Dr. Shehab Al-Makahleh
I have been discussing the latest incidents in Jordan with a number of political and security strategist in the West who voiced their support to government measures to counter violence. They reiterated their full support to Jordan as a stable country whose stability is a source of stability to the whole Middle East region.
Since ascending the Throne in 1999, His Majesty King Abdullah II has established a clear vision for comprehensive political and economic reform and future of democracy in Jordan. In a series of discussion papers, King Abdullah II has inspired a national dialogue on the reform endeavor and the democratic transformation process that Jordan is undergoing, with the aim of reaching a consensus, encouraging public participation in decision-making and sustaining the constructive momentum around the on-going reform process.
These discussion papers have set the priorities of the Jordanian citizens to preserve the security of the homeland, protecting the kingdom from those who would tamper with the country’s stability, unity and security. It is time for all of us to realize that a secure Jordan is a must to achieve the long-sought development and progress.
In the past few days, Jordan witnessed irresponsible demonstrations that are not related to any call for reform. Such demonstrations were mere act of violence to exercise pressure on the citizens rather than the government. Such demonstrations are unacceptable because they put to risk people’s lives and negatively affected the public’s interests.
The protests have taken three approaches: First, peaceful sit-ins that conveyed their message to officials in a civilized manner about aspired goals. Second, protests that have taken a course that expressed the anger of some of its participants who blocked roads and attacked government foundations and state buildings. The protestors have exploited the state of anger to achieve personal gains at the expense of the interest of the country and its people. Third, some participants have derailed from the right approach of expressing their views by militarizing their demonstrations, waging arms and weapons against security men and police to weaken state institutions, distort the country’s image and reputation, and destroy people’s values by sowing seeds of discord among citizens by targeting security men.
The issue in Jordan cannot be blamed on the government or its policies, but rather on regional and international economic and political developments which posed heavy burden on Jordan and its people. I have written a policy paper and published it few years ago in the aftermath of the outbreak of demonstrations in some Arab countries in 2011 or the so-called “Arab Spring”, dissecting and diagnosing the reasons behind Jordan’s real dilemmas and quandaries. Jordan has been paying the price for instability of some countries in the region which triggered and aggravated social, economic and political difficulties that have sparked some sit-ins in some places that were abused and manipulated by a group of toxic people who have non-Jordanian agendas to destabilize the kingdom to force its leadership for more political concessions in certain files.
Western strategists believe that Jordan cannot overcome its political and socio-economic hardships without regional and international support. For the country to respond to its people’s needs, mainly youth, who comprise 70 percent of the population, countries in the West and in the Arab Gulf region should sustain their support to help Jordan overcome all these hindrances. A country like Jordan, as some western scholars confirm, is a gatekeeper to regional peace and stability and plays a key role in peace sustainability by countering extremism and terrorism.
Jordan’s issues came to the scene few years ago because the kingdom lies at the crossroads of the least economically cohesive region in the world. To address this impediment, regional powers and international allies to Jordan should enhance regional economic integration to nurture innovative prospects, launch new markets to equip Jordan with all potentials and capacities to serve as a bulwark against subverting economic and political commotions.
Jordan’s stability is not only in the interest of Jordan, Jordanians, and the country’s leadership, but also in the interest of the region and the world because of the kingdom’s geostrategic prominence. Since Jordan hosts the second highest share of refugees per capita globally, the government of Jordan and its people should be assisted to counter radicalism and terrorism to thwart all endeavors by external players to intrude the country’s national fabric.
Thus, as more than 500,000 university graduates are seeking decent job opportunities, it is a must to ensure the country’s socio-economic stability. If Jordan’s economic challenges are not addressed by the kingdom’s allies, the country will continue to have double-digit unemployment rates, hiking public debts and food insecurity amongst other hardships. Consequently, unemployment requires immediate thoughtfulness which require near-term endeavors to preserve professions and businesses by adopting reforms that attract new investments, curtail red tape, launch new markets and create commercial opportunities.
The right economic policies should help create positive outcomes for vulnerable Jordanians and boost prospects for durable economic development. King Abdullah reiterated on many occasions that reform is key to better socio-economic and political achievements, successive governments and officials should adhere to their responsibilities as Jordanians are the real asset for the country and its development. Jordan’s peace, stability and tranquility has direct positive impact on the whole Middle East region.