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Paper I recently wrote on Jordanian NGOs

Jenin

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The University of Jordan, Amman-Jordan




The Role of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the United States of America
Dr. Talal Al-Qudah



By:
[Jenin]

Abstract


Non-government Organizations play a crucial role in the advancement and development of civil society. They record abuse and report it, provide charity, organize communities and fund activities and seek funding. Government legislation in both Jordan and the United states allows Civil society organizations to flourish yet remain in line with the law. The relationship between CSOs/NGOs, society, and the government overlaps and similarities exist between the USA and Jordan in that regard. Differences however also do exist and the different financial and societal requirements range from country to country and organization to organization









Table of Contents

Abstract______________________________________xi

Introduction __________________________________1

Civil Society in Jordan___________________________2

Role of Civil Society Organizations_________________2

CSO/NGO regulation and criticism_________________3

CSO benefits__________________________________5

NGOs in America_______________________________6

Comparing Jordanian and American NGOs__________7

Conclusion____________________________________9

References___________________________________11

The role of Non-governmental Organizations in the Kingdom of Jordan and the United States

Introduction
Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are established with the objective of helping and empowering civil society through some form of service. Whether they are established by religious institutions, neighborhood communities or groups of people, NGOs maintain the same objective of providing for a change for the better. NGOs operate in different fields such as human rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, or charity. While the term “non-governmental” implies that the organization is not associated with a government, cooperation and operating funds could very well be provided for by the government.
The United States government finances a wide spectrum of NGOs in its annual budget, and promotes the shared principles. The strict interpretation of non-governmental organizations as having nothing to do with the government is therefore inapplicable. What an NGO seeks to achieve is often under the jurisdiction or power of the government, and therefore while not being an official branch of the government, an NGO could be in contact, cooperation, and dialogue with the government. In the United States, NGOs maintain their independence by refusing to advocate a certain political agenda, or refusing to induct government officials as members of the organization while at the same time lobbying politicians for funding or legislation. The same is true for Jordan, however this is not the only case; members of the royal family fund and operate NGOs and cooperate with government officials to promote development, while other NGOs in Jordan are charities affiliated with religious institutions or political parties such as the Islamic Action Front. The government tolerates civil society organizations (or CSOs, as they are known in Jordan) as long as they do not directly promote a political agenda and maintain services for the whole of society.

Civil Society in Jordan
Civil society in Jordan has roots within the tribal system, which is an essential pillar of Jordanian society. Tribes play important roles in Jordanian politics, and the family structure in Jordanian society is in itself a charity organization that looks after the benefits of the members of the tribe. Indeed, the formal legal system does not eliminate the tribal concept of families in its definition of societies. Civil Society organizations are legally allowed for under the Jordanian constitution as Article 16 of the Constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom Jordan states:
Article 16 [Organizations, Parties]: (1) Jordanians shall have the right to hold meetings within the limits of the law. (2) Jordanians are entitled to establish societies and political parties provided that the objects of such societies and parties are lawful, their methods peaceful, and their by-laws not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. (3) The establishment of societies and political parties and the control of their resources shall be regulated by law.

Role of Civil Society Organizations
Many formal CSOs in Jordan initially focused on charity and other aid activities until Jordan acceded to international conventions. With the Jordanian ratification of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, CSOs began to raise public awareness related to human rights. Assembly and association, while prevalent throughout Jordanian history, became formal legislative rights.
Today, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, over 3,500 international and local civil society organizations exist and operate. Given the limited financial resources of the Kingdom and given the national agenda of sustaining social, environmental, and civil progress by promoting development, education, and fighting poverty – NGOs play an important and beneficial role in advancing these agendas. Members of the Hashemite royal family and some members of the government interact with certain NGOs, such as the Jordan River foundation, established by her majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah , in such a way that encourages cooperation and enhances government efforts to sustain the development of civil society and the environment. This is supported by the objectives stated on the Jordan River Foundation website,
“The Jordan River Foundation (JRF), established in 1995 and Chaired by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, is a non-profit Jordanian non-governmental organization (NGO). Our vision is to empower society, especially women and children, and in turn, improve the quality of life to secure a better future for all Jordanians. The Jordan River Foundation's mission is to promote, in partnership with stakeholders, the development of a dynamic Jordanian society by initiating and supporting sustainable social, economic and cultural programs that empower communities and individuals based on their needs and priorities.”

CSO/NGO regulation and criticism
While the government agrees with most NGO principles, it plays a cautious role of maintaining oversight and has been criticized by a coalition of Jordanian NGOs for recent attempts at renewing legislation regarding civil society organizations. Until recently, civil society organizations (CSOs) were governed by the “Law on Societies No. 33”, established in 1966, which allowed for strong government interference in the affairs of CSOs or NGOs. In 2008, the “Law on Societies No. 51” was enacted; easing some government restrictions and bureaucracy, while expanding the definition of NGOs and explaining the role and obligations of the government in the regulation. This new law, however, was met with a lot of criticism because it still restricted civic space. The following excerpt to a news story published by the UAE newspaper “The National” on February 16, 2009 explains:
Although NGOs and civil society groups called the proposed amendments a step forward, they said they fell short of expectations.

“What has been proposed is good, but our main requirements were not considered,” said Hani Hourani, director of Al Urdun al Jadid, a think tank and NGO involved in sustainable development and advocacy in Jordan and the Arab world.
“We do not want any interference in the way NGOs manage themselves so that we can be partners with the government to help in implementing public policy and projects that can support the development opportunities. The current law impedes our work because the government can interfere with our decisions and attend our meetings.
Taleb al Saqqaf, a lawyer and the head of Human and Environment Observatory, an NGO involved in human rights issues, said “the amendments proposed indicate that the government recognises our role as NGOs and civil society, but we want the government to be committed to its obligations under the international instruments for human rights”

After the coalition of Jordanian NGOs lobbied government, including appeals to his majesty King Abdullah Al-Hussein II himself, the 2008 Law was amended by the 2009 “Law Amending the Law on Societies No. 22”, thus easing bureaucracy, unifying the authority responsible with dealing with NGOs, and formally energizing civil society organizational participation by clarifying the law. Mohammed Khasawneh, secretary general of the ministry of social development explained at the time of the 2009 amendments:

“We want to make it easier for NGOs to carry out their work. We are taking their remarks into consideration and we will study them together. If there are changes that need to be made and they are logical then we do not have a problem with that”

While in Jordan the government and NGOs share similar wishes for the advancing of civil society and improving the conditions of the environment, disagreements and criticism of the government from some NGOs is evident. Criticism regarding cases of abuse of Women’s rights and prisoner rights are prevalent among international and local NGOs. While such criticism is unflattering, the Jordanian government has shown that it can take issues of concern seriously and has over the course of time introduced legislation and government policy to improve conditions. Within the past two years, the practice of “rough” interrogations involving physical abuse of detainees has been ended. While official government policy was always in that direction, the actual implementation of such policy was lacking until recently.
 

Jenin

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CSO benefits
Laws empowering women have been enacted in recent years, granting women more rights and freedoms traditional oriental society would not have provided for. NGOs therefore play effective roles in promoting awareness of abuse and Jordanian governments past and present have worked to eradicate abuse of human rights inside the kingdom. The relationship between the government of Jordan and NGOs, while never perfect, has allowed for the general advancement of civil society and the environment.
NGOs in Jordan help to supplement government efforts at developing the nation, and some CSOs fill in tasks otherwise lost due to the financial restrictions the kingdom faces. For example, an anonymous CSO has stepped forward to fund an important annual cultural festival that could have otherwise been cancelled. The Jordan times reported on April 25, 2010 that “The Jordan Festival, whose fate had been in doubt, will be held this year after a civil society organization expressed interest in funding and managing the event.” The report goes on to explain how the government deficit this year put restrictions on funding and that the actions of this organization helped save this important cultural event this year. The role of CSOs and NGOs in Jordan is often complementary to the government’s efforts at cultural, environmental, economic, and civil advancement.

NGOs in America
Hundreds of thousands of NGOs exist in the United States. Every American budget takes into consideration the allocation of funds for non-governmental organizations. Former President George W. Bush funded faith-based community programs, and President Barak Hussein Obama continued the practice, while also choosing alternative CSOs and NGOs to fund. For example, the NGO Bread for the World praised president Obama’s funding, stating “Budget Underscores Obama’s Commitment to Address Hunger and Poverty”, while another NGO, Interaction stated in a headline bulletin on its official website “PRESIDENT OBAMA FULFILLS PROMISE TO BEGIN REBUILDING HUMANITARIAN AND DEVELOPMENT CAPABILITIES WITH DETAILED 2010 BUDGET REQUEST”. These examples illustrate the American approach to dealing with NGOs. The theory is simple: fund the NGOs that the government believes can help society. This in the long term will improve world and local conditions and thereby as a result provide for greater conditions for the world’s superpower. The American approach is rational, and the United States government has the resources to provide such funding.
While the government of Jordan provides direct services and funding to its public institutions, it cannot sustain a budget with large funds for CSOs or NGOs. The economic realities limit the capabilities of the government of Jordan in comparison to those of the American government. In the case of America, many NGOs are directly funded by the government, after some lobbying, while maintain no political agenda and sticking to the humanitarian purposes of the organization. The American government benefits from the activities of some NGOs by claiming that they espouse the American Ideals while in times of difficulty ignoring human rights organizations that insist it has committed war crimes in its theatres of war.

Comparing American and Jordanian NGOs
The Jordanian government works to improve the law and application of it in the Hashemite Kingdom, at times taking into consideration the reports provided for by human rights organizations while funding royal CSO initiatives. While the American government funds NGOs, the Jordanian government is determined to be complemented by them. NGOs and CSOs work in cooperation with the Jordanian government to improve society while not necessarily hindering the government through funding. To the contrary, and as has been earlier noted, some CSOs help fund important activities in the Kingdom that would have otherwise not been funded.
The general approach to NGOs, whether American or Jordanian is that if the NGO abides the law and works genuinely to improve civil society then the atmosphere is conducive for cooperation. NGOs purported to work against the interest of either nation will not be tolerated. An example is clear through the case of the Holyland Foundation. Based in Texas, the Holy Land foundation was an American NGO operated by Muslim Americans that provided charity for people in the occupied Palestinian territories. After the state of Israel argued to the United states government that the charity money “could reach the hands of terrorists”, the NGO offices were closed down, and it’s leaders were put on trial:
The Holy Land Foundation was the largest Islamic charity in the United States. Headquartered in Richardson, Texas,[1] it was originally known as Occupied Land Fund.[2] In 2007, federal prosecutors brought charges against the organization for funding Hamas and other "Islamic terrorist organizations". Prosecutors also named the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America, and the North American Islamic Trust as unindicted co-conspirators in the case.
Its assets were frozen by the European Union[3] and U.S., and it was shut down by the U.S. government following the discovery that it was funding Hamas. The 2008 trial of the charity leaders was dubbed the "largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history."[4] In 2009, the founders of the organization were given life sentences for "funneling $12 million to Hamas."[5]
The organization's website stated: "Our mission is to find and implement practical solutions for human suffering through humanitarian programs that impact the lives of the disadvantaged, disinherited, and displaced peoples suffering from man-made and natural disasters." Their primary area of focus was with the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. They also provided support to victims after disasters and wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, and the United States (after Iowa floods, Texas tornadoes, and the Oklahoma City bombing).

Conclusion
The government therefore regulates NGOs in one form or another, and the relationship between non-governmental or civil society organizations and the governments under which they operate is a relationship based on mutual interest, cooperation, and benefit. In the case of America, it is the benefit of improving society and expanding humanitarian ideals believed to be part of the American system through government funding, while in the case of Jordan it is also the benefit of improving society and expanding humanitarian ideals the Kingdom aims to achieve through cooperation and CSO accentuation of ongoing government agendas. Criticism is allowed, not always listened to, and sometimes leads to beneficial change. Hidden political agendas and actions by NGOs that contradict the law of the land, whether in the USA or Jordan put the operations of NGOs in jeopardy. The key to successful civil society organizations is cooperation, patience, respect, and shared goals with their host government. When such standards are available, the relationship flourishes for the benefit of all, most important of which is society.






References

Bint Ṭalāl, Basmah (Princess). (2004) . Rethinking an NGO: development, donors and civil society in Jordan New York. Palgrave Mcmillan.

ICNL: NGO Law Monitor - Jordan
http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story_s.asp?StoryId=1093325506
Jordan to review law on NGO funding - The National Newspaper

Jordan River Foundation

Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Jenin

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No, I wrote it two days ago, its saved on my pc. Any critiques would be appreciated btw.
 

CJ 2.0

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Thought I would take you up on your request to provide comments. Trying to give you more big picture stuff here, so focus is on the intro and biger picture issues. Hope you find it helpful.


Introduction
Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are established with the objective of helping and empowering civil society through some form of service.

Not necessarily. NGO's are established with the objective of advancing a cause or interest, whether of an entire population or a subset. The objective may be in furtherance of cvivil society goals, but the objective does not necessarily need to be to pursue such goals.

It is probably more accurate to say that NGO's pursue issues or interests using mechanisms of civil society (discussion, awareness, lobbying etc.).

Whether they are established by religious institutions, neighborhood communities or groups of people, NGOs maintain the same objective of providing for a change for the better.

also, I think this is less nuanced than it needs to be. Some NGOs could be formed to maintain the status quo and lobby to prevent change. Their orientation on status quo would not be determinative to whether they are properly classified as an NGO.

NGOs operate in different fields such as human rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, or charity.

would say "often" operate, because that is the focus of your paper (which is totally fine), but unless you can footnote cite something definitive (such as a national law spcifying what types of activities an NGO can engage in to be recognized by a national authority - would think Jordan or the UN would make the most sense given the topic of your paper), you should add that language to give yourself a bit more wiggle room.

...

In the United States, NGOs maintain their independence by refusing to advocate a certain political agenda, or refusing to induct government officials as members of the organization while at the same time lobbying politicians for funding or legislation.

I don't think this is true. I think, and I suspect you mean, that NGOs are nominally non-partisan organizations. Of course they advocate political agendas (whether environmental regulation, gender equality or anything else) - politcal agendas are really the essence of non-charitable NGOs, and even many charitable ones as well. What they tend to avoid is acting as partisans for particular politicans or political movements (at least in an official capacity, though my understanding is that NGOs will, or at least are empowered to, endorse candidates they feel more closely align with their interests).
The same is true for Jordan, however this is not the only case; members of the royal family fund and operate NGOs and cooperate with government officials to promote development, while other NGOs in Jordan are charities affiliated with religious institutions or political parties such as the Islamic Action Front. The government tolerates civil society organizations (or CSOs, as they are known in Jordan) as long as they do not directly promote a political agenda and maintain services for the whole of society.

I think you should dig a but on this distinction -which I suspect is not really a similarity as you have set it up. I don't think there is a prohibition on NGOs having a direct political agenda (e.g., an NGO set up to lobby for the adopting of a carbon tax or cap and trade, or to advocate for minority voting rights/opportunities or access to polituical institutions).

One other point I would make on a more general level is that the paper at this point would benefit from a thesis statement - a "this is what I observe and this is what I will be explaining to you in the course of this paper" statement. With papers, it is always helpful to follow the rule of 3 - describe what you are going to tell the audience (intro), then tell the audience (body), and then tell them what you already told them (conclusion). Also helps keep you focused.
 
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CJ 2.0

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Laws empowering women have been enacted in recent years, granting women more rights and freedoms traditional oriental society would not have provided for.

Not sure your background or location, but I had understood a certain PC hostility to the term "oriental" to describe the middle east. I'm sure it's ok, just wanted to flag the issue for you.

NGOs in America
Hundreds of thousands of NGOs exist in the United States. Every American budget takes into consideration the allocation of funds for non-governmental organizations.

would tone this down a bit in terms of definitiveness. What budgets are you talking about? I'm sure there are wide swaths of the general population that do not budget an allocation of funds to NGOs. Do you mean governments (national, state and local)?

Former President George W. Bush funded faith-based community programs, and President Barak Hussein Obama continued the practice, while also choosing alternative CSOs and NGOs to fund. For example, the NGO Bread for the World praised president Obama’s funding, stating “Budget Underscores Obama’s Commitment to Address Hunger and Poverty”, while another NGO, Interaction stated in a headline bulletin on its official website “PRESIDENT OBAMA FULFILLS PROMISE TO BEGIN REBUILDING HUMANITARIAN AND DEVELOPMENT CAPABILITIES WITH DETAILED 2010 BUDGET REQUEST”. These examples illustrate the American approach to dealing with NGOs. The theory is simple: fund the NGOs that the government believes can help society.

With respect, I think this is somewhat simplistic, and you miss an opportunity to explore the political advantages of directing funding (after all, in democratic societies like the US the next election is everything to very many politicians). Bush saw giving money to faith-based NGOs as an opportunity to direct funds to a strong backer of his presidency, while also allowing those he favours to gain influence and prestige within society. He also sought to reverse the decline of influence of faith-based organizations on American life.

And make no mistake, Obama plays the political game in terms of playing to his base and trying to maximize the political advantages of every decision just as much as any other elected offical.

of course, that does not mean that there are not cases where genuine interests had a direct, or even primary, influence. I think one example would be Bush's African AIDS initiative, though I suspect a big portion of this was to try to sideswipe the pro-choice groups that promoted abortions as a remedy to societal problems (Harper is now doing something similar in Canadian aid efforts). That initiative, which got him very little politically, has also had him described as the best POTUS Africa has ever had, and looking back he may be seen to be one of the most positive forces for Africa of this political age (as an aside legacy interests are also of primary importance to ego-driven politcians, which most leaders are to varying degrees)

The American government benefits from the activities of some NGOs by claiming that they espouse the American Ideals while in times of difficulty ignoring human rights organizations that insist it has committed war crimes in its theatres of war.

this is a good point and worth expanding upon. NGOs play a foreign policy-by-proxy role for domestic governments, which use them to spread certain viewss or ideals or views that cannot be spread directly by the government.

NGOs purported to work against the interest of either nation will not be tolerated.

this statement is far too strong. Lots of NGOs that work against the interests of a nation are tolerated (think of the whole host of Israeli NGOs which are directly at odds with the democractically elected government). A robust civil society can absorb this sort of dissent, with the stronger the society, the grater room for divergent views. This is also a point worth emphasizing. Jorden, with a far less robust civil society and history of political and pghilosophical thought consistent with democratic principles, cannot absorb the same level of diovergence as robust democracies.

An example is clear through the case of the Holyland Foundation. Based in Texas, the Holy Land foundation was an American NGO operated by Muslim Americans that provided charity for people in the occupied Palestinian territories. After the state of Israel argued to the United states government that the charity money “could reach the hands of terrorists”, the NGO offices were closed down, and it’s leaders were put on trial:

If you want to remain non-political in this paper, I would stay far, far away from this example. I am not going to do the full gamut of research, but the allegations were , in particular, that:

"HLF supported Hamas activities through direct fund transfers to its offices in the West Bank and Gaza that are affiliated with Hamas, and transfers of funds to Islamic charity committees ("zakat committees") and other charitable organizations that are part of Hamas or controlled by Hamas members. The Department of Treasury also reported that HLF funds were used by Hamas to support schools that served Hamas's ends by encouraging children to become suicide bombers and to recruit suicide bombers by offering support to their families" and the HLF was convicted on the basis that:

Holy Land was found guilty of giving more than $12 million to support the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which the US designated as a terrorist organization in 1995, and made supporting the group illegal.

(all from wikipedia, there are undoubtedly real sources out there).

HLF provided material support to an orginization designated as a foreign terrorist organization (which Hamas was and is, incidentally). Banning an "NGO" that advocates murder of the elderly or genocide against a minority group is not a demonstration of the weakness of a civil society, particularly where the organization does more than lobby or advocate but actually lends assistance to those carrying out the agenda.

You cannot use the HLF conviction as a counterpart to Jordanian restrictions on its NGOs to engage in "political activity" and to pretend that Jordan and the US are the same in good faith. It undermines the objectivwe nature of your essay and turns it into an advocacy peice with holes that you can drive a truck through.

Just my 2 cents.

Conclusion
The government therefore regulates NGOs in one form or another, and the relationship between non-governmental or civil society organizations and the governments under which they operate is a relationship based on mutual interest, cooperation, and benefit. In the case of America, it is the benefit of improving society and expanding humanitarian ideals believed to be part of the American system through government funding, while in the case of Jordan it is also the benefit of improving society and expanding humanitarian ideals the Kingdom aims to achieve through cooperation and CSO accentuation of ongoing government agendas. Criticism is allowed, not always listened to, and sometimes leads to beneficial change. Hidden political agendas and actions by NGOs that contradict the law of the land, whether in the USA or Jordan put the operations of NGOs in jeopardy. The key to successful civil society organizations is cooperation, patience, respect, and shared goals with their host government. When such standards are available, the relationship flourishes for the benefit of all, most important of which is society.

Solid conclusion.

All in all, this is a very good start, but you can take it to a whole new level if time and space (and interest) permit.
 
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