Countering Violent Extremism in Jordan: Too Much Generic Discussion?

Published August 7th, 2017 - 10:37 GMT
AFP - Jordanian security forces stand on guard before protesters as they wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017.
AFP - Jordanian security forces stand on guard before protesters as they wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017.

After almost three years of sustained interest in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) research in Jordan, little has changed in the deep structures of governance. Much hope was placed on the national CVE strategy that was finalised in May 2017, which has not yet been made public nor endorsed by the government.

Many of the available research reports on radicalisation in Jordan are based on field research in 2015-2017, and focus on radicalisation drivers, types of fighters, the role of key actors in the radicalisation process and de-radicalisation efforts.

CVE research is based on quantitative surveys and qualitative tools like group discussions and interviews with target groups in local communities. Policy makers can play a more active role in this process, but there are challenges.

NGOs and research centres working on CVE implementation are usually not keen on involving the public sector for two reasons. First, government bureaucracy tends to challenge the implementation. If government bodies are involved as partners, then delays of several months are to be expected and budgeted for.

Second, the public sector adopts a defensive attitude when discussing its dysfunctionality. This hinders open discussion and innovation in the design of CVE initiatives. As a result, policy makers and public servants remain distant from observing first-hand the impact of their failures on the ground or from providing direct input into research findings.

Within Jordan, the role of the governmental CVE Unit, which was first part of the Ministry of Interior and was later moved to the Ministry of Culture, remains vague and weak. As a coordinating entity, its role is to facilitate cooperation between government bodies and the research community in Amman and elsewhere.

When joint discussions with government representatives do take place, they are too often the result of the researcher’s individual initiative and the enthusiasm of individual ministers to nominate representatives.

At the West Asia North Africa [WANA] Institute, we have successfully organised regular briefing meetings, yet a more coordinated partnership with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms is required to influence policy change within Jordan.

Time for an end to generic discussion.

Donors and local implementing agencies should invest in designing CVE programmes that nurture a trilateral partnership between government bodies, civil society actors, and research institutes. Three general elements should be born in mind.  

One, CVE initiatives rely first and foremost on the efforts and dedication of qualified civil society actors. Two, they also require the trust and full engagement of government bodies that remain isolated and confined to Amman. Lastly, research institutes can provide the needed evidence base and transfer knowledge on successful initiatives from elsewhere.

New leadership of the CVE Unit is required to take on this role. It should work to improve the understanding of governmental institutions that the success of de-radicalisation efforts depends on their ability to rectify their current disengagement with local challenges. This month, Jordan is electing local councils as part of a new structure for decentralised and local governance in the Kingdom. A coordinated plan should also be put in place to actively involve these local councils that will emerge after the decentralisation elections of August this year in CVE research and initiatives.

The discussion on contextual push factors can no longer remain generic. The government and knowledge generators should equally take responsibility for the failure of evidence and policy to keep up with the pace of change and associated threat levels.

At the same time, research bodies and civil society actors should find creative ways to include the government in CVE policy making.

Simultaneously, the different ministries have to commit to a material level of cooperation if we are to successfully address our radicalisation challenges and meet returnees’ rehabilitation needs. 

About the Author

Dr Neven Bondokji is a senior researcher at the WANA Institute. She is an expert in peace studies and conflict transformation with special emphasis on the nexus between Islam, violence, and peacebuilding.


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