Jordan/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

The Ministry of Culture, according to Article (4) from the Culture Care Act, shall assume the responsibility for drawing up the policy of cultural action and guide its tracks in various sectors in Jordan, in line with the policy of the Kingdom and the national interest.


Accordingly, the Ministry of Culture is comprised of the following directorates and departments: the Directorate of Culture and Arts, the Directorate of Libraries and National Documents, and the Foundation of Youth Welfare. The Directorate of Culture and Arts is comprised of the following departments: the Cultural Department, the Music Institute, the Drama Department, the Folk Arts Department, the Folklore Department, and the Plastic Arts Department.


The Ministry of Culture and Youth was established in 1977. It was concerned with publishing cultural magazines, a series of critical studies, the books of Jordanian and Arab heritage revival, translated books and others. It also held seminars, participated in Arab and international fairs and festivals and organised the events of "Amman, Capital of Arab Culture 2002", the Initiative of Jordanian Culture Cities, the Children’s Library and the Family Library.


However, in 2003, the Jordanian cultural milieu faced a government resolution to abolish the Ministry of Culture on the basis of a future vision to develop what was to be called the Higher Council for Culture, just as the Higher Council for Youth had been created after the Ministry of Youth was abolished, and the Higher Council for Media was created after the Ministry of Information was abolished. Consequently, the Ministry of Information became an emeritus position assumed by the Minister of State for Public Information. But the decision was not received well within the cultural sector.


In 2004, The Intelligentsia Centre for Studies and Research conducted a survey of a group of concerned Jordanian intellectuals to gauge their views on the issue of the abolition of the ministry and the establishment of a Higher Council for Culture, as well as their assessment of the ministry and its effectiveness. The study was entitled "Views of Jordanian intellectuals about the reality and the future of cultural activities in Jordan". The intellectuals’ responses about the necessity of the ministry were as follows:

  • 78% of the respondents were in favour of the return of the ministry, while 16.7% rejected that notion.
  • When the intellectuals were surveyed about their optimism on the future of culture in Jordan, 50.9% were optimistic,  30.1% were optimistic to some degree, 17.2% were not, and the remaining 1.7% didn’t know.  

 

Relative distribution of the respondents’ views about optimism on the future of cultural action in Jordan

Are you optimistic about the future of cultural action in Jordan?

                                      Answer

                                      Percentage

Yes

50.9%

No

17.2%

To some extent

30.1%

I do not know

1.7%

Total

100.0%


Alongside the Ministry of Culture, there are public and private actors in the field of culture, and in the field of achieving cultural vision.


Here, we metaphorically use the word "vision" to refer to the agenda of the Ministry of Culture to develop clear and specific cultural policy, since the Jordanian government has not yet created such an agenda, as is evident in the third chapter of the research. It is supposed that the development of cultural policy is currently taking place in meetings within the halls of  the Ministry of Culture. Therefore, we will use the term that the government itself uses to express these cultural policies under consideration, namely "cultural vision".


The first law for cultural care in Jordan was issued in 2003 as requested by the Ministry of Social Development in 2001. It would amend the law of social societies and commissions, No.33 for 1966. This was the same law that organised the work of cultural commissions registered in the Ministry of Culture, as it had organised the work of sport clubs before the Youth Care Law was issued. The care law was issued as a temporary law in 2006 in which the philosophy of cultural care relied upon principles of comprehensive cultural national development in the Kingdom in a way that assured cultural identity as humanitarian, Arab, Islamic and Jordanian. These principles were also to provide the appropriate environment for creativity in art and cultural fields, as well as encourage interest in cultural performance and fine arts that were compatible with Islamic and Arab values. They were also to reinforce bonds and connections with Arab and other friendly cultural commissions and institutions, in addition to developing the creativity of the Jordanian people and to launch them in different fields. In addition, the Ministry of Culture also became the  reference point for registering cultural institutions and commissions, performance, artistic and literature links and societies, and artistic and cultural museums including societies of scientific, artistic and cultural preference, in addition to being in charge of supervising and supporting them and following their different activities according to their aims and intentions.


The law also stated that funds for supporting artistic and cultural movements should be established in the ministry and named the “artistic and cultural support fund” that would provide the necessary financial resources for supporting and developing artistic and cultural movements in a way that would fulfil the philosophy of this law. It also stated that 2% of fees for granting licences to radio or satellite channels or renewing the licence of already-functioning channels would go to this fund, while  only 1% of publishing fees from all forms of advertising in press, radio, television and public places would benefit the fund. In addition to the expected general budget, donations, gifts, investment revenue from the fund, and the price of books and magazines that the ministry issued, were all additional resources for funding. Donations and gifts offered to the fund would be exempt from income tax. The funds were also exempt from taxes, including purchase tax, stamp fees and others. (Jordanian legislation, national information system www.lob.gov.jo).


This fund was aborted in 2008 and replaced with the “cultural care fund”. Fees were modified as follows: 5% of publishing fees from all forms of advertising in press, radio, television and public places, and 2% of fees for granting of licences to radio or satellite channels, or renewing the licence of already-existing channels.


When the parliament approved the law, it didn’t state its financial resources nor give it the respectable characteristics needed for its independence from the Ministry of Culture. A registration system for cultural commissions had been approved, however, it was not given respectable characteristics either, which made it controversial when it received more than 250 commissions, which were registered by the Commission and Societies Law No. 33 of 1966.  The request to open cultural attaches outside Jordan had also been neglected by the law. It also organised the process for registering festivals in accordance with given instructions. (Cultural Care Law…one step in a long way, record number 36, July 2008).


Prime Minister Samir Ar-rifa’i cancelled the law regarding imposed fees for the benefit of the artistic and cultural movement support fund at the end of 2009.  


At the national level, the administrative functions of the cultural sector are mainly carried out by the Ministry of Culture. The researchers believe that the ministries and other institutions are integral contributors in the implementation of cultural vision and the achievement of cultural development as outlined in the "Cultural Development" plan.


From the viewpoint of the researcher Ahmed Yusuf Al-Tall, together with the Ministry of Culture, there is the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Youth, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the Secretariat of Amman. He thinks that even the armed forces should be involved in cultural issues. In our opinion, this is mainly due to the absence of cultural policies. We believe that the researcher had exaggerated when distributing these tasks to these various actors.


The researcher Ibrahim Al Amad wrote on Cultural Policies in Jordan for UNESCO, where he listed the actors responsible for cultural management in the country, which included, in addition to those Al-Tall mentioned, the public universities, newspapers and various media and cultural centres for children such as Haya Centre, Zaha Centre and others.


On the other hand, there are more than 280 public cultural institutions which are involved in all forms of creativity including poetry, novels, theatre, music, fine arts, handicrafts, criticism, philosophy, and folklore bands. They consist of about 111 thousand people. In addition to universities and research centres, the Jordanian cultural scene benefits from the monetary support provided annually by the Ministry of Culture to cultural institutions, which is about 300 thousand dinars. There are also other institutions concerned with culture and the arts, including NGOs, such as the National Music Institute, Applied Arts Centre, the National Museum of Visual Arts, the Royal Commission for Film, the Arts House and associations, unions and cultural bodies; the Ministry of Culture which has cultural centres, events and programs; the Municipality of Amman which allocate one million dinars annually to support cultural infrastructure, festivals, forums, bands, and cultural seasons; and the cultural centres of foreign embassies which support culture and art in Jordan and serve as a bridge between global and local culture. The ministry also invites tenders for the construction of cultural centres in the governorates and remote areas, joining the Royal Cultural Centre, the King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein Centre, the Princess Selma Centre for Children, the Palace of Culture and other cultural centres in the main cities of Amman, Karak and Zarqa.


It is worth mentioning that the Intelligentsia Centre for Research and Studies conducted a survey of a sample of intellectuals about "Cultural Management in Jordan". The results showed that Jordanian intellectuals are interested in the need for flexible public cultural policies. They believe that there are no current policies governing cultural activities, and even if such policies exist, they do not know of them. In addition, they demanded a restructure of the cultural sector to serve the entire national cultural movement and the future of culture in Jordan. This arose in the context of criticising the governmental management of cultural affairs, where it was found that the majority of respondents were dissatisfied with this management, while they were satisfied with the semi-governmental and non-governmental management. The respondents also stressed the need to develop a new cultural policy in Jordan, with various opinions on how these policies are related to Arab heritage or contemporary culture. At the same time, the respondents believed that cultural work in Jordan would not succeed without the presence and contribution of the cultural NGOs. They think that the Secretariat of Amman is a major player in cultural work management to the degree that many think that its role is more important than the Ministry’s role. The following are some indicators that may constitute benchmarks from the perspective of Jordanian intellectuals resulting from this survey:

  • 68% of the respondents believe there are no cultural policies in Jordan.
  • 51% of respondents believe the cultural policies required must be more inclined to contemporary culture.
  • 54% of respondents believe the Ministry of Culture has not succeeded in cultural management in Jordan.
  • 91% of respondents believe there is no cultural life in Jordan without the contribution of the cultural NGOs.
  • The majority of respondents believe there is a need to restructure the cultural sector. 

Chapter published: 04-05-2016


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