, however, is taking a number of steps that aim to shrink the space for civil society. The most recent is a draft ‘draconian’ NGO law that further complicates the work of civil society and would push many civil society organizations to close down. Such law, if passed, would affect anti-corruption efforts in Jordan and contradict some of the fundamental principles of the UNCAC, especially article 13 that underlines the role of civil society in anti-corruption efforts. This is an alarming step that calls for global attention. Here is why.
Who would gain from the crack-down on civil society?
Rasheed has been investigating who might want to profit from this destructive NGO law. So far, the primary winners are government officials who do not want to be ‘checked’, those official who refuse to implement open government policies, politicians who want to remain undetected, and those who want to maintain the status quo.
What is at stake?
Should this law pass, volunteerism, free speech and right to association will diminish. These are some of the main tenets of accountability platforms. But there are other risks. Jordan’s development and reform agenda would not proceed according to schedule without full involvement of civil society, and most importantly a constant reminder of milestones. Less transparency in public procurement would undermine competition and affect trade relations.
At the heart of this step, is Jordan’s obligation under the EU neighbourhood policy and promises for opening public space.
False justifications for the crack-down on civil society
Under the slogan of restricting foreign funding, the government is restricting access to funds for civil society. At the heart of this skewed restriction, is a blanket restriction that equates funding originating from terrorist groups with funds provided by USAID, DFID, EU, DANIDA, SIDA to name a few.
What could be done?
While one understands the fears of illegitimate sources of funding, developing countries and experts at the Anti-Corruption Summit may provide Jordan with the expertise to distinguish between sources of funding in collaboration with civil society.