A report prepared by Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies has pointed to the absence of a strategic approach to the role of the private sector in the promotion of human rights and sustainable development in Jordan.
The results of this report were revealed during the Dialogue Session on the Role of Businesses in Protecting Human Rights in Jordan, held online via the Zoom platform last Wednesday, which was hosted by Phenix Center in collaboration with the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).
The report highlighted the existence of a gap between the content of national strategic plans and policies actually implemented on the ground. Moreover, despite the fact that Jordan was among the first Arab states to sign several of the Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) related to decent work, Jordanian labor legislation lacks sufficient protection for human rights and labor rights.
According to Jana Ababneh, the researcher at Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies who presented the findings of the report, Jordan is still facing many economic challenges and other obstacles which stand in the way of sustainable development. Although Jordan has firmly committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as exemplified by the Jordanian government’s submission of a Voluntary National Report on sustainable development in 2017, there is still a long way to go.
The report also found that the Jordanian government’s discourse towards businesses and investors can be considered to be strongly supportive towards the interests of the private sector, as Jordan’s economic plans include a vision to ease (what the government perceived as) the bloating of the public sector through a combination of encouraging the growth of foreign investments and local Medium and Small Enterprises (MSEs). Additionally, the report found that although attracting investments investors can be considered to be a clear priority for the Jordanian government, Jordan has witnessed a fallback in Direct Foreign Investments (FDIs) throughout the past several years.
The report’s recommendations emphasized the urgency of creating a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights, in accordance with the United Nation’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights’ Guideance on NAPs. The report noted that the NAP must preserve the diverging interest of all sides.
The report’s recommendations also highlighted the importance of allowing civil society and local organizations to have a participatory role in shaping a national regulatory framework for business accountability and sustainable development projects in Jordan.
Hamada Abu Nijmeh, the director of Workers House, noted that there are imbalances in dealing with the Defense Orders issued by the Jordanian government as a response measure to the COVID-19 crisis, which were issued during the pandemic and related to the affairs of workers in both the private and public sectors and have impacted the rights and wages of workers. Additionally, he made the argument that the measures taken by the government primarily hinged on wage reductions, and that the Jordanian government considered the wages of employees to be the biggest burden on business owners and institutions. Abu Nijmeh stated that the government “should have worked to support businesses and workers affected by the pandemic – particularly workers with limited incomes – and should have protected their jobs without reducing their wages, in addition to providing social protection to segments of society particularly badly affected by the pandemic, as well as provided a guarantee of social insurance and health insurance inclusive to all workers, especially day laborers.”
The Dialogue Sessions’ participants comprised of a number of representatives of civil society organizations, business owners and representatives of private sector organizations, representatives of labor unions, and several experts in the field of business and human rights.