Jordan

Austerity is a major concern for civil society in Jordan. According to the alternative report by Ahmad M. Awad, from the Phenix Center, Measures of ‘fiscal consolidation’ started in 2016 as a condition to unlocking access to IMF aid. Austerity measures were thus implemented, leading to rises in fuel prices, as well as in both the sales taxes and customs.”

Nearly half of the Jordanian labour force works in the informal economy, which together with “the continued implementation of business-friendly labour policies, resulted in rising unemployment. Many began to see their ability to afford basic commodities threatened – a predicament termed 'transient poverty.' Among unskilled workers, waves of migrant workers and refugees (many desperate) have saturated the market – one hardly bound by any minimum-wage constraints – triggering a race to the bottom.” At the same time, “numerous political and legislative institutions had been severely weakened.

As controversial as it may still be for some, the historical involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the development of Arab world countries over the past three or four decades—Jordan included—is a perfect of representation of the chronic foreign dependency of many of region’s (e.g., modern Levant) countries in the new millennium: A seemingly insurmountable dependency on support from bilateral and multilateral partners, under an almost permanent state of domestic or regional tension.

Following 8 days involving 43 Voluntary National reviews (VNR) and 147 side events with 77 ministry-level participations and 2458 registered stakeholder representatives, the statistical outlook of the 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals is quite promising. It is only the second review and just two years after the kick-off for the implementation of a universal agenda towards leaving no-one behind. Yet, time is marching on and there is a long way to go on the level of implementation.

At the 2017 HLPF, Jordan became the third country from the Arab region to participate in the VNR process; following Egypt and Morocco in the 2016 review. The first words of Jordan’s national report made reference to the same issues: ‘the power of working together’ and taking into consideration ‘the urgent world issues’.

Jordan struggles to withstand the impact of economic and demographic shocks. Regional conflicts disrupt the country’s key trade routes and cause tourism revenues to drop; inflows of migrant workers and refugees contribute to strain government resources and the national infrastructure, and have exacerbated labour market challenges. These challenges underline the importance of developing clear priorities, policies and strategies in promoting the country’s development and ensuring the well-being of its population, particularly its most vulnerable segments. However, Jordan’s development policies and strategies have lacked consistency and continuity, with successive governments (most of which have remained in power for periods shorter than two years) often eschewing their predecessors’ programmes.

“Informal labor is not a marginal issue in Arab countries. It is a core component of modern Arab economies and the distribution of work therein and is doomed to expand under current policies,” explained Samir Aita, lead researcher of the Arab NGO Network on Development (ANND) at the launch of the 2017 edition of the Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights, last May 8 in Beirut.

The report, launched publicly at the American University, concludes that the “highest percentages of lack of formality are in countries with the least strict laws and bureaucracies, and vice versa. This goes against the stereotype that says that informality is a result of strict laws and bureaucracies.” It also concludes that “informal labor in Arab countries is mostly waged labor, except in rare cases, which contradicts another idea that says that informal labor is a choice, as young people entering the job market have no choice but to find any type of livelihood, no matter how fragile or temporary.”

In the framework of its critical engagement in the 2030 Agenda, ANND launched an effort to document national programs for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and socio-economic reform initiatives in the Arab region. This effort takes the form of national assessment reports and seeks to check if such implementation is made within a comprehensive rights-based development strategy, adopted with an inclusive, participatory and transparent approach.

The assessment reports link between monitoring and evaluation by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) of the implementation of Agenda 2030 and other similar human rights monitoring mechanisms. They shed light on the necessity to adopt an inclusive social dialogue for policy making at the national level. With the limited resources available, the reports shall be made on a few countries (namely Jordan, Egypt and Morocco) and shall focus on 3 SDGs only:

Jordan is a middle income country, but the consequences of the global economic crisis and the massive influx of Syrian refugees are enormous challenges. Despite some progress in achieving the MDGs, little was made on goals that required structural change, harmony among policies, continuity and sustainability of funding–notably the targets on employment and environmental sustainability. The country is not receiving adequate international support to host 1.3 million Syrians (one for every five Jordanians) which together with a fast growing population impose stress on social services and water provision. Yet, for civil society "the main challenge is lack of good governance".

Jordan articulated its first National MDG report in 2004, which had an important impact on policy-making as the goals, targets and indicators were adapted and aligned with national plans and development priorities. In 2006 two more documents, the “National Agenda” and "We are all Jordan" articulated a national vision, which was operationalized into a three year National Executive Programme (NEP), integrating MDG indicators related to social welfare, health care, poverty and education and outlining policies, programmes and projects for government institutions. Despite some progress in achieving the MDGs, little progress was made on goals that required structural change, harmony among policies, continuity and sustainability of funding—notably the goals of full employment and environmental sustainability. Indeed, eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving basic education and gender equality, improving child and maternal health, and ensuring environmental sustainability are still the main challenges, particularly following the global economic crisis and ongoing refugee crisis. In 2015, “Jordan 2025. A national vision and strategy was released, through which previous policies, strategies and recommendations were reviewed and a broader process of engagement set. The strategy includes several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the eradication of poverty, the improvement of the educational system, the provision of clear water and sanitation, the guarantee of decent work and economic growth and the development of the sustainable communities and cities, but still a lot needs to be done in order for this approach to be effective and enable Jordan’s development to be inclusive and sustainable.
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