The Jordanian National NGOs Forum (JONAF) and the undersigned civil society organizations express their concern about what is happening recently with regard to the restrictions on the work of civil society organizations in Jordan, the sudden change in the mechanisms for approving foreign funding, and the competent authority to receive and approve applications, as well as the draft amendment to the Law on Associations. In this respect, we are issuing the following position paper:
International conventions and national legislation, especially the Jordanian Constitution and its amendments of 1952, in Article 16 thereof, ensured that the Civil Society Organizations Law regulates the method of forming civil society organizations and monitoring their resources and work mechanisms. This is also reflected in the Civil Society Organizations Law No. 51 of 2008 and its amendments, through the establishment of a unified register of associations managed and supervised by an independent board called the “Board of Directors of the Register”, which must be independent when it comes the interpretation of laws presented by the legislators, and must have financial and administrative independence, with one of its tasks being to supervise and manage the register.
National and international reports also recommended the need to facilitate the work of civil society institutions, including the outputs of the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System and its executive plan for the empowerment of women, which included “ensuring the amendment of the Civil Society Organizations Law to ensure the facilitation of the work of civil society institutions”, as well as reports issued by the National Center for Human Rights, which recommended that “the work of civil society organizations be supervised by an independent body that includes official representatives and others from civil society institutions.” As well as the Economic and Social Council, which recommended in more than one report on the status of the country the need to “work to build a national coordination framework that brings together civil society organizations”, in addition to the eighth recommendation of the Global Financial Action Task Force to preserve the integrity of civil society organizations and protect them from the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, which requires the monitoring and evaluation of civil society organizations in ways other than the traditional ones.
The repeated outputs of the committees to amend the Law on Associations have repeatedly called for the creation of a single independent reference body specialized in the registration, follow-up, monitoring, and supervising the work of civil society organizations, developing governance policies on them, enabling and regulating initiatives, addressing the mechanisms for approving foreign funding and its subsequent monitoring under the law, unifying the reference of government support, and using information and communication technology as a means of dealing with civil society organizations instead of the debilitating bureaucracy witnessed by the relevant ministries.
The increase in the number of civil society institutions, which reached 6,612 associations, 1,400 non-profit companies, 1,500 cooperative societies, and 250 branches of foreign associations, requires the presence of a single reference body specialized in follow-up, monitoring, and evaluation, given the complexity of the work of these institutions and the dynamics of their required rapid response. The sector employs thousands of Jordanians, provides services to hundreds of thousands in several vital and developmental sectors such as education, health, and emergency relief, as well as representing and amplifying the voices of the communities in which these institutions operate, and organizing their civil work to become more institutionalized and professional, and acting as a link with the official authorities to agree on the required agendas on development and societal and human security, in addition to its efforts to ensure the preservation of human rights for all segments of society.
The increase in the number of civil society organizations of various classifications has had a significant impact on the roles of the ministries supervising the work of civil society organizations, which could be attributed to several factors, including legislative, regulatory, administrative, and human reasons, in addition to the recent handover of the foreign funding file to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, and its monitoring of projects and control over civil society organizations, despite its lack of legal competence to do so and the lack of a legal basis that grants it such powers, which stands in violation of Articles (17, 6, 5) of the law on Associations, in addition to the confusion on the ground as a result of this sudden change that we have witnessed in the past months.
Based on the above, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, urgently call for the need to review the Law on Associations and work to amend it in line with the recommendations of the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System, as well as national requirements and international standards, to develop a draft law that is agreed upon, taking into account the recommendations of civil society, such as the following, to name a few:
- The amendments should be substantial so as to include facilitating the work of civil society organizations, as well as addressing all the provisions contained in the current legislation that obstruct and restrict the work of civil society organizations.
- Unifying all references, which means unifying procedures in one entity, by creating a single reference body that is financially and administratively independent, fully authorized on the affairs of civil society organizations and non-profit institutions in terms of registration, supervision, approvals of all kinds, mechanisms for obtaining foreign funding, and everything related to civil society organizations, with the convening of the competent authority for approvals permanently.
- Correcting the mechanisms for obtaining foreign funding approvals so that they comply with international standards, and facilitating mechanisms for obtaining funding without delay or complications.
- The amendments and oversight mechanisms should contribute to raising the capabilities of civil society, strengthening and supporting it, enabling it to play its real role in contributing to the development of society and the prosperity of the country instead of restricting, alienating, and marginalizing it.
- The new amendments should create a classification of associations within specific and informed bases and criteria, which would support specialization in their work in the approved sectors.
- Reviewing all legislation related to the work of civil society organizations, including making the powers of dissolution and closure subject to judicial decisions.
Names of civil society organizations:
- Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD)
- Jordanian National NGOs Forum (JONAF)
- Tamkeen Organization for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Amman
- The International Centre for Social and Humanitarian Issues, Amman
- Dar Al Yaqeen Association, Irbid
- Al Raya Association, Jordan Valley, South Shuna
- Baderi Association for Development, Amman
- Shura Charity Society, Amman
- Khairat Al-Dulayl Association, Zarqa
- Bashaer Al-Saad Association, Rusaifa
- Daawat Al Khair Charity Association, Mafraq
- Happiness Makers Association, Zarqa
- Ala Qadr Ahl Al Azm Association, Al-Azraq
- Ahl Al-Azm Al-Buwaydah Association, Ramtha
- Will Makers Association for People with Disabilities, Aqaba
- Bab Al Jannah Association for People with Special Needs, Amman
- Tamam Al-Khair Association, Zarqa
- Fayhaa Women’s Association, Al-Hashemiya, Zarqa
- Al-Aman Center for Human Rights Consultations and Training, Zarqa
- The Windows of Giving Association, Zarqa
- The Family Protection Association, Sokhna
- The Cornerstone Association, Amman
- Al-Shuaa Association for Women and Child Development, Zarqa
- Nashama and Nashmiyat Ahl Al-Ali Charity Association, Sahab
- The Sense of Community Association, Amman