INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Can everyone thrive in Jordan?

Amman’s explosive growth over the last 5 decades has caused the degeneration of harra and the support network that came with it. This growth is also largely due to unnatural causes. Jordan is one of the countries most affected by the Palestinian refugee problem: Over 60% of its population is of Palestinian origin. As a result, a class system has developed, encouraging discrimination and contributing to the degradation of community. Mohammed Abu Amerah is recreating the tightly knit social fabric of the Jordan society, torn apart by rapid urban expansion and the consequent shift in focus from the community to self-interests. He is reviving the traditional and cultural concept of the old harra (neighborhood) and what it represents as a space for community participation, mutual respect, and protection for vulnerable groups. Amerah is recreating the social and economic fabric of the harra by fostering interdependence in the community to solve the problems which have arisen because of modernization, namely anonymity, neglect of public spaces, and lack of safety nets. He is promoting a sense of community ownership, which increases both the residents sense of belonging and responsibility; his motto for the initiative, Our Harra, Our City, Our Country. Through communal physical rehabilitation projects, the inhabitants of the neighborhood start developing a sense of belonging defined by common space, and through collaboration in those projects social networks are created and new bonds are cultivated superseding ethnic and tribal allegiances. To improve the livelihood of the Harra, Mohammed organizes capacity-building and educational programs where neighbors exchange skills and resources, and form consumer and trade cooperatives which leverage the collective purchasing power of the neighborhood.

Harra is a unique initiative in the Levant region, and has wide-spread relevance in the Arab World. Harra can be envisioned as a communal development model for developing countries, particularly when community erosion is the result of unplanned, rapid urban expansion, re-establishing a balance between urbanization, environmental health, communal well-being, and neighborly cooperation. While others are working in the field of community development, none involve the community in the development process to the same extent. In addition, unlike some other organizations, Harra started entirely as a grassroots effort, independent from the government and without the need of funding. It is the only initiative to work on building a social infrastructure by strengthening communal ties, and build more independent, self-reliant communities, committed to their own social development.

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