This paper assesses the so-called ‘first lady phenomenon’ in (semi) authoritarian context. More specifically it discusses to what extent organizations in which Queen Rania is involved affect the development of a truly independent organizational life in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Queen Rania Al Abdullah is known for her extensive list of public activities. She is founder of several Jordanian organizations, ‘NGOs’ in the Kingdom’s terminology, as well as an active lobbyist and member of several large international organizations. However, one has only to consider the fact that the Hashemite dynasty by no means has a purely ceremonial function like other royal families have. The Jordanian royal family is in fact not that different from the ‘Jordanian regime’, which makes the first lady phenomenon ambiguous at least.
'Civil society infiltration’ as a regime strategie with respect to civil society is especially relevant to the case. First Lady Organizations (FLANGOs), can be perceived as a type of Governmental Non-Governmental Organization (GONGO); a relatively new concept in the field. An in-dept study on the relatively new notion of the GONGO is given, whereby new concepts (in relation to China) are hinting at an application in other (semi) authoritarian contexts. The verdict on the effect of Queen Rania’s NGOs on Jordan’s civil society strongly depends on which role one assigns to a civil society, but negative remarks were more common, pointing at the lack of internal democracy in FLANGOs, the issue of funding, and the fundamental point that Hashemite humanitarianism must be judged differently in a country like Jordan, where the royal family is indeed the regime; more powerful than the government.