Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. The constitution places executive authority in the king and legislative authority with the parliament and government. Prime Minister Nader Dahabi, appointed by the king and confirmed by parliament, heads the government. While the government respected human rights in some areas, its overall record continued to reflect problems. While the government enacted limited social and political reforms, progress lagged in some areas. Citizens' right to change their government remained restricted. Official restrictions on the rights of women and societal discrimination against women and Palestinians continued, as did restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. Citizens participated in the political process through their elected representatives in parliament and in most municipal governments; however, those of Amman, Aqaba, and Wadi Musa are partially appointed.
The U.S. government's human rights and democracy strategy strives to promote electoral reform, including the strengthening of political parties; press freedom and independence; enhancing the capacity of the judicial sector; and improving local governance mechanisms. Through a broad portfolio of programs, the United States works in close collaboration with government counterparts to increase citizen participation in the political, economic, and social development of the country; increase the capacity of the parliament to promote transparency and accountability; strengthen independent media; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the judicial system; strengthen the rights of women; and increase religious freedom, interfaith dialogue, and tolerance. The United States pursues this strategy through direct dialogue with the government in addition to supporting training and human rights exchanges focused on the rule of law, protecting human rights, and political participation.
U.S. assistance programs aim to develop and strengthen democratic institutions. U.S. programs are introducing an electronic voting system in parliament, strengthening capacities to conduct meaningful monitoring and evaluation of public expenditures, and supporting the establishment of a parliamentary budget office. The United States funds programs to assist political parties in the country, improving the ability of parties to develop platforms, diversify membership, and more effectively advocate for the passage of legislation in line with party values and citizen interests. In the run-up to municipal elections in July 2007 and parliamentary elections in November 2007, U.S. programs aimed to educate voters and encourage wide participation. With funding from the U.S. government, international NGOs held campaign strategy sessions for female candidates, which helped 55 women become elected to municipal seats. They also provided training that expanded the role of civil society organizations in election monitoring. Another U.S.-funded NGO works with the Ministry of Interior on enhancing transparency and internal controls in the balloting procedure. With U.S. funding, an international NGO partnered with a local research center to conduct the first-ever election day polling in six districts across the country.
In 2006 the United States launched a three-year media professionalization project to support development efforts to strengthen university-level journalist education, media business management practices, and community-level journalism. The United States sponsors local print and electronic media professionals to participate in International Visitor Leadership Programs every year, including programs on investigative journalism. Several efforts, including a number of U.S. exchange programs, work to strengthen local NGOs. These programs focus on fostering networking and cooperation among groups working to promote democratic reform and human rights norms and on strengthening their capacities to inform and communicate with national decision-making institutions to encourage reform. U.S. officials regularly attend local NGO activities and host gatherings of local NGOs. In spring 2008 the U.S. government will launch a new civil society program to improve the professionalism, sustainability, and strategic planning capacity of local civil society groups.
U.S. programs aim to promote respect for the rule of law and improve court efficiency while simultaneously promoting greater accountability and transparency in the judicial system. U.S. assistance helped leading stakeholders to draft and adopt the country's first comprehensive code of judicial conduct in December 2005. As a result of a multiyear U.S. program, all court procedures are set to be automated by the end of 2008. Approximately 500 judges and court staff received training on the new automated system. In addition, approximately 500 judges received training in ethics, mediation, media, and human rights, and for the first time, judges from rural areas received training through ongoing U.S. programs. U.S. programs promote greater judicial independence by opening dialogue between stakeholders and providing expertise to develop plans towards achieving independence. Programs strengthen capacities of the Ministry of Justice, the Inspectorate and Monitoring Department, and the Jordanian Judicial Institute. Exchanges to the United States for lawyers, law students, and Shari'a court judges expose the country's judiciary to democratic legal institutions and help to introduce democratic legal models. U.S. programs also introduce alternative dispute resolution and present a model for criminal justice reform.
U.S. assistance designed to advance and promote the role of women in society continues to achieve tangible success. A three-year U.S.-supported program promotes advocacy against gender-based abuse and funded an annual antiviolence campaign with events held throughout the country. The United States supports and organizes training and exchange programs for women to develop the skills of female trade union leaders and women who lead civil society grassroots initiatives outside Amman. U.S. officials hold civil society discussions with female leaders, which often coincide with the visits of high-level U.S. officials and civil society leaders. In March 2008, in honor of International Women's Day, the secretary of state hosted a roundtable with prominent women on the subject of their role in society and politics.
The United States conducts human rights and rule of law training for the military to help instill democratic principles, including civilian control of the military, and promote respect for human rights. An ongoing U.S.-funded counterterrorism fellowship program teaches the country's military personnel how to combat terrorism while respecting the rule of law, human rights, and civil rights. Approximately 300 members of the military receive U.S.-funded training through these programs each year.
Working to promote religious freedom and tolerance, the United States sponsors exchange visits and, in numerous contacts with private American and Jordanian groups, encouraged interfaith dialogue and understanding. A U.S. grant supports exchange visits between Americans of diverse religious backgrounds and Jordanian Shari'a judges, scholars, and students. U.S. officials also engage directly with government officials regarding restrictions on and expulsions of religious workers.
The United States partnered with the government and international organizations to launch a five-year program aimed at improving working conditions in the apparel industry housed in qualifying industrial zones (QIZs). Another multiyear project to strengthen social dialogue and address labor administration and labor-management relations is ongoing. The project contributed to the successful creation of the Economic and Social Council and the establishment within the Ministry of Labor of the Tripartite National Committee. Following allegations of trafficking and human rights abuses in factories in the QIZs, in March 2008 the United States renewed a year-long consultancy in the Ministry of Labor to improve the government's capacity to investigate allegations. The United States also provides funding to a local NGO through an international organization to lend support and assistance to foreign domestic workers in the country. The United States expresses to the government its concern over child labor and trafficking in persons and continues to urge approval of a new labor law that meets international standards.