The EU and conflict prevention in Jordan

This Civil Society Dialogue Network discussion paper by Laura Davis and Fatima Ayub is intended to stimulate discussion and reflection on what lessons for EU contributions to conflict prevention can be drawn from the case of Jordan.

Jordan is a good example of an important but not urgent situation where incremental efforts to prevent conflict may well yield greater returns over time than responding to crises when they become visible. But as these problems are not urgent, they require considerable political leadership and capital because success is less evident.

Jordan is seen by its partners, with the support of the Jordanian government, as the stable partner in a volatile region. Whether as part of the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), as a partner against Da’esh and in counter-terrorism, as a haven for refugees, Jordan’s role as a “Western ally” overshadows Jordan-as-Jordan. This paper argues that Jordan’s internal situation should be taken into consideration more effectively. It discusses four key drivers of conflict in Jordan, and the EU’s responses to them:

  • Rapidly changing demography, particularly owing to the resettlement of refugees;
  • Diplomatic relations and the geopolitics of the region;
  • Domestic political freedoms; and
  • Domestic fiscal management and economic policy.

The paper shows that EU programming documents repeatedly identify and address these key drivers of conflict. Yet by the EU’s own evaluation, Jordan is not working to mitigate the challenges related to inclusive and responsive governance and economic growth. Despite its extensive aid packages and trade arrangements, the EU has not been able to negotiate improvement on Jordan’s domestic conflict drivers.

A key obstacle is Jordan’s status as a lynchpin in regional stability and security, and here Jordan’s security and the security of the regime are seen as synonymous. Within this context, reforms that could lead to political instability may seem high-risk. On the other hand, doing nothing allows the problem to fester and also carries risk. Since the ‘Arab Spring’ Jordanians are more aware of the possibilities of challenging the existing order and the possibility that this discontent will manifest violently cannot be dismissed.

The EU could contribute to preventing conflict in Jordan if the EEAS facilitates, quietly, a better strategy for the country, supported by a good implementation plan led and owned by key Jordanian reformers and institutions for building a better, more inclusive society.

The EEAS could also muster political support from the relevant parts of the EU machinery and Member States to invest resources in supporting the reforms necessary to reduce the risk of violent endogenous conflict in Jordan. To build resilience, the EU – through the EEAS and/or well-positioned MS – needs to find a way to work with the Jordanian government, particularly the Royal Court and the security services, to build on the limited political and economic reforms it has achieved to date and extend them in the future. It should also find a way to support bridges between reformers and civil society to help develop a national dialogue for inclusive reform.

This would not necessarily require a change in EU policy or instruments, but the assumption of a quiet leadership role, using the tools at its disposal – such as political dialogue – more effectively.

The EC should use its funds more effectively before they shrink. The solution to Jordan’s serious and deepening fiscal crisis is significant political reform, rather than continuing to provide budgetary support or trying to build the private sector. The EU is presumably expecting to write off the loans it has made as the cost of keeping Syrian migrants out of Europe. This will not alleviate the problems: Jordan will share borders with highly unstable neighbours in Syria and Iraq for some time, but eventually international attention and funding will presumably turn towards reconstruction in these countries as Jordan’s regional role (and donor support) diminishes. There will likely be less funding available for Jordan in the future, but this may also provide the opportunity for the EC, EEAS and concerned EU MS to plan for new scenarios.

The EEAS and the EU Delegation to Jordan should also monitor closely the outcomes of their current governance and reform programming and align future funding to reflect progress made, as it is already supposed to do. The EU should not just seek to strengthen its partnership solely in the security arena, but should also stay attuned to meaningful if small measures that the government initiates (such as the recent proposals from a royal committee for justice sector reforms is a good example) and direct their political and financial support to encourage those reforms.

In this way, the EU could demonstrate leadership in preventing violent conflict, with results in Jordan and beyond.

This post gives the views of the author and does not represent the position of EPLO as a whole.

Click here to download the Civil Society Dialogue Network Discussion
Paper No. 11: The EU and conflict prevention in Jordan.

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