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Razzaz restorative justice and national revival

Jul 21,2018 - Last updated at Jul 21,2018

The two incidents which took place on Thursday, July 19th (mothers demanding public amnesty and an attempted suicide under the Dome of the House), to which Prime Minister Omar Razzaz acted humanely and swiftly driven by his well-known decency, humanity and modesty, shed light on a wider problem in recent manifestations of state-society relations. Plainly, injustices have been largely ignored by somewhat unsympathetic and detached power holding elites and public policy planners. Empirical evidence reveals that Jordanians’ sense of injustice has been on the rise. To be precise, the percentage of Jordanians saying “justice does not exist in Jordan” increased from 8 per cent in 1999, according to CSS’s Democracy in Jordan 1999 survey, to 23 per cent in June 2018, according to NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions survey of 1,524 nationally representative sample. Equally, the percentage saying “justice exists to a great extent” decreased from 30 per cent to 10 per cent over the same period.

Highlighting these two extremes of a four-point scale is meant to demonstrate the sharp turns Jordanians are going through even after the
unceremonial dismissal of former prime minister Hani Mulki and his incompetent neoliberal economic team. These turns are subtle messages addressed to government and political protest activists. Jordanians and their messages neither should be ignored nor denied and must be taken seriously by public policymakers. Surely, Hirak protest activists essentially and expectedly are magnifying them as they legitimise their raison d'être. The symptoms of societal fever and disenchanted undercurrents were flamboyantly displayed since 2011 and most recently on the Fourth Circle and the core issues remain. Government responsiveness ought to meet expectations; if it does not, the situation may become rather dangerous.


This set of evidence and its foreseeable implications should crystalise the government’s vision to make “restorative justice” an integral part of the national revival goal, aka renaissance, stipulated in the Royal designation letter to the PM. Disparities in development transpire beyond basic social and economic rights to border alienation. A sense of disenfranchisement correlates positively with the intensification of a sense of political distance from the government, which is increasingly seen by the public as not trying to do all what it can to provide services it is entrusted with. To be sure, only 35 per cent nowadays agree that the government does all it can to serve people, compared to 51 per cent in January 2017 and nearly two thirds in 2011.


Increasing sense of injustice coupled with increasing belief in governments’ inability to deliver can be sequentially detrimental in increasingly restless areas of economically disenfranchised hotspots. As far as justice is concerned, empirical evidence shows that 35 per cent of citizens in the south believe “justice does not exist” in Jordan, compared to 23 per cent in the north and 21 per cent in the centre of the country. A deeper look at the centre reveals that 20 per cent of citizens in Amman say “justice does not exist”, compared to 23 per cent in Zarqa, 25 per cent in Balqa and 26 per cent in Madaba. 


At another level of comparison where heavily populated urban centres of Amman, Zarqa and Irbid are compared to the rest of the country, the trend persists: while those saying justice does not exist in Jordan constitute 20 per cent in Amman, 23 per cent in both Irbid and Zarqa, the average is 28 per cent in the remaining nine governorates. The point is that the average percentage in these nine governorates is exactly the same percentage found in Maan in 2003 after the southern governorate had recently erupted in protests. This comparison makes it hard not to draw conclusions about what is likely to happen across the country if business remains as usual.


These proofs are unequivocally pointing to a development gap resulting from ineffective and inefficient public economic policies largely designed and implemented by neoliberals. Therefore, corrective measures defined by better redistributive policies to address the unequal development gap, which is at the roots of the growing sense of injustice, especially in socioeconomically marginalised areas, has never been more paramount than now. No step is too little towards equitable justice. Hence, we ought to work towards a fairer, reasonable and more compassionate distribution of economic development. Promoting a sense of and providing social justice is not only a state-sponsored public good but also a stability formula.


In this context, social justice means the increase of overall quality of life for all. For such a formula, an agreed upon equilibrium must be found to bridge the unequal development gap. Political representation of underdeveloped areas is not delivering what it should deliver of socioeconomic development, thus rendering the much talked about “political representation” ineffective in delivering the goods that may bridge the centre-periphery gap. Moreover, the elitist and largely reductionist, and at times discriminatory, discourse that citizens of these areas are “privileged”, “favoured” and “over-represented”, ought to be more critically examined to understand the facts of underdevelopment, marginalisation and the widespread injustice citizens of these areas suffer before making such declamatory, unsubstantiated and loose statements. 


Identity politics does not do justice to the excluded individuals or groups who happen to have been defined, not necessarily by their own choice, as an excluded group. Identity politics leads to over-privilege for very few, satellite-privilege for a few more, and under-privilege for the overwhelming majority. The latter group is falsely-privileged by association because someone shares his/her surname or other kind of primordial relatedness is well-off. While very few benefit, the overwhelming majority are left out of that formula barely hovering around the poverty line and surely will slip well below it sooner than bubble-contained, self-righteous, reductionist and, at times, orientalising elites realise. 


The time for the end of identity politics has arrived and a time for civic language of development politics has accompanied its demise. In this sense, the state has been seen as a justice maker, i.e. it is a partner and ought to be involved throughout the process of development to ensure equal access to reasonable opportunity.


The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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