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CSOs, gov’t discuss laws governing work of local organisations

By Rana Husseini - Feb 02,2023 - Last updated at Feb 02,2023

AMMAN – Civil society organisations (CSOs) representatives and government officials met on Thursday to reach an agreement on laws governing the work of local organisations.

The one-day event, titled “Discussion on the Civil Societies Law Suggested Amendments”, was organised by the Justice Centre for Legal Aid (JCLA) and the Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights organisation. 

Activists have complained in recent years that the government’s grip is tightening on CSOs, with practices such as issuing acceptances or rejections of foreign funding and instituting laws that have “crippled” activist work. 

“We feel that some government and other legislative entities are always casting doubts about our work and intentions,” said JCLA Executive Director Hadeel Abdul Aziz.


The government introduced amendments to the Draft Civil Society Law in recent years that worked "to hinder our space and scope of work, while strictly monitoring our activities," Abdul Aziz said.

Civil society representatives have been meeting with former government officials, including the previous Minister of Social Development Ayman Mufleh, who assured them that the rights and freedoms of the organisations’ work will be respected and supported, according to Abdul Aziz.

“We were also part of a committee that included Ministry of Social Development officials so that we can give them our suggestions and recommendations,” she said.

However, “we learned recently that the government might introduce a new Civil Society Law, and we were not consulted about it,” Abdul Aziz added.


That is why, she maintained, "we are here today as a proactive measure to raise CSOs’ voice regarding any future amendments regarding the Draft Civil Societies’ Law".

Secretary-General of the Registrar of Societies at the Ministry of Social Development Taha Maghariz assured the civil societies present at the meeting that the government is “serious” about supporting the work of local CSOs. 

“The newly appointed Minster Wafa Bani Mustafa is keen on supporting civil societies’ work in Jordan, and instructed us to attend the event and listen to your concerns and suggestions,” Maghariz told the gathering. 

The ministry official said that there are around 4,000 registered CSOs in Jordan, “but the actual effective entities do not exceed 150”. 

“We are not against the work of CSOs in Jordan, but we need to keep an eye on the entities that are not transparent with their budgets or agendas,” Maghariz stressed. 

The ministry official stated that “99 per cent of the CSOs that submitted requests for funding approvals were accepted by the relevant authorities”. 

Maghariz was quick to add that the ministry’s committee is always “open to suggestions and recommendations from the civil society”. 

“The government is serious about easing up on the work of the CSOs and will soon launch an online platform where local CSOs can apply for funding approval instead of visiting government entities in person,” Maghariz said.

However, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) Executive Director Samar Muhareb said that “having 4,000 registered CSOs in the Kingdom is not a big number”.

“Some countries in the region have over 10,000 registered CSOs, including some countries that have a lower population count than Jordan,” Muhareb said.

 “Only 86 CSOs in Jordan received funding approvals last year, which makes Jordan one of the lowest countries in the region to receive foreign funding,” Muhareb added.

There are also “huge” variations in CSOs’ financial budgets, with some having around JD25,000 for operations, while a handful of others operate on budgets ranging from JD1 million to JD20 million, according to Muhareb.

In response to Maghariz’ comment regarding granting approvals to 99 per cent of the requests submitted by CSOs, Muhareb claimed that many approvals “come a bit too late”.

“Many CSOs complained that they received the approval almost six to eight months after their designated activities, with many linked to international events,” Muhareb charged.

Also addressing the gathering was Director of the Phenix Centre for Economics and Informatics Studies (PCEIS) Ahmad Awad, who said the CSO environment is “unfriendly” in Jordan.

“There are many restrictions governing the work of the CSOs in Jordan, which pushed many to adjust their work to adapt to the constraints,” Awad told the gathering.

CSOs must enjoy a “free environment” in order to be able to work “in favour of protecting our citizens and country, and not against it”, Awad said.



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