Neighborhood committees can initiate change
It seems that we are still holding on to a state of mind that deals with sustenance and care when we expect from the state political and economic reform. We might be isolated from our reality if we expect the loaded Jordanian government to be able to stand up and lead a development and economic renaissance in which none of us have any role to play.
Naturally, the goal of political and economic reform in any country is to improve the lives of people. For this to be accomplished we need to witness in parallel social change that aims at changing the mindset. This mindset is carried by developing neighborhoodcommunities becomes a participatory community mindset that serves the community. Therefore the burden of this change is left to the elite and civil society.
We are not talking here about the political elite, who has unfortunately, long lost its vision of the modern role of politics as working for the common good. Instead it has moved towards political partisanship and ideological bias. What is happening in our professional unions is an example of this problem. Those in charge of these professional unions gave up on their role to improve their own professions and to raise the quality and skills of newly joined graduates. Instead they spent their time on ideological issues, power struggles and trying to create a quota power sharing system.
Non political elites who have received good culture and education have a responsibility to be the leaders of our society and daily life issues which affects the common person. They need to spend more time.
For example in things like managing buildings, numbering streets, covering pot holes and providing safety and security for our properties.
Some might find this suggestion strange. But it is these daily issues that people talk about all the time regardless of their differences of opinion. Simply stated these are the issues of personal interest as well as public interest which interact with each other.
A successful model of cooperation is referred to as the local community committees. Through these committees the role of the citizen in a particular geographic area is activated. This activation has nothing to do with his or her religious or national background but has everything to do with their interest in finding ways to improve the quality of their lives. Often these committees are elected which allows for an accountable local process which can begin the leading effort to make changes on the national level. This is a highly democratic effort at economically and administratively empowering people. Local neighborhood committees empower the citizen to take street level decisions.
After this comes the role of civil society or local community based organizations which provide a coordinating umbrella for these local committees. These civil society organizations can better organize the interests of the citizens and their demands and can act as an intercessor between government and the local community and can lobby to bring about tangible accomplishments.
We are not calling for the creation of institutions that take the place of the government. And at the same time we are not excusing the slowness of the government in making reform. Such reform is going to always be difficult without an exceptional entrepreneurship role of civil society. Civil society must double it efforts and work with confidence using the advantage of our society’s demographics where youth make up more than 60%of the population.
It is these youth that are the address for a serious democratic reform for a better future.
Tamara Khzouz is a rights activist