Update: On March 21, 2016, Jordan's Ministry of Social Development released a draft NGO law that is intended to replace the 2008 Law No. 51 on Societies. The draft, if enacted, will significantly restrict the legal environment for NGOs in Jordan. Among other constraints, the draft requires at least 50 founders to establish an NGO, provides the government with broad discretion to dissolve an NGO, imposes new requirements on branch offices of international NGOs, and places new restrictions on the foreign funding of Jordanian NGOs.
This report will continue to provide updates on significant developments regarding the above-mentioned draft NGO law.
Civil society in Jordan has roots within the tribal system, which is deeply embedded in society and operates alongside the formally established legal system. The tribes in Jordan play a political role, offer an alternative judicial system, and provide services to communities. Indeed, the formal legal system, in defining societies, does not eliminate the tribal concept of “families.”
Many formal civil society organizations (CSOs) in Jordan initially focused on charitable and aid activities. Once Jordan acceded to international conventions, such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, some CSOs emerged to raise public awareness in relation to human rights, including the rights of assembly and association. At the same time, however, fundamental rights and freedoms are still subject to governmental interference, due to the Government’s claims of protecting national security.
Jordan’s legal system is based on civil law (the French code) and Sharia law (applied in certain cases). Until recently, CSOs were governed by the Law on Societies and Social Bodies (Law 33 of 1966), which allowed for extensive government interference in CSOs’ internal affairs. In 2008, the Law on Societies (Law 51 of 2008) was enacted; although an improvement, the new law was met with criticism for not going far enough to remove restrictions on civic space in Jordan. As a partial response to these criticisms, the 2008 Law on Societies was amended in 2009 by the Law Amending the Law on Societies (Law 22 of 2009).
|Organizational Forms||Societies (associations), closed societies (foundations), and private societies (not-for-profit companies)|
|Registration Body||National Registry of Societies of the Ministry of Social Development
Note: The Registry is an independent entity and not considered a department
|Barriers to Entry||Societies may not have any "political goals." They must have a minimum of seven members. Approval is required from the Council of Ministers for registration of any society in which a founder is a legal person or non-Jordanian and in case of registration of a foundation.|
|Barriers to Activities||Societies are restricted from "activities of political parties."
Criminal defamation laws.
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||No legal barriers to speech or advocacy, but in practice, vocal human rights organizations may face difficulties in dealing with government.|
|Barriers to International Contact||No legal barriers|
|Barriers to Resources||
|Barriers to Assembly||Notification is required 48 hours prior to an assembly, and unauthorized assemblies are illegal. Authorities may disperse or otherwise suppress assemblies on vague grounds|
|Population||7,930,491 (July 2014 est.)|
|Type of Government||Constitutional monarchy|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Male: 72. 79 years
Female: 75. 5 years (2014 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Male: 78. 91 years
Female: 81. 77 years (2013 est.)
|Religious Groups||Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shia Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)|
|Ethnic Groups||Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%|
|GDP Per Capita||$6,100 (2013 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2014.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||77 (2014)||1 – 187|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||69.7 (2014)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||26.6 (2014)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||55 (2014)||1 – 175|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2015)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||81 (2015)||177 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1975|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||--|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1975|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||No||--|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1974|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1992|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1991|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2008|
|Key Regional Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|Arab Charter on Human Rights||Yes||2004|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was adopted in 8 January 1952.
Relevant constitutional provisions include:
- Article 15: (1) The State guarantees freedom of opinion, and every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law. (2) Freedom of the press and publications shall be ensured within the limits of the law. (3) Newspapers shall not be suspended from publication nor shall their permits be revoked except in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- Article 16: (1) Jordanians shall have the right to hold meetings within the limits of the law. (2) Jordanians are entitled to establish societies and political parties provided that the objects of such societies and parties are lawful, their methods peaceful, and their by-laws not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. (3) The establishment of societies and political parties and the control of their resources shall be regulated by law.
Jordan’s Constitution was amended in 2011. Articles 15 and 16 were amended as follows:
- Article 15: (1) The State guarantees freedom of opinion, and every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion by speech, in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law. (2) Freedom of scientific research and literary, artistic, cultural, and athletic creativity shall be ensured provided that it does not contradict with the law or the public order or moral. (3) Freedom of the press, printing, publications and media shall be ensured within the limits of the law. (4) Newspapers shall not be suspended from publication nor shall their permits be revoked except by a judicial order and in accordance with the provisions of the law. (5) In case of declaration of martial law or state of emergency, it is permissible that the law imposes limited censorship on newspapers and publications, books, media and communication in matters related to public safety and national defense purposes. (6) the law shall specify means of censorship on the resources of newspapers.
- Article 16: (1) Jordanians shall have the right to hold meetings within the limits of the law. (2) Jordanians are entitled to establish societies, syndicates and political parties provided that the objects of such societies and parties are lawful, their methods peaceful, and their by-laws not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. (3) The establishment of societies, syndicates and political parties and the control of their resources shall be regulated by law.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
- The Law on Societies (Law 51 of 2008); and the Law Amending the Law on Societies (Law 22 of 2009)
- Instructions to Adjust the Positions of Societies (Ministry of Social Development Instruction 148 of 2010)
- Regulation on Private Societies (Ministry of Social Development Regulation 32 of 2010)
- Non-Profit Companies Regulation (Ministry of Industry and Trade Regulation 60 of 2007)
- Regulation to Identify the Relevant Ministry of Societies (Ministry of Social Development Regulation 13 of 2009)
- Regulation for the Collection of Charitable Donations (Ministry of Social Development Regulation 1 of 1957)
- Penal Code (Law 16 of 1960, as amended)
- Regulation on Private Societies (Ministry of Social Development Regulation 32 of 2010)
- Non-Profit Companies Regulation (Ministry of Industry and Trade Regulation 60 of 2007)
- Regulation No. (67) of 2010 on Unions.
- Regulation on the Provisions of the Association’s Bylaws No. (57) of 2010.
- Regulation on the Charity Lottery and its amendments.
- Instructions to Adjust the Legal Status of Societies (Ministry of Social Development Instruction 148 of 2010)
- Instructions on Categorizing Societies.
- Instructions on Competent Ministries.
- Instructions on Using the Societies Support Fund to Fund and Support Societies.
- Articles of Association for the General Union of Voluntary Societies (as amended in 1996)
- Order of Licensing and Registering Youth Clubs and Organizations (2005)
- Income Tax Law (Law 57 of 1985)
- Penal Code (Law 16 of 1960)
Although the 2009 amendments streamlined and liberalized the 2008 Law on Societies, they have nevertheless been criticized by domestic and international NGOs for not going far enough. Among other changes, procedures allowing for the registration and continued operation of foundations (referred to as “closed societies”) and not-for-profit companies (“private societies”) were added; and the registration process was simplified with the creation of a one-stop location for registration. (Previously registration applications were to be passed between multiple ministries in a lengthy process that allowed for independent approval or rejection of applications by different authorities). Significantly, the 2009 amendments did not liberalize the foreign funding provisions of the 2008 law that require Jordanian societies to get approval from the full Council of Ministers (cabinet) before accepting funding from abroad.
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
On March 21, 2016, Jordan's Ministry of Social Development released a draft NGO law that is intended to replace the 2008 Law No. 51 on Societies. The draft, if enacted, will significantly restrict the legal environment for NGOs in Jordan. Among other constraints, the draft requires at least 50 founders to establish an NGO, provides the government with broad discretion to dissolve an NGO, imposes new requirements on branch offices of international NGOs, and places new restrictions on the foreign funding of Jordanian NGOs.
We are unaware of any other pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting civil society organizations at this time. Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending legal or regulatory initiatives, write to ICNL at email@example.com.
According to the Law 51 of 2008 as amended by Law 22 of 2009, there are three (3) available legal forms for civil society. Foreign not-for-profit organizations are also permitted to establish branch offices in Jordan.
Society: A society is a group of not less than seven individuals that provide services or conduct activities on a voluntary basis. Societies are registered at the Ministry of Social Development and supervised by the competent ministry to which the society’s objectives are related. Membership in a society is open to anyone that meets its membership criteria, which are specified within its articles of incorporation. Societies may benefit from income tax exemptions and charitable status.
Closed Society: A closed society is a society of one or more member(s) where its financial resources are limited to the funds/money paid by the founding members to achieve its objectives. Closed societies are registered at the Ministry of Social Development, and require the approval of the Council of Ministers to be registered. Closed societies are supervised by the competent ministry to which the society’s objectives are related.
Private Society: A private society is a society with a limited number of members, which should not be less than three and not more than twenty. Private societies are registered at the Ministry of Social Development, and are also supervised by the competent ministry to which the society’s objectives are related. If the membership of a Private society is limited to one legal person, approval of the Council of Ministers is required. Private societies do not have an open membership scheme, and were formerly known as not-for-profit companies.
Foreign Societies: Law 51 of 2008 and its amendments allow operating branches of foreign societies to be registered in Jordan. The registration of branches of foreign societies is handled by the Ministry of Social Development.
According to the 2008 law, societies and private Societies are eligible to receive local funding, foreign funding (after notifying the Council of Ministers), and funding from the public Fund for the Support of Societies. Closed societies are prohibited from seeking any kind of funding other than the money contributed by their members. Foreign societies may not seek local funding without the prior approval of the Council of Ministers.
Public Benefit Status
The Law on Societies No. 51 of 2008 and its Amendments of 2009 provides in Article 29 that Christian religious entities and religious orders operating in the Kingdom shall have the right to undertake charitable services which aim for the public benefit. These include, but are not limited to: the establishment of a shelter, an educational institute for the needy, or a community center for the poor; the distribution of financial or in-kind assistance in a regulated fashion; the provision of medical treatment or care in a regulated fashion; and other similar social services which support the public good. Such activities and services require the prior approval of the Board of the Registry.
Also, according to the Regulations for the Collection of Charitable Donations, as amended, registered and unregistered groups or individuals are not authorized to collect donations for purposes other than those listed in their by-laws, unless they intend to do so for public benefit purposes.
The Income Tax Law (Law 75 of 1985) makes the income of societies and other social entities eligible for tax exemption. It allows for the income of any religious, charitable, cultural, educational, sports, and health organizations with public benefit purposes to be tax-exempt as well. Societies must apply to the Income Tax Department requesting recognition for tax-exempt status. The Department verifies whether the eligibility criteria stated in Article 7 of the Income Tax Law has been met by the applicant, and issues a decision to that effect.
In addition, the Income Tax Law grants certain societies charitable status. Societies with religious, charitable, humanitarian, scientific, cultural, sports, or professional purposes are eligible to apply for charitable status. Donations made to societies with charitable status are exempted from income tax; the exempted income, however, should not exceed one-quarter of the taxable income of the donor. For the society to benefit from charitable status, a request should be submitted to the Council of Ministers requesting recognition of the society as charitable. The Council of Ministers will then verify the eligibility of the applicant society and issue a decree to this effect.
Barriers to Entry
Law 51 of 2008 as amended makes registration of societies mandatory. It does not specify a sanction for unregistered groups, but it does stipulate that the law does not prevent the application of any penalty stipulated in any other law. The Penal Code (Law 16 of 1960 and its amendments) stipulates that unregistered societies are illegal, and that individuals who conduct activities for such unregistered groups or become members thereof are subject to a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment.
Founding members of societies must be Jordanian citizens; fully competent and at least 18 years old; and not convicted of a crime or felony involving morals. The Council of Ministers is required to give approval where one of the founders is non-Jordanian or a corporate identity. Approval from the Council of Ministers is also necessary for all closed societies and for private societies of only one member.
Founding members of societies must be Jordanian citizens, legally competent, at least 18 years old, and may not be convicted of a misdemeanor crime or felony involving morals. Approval from the Council of Ministers is required if one of the founders is non-Jordanian or a corporate identity. Approval from the Council of Ministers is also necessary for all closed societies and for private societies of only one member.
Jordanian law provides the Council of the Registry of Societies with 60 days from the day it receives an application for registration, in order to review it, and 15 days from the date of receipt of approval on the application for the Registry Officer to complete registration procedures. However, if the application is submitted to one of the departments of the Ministry of Social Development located outside the capital, the department is required to send the application to the Registry within 7 days. It shall also be noted that in case any of the registration requirements is missing, the Registry shall notify the applicant within 15 days of the receipt of the application. In practice, therefore, a society applicant may have to wait 90-97 days from the date of submitting his application before he receives proof of his registered legal status. The Council of the Registry of Societies has the right to reject any application without stating a justification.
The law prohibits the registration of any society with illegal objectives or that contradict the public order in Jordan. CSOs are also prohibited from having any political goals or practicing activities of political parties. Registration of masonic societies or carrying out masonic activities is also prohibited.
Finally, a branch of a society registered in a foreign state can be registered in the Kingdom for the purpose of conducting activities, provided that it does have any political or religious goals.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Societies may not pursue any political goals that are governed by the Law on Political Parties. Neither the Law on Societies nor the Law on Political Parties defines the term "political."
Societies are obliged to inform the Registry and the Relevant Minister of the date of their General Assembly meetings at least two weeks in advance, or the meetings will be deemed illegal. Both the Minister and the Registry Officer may appoint delegates to represent them in such meetings. The approval of the Council of Registry of Societies is required for any resolutions by the General Assembly in order to amend the society’s articles of incorporation.
Law 51 of 2008 requires that all societies submit the following: (1) a copy of the general assembly resolutions within fifteen days from the date of the meeting; (2) an annual plan; and (3) an annual report reflecting the CSO’s achievements, activities, and any received donations or funds. In addition, societies with a budget of more than 2,000 Jordanian dinars are also required to submit an audited annual balance sheet. The financial accounts of societies with a budget less than 2,000 Jordanian Dinars shall be reviewed by the Relevant Ministry.
In accordance with the Instruction to Adjust the Legal Status of Societies, entities listed in the Instructions must adjust their status as per the Law on Societies. Such adjustment shall be done by submitting an application to the Relevant Ministry, which shall review the application within 7 weeks from its receipt. If the society is missing any documentation, the Ministry will notify the society and grant it 30 days to submit the requested documents. The Relevant Ministry shall within two weeks send complete applications to the Registry, which shall study them and once again notify the applicants in case of any missing documents. In the latter case, the applicants are required to hand all the missing documents within 30 days; the Board of the Registry, however, may prolong this period for another 30 days.
Additionally, a society’s Board of Directors must be composed of Jordanian citizens who are fully competent, at least 18 years old, and not convicted of a crime or felony involving morals. Article 27(a) provides that an individual who has been judged guilty according to the provisions of Article 26 of the Law (which include penalties for accepting any donation, support, or funding without declaring it or without recording it in the society’s records) may not be a member of the Board of Directors of any society. In the cases stated in Article 19 of the Law, including if a society accepts any support or funding from any source without disclosing and recording it in its financial records, the Relevant Minister shall appoint an interim Board of Directors for a society in order to undertake its tasks. The Board of the Registry may also, upon a recommendation from the Relevant Minister, decide two or more registered societies may be merged if such societies have the same goals and objectives.
According to Article 20(b) of the Law, the Board of the Registry may decide to dissolve the society in certain cases, including if a society retains or uses donations or funding from a non-Jordanian individual. Such dissolution must take place upon the recommendation of the Relevant Minister, and the Board’s decision must be justified. Article 20(a) of the Law also provides that the society shall be considered dissolved if it ceases to progress in its work or perform its work for one year, or if it fails to adjust its status to conform with the Law (discussed above).
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There are two legal restrictions on a society’s speech that are worthy of note: criminal defamation law and the prohibition against political activity.
First, any expression that constitutes defamation or libel of government officials is subject to sanction under the Penal Code. The Penal Code of Jordan defines defamation and libel to include attaching false accusations to a person or treating a person disrespectfully through speech, writing, drawings, and other forms of communication. Libel and defamation against a public official carries more severe penalties, ranging from two weeks to three years imprisonment.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal restrictions on international contact.
Barriers to Resources
According to Law No. 51, foreign funding, including any gifts, grants, or donations given to a society, is subject to the prior notification and approval of the Council of Ministers. Pursuant to an administrative requirement issued in October 2015, societies must complete and submit an extensive application form, providing detailed information about the source of the funds and the project to be funded. Among other things, for instance, the form requires budgets for all project activities, their monitoring and evaluation indicators, and ways in which the project is linked to Jordan’s “national and development goals.” The form must be accompanied by numerous supporting documentation. The Council of Ministers shall issue its decision within thirty days; if it does not refuse the funding within thirty days, the funding is deemed to be approved.
In case a society receives a donation or funding from a non-Jordanian without notifying the Council, or in violation of the Council’s refusal, the Council of Ministers shall transfer the funds or donation to the account of the Support Fund (unless the donor or funder refuses this action). The society will also be subject to any sanctions or other procedures stipulated in the Law and other legislation in force which have been mentioned in previous sections.
There are no restrictions on the ability of societies to seek domestic funding or to conduct income-generating projects or economic activities, provided that such income is allocated for the society’s objectives and not distributed amongst its founders or members. Public fundraising requires the prior approval of the Ministry of Social Development as per Regulation 1 of 1957. In addition, Article 9(c) of the Law does not allow a branch of a foreign society to collect donations or receive funding within the Kingdom except with the prior consent of the Council of Ministers.
According to the Regulation for the Collection of Charitable Donations No. 1 of 1957 as amended, societies that wish to collect donations for charity must be registered and must submit an application to the Ministry at least one month in advance. The Ministry shall decide on the application within a maximum of three weeks after consulting with the relevant entities and ministries, and studying the activities of the society and its financial status. If the charitable donations will be spent outside the Kingdom, then the collection of donations shall be made through a temporary committee or entity that is authorized by the Ministry; the society shall provide evidence that the donations are to be spent for charitable purposes; and the society shall receive an authorization from the Ministry of Finance to spend the donations (whether in cash or in kind) outside the Kingdom.
The collecting committees and entities shall not be allowed to collect donations more than twice annually unless the governing documents of the society includes more than one activity. After the completion of the collection process, the society shall deposit the donations in its bank account and shall inform the Ministry of the donated amount and date of deposition in the bank.
Societies’ accounts do not enjoy financial secrecy in the face of any inquiry presented by the Relevant Minister or the Registry.
Barriers to Assembly
Lack of Legal Protections. The 1952 Constitution protects freedom of assembly, but only for Jordanian citizens. Article 16 provides that "Jordanians have the right to assembly within the limits of the law." Similarly, Article 3(a) in the Public Assemblies Law (“Assembly Law”) stipulates that, "Jordanians are entitled to hold public assemblies and organize demonstrations." As such, Jordanian law fails to protect the right of non-citizens to freedom of assembly.
In addition, Article 2(e) of the Instructions Regulating Public Assemblies and Demonstrations of 2011 stipulates that participants in assemblies should cooperate with security forces to prevent previously-convicted individuals from participating in assemblies. This further violates the international law principle that the right to freedom of assembly should be available to everyone.
Advance Notification. Article 4 of the Assembly Law requires organizers to notify the administrative governor (according to Article 2, "the administrative governor is the governor, the district chief, or the provincial chief") at least 48 hours prior to holding an assembly or demonstration. Article 5 deems any assemblies organized in the absence of such prior notification to be unlawful. Accordingly any form of spontaneous demonstration is considered unlawful and punishable under the law.
Vague Provisions. The Assembly Law also contains vague language that provides authorities with undue discretion in their ability to disperse public gatherings and penalize assembly participants. For example, under Article 7, the administrative governor “may order the dismissal of an assembly or scattering of a demonstration the way he deems fit if the assembly’s or demonstration’s objectives change.” Such language allows the state broad leeway in dispersing a public gathering under the law. Article 8 of the Assembly Law further provides that anyone who violates “public security and order” and/or causes damage to others or to public and private funds, may be liable both civilly and criminally. This provision is vague and unnecessary, as the Penal Code already applies for specific public disorder offenses, and again gives the state undue discretion in penalizing participants in public assemblies.
Time, Place, Manner Restrictions. Article 2(c) of the Instructions Regulating Public Assemblies and Demonstrations 2011 prohibits “slogans, cheers, cartoons, pictures, or symbols that compromise state sovereignty, national unity or law and order.” Accordingly, assemblies and demonstrations that include such elements are also prohibited under the law. Further, Article 2(f) of the Instructions states that assemblies must not disrupt vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This may not be feasible in many instances, and unduly infringes individuals’ right to assemble in public spaces.
Penalties and Sanctions. Article 10 of the Assembly Law stipulates that “whoever violates the provisions of the law will be subject to imprisonment of no less than a month and no more than three months, or a fine of no less than JOD 200 and no more than JOD 1,000, or both penalties.” These penalties are disproportionately harsh. They may also have a chilling effect, discouraging individuals from exercising their right to assemble for fear of punishment in case there is any violation of the law, no matter how trivial.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||National Report
Compilation of UN Information
Report of the Working Group
Summary of Stakeholders' Information
Decision on the Outcome
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Jordan|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Not available|
|U.S. State Department||2014 Report on Human Rights Practices: Jordan|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Jordan: Selected Issues: 2012
Jordan: Fifth Post-Program Monitoring Discussions - Staff Report
Jordan: Press Release on the Executive Board Consideration
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|NGO Regulation Network Reports||Jordan|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Jordan|
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The foregoing information was collected by ICNL LLC Middle East / North Africa Regional office in Amman, Jordan.