POMED Notes: “Jordan in the Regional Context: A Conversation with His Excellency Nasser Judeh”
On Tuesday the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted an event entitled, “Jordan in the Regional Context.” The event was introduced by Jessica T. Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, featuring His Excellency Nasser Judeh, Foreign Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and moderated by Katherine Wilkens, Middle East Program Deputy Director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
For full event notes, continue reading below or click here for the PDF version.Mathews opened the morning’s discussion by noting “we have seen only the very beginning of a profound and very long term transformation that is underway,” adding, “it will be the work of a generation to build a new order in the Middle East.” In terms of that process for Jordan, it finds itself at the “heart of a cauldron,” where it is surrounded by profound transformation in every direction.
Judeh, then began by noting, “Never has such a dialogue [as this] been more valuable than it is today,” and that it is up to leaders to react to the need for change, in order to insure that future generations benefit from this “gateway to dignity.” Judeh argued that there were two complementary phenomena that set change in the region in motion. The first of these was the expansion in the field of higher education in the Arab world, raising “hopes, and expectations, and requests for better and equal opportunities.” The second was the global revolution in information and communication technology. Judeh reasoned that the combination of the effects of higher education, joblessness, and the inability to engage in participatory politics, to which many were exposed through social media, fueled the grievances underpinning the Arab Awakening. He also noted that the state of society had been regressing for some time and that with this regression came an end to opportunity, dignity and hope for better lives. Thus, change was on its way to the region long before the Arab Spring, the question was only what form it would take.
Judeh continued, remarking that several factors make the Jordanian situation unique. Firstly, Jordan was an early investor in education, which resulted in an earlier education boom than in its Arab neighbors, and created opportunities both inside and outside of Jordan. Additionally, Jordan has always been a country open to a variety of ideas and ideologies, he contended, and Jordanians have been exposed to global values and opinions. This openness made the technology boom a tool rather than a threat. Most importantly, there was no contraction in the power-base, and therefore the system remains functional, credible, and in close touch with the people of Jordan. Moreover, Judeh argued, the King [of Jordan] has taken advantage of the new momentum for reform, and met that challenge through parliamentary and constitutional reform. Amendments have been made in several areas: guaranteeing and enhancing freedoms, rights and liberties; establishing a constitutional court entrusted with safeguarding the constitution; establishing an independent elections commission; and restoring the balance between the executive and legislative authority.
Judeh also noted the perspective of Jordan concerning regional dynamics. The Arab Awakening should not make us lose focus on the core challenges in the region, he argued. In the first place, “the Palestinian problem is not removed or detached from the current upheavals in the Arab world.” Those at the heart of these movements “will and are already demanding the same for the Palestinian people.” In addition, the Palestinian issue, he contended, is as much of a national interest for Jordan as it is for Palestinians, and therefore has made efforts to revive the peace process this year. Judeh also touched on the Syrian crisis, noting that for the moment, “there is only one game in town,” the Kofi Annan plan. Jordan is hoping for traction in the plan, but there is a need to engage with all parties, including Russia and China. He closed by observing that Jordan is suffering from a strained economy, made more difficult by its energy situation. The challenge moving forward will be how to tackle the country’s energy requirements, and for this reason Jordan is pursuing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.