In conversation with Her Excellency Dina al-Bashir: evidence use in the Jordanian Parliament

15 February 2024
SERIES Voices of evidence users

This is one of four conversations between Farah Al Hadid and Jordanian parliamentarians. The series comes at an exciting time: the Jordanian Parliament is on the cusp of transformational change.

In 2021, the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System submitted its recommendations for political reform, including amendments to the political parties and election laws. The amendments, which were adopted by Parliament, will increase the involvement of political parties by increasing their share of parliamentary seats, as well as incentivise more women and young people to participate in elections. 

Amid these changes, parliamentarians in Jordan are also working to strengthen the parliament’s legislative and oversight functions by introducing evidence-informed policymaking. Effective evidence-based policies require the use of evidence during all stages of policymaking, including statistics and research, to equip decision-makers with the necessary skills to identify effective and beneficial evidence. 

In this conversation, Farah Al Hadid, talks to Her Excellency Dina al-Bashir to discuss her experience with evidence-based policymaking in Jordan’s Lower House. 

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. 

Your Excellency, thank you for taking the time. Can you walk us through the mechanism by which a bill proceeds from the government to the appropriate committee in the Lower House?

There is an internal governance system within the Lower House that divides the House into committees, and each committee has certain topics within its purview. When the bill comes to the House, it goes to the specialised committee if representatives deem that it needs study. For example, the recently passed cybercrimes laws was directed to the legal committee first. 

How does the committee proceed in studying the bill?

Let’s take the cybercrimes law and its technical legal articles, we sought out expert opinions on the topic. We met with experts in cyber law and cybersecurity, academics, public security, as well as government officials, like the Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship and officials from the public security directorate. 

How are experts chosen?

They are known experts. The president calls them in, but any committee member can suggest experts or other people of concern who the committee can call in. 

The other issue is that there is personal effort required of the representative. I communicate with experts, I ask for help, I ask their opinion. For example on cybercrimes law, I communicated with media sector, other institutions, women’s groups, freedoms. Nothing prevents a representative from communicating with whoever they want. 

Are there sources of information you can draw on from within the House?

We do have a Research Unit, who are very adept at giving us important and quick information on a variety of topics. But it is difficult for that Unit to be specialised in all topics for which we need information. 

For that reason, I, along with Representatives Zaid Otoum and Omar Nabr, have lobbied for there to be a linking between the House and universities in Jordan. Through this link, universities can give Representatives access to specialised experts and research. 

The information we need, especially when it comes to proposing a law or strategic programme, requires a massive staff that we simply do not have here. In the House, the budget is limited and the Research Unit cannot possibly be expected to be specialised in all topics. 

How about sources of information outside the House?

There are institutions that provide statistics and research that are very specific that have helped me defend my case. The institutions exist in Jordan, but there is no linking mechanism. It’s all personal effort, and that is very exhausting. And they require personal connections and relationships.

What is your vision for the future of this linking mechanism?

We hope that in the future, there will be a research staffer or consultant associated with each parliamentary bloc to support the legislative work.

The Representative’s job is not just legislative, there is also a large public services and social obligation attached to Representatives. It is part of our job. And we cannot know everything there is to know about each topic that comes across the parliament.

Is there anything that academics can do differently to better inform policy debates in parliament?

Maye just communication. There are topics that the institutions work on which may not be a priority for the representatives, while there are issues for which representatives need specialised research. It is an issue of supply and demand. 

Do you envision a change in the evidence-based policymaking landscape with the introduction of political parties in Jordan?

There is change with the advent of political parties. We hope that political parties can have a positive role, there is an opportunity for them to play a supportive role in this transformation. 

And I just want to call on all representatives, whether they are talking to the public or talking in the House, you need evidence. You need statistics and research to support your argument. Otherwise, the public will not be convinced, they want, and should, see the evidence. 

Thank you for your time your Excellency.