Throughout my undergraduate career at Florida State University, I have developed a fascination with the intersection of policy and institutions in protecting and fostering civil liberties. My courses as an international affairs and Middle Eastern studies major have allowed me to study such concepts at the macro-level. However, with the Social Science Scholars program, I was able to directly work on these issues. I chose to utilize my funding to intern in Amman, Jordan with a government watchdog and to conduct qualitative research as a stepping stone for further research surrounding policies which affect civil society. While in Amman, I volunteered with Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, a non-governmental civil society organization (NGO) which aims to promote accountability, governance, public participation, and tolerance within the framework of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
During my time abroad, I worked with one of Al-Hayat’s main programs promoting accountability, local governance and participation. My work required me to research issues that are often the underlying drivers of a lack of government transparency and openness – factors that adversely affect civil liberties, human rights, and the emergence of civil society. I focused on reporting the actions of the new Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Al-Razzaz, and the new government. Through my experience I was able to see first-hand how NGOs operate as well as learn about the political climate in the country. I took part in grant research and writing, as well as assisted with projects in partnership with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Upon the completion of my internship, I had helped translate an in-depth report about the Prime Minister’s statement prior to the vote of confidence, as well as assisted with monitoring and evaluating women’s civic participation projects in Jordan. I also worked to collect interviews with NGO employees around Jordan to study how the “Law of Associations” and other NGO laws may impede certain projects given their political context. I am hoping once my research is completed, it can serve as an advocacy tool to promote best practices in Jordan.
From this experience I developed an interest in issues such as state policy capture, in which policy decisions are directed away from the public interest towards a specific interest and can undermine democratic values and trust in government. My summer experience has served to empower me achieve my goals of one day conducting research, writing, and lobbying for policy which protects civil liberties and mainstreams human rights with a regional focus of the Middle East and North Africa. I intend continue my education to assist in similar endeavors and high-level policy research and analysis at a broader level.
Courtney Reed is a senior studying International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies. She currently serves as the Director for Amnesty International FSU and is undertaking an Honors in the Major thesis.
The featured image is from Omprakash.