The role of the centre of government in driving decentralisation reform in Jordan

The Decentralisation Law and Municipality Law adopted in 2015 reflect the commitment of the Government of Jordan to move towards a culture of popular participation at the subnational layers of government and local democracy. However, for King Abdullah II’s vision of a political development process that starts at the grassroots level, and moves up to higher decision-making centres to fully materialise, a number of key challenges needs to be addressed.

Importantly, the Government of Jordan has a strong political commitment to pursuing decentralisation reform that allows central/local dynamics to evolve, and that takes into consideration the potential instability of the political framework. Jordan is at the first stage of a long path towards decentralisation. The official discourse on decentralisation needs to take into consideration the political, financial and administrative components that such a reform requires. The introduction of the democratic component by including elections at the governorate and local level is an important step that will also bring responsibilities and duties to the Jordanian public administration. The establishment and consolidation of local democratic administrations will also require a profound change in the administrative, working and regulatory culture between government and constituencies.

Sustaining high-level political support is key to ensuring the success of the reform. Nevertheless, the donor attention paid to supporting the decentralisation reform speaks to the political commitment to carry it out. The fact that the leading body is in the Centre of Government also illustrates political support from the top level, and grants authority to request the participation of line ministries and agencies.

Given the importance of making the decentralisation reform happen, and to ensure a long-lasting reform, the government could consider the following recommendations:

The need of clarifying roles, competences and the relevance of the implementation process of the decentralisation reform:

• Clarify roles and responsibilities at the national, governorate and local level.

This could include a clearer identification of services to be provided by each level of government, the line ministries’ role, and the opinion of governorates and local governments that share competencies. This would be complemented by a comprehensive list of competency distributions across the different levels. Organisational charts would be published on line in the websites of each administration.

• Publish guides and materials on the Decentralisation and Municipalities

Laws, their implications and effects at the national, govemorate and local level with a focus on the forthcoming elections at the govemorate and local level. These guides will be an important working tool for public servants and employees at the national, governorate and local level, and will ensure a common understanding of the implications and expected outcomes of the reform.

  • • Promote a general and comprehensive debate on the new role of governorates, and in particular of the governor, Governorate Council and the Executive Council, especially before the 2017 elections. Clarify the relationship between governors and the Executive Council (and line ministries in Amman), as well their co-ordination role with municipalities.
  • • Once the new elected bodies take up their duties, council members will need support to understand the dynamics of each administration and how to contribute to them. Government of Jordan will need to concentrate on reinforcing the capacities of the members of the newly elected bodies to ensure that the citizens’ expectations on their role and functions will be appropriately met.
  • • A follow-up committee should be created to bring updated and evidence- based information to the Cabinet on a regular basis. Such a committee will also help promote a more integrated approach between the MoI and MoMA to ensure that a “subnational dimension” is fully integrated on the implementation strategy and the road map.

A stronger and more co-ordinated centre of government (CoG)

  • • Consolidate and reinforce the role of Jordan’s centre of government on implementing the decentralisation reform, that the Cabinet Office, MoI and MoMA, MoPIC and MoPPA will play a key role.
  • • Strengthen and reinforce co-operation and co-ordination among the CoG institutions implicated in the decentralisation reform as well as with the rest of the public administration. Crucially, this could contribute to overcoming the existing silo-based approach to service delivery at the local level (as outlined in Chapter 3), while ensuring that policy and spending are better linked and potential overlap and duplication reduced. The GoJ must also ensure effective communication and co-ordination between CoG institutions and collectively with line ministries and citizens by developing a clear communication strategy towards citizens to explain the decentralisation reform through seminars and a dissemination campaign across the country. Some initiatives such as the national dialogue launched by the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs together with the Jordan NGOs coalition is an initiative that could be replicated even prior to the elections.
  • • In so doing, the Decentralisation Committee needs to follow an implementation road map agreed and approved by the Council of Ministers that includes a set of short, medium and long-term objectives, as well as expected outputs and outcomes. These outputs and outcomes should include performance indicators and could be published and disseminated regularly.
  • • Develop a centralised monitoring mechanism to evaluate and make adjustments during and after the implementation of the decentralisation programme.
  • • Strengthen capacity to implement decentralisation reform in the structures within the CoG by reinforcing the human and financial resources of the MoI, MoMA and MoSPD so that they can work closely with governorates and municipalities on designing and implementing decentralisation strategic policy and assessing and monitoring progress, and feed this information into governorate programmes.
  • • Reinforce the working relationships between the MoI and MoMA so that all are working to achieve the same strategic decentralisation objectives and to mainstream decentralisation within Jordan 2025. These ministries could work with MoPIC, which is responsible for integrating all strands of national development strategy, including decentralisation and regional development, inclusive growth, and public administration reform at the subnational levels into the Biannual Development Programme (currently 2016-2018).
  • • Parliament should play a greater role in the follow-up of the implementation of the reform. The Government of Jordan (through the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs) could consider submitting annual decentralisation reports to the Parliament by developing performance indicators on decentralisation and their impact against the objectives of the reform.
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