Female and Youth Participation Crucial to Make Decentralization a Success

Christien van den Brink

On August 15, Jordan will see its first elections at the governate level.  The decentralization elections are an important opportunity to make municipalities and governates more representative and responsive to the needs of citizens. But for decentralization to become a success, ARDD believes that women and youth participation will be crucial.

Linda Saber Khaled, a 25-year-old candidate for the elections within Zarqa governorate, and beneficiary of ARDD’s Future of our Journalism project (“Mustaqbal Sahafatuna”), recognizes this. “As a politician, I want to engage youth and women to become more active within their community. Youth are the future, and they should be properly represented,” she said.  Linda is one of 119 women registered to run for governate council membership across the Kingdom.  The ratio of male-to-female candidates is ten-to-one.

Linda was inspired to run for office after interviewing marginalized people within her community as part of the ten-month ARDD project, funded by USAID. “I was recording the stories of people within my community, as I wanted to give them a voice. But at a certain point, I felt this was no longer sufficient.  I wanted to become more engaged and to be able to really represent them,” she said.  Women and youth like Linda are key to Jordan’s future, as ARDD has stated in its previous posts on the Lana Project, EadB’ead, and women’s access to justice.

Despite its promise to increase democratic participation in decision-making in Jordan, the decentralization campaign is not without its critics.  In 2010, Europe Aid released a report raising concerns about the decentralization process.  The report  suggested that various ministries would have trouble coordinating municipal policies and that vertical coordination between municipalities and governates would be challenging.  The report also raised questions about the entrenched nature of Jordan’s vertical and horizontal governance structures and described Jordan’s municipal sector as “highly dysfunctional” and in “severe financial distress.”  Nonetheless, the report also recognized the promise of decentralization’s objectives, including “accountability to the local electorate,” “the citizens’ linkage of local decision-making,” “greater efficiency in the provision of public services,” “a better match between local preferences and public-sector activities,” and “greater fairness toward minorities.”  A successful decentralization, Europe Aid found, would “enhance the welfare of society as a whole and hence contribute to political stability.”

ARDD strongly believes that only with decentralization will there be any hope of addressing the coordination problems and mal distributions of power highlighted in the Europe Aid report.  ARDD’s work demonstrates that the more engaged and included citizens feel with the process—especially underrepresented groups such as women and youth—the more opportunities they will have to hold their leaders accountable.  

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