Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 6-11

Morocco eyes gender equality in media.
Recently released statistics revealed a deep gender gap in Moroccan journalism.
By Maria Tahiri– 06/12/10
Moroccan women are acutely underrepresented in the media sector, according to a recent report. National Moroccan Press Syndicate (SNPM) data show that women constitute just 26% of journalists in the country.
The SNPM revealed in its November 23rd study that 1,755 men hold a professional journalist card from the Ministry of Communication, as opposed to 632 women.
Although the number of accredited female journalists rose by 3% during the period from 2005 to 2010, the country still lags behind other North African states in terms of women's involvement in the media. In Egypt, women constitute 35% of journalists, while Tunisia boasts a 46% representation.
In an effort to narrow the gender gap, the SNPM launched a battle to increase women's engagement in the media.
"We decided to organise an awareness campaign to shed light on the importance of women's presence, not only as journalists, but also as officials who have the right to assume decision-making positions in their media institutions," SNPM chief Younes Moujahid said, noting the importance of female journalists' intensive involvement in unions to defend their rights.
Moujahid pointed out that the number of female students in Moroccan communication and media institutes was increasing year after year. But their chances to land a job in the press are still slim, given that media institutions prefer male journalists over females.
Furthermore, women experience discrimination in salaries, according to SNPM executive board member Mounia Belafia.
"It's between 18-19% less," she said. "This is in addition to other problems that female journalists endure when they face certain circumstances, such as pregnancy or sexual or moral harassment, without having the ability to report such acts in an official way." She highlighted that women face difficulties in achieving promotion to better positions in the industry.
Some women attending the report presentation said that female journalists have to struggle to prove their abilities and professional merit. In this context, Bahia Amrani, editor-in-chief of Le Reporter, said that a gender balance in media institutions was needed, adding that the difference in salaries should be based on good work and professional competency.
Meanwhile, Nora Samihi, a student at a Casablanca communications institute, told Magharebia: "Today, I don't feel there is any difference between me and my male colleagues when we go out together to the field to train in reportage, for example. However, I have no idea about professional practices inside a media institution. All I hope is that I won't face a different reality that disappoints me in this profession which I chose out of love and conviction," she said, adding that the number of female students in journalism institutes is greater than that of males.
The SNPM, however, has 1,819 male journalists among its members, compared to 459 females.
The report also said that women's presence was particularly weak in certain aspects of the Moroccan press, including caricature. Women represent only 5% of photographers and 17% of technicians.
To achieve its goal of enhancing women's participation in the media, the SNPM set up a council for gender and media. It aims to achieve gender equality by improving women's image in the industry, encourage the media to contribute to changing the prevailing images and stereotypes about women and their roles and support women's presence in different aspects of journalism. The institution also seeks to support female journalists' involvement in the decision-making process based on professional efficiency and equal opportunity.
Regionalizing MoroccoDecember 6, 2010 AHN News Staff
Albuquerque, NM, United States (NewsBahn) - By Dr.Yossef Ben-Meir
The Kingdom of Morocco is planning to regionalize, or transfer responsibilities and capacities--administrative, financial, and skills--from the capital of Rabat to sub-national levels. In regionalized, or decentralized, systems, all phases of development projects from design through evaluation occur closer to or by the beneficiaries themselves. Projects in education, job creation, and health, for example, are intended to respond directly to people’s self-described needs, as local people democratically exercise control over their own affairs.
Because decentralization increases regional autonomy and self-reliance, Morocco’s plan provides a framework that could potentially help resolve the Western Saharan conflict. Morocco proposed this arrangement to the United Nations Security Council in April 2007, and since that time negotiations among the parties to the conflict have not led to a breakthrough. However, the proposal catalyzed momentum to resolve the dangerous conflict that prevents the Maghrib Union (including Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia) from substantial cooperation on security, pollution, immigration, development, and relations with other blocs of nations, such as the Euro-Mediterranean and Southern blocs.
What are the guidelines in Morocco’s Roadmap to regionalization? Taken from public statements by King Mohammed VI since 2007, the plan presents a system that incorporates three distinct organizational arrangements of decentralization. It includes:
  1. “devolution,” or the transfer of power to lower-levels within ministries
  2. “deconcentration,” or having sub-national civil, public, and private institutions work together while the national level contributes financially or know-how
  3. delegation or the “participatory method,” whereby, as the king explains, “citizens are the engine for and ultimate objective of all initiatives” (it is also “used to address the defining issues of the nation).” Participatory methods include information-gathering activities that engage entire communities in dialogue as they conduct their own analyses toward creating action plans for projects that reflect their priorities.
The three arrangements combined create a Roadmap formulated to advance community-driven development, assisted by sub-national government, civil, and private partnership, and with support from the national level. The model functions to mobilize national resources toward locally managed projects that are identified in participatory democratic processes. The Roadmap necessitates, as it should, people’s direct participation in decisions to enable their ownership of projects and a stake in the new system. Without this, it is highly improbable that a sustainable regionalization can be achieved in the Sahara or elsewhere.
The level of success of Moroccan regionalization, however, will largely depend on which sub-national tier will be the greatest beneficiary of Rabat’s transfer of authority to plan projects, approve budgets, and apply capacities to implement development and change. In Morocco, the sub-national tier best positioned and able to create the most broad-based participation is the communal level – the most local administrative tier.
The kingdom is made up of approximately 1,500 communes, each with an elected assembly of officials. Their charter already requires community participation in the creation of development plans that are sent to the ministries of Interior and Finance. Training assembly members in applying participatory methods, and giving budgetary priority to communities’ identified projects, will create a regionalization able to establish projects aligned with people’s self-interests. Later, if necessary, recentralizing certain management responsibilities from communes to a higher sub-national tier could always be done if problems of coordination emerge, for example.
As Morocco more specifically defines its regionalization, it appears instead that the provincial and regional levels will be the primary centers of decision-making authority. However, Morocco is considering increasing the numbers of provinces (currently at 48) and regions (16), which would relatively lower the populations of these jurisdictional units in order to enable better institutional responsiveness to local people. More and smaller provinces and regions, combined with operationally empowered communes, would provide optimal conditions for regionalization in Morocco.
However, there is not a substitute for the communal level in terms of opportunities to facilitate people’s participation, and, for that matter, informing discussions surrounding new jurisdictional borders. For instance, local people in two adjacent communes in the High Atlas Mountains explain that their accepted border (also a provincial border) was settled in the past when two people began walking at dawn from the far end of each commune toward each other, and where they met became their boundary. Communes applying participatory methods would generate vital information for more sustainable regionalized planning, and that could help avoid potentially major problems in the future.
The Kingdom of Morocco has staked advancing its vital interests on regionalization. The bond between the people and the kingdom will be strengthened in regionalization when the communal level is emphasized.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is a sociologist and president of the High Atlas Foundation ( in Albuquerque, NM. The views in the article represent his own.
Read more:
Morocco adopts tourism promotion plan.
By Mawassi Lahcen and Siham Ali – 06/12/10
A 10-year plan to boost Morocco's tourism industry focuses on regional distinctions.
A new tourism development plan in Morocco aims to invest 177 billion dirhams (15.8 billion euros) to double the number of tourists, increase tourism revenue and to create 147,000 new jobs in the sector by 2020.
"We want to create a really strong regional product, tailored to each region's specific characteristics, and providing the necessary resources," said Hamid Addou, Director of the Moroccan National Office for Tourism.
The Moroccan government, which prepared the plan and presented it to King Mohammed VI on November 30th in the national debate on tourism in Marrakech, drew up the plans, set the goals, and prepared a capital investment fund of 100 million dirhams to pay for the initiative. The programme calls for increasing tourism revenues from the current 60 billion dirhams (5.4 billion euros) to 150 billion (13.4 billion euros) over the next decade.
Tourism Minister Yassir Znagui said that the government received pledges from several Arab sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions. Znagui and Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar signed agreements with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, Qatar Investment Authority, the Moroccan-Kuwaiti Development Company, and al-Maabar Investments of the UAE.
The tourism minister also noted that the Moroccan government would contribute to the capital fund with an initial payment of 15 billion dirhams, and would then open the door to Moroccan and international investors.
In the meantime, seven Moroccan banks, including three branches of European banks, signed an agreement with the government in the presence of the King to fund the new plan. Among the projects are 13 new facilities for beach tourism. The seven banks promised to provide 24 billion dirhams over the next five years to finance these projects through loans covering 60% of the project costs.
Znagui said that the new plan would enhance the role of tourism as an engine for development, growth and employment, and would also enhance Morocco's openness to the world through tourism and cultural exchange. He added that the plan was prepared based on a series of consultations with local governments and that it took into consideration the abilities and qualifications of each province in Morocco and drew up provincial plans for the promotion of tourism.
The minister also pointed out that the management of the plan would be given to eight provincial agencies, in addition to a central authority that will be the contact point for matters related to tourism investments.
Meanwhile, Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organisation, lauded the Moroccan tourism promotion and the country's adoption of ambitious plans that provide the necessary clarity for investors and are based on partnership between the private and public sector, respect for the environment and realisation of sustainable development. Rifai said that the 2020 plan represented an extension and continuation of the 2010 plan which allowed Morocco to increase the number of tourists from 4.4 million in 2001 to 9.2 million in 2010.
Economic actors have expressed their commitment to the strategy. Mohamed Horani, chairman of the Moroccan Business Confederation, has pointed out that the country is currently one of the top 25 tourist destinations in the world. He says that the sector is proving to be of huge importance to the country, given that it is the second largest contributor to GDP and the second largest employer.
"The idea now is to improve Morocco's positioning as a favoured destination for investment," Horani said.
Othmane Cherif Alami, chairman of the National Tourism Federation, said that the public-private partnership is a successful approach, which proved its worth in the 2010 vision programme, and it is sensible therefore to continue along the same route until 2020. The 2020 vision also has the objective of promoting internal and family-based tourism, which will be one of the priorities.
Economist Mohamed Jouadri told Magharebia that officials will try over the next ten years to overcome the obstacles which emerged during the 2010 vision programme, such as the over-ambitious scale of some projects, and the lack of investment, which restricted what was available in the various resorts.
"But it seems that Morocco is hoping to overcome these obstacles to make its new vision a reality," he said.
American Education Quality-Assurance Expert Tours Morocco.
M. Scott Bortot   9 December 2010
Barbara Brittingham, president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, is in Morocco doing what she does best: developing and managing quality-assurance programs that improve university education.
"Many countries now, as the proportion of students going into higher education is increasing, are increasingly finding it necessary to have a mechanism to make sure that the schools that students are attending meet expected levels of quality," Brittingham said.
Brittingham will be a featured speaker alongside leading Moroccan and international experts and officials at the Moroccan Fulbright Alumni Association's annual conference, which each year focuses on a topic of critical importance to Moroccan society. The alumni association's 2010 conference, December 11 in Rabat, focuses on "Moroccan higher education in a globalized world: Toward a more efficient and competitive system."
As in past years, the conference is expected to attract not only prominent Fulbright alumni but also leading figures in the topic at hand: higher education reform, a key priority for Morocco's government.
Amine Bensaid, president of the association, said the recent introduction of private universities to his country, and the challenges and opportunities they present, is why his association contacted Brittingham.
"Barbara's experience and expertise and heart is in accreditation and in quality-assurance systems, including governance as a prerequisite," Bensaid said. "Considering her experience in the U.S. and her experience outside of the U.S. ... made us think that she would be ideal to be a keynote speaker in such a conference."
As part of a speaking tour through the U.S. Embassy in Morocco, Brittingham will discuss accreditation with government officials and educators. Accreditation is a process through which a university's services and operations are evaluated by an external group.
The president of one of the world's oldest accreditation organizations, Brittingham has worked in China and Vietnam to improve higher education systems. Most recently, she discussed accreditation with Lebanese officials.
Brittingham said Moroccan officials began looking into accreditation a decade ago as part of higher education reform efforts. Accreditation helps students get ahead in the world, especially if they wish to study overseas.
"It is a confidence builder, so that other universities looking at students for transfer or for graduate school will have more confidence in the system," Brittingham said, adding that employers in Morocco and elsewhere prefer graduates with degrees from accredited universities.
While accreditation groups in the United States are independent of the government, they are semiautonomous in many countries. Morocco is evaluating how to introduce an accreditation program that best serves government and private school systems.
Accreditation helps universities improve performance and attract students. The New England Association, for example, uses 11 standards to evaluate higher education services. Among these are a university's mission, the quality of faculty and student learning assessments.
"Those standards are arrived at by the membership [of the accreditation group] and are applied through a process of self-study where the institution examines itself against those standards and identifies where it is strong and where it needs to improve," Brittingham said. "Then, that analysis is validated by a team of expert peers from other colleges and universities who are trained to go in and apply the standards."
As Morocco develops its accreditation system, it may create an organization that straddles private and government universities.
"What frequently happens in such cases is that the government would set up what some people have called a buffer body," Brittingham said. "[This] means they would have a group that might be appointed independently and they would make their decisions independent of the government."
First municipal council of children and young people elected in Morocco
Advancing children's rights under the 'Child-Friendly Cities' initiative
By Aniss Maghri
OUISSELSATE, Morocco, 8 December 2010 – Morocco recently launched its first Municipal Council of Children and Youth in the rural community of Ouisselsate, located in Ouarzazate Province. It is the first of five such councils that will be launched under the framework of a UNICEF-supported ‘Child-Friendly Cities’ initiative to protect and promote child rights in the country.
More than 3,000 young voters elected 10 female and 16 male candidates to the Ouisselsate council from a field of 76 candidates. The council members range from 8 to 22 years of age.
Each candidate came to the election with a programme that he or she had to present and defend before the voters. Among them was Hayat, 19, whose programme included creation of a library, more scholarships for junior high and high school students, and construction of sport facilities. Another candidate, Hafsa, 12, put forward a proposal to fight illiteracy and promote girls’ participation in the community.
Serious, animated debate
His Excellency Abdessalam Bikrat, Governor of Ouarzazate, welcomed this exercise in participatory democracy. He called it “a first in Morocco … to involve children and young people in running local affairs.”
A few days after the election, the council members held their first session. On the agenda was the establishment of operating and coordination mechanisms with the municipality of Ouisselsate. Various development actors from the area were present, and the young people engaged in a serious, animated debate. They voiced sincere opinions, taking into consideration the many challenges that lie ahead.
“If we were elected by children and youth in our community, it is precisely to defend their rights,” said one council member. “We have a responsibility to honour that commitment, and we will do everything to be worthy of the confidence of our constituents.”
Five focus areas
After the debate, the council members adopted several recommendations, including a request to the municipality to provide them with a workspace and funding for the implementation of youth-orientated projects.
The council also identified five focus areas for its work: quality of education; improvement of health at the municipal level; environmental protection; vocational training for greater employability; and development of recreational, cultural and sports activities.
In addition, the council called for extending this initiative to other municipalities, and for the allocation of observer seats for local council members at Morocco’s Children's Parliament.
Child-Friendly Cities
The Municipal Council of Children and Youth in Ouisselsate grew from the Child-Friendly Cities pilot project launched last year in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The project aims to involve villages, towns and cities in the implementation of the Convention in the management of local affairs. It is supported by UNICEF, the General Direction of Local Government (Ministry of Interior), the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and UNFPA, with funding from – among others – Sida Sweden.
Ouisselsate is one of five pilot municipalities that joined the project by signing a commitment charter 20 November 2009 during a ceremony chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem, President of the National Observatory of Children Rights.
ZAK ETTAMYMY Thursday, 09 December 2010
A book called “the making of the elite in Morocco” is an eye opener. Morocco is a country with deep rooted traditions and it is considered a family oriented society, individualism is a novelty in Morocco, things are always family based, in business, marriage and even areas where we live depend on where our parents are. This is how Moroccans had lived for centuries. They manage their lives on a micro scale and there is no place for individualism in the society. However, lately some people chose not to follow this tradition and they do move out of their family’s house and decide to get married outside of the family circle.

The making of the elite is a provocative title, the book talks about the bourgeoisie in Morocco and their fight to keep their privileges and their wealth is on the rise against the threats of globalization and mainly the demands from within the country for fair practices in wealth distribution.  They search for powerful positions in the Moroccan society and they do get them because they have access sometimes compared to stairways to these positions, which do not necessitate the usual qualifications and the rejection factors. I do agree with the book that to a point that some families in Morocco are privileged and you can notice that from the fact that most of our doctors, lawyers, ministers, heads of companies are from known families. I believe that there is some room for those who studied and achieved a knowledge that qualifies them to compete for these positions but they’re negligible in size and in effectiveness, with one phone call a person with certain influence could have another person fired and replaced by his newly graduated son from a university abroad; it is easier to be in powerful position if your father is in one. 50 families in morocco, a country of more than 35 millions, only 50 families control more than 45% of Morocco’s wealth! And these families are more and more bonded with intermarriages and convenient alliances all in the name of keeping it in the family. Many poor Moroccans fought against the French occupation to find themselves alienated from accessing the farms, real estate, jobs and positions of power. Many pro-occupation officials found themselves in powerful positions after the French left, Oufkir was one of them.
The “elite society” and its unfair practices of centralizing wealth and influence are not purely Moroccan phenomenon but the practice is definitely damaging Morocco’s output. If we kill the enthusiasm of our youth by closing all doors to success, unlimited success, then we will have a depressed, cynical and unenthusiastic future generations, so the making of the elite is to be studied and perhaps addressed, no one wants to be left behind, we should all have equal chances in life, whether you carry a recognizable last name or not, the importance should be you and your contributions to Morocco not your family’s position and the interests your family represents to those who are judging your character.
It is true that in the fifties and sixties most big families in morocco opted for good education for their children while the rest of the country struggled to put food on the table but now, things have changed people of all walks of life chose to educate their children too and they too should have access to privileges based on their merits, I understand that young men and women from big families had the opportunity to study abroad and to go back to Morocco with high degrees and they “rightfully” occupied influential positions, but now we have young Moroccans from poor families with similar if not better qualifications and who are not occupying their “rightfully merited” position in the ladder of our society.
The “elite” has the right to continue fighting to keep that status quo but it is time to open the “elite” club to some non-elite members to join-in especially if they merit it. Let young Moroccans dream of better future, let them foresee that if they work hard enough they too can have access to that private club. If they go to school and study for 20 years knowing that they will not stand a chance to compete with the son of Mr. BENxxx then they would choose a short cut. A lot of talents are lost to this lack of faith in the future which is directly linked to this “elite” and its power, not a good proposition for our country.

Promoting democracy should also include cracking the exclusivity of these families to unconditional access to vital sectors.  It is time to promote and encourage middle class in Morocco; it is time to spread the wealth and it time for Morocco’s companies to become  EOE “equal opportunity employers” and to take a chance on non-elite Moroccans.
ZOUHAIR BAGHOUGH Sunday, 05 December 2010
New York  / Morocco Board News ----  There is something highly hypocritical about prostitution in Morocco and elsewhere in the Arab world. Of course it is contrary to Sharia law, and for some liberally-challenged faithful watcher of [religious TV station] Iqra, it should be severely punished, a beheading is usually considered to be a fair punishment (supposedly, so that they can think twice about it before they go on the game again), never mind what the Sharia itself provides as a punishment. In an ideal world of Islamic ‘imara (إمارة), perhaps it would not have existed; Presumably a time where every Arab nation would be an aggregate of tribes, shepherds, farmers and warriors, with little or no means of communications. In the present world, it is quite certain that if government around the Middle East & North Africa region were to marshal forces to fend off any kind of prostitution or solicitation of sexual intercourse of any kind, if they really do take it to heart, then they would be slipping slowly towards a totalitarian state. The kind of state Afghanistan was -and to some extent, still is- or Iran. In a nutshell, the dividing line is that between the ideological, religious stance of zero-tolerance, that of direct repression, and the dispassionate, practical-oriented view seeking the achievement of greater if not optimal common welfare, and indeed it cannot be achieved by systematic prohibition, the policies to address the matter and others structuring the social fabric, are so intertwined as they are part of a package that any courageous and committed government cannot succeed only by implementing all of them. Legalizing prostitution for one.

Well, as far as Morocco was concerned, there were brothels well into late 1970′s. Even the Forces Armées Royales had their own. Our country apparently enjoying a dubious reputation of that of a homeland to Filles Faciles in the Middle East. Whether that reputation is well-deserved or not is a matter of debate. This is quite irrelevant to the following: How many prostitutes (male and female alike) are there in Morocco? how is prostitution structured: are there more individuals free-lance, or more organized networks? There is also another anomaly in our grand old society: it is common use to be complacent about young men to have pre-marital sexual relationship, and prostitutes are the most straightforward way to do so. It goes back of course to the inherently patriarchal features of our society. In a sense, prostitutes are tolerated -but many blind themselves on that issue- but everyone claim purity and chastity on the behalf of their female relatives. If anything, the generic prostitute was a woman with hard luck: a divorcee with no one to sustain her, a victim of rape, cast aside by her family (a high percentage of sex workers are divorced women who got married at a very early age. UNFPA). What an efficient way to dispose of the undesirable of the so-called Islamic society.
What is the philosophical justification behind one’s selling their body, or more precisely, charge for intimate intercourse? Many capitalist I am afraid. Even though orthodox Marxists would classify prostitutes (male and female alike) as lumpen-proletariat, the process of alienation is strikingly similar to that of regular proletariats: after all, both do sell part of their workforce for a wage. In purely economic terms, prostitution, when carried out properly, is quite close to that of a regular worker. As indeed the paid wage maintains the workforce and does not degrade it (say, like a physical asset), so is prostitution: under conditions of safe sex and the use of prophylactics and regular check-ups, individual subject to prostitution  will equally maintain their workforce.  And indeed, if any serious study was carried out to understand the main reasons why young men and women turn into streetwalkers, It has a comfortable margin of success to explain it as a lack of suitable resources. One might argue -but then get labelled as a cynic- that prostitution is “fair game”, and thus, a mean like many others to earn a living. On the other hand, moralists can argue that prostitution degrades human beings, and forces them into submission to beastly instinct. that’s a perfectly valid point. But money talks. Claudine Legardinier did say that all prostituted women agree on the fact that their first client was the one who counted the most. The first who paid for rape opens the way to all the others. At first, the women think that they’ll stop as soon as they’ll have put money aside, but the amount of drugs and alcohol they need in order to be able to hang on makes it impossible to stop. Although they say that they get paid a lot of money, most of them are in debt.

The proposed policy is difficult to implement. Out of the top of my head, it is mission impossible to find a credible figure for the number of prostitutes in Morocco: how many, nor where they are concentrated (although one can venture an educated guess), or even if there was a serious attempt to ask them some questions. Social workers staff are not numbers are not enough, or ill-trained, ill-funded and certainly lacking the political will to tackle the issue. So there it goes: legalizing prostitution means changing substantial parts of the present penal code, as well as enacting a prostitution law that gives legislative framework for the occupation of sex worker, a legislation on brothels, sanitary standards, the re-designation of the vice squad’s missions to enforce the law, and finally, a cadre of social workers to help the prostitutes to get away from their work, either by means of education, or indeed micro-finance. Any levied tax on these activities would contribute in financing the various costs in setting up the responsible bodies.

The Law: Changing the law does not cost much, or if it does, its cost will certainly be part of the whole constitutional reform, that would certainly encompass the penal code: that kind of law is bound to bring fiscal benefits rather than be a burden on the taxpayer. a progressive and radical agenda would seek abolishing those articles that prevent individual liberties, and their corollary on “vice” (article 490 for a start). Legalizing prostitution however, involves a great deal of finesse in shaping the legislation itself: prostitution is legal, but soliciting is not. In any case, loopholes will certainly need to be as small as possible, since they involve a power of interpretation from the law enforcer, i.e. the police, which is notoriously corrupt, discretionary and indeed abusive in its enforcement. the lower blurred margins are, the better and the more efficient law enforcement will be. As the matter remains quite trivial (compared to others, much more universal) lawmaking remains within the gift of the elected regional bodies. That’s a simple way to escape difficult decisions to make at a federal level, but it also does give a margin by de-penalizing prostitution as a federal law (which means that it is still illegal, but there will be no enforcement to prevent it). The regional elected assemblies will therefore just determine the level of tolerance to it.

How would it work? It has been proven, though with some criticism, that sex workers are relatively safer in organized structures (brothels) and their activity can be more easily quantified and thus taxed (with all the benefits of getting underground activities and incomes into the regular economy). There’s a certain amount of paperwork to be filled out for licenses, medical and administrative routine controls, rates of VAT to be determined, social security, health insurance, but also the right to gather into unions, networks or pressure groups. (I am not a lawyer, so I get bored very easily with the legislative details.)
The resources: the tricky part. Because the number of prostitutes is unknown or difficult to get, an estimate would be the starting point. The scheme might even be properly funded from the outside, as indeed HIV contamination among prostitutes is quite high compared to that of the overall population (according to the UNFPA, respectively 2.1% and 0.1%). The regulations will certain state that sex workers should be compelled to use condoms and other prophylactic devices, which will certainly win favor with international institutions like the World Health Organization. Following various studies, large-scale prostitution is mainly concentrated in tourism-oriented cities like Marrakech, Agadir, Tangiers, and Casablanca for its population density. If there is any doubt about the feasibility of such policy, it would be wise though to implement it in one area as a test group. Again, the cost incurred would be minimal: police would merely re-assign its tourism brigade and the vice squad to other tasks. As for the social workers’ establishment, various experiences do prove that it remains feasible. the Families and Social Cohesion department got involved in comparable strategies, which costs overall MAD 191 Mn (2010 Budget). A substantial part of  the centralized expenditure can be deviated and put into such projects, in one of the regions of course, as a feasibility test. The human element in any case, would represent a modest sum compared to the total expenditure (a little under 24%). the Health Department has also experienced and trained personnel that can be of help too.
Legalizing prostitution, in essence, is a straightforward strategy to allow for social workers to target sex-workers, engage with them on matters of health and sanitary standards, and later on, when trust and acceptance ties are made, to talk them into scheme the government would be providing for them: free training for more conventional jobs, part-time education for those who did not achieve minimal levels of education, and ultimately, finance for small business project that could get them away from prostitution.

The Ultimate Objective is of course, to get rid of it gradually. The core argument for legalizing it is to control it, and only so would the authorities be able to influence the outcome in favor of a long term abolition of prostitution. There is also the wider picture to bear in mind: if the domestic economy can sustain a long and healthy growth, income gaps and poverty are bound to be reduced, and so the chances for young men and women to fall into prostitution. It also prevent the likelihoods of children to become victims of prostitution themselves. Now that sex workers are protected by law, enforcement can be targeted more effectively against child abuse, and any activity related to pedophile tourism.

There is evidence that such policies can have positive effects, either on the state’s finance, or on the number of prostitutes and their HIV infection rate. If implemented, these policies can reduce the number of sex workers in Morocco (as our country does not face the contingency of mass immigration) In Turkey, sex workers are required to register or to carry an ID. In Germany and in the Netherlands, these policies were successful, save for the problem of human trafficking.
Festival Films, critic's pick: Morocco's 'The Mosque'.
Jenna Krajeski Sat, 04/12/2010 
Moroccan director Daoud Aoulad-Syad's excellent entry into the Cairo International Film Festival could be called a sequel. Syad's previous entry won Best Arab Film in the 31st year of the CIFF. "Waiting for Pasolini" told the story of group of Moroccan villagers who find their town overtaken by an Italian film crew exploiting the pastoral setting for a film about the Bible. As the title suggests, the film's characters spend a lot of time on the lookout for a cipher named "Pasolini." As the title also suggests--with its echo of Samuel Beckett's absurdist masterpiece, "Waiting for Godot"--the drama is in the waiting, not the arrival.
"The Mosque" takes place in the southeastern rural Moroccan town of Zagora, where, some time past, a filmmaker named Daoud (played, briefly, by the filmmaker himself) had made a movie that the villagers refer to simply as "Pasolini." The town has mostly profited from the movie; its inhabitants seem to be largely still buoyed by their roles, with the town leader proudly calling the opening ceremony of a film festival taking place there "a great day for this small town."
But the results are not all positive. A large set was built for "Pasolini" on land rented out by a local farmer named Moha. When the movie wrapped, Moha expected to get his land back, but the villagers refused to demolish the set mosque, which now sits squarely on his land with its back facing his house, the exposed beams and flimsy, impermanent material adding insult to his financial misery.
The mosque prevents Moha from farming most of his land; he is unable to arrange the circumcision of his young son (and much drama is evoked from this simple combination of advancing age advancing toward the knife) and is very unsuccessful in getting any of the villagers to agree to tear down the mosque. In his appeals, Moha is challenged by bureaucracy, and by religion; a local imam tells him that having the mosque on his land is good luck, will secure his fortune in heaven, and that to demolish it would bring, well, quite the opposite.
Moha is a religious man. One scene, in which he stops in the middle of the desert to perform ablutions with sand and pray, seems to support his opponents' argument that a mosque belongs anywhere, but Moha remains stalwart in both his assertion that the mosque is fraudulent and in his own piety, at one point even declaring that everyone is against him but God.
In a superficial reading of the plot, what seems to be a dispute about religion is mostly a dispute about land and power; deeper, it is a movie about how the penetrative force of cinema and television has changed our perception of what is real and what is manufactured.
The imam of the fake mosque played the imam in the movie. He vamps for tourists in the costume of a Roman general, also from "Pasolini." He conspires with an invading politician, trading votes for the promise of a job in Marrakesh, and runs the film's real hero (and Moha's only ally), an imam named Sellam who is considered the village loon by most neighbors, out of town to live in exile in the cemetery. The imam is fake, a swindler, but with every passing day the religious building he works in grows more and more real.
In one pivotal scene, Moha and Sellam rent a bulldozer to do the job themselves but are forced into a standoff with a group of mourning villagers using the mosque for a funeral. Douad expertly fractures the audience's sympathies, which at that moment are not with the buffoonish Moha and Sellam, but with the genuinely grieving villagers--Douad offers close ups of the women's faces in still shock as their wailing is interrupted by the bulldozer's growl, and the coffin in the procession is child sized.
At times, "The Mosque" is disarmingly quiet and still; much is said outside of the dialogue. In one scene, Moha and his wife chat in front of a still life composed of a hanging slaughtered goat and a satellite dish. The implications are obvious--television and cinema are spreading their influence to even the most remote corners of the globe, and with that comes enlightenment and some material wealth, but also the loss of customs, of naiveté, and, in Moha's case, sometimes the loss of material wealth.
But, rather than just presenting this dichotomy--as true as it is--"The Mosque' seems mostly concerned with the ambiguities that such abrupt and sweeping changes engender. Moha's wife is asked, at one point, if the dress she is wearing--the normal style of the village--is her own, or a costume leftover from "Pasolini." When a TV crew comes to film Zagora's local folk music group, the members are commanded by the town leader to clean their clothes, trim their beards, and carry their knives. The mosque appears to be about as fake, or real, as those who go to pray in it.
"The Mosque" illustrates the ambiguities it plumbs with delicate, precise and varying shots. Some are from the perspective of an actor in the film--the imam as he walks around the village collecting money to paint the mosque--and impart the feeling of the camera being embedded in the village, rather than snaking around the periphery. Douad favors close ups, and the results--with the subject often looking directly or just beyond the camera--are at times chilling because of how quickly they direct an uncomfortable, as if ill-begotten, familiarity with the villagers.
When the TV crew arrives, the villagers commence their half-charade. Their new "real life" is one that involves cameras, exposed daggers, and cleaned slippers--one that is half real, half pageantry.
"The truth is above everything," says Sellam to Moha. But Sellam, in taking this solo position, has given up his job, his community, and, in some practical way, his sanity. In the new Zagora, those who survive best are the true believers.
Sunday, 05 December 2010
The film, Of Gods and Men, that has won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and is now the French Oscar entry, was filmed last year at Toumliline near Azrou, Morocco, in the Middle Atlas mountains.
Xavier Beauvois' movie tells the true story of nine Cistercian monks working at a monastery in Tibhirine in the Atlas mountains of northern Algeria. In 1996, seven of them were abducted by the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) and held as hostages. The captors claimed to have executed them, but more recently it has been suggested that they were accidentally killed by the Algerian army during a botched rescue attempt.
The movie begins by establishing the routine of the monks as they go about their prayer, work and service in the austere monastery. The next to oldest, Luc (Michael Lonsdale), is a kindly, experienced doctor, who holds daily clinics for the villagers with the assistance of the eldest brother, the ancient Amédée. Others work in the garden, assist a labourer to build a wall, help an old lady to apply for a passport to visit her son in France, and bottle honey from their open hives to sell in the nearby market as "Miel de l'Atlas". Their elected leader, Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson), aged around 50, is the intellectual of the group, seen at his desk, writing, surrounded by books.
They mix easily with the local population, and we see them attend a Christian service conducted in Maghrebi. This quiet, undemonstrative existence of contemplation and useful activity of the community is disrupted by an escalating series of events that put the monks' lives in danger and forces them to examine the nature of their vocations, turning the film into a kind of thriller.
From then on, until their inevitable abduction, the monks' resolve is steadily strengthened as they stand trapped between an oppressive Algerian government and increasingly threatening insurgents. As an army helicopter hovers menacingly above their chapel, they chant prayers and cling to each other for solidarity. When, towards the end, they're joined by a ninth brother who's been absent in France, they celebrate communion, followed by what feels like a re-enactment of the last supper as they drink wine together and listen to a cassette of Swan Lake, laughing and smiling together for the last time.
"It is a very current film," comments film producer Etienne Comar. "It's interesting to look at this atrocity as it happened before 9/11 - all the signs of what was to come were there.

"When I re-read again the last testimony of the monks' leader, Brother Christian, he was very aware of the co-habitation of Muslim and Christian neighbours. He seemed to have a sense that it was going to become a talking point.

"Now it is an important issue wherever in the world you live - the USA, France, the UK, the Middle East. I want this film to ask, 'what is the next step?' How can we live in peace with each other? What dialogue should we have?"

Of Gods and Men was filmed last year at Toumliline in the mountains above Azrou, close to Fez. Toumliline was the location of a similar monastery of Benedictine monks. This particular group of monks was well received by locals and visited by King Hassan II and his family. They stayed in Morocco for around 11 years, before leaving in the 1960s.

Boujemaa Boudaouad, whose family lives in the monastery now and has taken care of it since the Benedictines left, is a registered guide for Morocco with a particular love of the Middle Atlas. Currently in London, Boujemaa reports that he's seen the movie and found it very sad, though he enjoyed it.

One other person who's seen the film is one of the surviving monks from the Algerian monastery. Brother Jean-Pierre, now 87 and living in Midelt, was sent a DVD of the film. "It brought me peace", he said.
Morocco - Positive Tale for Retail
Tuesday, 07 December 2010
Morocco’s retail sector is set to undergo a major shift in the coming years as large-scale purpose-built retail areas become more prevalent but moves away from traditional small-scale shops to massive retail malls may be slowed by incremental growth in consumer spending, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.

The retail sector is a major contributor to the economy, representing around 12.8% of GDP and providing employment to some 1m people, approximately 13% of the total workforce.

Although large segments of the sector, notably grocery retailing, are still concentrated in smaller outlets such as corner shops, there is an increasing trend for shoppers in urban areas to make use of hypermarkets, particularly as a major new development improves regional coverage.

One of the highest-profile projects is the Morocco Mall, set to open its doors early next year. Located on the corniche of Casablanca, the shopping centre has a floor area of 200,000 sq metres, making it the largest retail outlet on the continent outside of South Africa. The developer and owner, the local Aksal Group, hopes the $250m centre will have footfall of 15m or more a year.

The mall is scheduled to have more than 250 shops and food outlets, and also feature a large aquarium and an IMAX cinema. The headline tenant is to be upmarket French department store Galeriés Lafayette, which has signed up to take a 15,000 sq metre, three-storey placement in the complex. As of the end of August, 85% of all retail space had been leased, with Aksal officials confident the remainder would be taken up by the time the mall opened.

According to Philippe de Fraiteur, director of strategy and development for Aksal Group, most of the work on the project has been completed with the retailers now in the process of fitting out, preparing and staffing their premises. The official opening of Morocco Mall is scheduled for February 2011, de Fraiteur told local media.

Morocco’s economy has been predicted to expand by 4.5% next year, with growth for 2010 projected to come in at around 3.2%. Though not spectacular, this steady rise in GDP should encourage retailers, as should the slow but sure improvement in consumer sentiment over the past year or so.

A number of reports have shown consumer confidence on the rise. A recent study conducted by online employment and career agency Bayt, in conjunction with international survey firm YouGov, found that almost 50% of those questioned in Morocco were strongly optimistic about the future of the country’s economy, while just 11% felt there would be a worsening over the next year. Just as importantly for retailers, an increasing number had a positive outlook over their personal financial situation, with 43% saying in September they had higher expectations for the next 12 months

However, one encouraging factor is the strong performance of Morocco’s tourism industry, which has a direct impact on the retail sector. While geared to the domestic market, the Morocco Mall will likely appeal to increasingly significant segment of foreign visitors. According to Tourism and Handicrafts Minister Yassir Znagui, speaking during a visit to the US in early November, tourist arrivals will be up 14% this year, following on from a 6% rise in 2009.

Global Arab Network

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