Razzaz restorative justice and national revival


By Fares Braizat - July 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.

Razzaz restorative justice and national revival
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The raging “debate” in and about Jordan over the political reform process, in general, and the constitutional amendments, in particular, reflects a set of competing narratives that are rooted in deeply seated competing value systems among Jordanian masses and elites alike. These value systems are “survival values” and “self-expression values”. The former is characterized by emphasis on materialistic values, such as economic and physical security, resistance to change, traditional conservative viewpoints, more religious, less choice-based primitive associational life, and a sense of primordial pride.

 

The self-expression values are characterized by emphasis on participation in decision making in economic and political life, less religious, aspiring to change, protecting the environment, tolerance and acceptance of “others”, and gender equality.

 

Survival values are generally associated more with authoritarian predispositions, while self-expression values are associated with liberal democratic leanings.

 

Jordan’s cultural map produced based on the World Values Survey data set suggests that Jordan’s society is more like the societies with a survival-traditional value system than self-expression secular values. Jordan is in the league of Islamic and African societies — with various degrees of distance — along with Egypt, Libya, Yamen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunis, Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Iran and Turkey.

 

The most advanced on these scales are Sweden and, to a lesser degree, the countries in its league: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland.    

 

Given these deeply rooted value systems, we have to travel a very long distance to a fully democratic and functional political system. The reforms proposed by the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System are only road signs on a road to be paved.

 

None of the societies in Jordan’s cultural league – named above – are fully democratic, and most are fully autocratic, totalitarian, while maintaining a semi-capitalist economy. Some of these countries have a competitive electoral process, such as Turkey and Iran, but not necessarily democratic.

 

Those in Sweden’s league are fully democratic.

 

These value systems constitute the social origins of political orders. Therefore, they are consequential and relevant to the questions that are being asked today in Jordan and the region, such as to which one of the competing governance models should Jordan belong, to the authoritarian or the democratic ones? Or should it belong to a subtype of these two? And should Jordan have a choice to choose or to belong to one or another? Or, should it carve a governance model of its own? And if so, can it construct a reformed model that works for Jordanians to solve their chronic economic problems and be consistent with observed international standards?

Jordan’s reform process lives with the “new cold war” between competing models of governance which is raging globally, and societies are looking for “governance models” to address their many protracted economic problems.

 

When Jordanians and other Arab societies look around, they see two types of models: authoritarian with a mixed bag of economic success and failure; and democratic with more economic success than failure. Unfortunately, none of the Arab societies belong to the category of democratic and economically successful societies.

 

All economically successful countries are established democracies, while authoritarian countries tend to be more failing than succeeding economically.

 

Arab countries with authoritarian political regimes are either failing or failed states, like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. These states are either already disintegrated or disintegrating along many fault lines that include sectarian, religious, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic stratification.

 

Another type of Arab state is the “assertive authoritarian”, which is represented by the United Arab Emirates-Dubai model, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These are registering economic growth through top-down emphatic governance model, which is very attractive for “want-to-be-migrants” from other Arab countries, be they individuals or investors.

 

Assertive states are pushing economic modernization and, with it, various degrees of cultural modernity. The outcome of this model is yet to be seen. Is it going to look like democratic South Korea or like authoritarian China?

 

Although countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Kuwait run periodic, quite free and fair, competitive parliamentary elections, they produce parliaments with various degrees of political efficacy. Elections in Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia have not delivered a successful economic outcome as employment rates continue to climb and economic growth is meager. Therefore, it is essential for these countries to liberalize their economies fundamentally and end all monopolies to set free enterprise truly free.

 

Free markets tend to increase competitive economics, which in turn, increases socioeconomic mobility and individuals’ autonomy. These are among the many essential ingredients to drive a change in value systems from traditional to legal-rational and from survival to self-expression. These value systems are indispensable for the evolution of competitive political systems. A country’s commitment to democratic reforms can be read clearly in its ability to execute serious economic reforms that will propel all other reforms.

 

Given these realities, it is not surprising to see resistance to the Royal Committee’s proposals, for very different reasons. While the self-expression segment of society wants more structural reforms, the survival segment wants some measure of reform but without much change. The tactful ingenuity is to drive these reforms and their consequential outcomes while managing competing interests and value systems, maintaining stability, delivering services, and, above all, preserving the national interests in a very volatile environment marred by suspicion, distrust and perceived uncertainty.


 

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

 

 

 

 


For the original news source, click here

January 09, 2022- Jordan News

Although China does not appear on the “top of the mind list” of Jordanians when asked open-ended questions about which country is the largest economic supporter or the closest ally of Jordan, interestingly, 38 percent of Jordanians describe political relations between the Jordanian and the Chinese governments as “very good” and 54 percent as “somewhat good”, according to the foreign relations survey conducted jointly by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions and KAS last fall.

Moreover, 61 percent would like to strengthen these relations and 29 percent would like to keep them as they are. Those who would like to “limit” these relations constituted 8 percent of those surveyed. This means Jordanians, largely, have a positive predisposition toward China. What will happen to it in the in future, depends on how that “shared future” may turn out to be.

Consequently, when asked which country they would like Jordan to cooperate with more in the future, only 5 percent of the Jordanians surveyed mentioned China, improving from 1 percent in the 2018 survey. When asked which non-Arab country Jordan shares most foreign policy interests with, only 2 percent, mentioned China, while 63 percent mentioned the US, followed by Turkey, 9 percent, and the UK, 8 percent. Although China is climbing, it has a very long way to go when compared to traditional “allies” and “frienemies” of Jordan.

Despite the perception of 37 percent of Jordanians that China’s policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict is “pro-Israel”, of 9 percent that it is pro-Palestinians and of 45 percent who believe it is either balanced or indifferent, over half of adult Jordanians, 54 percent, would like China to play “a much larger” role, and 25 percent “a somewhat larger” role in the region.

There are reasons for such preference for a larger role for China in the region. In the most recent wave of the Arab Barometer Surveys (AB) 2018-9, 70 percent of Jordanians expressed a preference for “closer economic ties with China” and 73 percent want “more foreign aid” from China.

Most positions expressed on China by Jordanians are driven by economic reasons, which are of significant importance for them.

Although there is not much of a “shared past” between the Arabs and China, there might be plenty of a “shared future”. But reaching there will not be a smooth ride. China is moving aggressively on the economic front globally through many projects, and the “one belt one road” is only one of them; the region is not an exception to this global Chinese momentum.

Illustratively, despite the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) historical strategic relations with the US and the West broadly, China is building strategic partnerships with all GCC countries and their neighbors. To that effect, China’s 25-year strategic partnership with Iran, which is said to be worth $400 billion to be invested in Iran’s oil, petrochemicals, gas, infrastructure, business, services, telecoms, and technology transfer, is a case in point.

Iraq, Egypt and Algeria are building similar partnerships although their publics are less excited than Jordanians and Tunisians about closer economic ties with China, according to the AB surveys.

These developments make the region a more contested ground for spheres of influence. While regional and international players are blamed by Jordanian public opinion for instability in the region, namely Israel 54 percent, US 19 percent, and Iran 6 percent, China is not even mentioned. It is expected that the showdown is going to intensify over the next five years as China increases its economic presence and strategic partnerships in competition with the US and/or at its expense.

China has not yet weighed in politically, but its economic ties will dictate such an eventuality. When asked “which of the following non-Arab actors will have the strongest influence in the Middle East in 10 years”, the US came on top, at 42 percent (no change from 2019), but China came in second, at 13 percent, up from 8 percent in 2019.

So what does China want in the region? It is likely that China wants to: a) promote its model of assertive-authoritarianism by deals with governments, not peoples of the region; b) open and expand markets, c) ensures energy supply. In such a formula, China will appeal to like-minded governments in the region and if its economic projects deliver solutions to the chronic unemployment problems, it will appeal more to the peoples of the region. Its arch rival, the US, ought to reexamine its policies on governance, conflict and peace, and strategic alignments.

Perhaps a new regional security order has never been more relevant than now.

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

for the original news source, click here

January 16, 2022- Jordan News

When the country’s official unemployment rate is 19 per cent, and much higher among the educated youth, with nearly half of them planning on leaving the country, it becomes really hard for any well-balanced person with a little bit of touch with reality and people’s economic marginalisation to understand or accept from a national interest perspective why an enormous national economic treasure, such as the baptism site, is not utilised enough to realise its enormous economic potential. It must be important to a great number of the 2.5 billion Christians living in the world!

Investing in the baptism site will turn it into a bee-nest of employment opportunities for our emigrating youth. It serves the national interest of the country by reducing the sense of economic marginalisation, which will in turn lessen political socio-frustration stemming from a loss of faith in the government’s ability to enable the economy to create jobs for the ever-increasing hundreds of thousands of unemployed Jordanian youth. Polling data gathered by NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions clearly demonstrates a less-than-satisfactory evaluation of public policies on unemployment, poverty, cleanliness, education and health.

When these issues are combined with a significant increase in the percentage of Jordanian households reporting that their household income is “insufficient and does not meet their needs” from nearly 40 per cent in 2011 to two-thirds in 2019, one cannot possibly ignore these indicators and brush them under the carpet in a blatant state of denial. Responsible people will definitely make the link between these realties and developing the baptism site to help solve them.

Therefore, an expeditious action to turn the baptism site from its unsatisfying and economically semi-idle current state to an economically vibrant Christian pilgrimage site is in order. Along with its sister sites — Mukawer, Nebo, Mar Elias, Um Al Jmal, Um Al Rasas and Jesus cave — it will generate wealth and contribute to the reduction of the many socio-economic and socio-political ills. These ills have been accumulating over the years due to a weak sense of responsibility and the accountability of public policymakers. The time has come to utilise the untapped potential that awaits reasonability and a sense of responsibility towards unemployed and impoverished fellow Jordanians.

When comparing to the western side of the River Jordan, which received nearly three quarters of a million visitors in 2018, the Jordanian site, which is recognised by the Vatican and Christian denominations, received only 143,011 in 2018. It becomes even harder to understand logically and sanely why the baptism site is not on a par with the other side, which is not officially recognised by Christian churches as the baptism site.

Is it not embarrassing to all those in charge of public policy that nearly over a third of our adult people are considering emigrating, a figure that has doubled since 2011? And that half of our youth are willing to leave the country after we invested in their education in search for jobs and better economic opportunities while we have, inter alia, the treasure of the baptism site?

All this comes in a direly alarming context of a perceived increasing sense of injustice and inequality in the country. In 1999, only 8 per cent of adult Jordanians reported that “justice does not exist at all in Jordan”, and thanks to the appalling inadequacy of public policymakers, it reached 23 per cent in 2018. Similarly, the percentage of those who believe that “equality does not exist at all in Jordan” increased from 13 per cent to 30 per cent over the same period.

These alarm bells should make policymakers more conscious of public interest and less focused on personal narrow interests. Denial and business as usual is not an option in these unusual times. Jordans’ dignity is an extension of Jordanians’ dignity.

October 26, 2019 - Fares Braizat
This Survey was conducted in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung in Jordan. For the complete study and findings please click here.
October 2021, NAMA, Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung

Despite the fact that 83 per cent of Jordanians are “very unsatisfied” with the way in which the USA handles the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an overwhelming majority described political relations with US as very good (68 per cent) and somewhat good (26 per cent). Moreover, when asked in an open-ended question who is the closest ally of Jordan, the US topped the list and when asked which country should Jordan cooperate with more in the future, the US shared the top spot with the Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, when asked which non-Arab country Jordan shares the most foreign policy interests with, 63 per cent named the US, followed by Turkey at 9 per cent. These numbers are a testimony of the complexity of a multifaceted interplay between rationality, interests and identity. 

In the emerging multi-polar global order and the ever-changing political sand dunes of the Middle East, it is always essential to tune into the “collective choice” of the people to stay the course of a meaningful policy. Today, the hegemony of the US in the Middle East region is challenged by international actors, such as Russia and China, and regional players, such as Iran and Turkey. Traditional allies of the US, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the EU, also diverge on a variety of issues. Cases in point are: Turkey’s air defence missile deal with Russia and the contentious issue of Israeli-Chinese relations. The rise of Japanese and Australian sea power, exemplified by their aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines deals respectively, along with the bolstering of other allies, such as India and South Korea, are attempts to “extend” the life of an ailing unipolar system guided by the United States. 

While the US and NATO are trying to maintain a unipolar global order, China is making inroads globally, and soon the least of which will be the one belt one road initiative. Within this international context and its regional extensions appear a new dynamic further integrating Israel into the region with American blessings. Examples of this integration include: new normalisation agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, as well as ideas pertaining to large-scale energy and water projects between Jordan and Israel. These continue to be crafted and negotiated. Although a majority of Jordanian public opinion (80 per cent) opposes these new agreements and older ones, there is a desire to improve relations with the US, the main backer of past and present agreements. Furthermore, in the rivalry between the US and either China or Russia, Jordanians who would like Jordan to take a position, say they would support the US; majority prefer neutrality.

Although Jordan’s relations with all parties involved in these dynamics are relatively smooth, of course to varying degrees, with the exception of Israel and Iran, a position that is also reflected by Jordanian public opinion, some observers have questioned the plausibility of having two opposing approaches to relations with the US. It boils down to interests. The US is by far the largest donor to Jordan in the past 10 years with $7,959 billion, followed by the EU and its member states $6,081 billion. Trade data (2010-2020) also suggests a similar pattern, with the EU topping the list as the largest trading partner to Jordan with $47,946 billion. This is followed by Saudi Arabia with $46,554 billion, and the US at $30,891 billion. Grants and trade are essential to understand how and why Jordanian public opinion views relations with the US and other countries in such a way interlinking interests ( the US) with identity (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) and rationality (separating US policy on Palestine-Israel from US-Jordan relations).

The writer is the chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E Dr. Fares Braizat.

For the original news source:http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/fares-braizat/revisiting-us-jordan-relations

Nov 21,2021- Jordan Times