The Roles of the US and the EU

Jordan’s major donors, the US and the EU, together provided Jordan with around US$600 million in 2006, nearly ten percent of Jordan’s projected 2007 budget of $6.4 billion. They have played a significant role in bolstering the Jordanian economy and enabling the government to operate.117 The US has also worked closely with the Jordanian government to develop its security and counterterrorism capacity. Both the US and the EU have claimed that an important part of their objectives in the Middle East, and in Jordan in particular, is to encourage the development of civil society, including by pressing for changes in the association law, and strengthening the rule of law. Sadly, they appear to have achieved little in practice to prevent Jordan from slipping backward on the rights to assembly and association.

The conditions, benchmarks or other criteria the US and EU use to determine Jordan’s eligibility for funding are not public, but there seem to be no financial penalties for Jordan associated with restricting the rights to assembly and association. Furthermore, the US and the EU have made no public criticism of the Jordanian government’s repeated attacks on civil society freedoms.

US funding to Jordan included, in 2007, $167.5 million as direct budgetary support in the form of a cash transfer to pay the country’s external non-military debt. In turn, Jordan provides an equivalent amount of money for development programs, jointly agreed upon with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID uses “condition precedents” to set criteria, all of which Jordan must meet before any funding becomes available. Although the cash transfer is designed to improve economic and policy reform, restricting rights of assembly and association have clearly not been part of the condition precedents. The US is well aware of Jordan’s poor record on civil rights and political freedoms: when Jordan became eligible to receive US funding through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US funding vehicle that helps countries with a proven track record address their deficiencies, the MCC specifically targeted civil rights and political freedoms for funding due to Jordan’s poor ratings in the MCC worldwide comparison of eligible countries.118

The EU, too, is aware of the poor state of the rights of association and assembly in Jordan. Its assistance program seeks to improve the environment in which civil society operates and promotes changes to the law of associations. However, the EU holds a human rights dialogue with the Jordanian government behind closed doors and seems to have been unable to stop Jordan from regressing on freedom of association, let alone implementing an associations law in compliance with human rights. Rather than condition specified future funding on such improvement, EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner on a visit to Jordan in February 2007 announced continued EU funding of €265 over the next four years and an ever-closer political partnership.

Ironically, the highest priority of EU engagement over the coming years lists “[s]upport to political developments, including role of civil society.”119

In its National Indicative Programme (NIP) for Jordan for 2007-2010, a planning tool for aid disbursement, the EU writes that it plans to use the new funding to help set up NGO “networks and umbrella groups.” However, the new NGO law of 2007, which imposes stringent conditions on merging NGOs or forming unions, nips this plan in the bud.120 Indeed, the NIP openly recognizes that “NGOs are allowed to work only in their stated specialized field and after presenting a detailed description of their planned activities and budget to the authorities [and that] NGOs are not permitted to engage in political activities.”121 It is therefore difficult to imagine how the expected results of “creation of civil society platforms/networks” and “increas[ing] dialogue between civil society/non-state actors [and] government” can realistically be achieved.122 The EU/Jordan Action Plan accompanying the NIP is more concrete and specifies as its goals promoting “[f]reedom of association and Development of Civil Society” and, specifically, “[r]eform legislation on associations.”123 However, in reiterating these goals, the EU admits a record of failure since its 2004 NIP already included the goals of “promoting freedom of expression, of opinion, of association and of assembly.”124 Merely restating the same goals without achieving them saps both the ability of the EU to effect change through its funding and the confidence of Jordanians in its desire to do so.

117 The US in 2006 proposed gave Jordan $507.5 million, House of Representatives, H.R. 3057 [109th]: Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006,” Novemmber 14, 2005, and United States Agency for International Development, “About Us – Budget,” (accessed November 5, 2007). The EU gave Jordan €73 million in 2006, Email to Human Rights Watch from EU representative, Amman, November 5, 2006; and Law No. 1 (2007) on the Public Budgets for the Fiscal Year 2007, art. 2.

118 See (accessed November 5, 2007).

119 “EU-Jordan: Commissioner Ferrero Waldner presents €265 million assistance package during her visit,” European Commission Press Release, March 1, 2007, (accessed October 19, 2007).

120 European Commission, European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, Jordan, Strategy Paper 2007 – 2013 & National Indicative Programme, p. 25, 2007 – 2010, (accessed October 19, 2007).

121 European Commission, European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, Jordan, Strategy Paper 2007 – 2013 & National Indicative Programme, p. 6, 2007 – 2010, (accessed October 19, 2007).

122 European Commission, European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, Jordan, Strategy Paper 2007 – 2013 & National Indicative Programme, p. 26, 2007 – 2010, (accessed October 19, 2007).

123 European Commission, EU/Jordan Action Plan, no date, p.4, (accessed October 19, 2007).

124 European Commission, Euro-Med Partnership, Jordan National Indicative Programme, 2005-2006, September 24, 2004, p.18 (accessed October 19, 2007).