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الموقع تحت الإنشاء

النسخة التجريبية من موقع النهضة العربية (أرض)

Support us, do not replace us: The need for an enabling environment for local actors in Jordan; Statement by JONAF, the Jordan National NGO Forum


The Jordan National NGO Forum (JONAF) recognizes the international support that has been provided in order to strengthen responses to various crises over the past 50 years. Since 2012, this has led to a large-scale presence of international aid organizations operating in within the contexts of ‘relief’ or ‘humanitarian assistance.’ Within this humanitarian infrastructure, many international stakeholders began with direct implementation, using Jordanian CBOs and CSOs as sub-contractors or “implementing partners”. International aid agencies offered crucial assistance when local capacities were indeed overwhelmed, but the dynamics of that relationship have not developed much over time. Essentially, this has enabled the instrumentalization of Jordanian CBOs and CSOs in particular, and has created a dynamic of dominance and subordination.

However, we assert that, often times, years of so-called ‘partnership’ have failed to address and reverse the negative narrative about Jordanian CBOs and CSOs. These include false assumptions that our capacities are limited, that we are a higher risk of fraud and corruption, that we are not able or willing to resist political temptations or pressures in line with ‘humanitarian principles,’ and many other damaging, often uninformed and inaccurate judgments.  

As a coalition of Jordanian organizations, JONAF recognizes our own responsibilities in this regard and are committed to playing an instrumental role in Jordanian society that increases individual and collective wellbeing. We work tirelessly to organize ourselves, strengthen our collaborative capacities, among CSOs and with our Government, and enhance and expand professional standards that strengthen our accountability and transparency. There is a growing number of Jordanian CSOs that have proven themselves capable and reliable and able to handle larger funding.

Accordingly, the following are central reflections and recommendations by JONAF members:

1.     International actors have worked over several decades to build sustainable organizations, and while this has not necessarily been the same case for local actors, we find it crucial and constructive to actively recognize the strides that local organizations have made towards sustainability and effectiveness. While international organizations try to negotiate multi-year and flexible funding, so they can cover their core costs, maintain cash flow and thereby qualified staff, and invest in their institutional development and diversification of income sources, all of that is systematically denied to local actors.

2.     Commitment 2 of the Grand Bargain calls for “increase and support multi-year investment in the institutional capacities of local and national responders”. In practice, except for some ‘development assistance actors’, this has not been the case. While we recognize that some of the development of local actors has been achieved with the help of international partners and reaffirm the value of continued collaborative growth and learning, we stress that ‘capacity-building’ can have no sustained impact if local organizations are kept in constant survival mode through a short-sighted operational environment.

3.     JONAF members stress that these positive developments have often been undermined by an environment that does not truly enable local actors. There has been widespread ‘deficit thinking’ challenges that have undermined rather than supported the development of the capable and responsible Jordanian civil society. For example, although Arabic is the official language in Jordan collaboration, coordination, proposals and reports overwhelmingly must be in English – without even a bilingual provision.

4.     Local organizations are often criticized for being fragmented, while it is clear that processes are designed to be competitive – and as specialized networks and coalitions emerge, they are criticized for lack of overarching ‘inclusivity.’

5.     There has been a desire amongst international actors for local actors to be more engaged in policy and advocacy but this is often coupled with an expectation that advocacy on behalf of local actors cannot be critical of certain roles and exercises of power and control.

6.     Thousands of capable Jordanians now work for international organizations, depriving Jordanian governmental and non-governmental organizations of their talents and expertise. From experiences around the world, we know that few will return to Jordanian public or not-for-profit institutions. Alarmingly, when the same staff work for INGOs they are somehow trusted and respected more and can have more influence but have the same skill set. This is indicative that local capacities do exist, but they are only recognized when hired by INGOs and UN Agencies.


7.     Local actors are aware that a ‘localization task force’ is coming alive in Jordan. It is important to examine whether or not it will be co-chaired with a Jordanian organization, and whether its agenda and function be jointly designed and managed with local partners. Will it actively operate in the spirit envisaged by the Grand Bargain and “…engage with local and national responders in a spirit of partnership and aim to reinforce rather than replace local and national capacities?”

8.     The Grand Bargain encouraged donors to make greater use of funding tools which increase and improve assistance delivered by local and national responders, such as UN-led country-based pooled funds (CBPF), IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and NGO- led and other pooled fund.” After several years, a handful of Jordanian CSOs now has been able to access the Jordan Humanitarian Fund. However, the majority of local actors still don’t know much about it, how to approach it and what its criteria and requirements are. This is in sharp contrast with pooled funds in other countries, where now significant amounts go directly and indirectly to local organizations.


Meanwhile, COVID-19 has changed the world. Jordan has attracted international attention for its early and robust containment measures, showing firm Government leadership. In fact, a number of Jordanian CBOs and CSOs responded very quickly in order to mitigate the immediate social, medical and economic impacts. Several international agencies repatriated their international staff. However, rather disappointingly, the IASC Interim Guidance on Localization and the COVID-19 Response (May 2020) did not reach local actors through international ‘partners.’

Like other countries, local Jordanian actors are deeply concerned about the impacts of the predicted global economic depression. More Jordanians and others residing in Jordan will face unemployment, loss of income, poverty and multi-dimensional vulnerability. This is an economic, social and political challenge that Jordanians from all sectors of society have to address together, in cooperation with authorities. While the support of international actors will be valuable and appreciated, this is an opportunity to once again stress: we value your assistance, but support us, do not replace us.