William & Mary

Government alumna Margaret Dene on Jordan's future


The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan faces an uncertain future. A worsening refugee crisis, dwindling resources due to climate change, and economic instability wrought by the two have forced Jordan to reevaluate the role it has to play to address these issues.

 In her article published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute, William & Mary graduate and current Harvard graduate student Margaret Dene explores hypothetical futures for Jordan. She suggests four scenarios, each one a different combination of two critical variables, which are the refugee crisis and climate change.

 These scenarios are the Golden Kingdom, Overcrowded and Underfunded, Death of an Oasis, and Things Fall Apart.

 The Golden Kingdom future is defined by low stressors from climate change and minimal impact from the refugee crisis. It would require a coordinated global effort to realize climate goals and an realistic percentage of refugees returning to their home countries. While it would be Jordan’s best case scenario, Dene argues it the least likely of the four.

 If Overcrowded and Underfunded, Jordan would have effectively mitigated climate-induced challenges but see refugee populations grow and become more permanent within its borders. The realities of the refugee question would need to be alleviated by heavy investment in infrastructure. Dene notes that Jordanian social attitudes would need to be addressed and retooled, too, citing instances of racism towards black refugees and scapegoating of economic issues on refugees in general. While not the worst-case scenario, it is also not the most likely

 The Death of an Oasis scenario envisions a Jordan in which stress from the refugee crisis dwindles, but that from climate change grows and festers. Dene suggests this situation could be met with substantial state-sponsored innovation initiatives, like investment in green technology or the national prioritization of STEM studies. In the face of continued failure for international consensus on climate change, this scenario appears as a likely one.

 Finally, Dene describes a Jordanian future characterized by snowballing stress from the climate and refugee crises, one where Things Fall Apart. As the effects of climate change accelerate, the number of climate refugees will explode worldwide. Refugees will continue to pour in, and Jordan’s massively overstrained water infrastructure will fail to keep up without major technological and developmental improvements. The political implications of this scenario are potentially catastrophic.

 However, it is not all doom and gloom, according to Dene. While the years ahead may be filled with turmoil and uncertainty, Jordan has the opportunity to invest in infrastructure and scientific innovation aimed at mitigating the stressors described in each scenario. There is hope if priorities are clearly defined and action is taken quickly.

 A link to the article can be found here and extra information about Margaret can be found here.