Evidence-use in the Jordanian Parliament: discussions with current parliamentarians

15 February 2024
SERIES Voices of evidence users

In 2023 I had the chance to sit down with several Jordanian senators and representatives to discuss how they understand and use evidence within their legislative functions. These discussions about evidence use in the parliament came at a particularly exciting time in Jordan’s legislative history.

The Jordanian parliament is on the cusp of transformational change.

For the first time this year, Jordan is preparing to hold elections under new parliamentary laws that specifically allocate seats to political parties as well as enshrine an enhanced role for women and young people in electoral politics. Amid these changes, parliamentarians in Jordan are also working to strengthen the parliament’s legislative and oversight functions by introducing evidence-informed policymaking.

In theory, better-informed politicians make better policies.

This is especially true for parliamentarians, who have the responsibility for designing and debating bills for a variety of issues, and who need access to credible information to fully inform their decisions.

As such, many countries have established parliamentary research services to allow Parliamentarians to access the information they need. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) describes a well-resourced parliamentary research service as ‘one of the building blocks of an effective parliament’.

Most research on evidence-informed policymaking to date has focused on the executive branch of government, but there are exciting developments in the field of evidence-use in parliaments recently as highlighted by this OTT blog. In addition to a burgeoning research sector on evidence-use in parliaments and a growing network of interested actors on this issue, there is increased focus on how specific types of evidence, like statistics, is used in parliaments as well as how tools, such as technology, can be instrumentalised for evidence use.

Challenges to evidence use within the Jordanian Parliament.

The discussions with parliamentarians, highlighted in this series, shed light on several challenges to effective evidence-informed policymaking within the Jordanian Parliament. These challenges can be grouped as relating to the organisational structure, research form and content, and the political context.

For example, organisational challenges cited by several parliamentarians surround the lack of support for research staff and the lack of available research materials. Senators specifically noted the lack of a dedicated research unit within the Senate as a major obstacle to evidence-informed policymaking.

Other parliamentarians cited challenges relating to the research form and content. Even if research was available, it was not designed to be easily accessible and helpful for parliamentary work.

Additionally, some senators highlighted the importance of political will to institutionalise research and evidence-informed policymaking within the parliamentary process.

The parliamentarians also highlighted the opportunity, amid the ongoing parliamentary reform process, for political parties to play a supportive role in evidence-informed policymaking. Stronger use of evidence in the legislative process should allow the parliament to fulfil its legislative and oversight functions better and can be a key pillar to the success of Jordan’s parliamentary reform and democratisation process.

Read the full interviews with:

  • Her Excellency Ihsan Barakat, who served as a Senator since 2020. She is a member of the Legal Committee, the Women Committee and the Freedom and Rights of Citizens Committee. She is also the Jordanian Senate Representative to the Arab Parliament. She is a decorated judge and was the first female to become a judge on the Court of Cassation in Jordan.
  • His Excellency Dr Mustafa Hamarneh, who has served as a Senator since 2020. Dr Hamarneh is an influential scholar and political analyst. He is Chief Executive Officer of the Jordan Media Institute since 2021 and was previously Chairman of the Economic and Social Council and Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan for over 15 years. He has also served as Associate Professor at the Department of History at the University of Jordan and as a Professor at Georgetown University.
  • Her Excellency Dina al-Bashir, an accomplished lawyer, was elected in 2020. She is one of the youngest Representatives in the current parliament, and the youngest female that has ever been elected as assistant to the Speaker of the House. She is a member of the legal committee, as well as the Transportation and the Public Works, Transportation committees.