Reform in Morocco: caught between terror and the king.
James Sater May 6, 2011
Despite being one of the poorest Arab countries, the kingdom of Morocco has been spared the widespread protests seen elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.
Just last week, however, the regime suffered the strongest reminder that serious reforms are not a luxury, but a necessity. The Marrakesh bombing has been the deadliest in a series of violent incidents that have occurred on a yearly basis since the Casablanca bombings of 2003, when 45 people died in an attack that involved 12 suicide bombers. The attacks that killed 16 and injured 21 others on the Jamma El Fna in Marrakech targeted Morocco's core industry, tourism, and with it the foreign tourists who have visited the country by the millions over the last decade.
This newest attack reveals some of the details of the Moroccan situation that are difficult for Arab neighbours to the east and European neighbours across the Strait of Gibraltar to understand.
Morocco's traditional monarchy is based on the centuries-old idea that the monarch is the "Commander of the Faithful" - Amir Al Mu'minin - of Morocco's religious community. Effectively, this means that contesting the supreme role of the king is sacrilege. Most Moroccans, especially in rural areas, have rallied in support of the king on many difficult occasions since Morocco gained independence from French colonial rule in 1956. The bond between Moroccans and their ruler is not based solely on fear, as has been the case in some other states in the Middle East. Rather, it is profoundly religious.
The king's religious role has significantly reduced the scope of protest action. It is inconceivable to hear public calls for the king's removal, and even privately, it has been an idea limited to a handful of intellectuals and political activists. This is true in spite of two attempted military coups during the early 1970s.
Consequently, opposition to the regime and calls for reforms have limited themselves to calls for greater public accountability, greater participation of political parties in the national government, and for increasing the scope and protection of human rights.
Since the early 1990s and especially under King Mohamed VI, who has ruled since 1999, the regime has responded positively to such demands and has even taken the initiative, while insisting on an implicit bargain in which the opposition would refrain from asking for reforms that might touch upon the supreme position of the king.
For example, the current 1996 constitution allows the king to appoint the prime minister without consideration of electoral outcomes, and to appoint all senior positions from the minister of justice, and the minister of interior, to high-ranking military officers. He is the supreme commander of the armed forces, and the royal office is the primary initiator of most, if not all, pieces of legislation.
From a position of strength, the king was able to grant substantial political freedoms. These included a multi-party system, a guarantee of free and fair elections for almost 20 years now, complete with supervision by international observer groups, and in 2004 the establishment of a public truth and reconciliation commission. Here, hundreds of victims of human rights abuses were able to talk on national TV about the tortures they suffered under King Hassan II, who ruled until 1999.
However, this relative freedom also pushed many parties and citizens to call for a Spanish-like transition from authoritarian rule to constitutional democracy, a demand that the king and the royal advisers, called makhzen, have tried to quell. When mass protests brought down Hosni Mubarak and Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, timid protests inside Morocco repeated the long-standing demand of a constitutional democracy in a movement called 20 February. In response, the monarch caught his adversaries by surprise by announcing a constitutional reform that would, as in the 1990s and before, be approved by referendum.
Unlike Tunisia (but similar to Egypt), there was no constitutional assembly that was charged with instituting reform, but a commission hand-picked by the monarch himself. The 20 February Movement continued its protests, which accelerated after one rally was violently dispersed in Casablanca on March 13. Again in response to this dissatisfaction, the monarch began a heightened process of political consultation. Political parties - all more royalist than even the king himself - were requested to submit their proposals for reform, as were some activists of the 20 February Movement in an attempt to co-opt them into the political space. The pro-reform weekly newspaper TelQuel wrote on April 22 quite accurately that "the revolution is the king".
In this situation, the effects of the Marrakech bombing are likely to be disastrous for any substantial constitutional reform. Throughout its history, and particularly since the Casablanca attacks, the Moroccan kingdom has always been able to portray itself as the guarantor of stability. If pro-constitutional reform activists were initially confident in calling for substantial changes following the Tunisian or Egyptian examples, their constituency may now be a lot smaller than it was before.
An emphasis on economic reforms, such as an increase in the minimum wage or more subsidies, will also become more prominent in an effort to deflate the economic causes of violence and terror. Reformers will also look to neighbouring Tunisia, where in spite of the revolution, unemployment continues to cause young graduates no shortage of despair. This will ultimately limit the role played by the Tunisian model, which has otherwise served to inspire waves of enthusiasm since January.
James N Sater is an associate professor at the department of international studies at the American University of Sharjah
Casablanca, May 5, 2011 – Finishing a visit to Morocco today, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said that Morocco’s economic reforms and decade of good economic growth could be expanded through further reform and greater civic participation.
Zoellick − who met with King Mohammed VI, key officials, and members of civil society − discussed Morocco’s reform agenda within the context of the historic changes across the Middle East and North Africa.
Zoellick − who met with King Mohammed VI, key officials, and members of civil society − discussed Morocco’s reform agenda within the context of the historic changes across the Middle East and North Africa.
“Morocco has performed well economically, but Moroccans recognize rural areas and many people have lagged behind. The country’s renewed reform plans can accelerate momentum. The reform plans will be more successful and lasting if the process draws on the creativity and energy of all parts of society. Morocco’s potential depends on enabling its people to achieve their full potential within a globalized economy,” said Zoellick. “I’m pleased to have had the chance to listen to Moroccans describe their plans and hopes, and the World Bank looks forward to working with the government as a partner to support further reforms, growth and inclusive development.
Zoellick gave a speech at the Deuxiemes Assises de l’Industrie, the high-level Industry Summit hosted by His Majesty the King to address the country’s Pacte d’Emergence, or National Pact for Industrial Emergence. Developed through broad consultations between the public and private sectors before its launch in 2009, the Pacte sets out an industrial development strategy in the areas of competitiveness for Morocco. The Industry Summit provides a high-level forum to assess the implementation of the plan. He also confirmed that the Bank was pushing ahead energetically to finalize preparations for the Ouarzazate Solar Plant, expected to be the first of its size in Africa.
“Morocco’s Concentrated Solar Power plans have the potential to be a game-changer in the production of solar energy,” said Zoellick. “Solar power in Morocco is a win-win opportunity to generate green energy, foster a key innovative sector grounded in North Africa, and boost jobs.”
With at least 1 Gigiwatt in potential power, the equivalent of three times the world’s capacity today, Morocco and North Africa offers a tremendous platform to deliver solar power to Europe. Zoellick said that harnessing this untapped green power requires close cooperation with European states and institutions.
Making remarks at the industry conference about Morocco’s growth and competitiveness, Zoellick said: “Success depends on making progress on multiple fronts in a mutually supportive way. Through our development policy loans, the World Bank is working with your government to strengthen economic governance so as to: attract technology and know-how; encourage innovation; upgrade the trade logistics infrastructure; reform the training and education system to bring the right skills to the market; and ensure that good labor market policies and social safety nets are in place to support this economic transformation.”
Zoellick pointed out that since 2005, the World Bank has supported Morocco’s National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), which has financed more than 22,000 projects, at an average of $70,000 per project; targeting more than five million beneficiaries, with budget appropriations over $1.5 billion. In those rural areas targeted by the INDH, the poverty rate has decreased from 36 to 21 percent. By developing networks of associations, the INDH has helped foster a new civic awareness, encouraging people to partner with public authorities to drive and direct development. Zoellick emphasized the need to build on this strong first phase, and strengthen implementation in the second phase through rigorous measurement and assessment of performance.
In an early April policy address before the World Bank’s Spring Meetings, “The Middle East and North Africa: A New Social Contract for Development”, Zoellick said the Bank would not only promote institutional reforms but also look into providing more support for civil society as a way of making government more accountable to people.
Zoellick said that he had long been interested in Morocco’s development, and that he was proud to have completed the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement in 2004 to help boost economic reforms and a more diversified economy.
During his visit to Morocco, Zoellick met with Mr. Mohamed El Yazghi, Minister of State; Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Finance and Economy; Mr. Nizar Baraka, Minister of Economic and General Affairs; Minister Aziz Akhannouch, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; Ms. Amina Benkhadra, Minister of Energy, Water and Environment; and Mr. Mustapha Bakkoury, Head of the Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN). Zoellick also met with members of the private sector, and his consultative meeting with civil society representatives had a special focus on youth groups.
The World Bank provides about $700 million a year in support to Morocco. Areas of Bank focus include health, overcoming poverty, climate change and solar energy, vulnerable populations, and Morocco’s agricultural plan, Plan Maroc Vert.
The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has a committed portfolio of $202 million in 13 companies. IFC is seeking to increase its investment program in Morocco, with a specific focus on access to finance for micro, small, and medium enterprises; renewable energy; infrastructure; agribusiness; education and IT services; automotive; and other growth sectors. IFC also encourages regional integration through investments in regional private equity funds for small and medium enterprises and cross border investments from Morocco to Sub-Saharan Africa. And IFC has been supporting the Government of Morocco on Public Private Partnerships, including by signing a Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of Finance last October.
- Amina Murtada Tuesday, 03 May 2011
Global Arab Network - Casablanca - Morocco is due to host the World Youth Peace Congress (WYPC) next October, the Cercle des jeunes démocrates marocains announced.
This meeting will bring together the five continents around a constructive dialogue between the youth of the world towards devising projects to consolidate peace and dignity, the Cercle said during a press conference.
The broad lines of this event were presented during this conference which was attended by a number of partners.
The congress will discuss such themes as "the role of new media in the democratisation process", "the economy and sustainable development", "regional conflict resolution", "religious and racial tolerance" and "the youth in the face of world education and helath challenges". (MAP)
Posted by Matt Byrne May 4, 2011 By Matt Byrne, Town Correspondent
In the latest round of cultural dialogue between Somerville and sister city Tiznit, Morocco, a group from the North African city concluded a five-day visit Tuesday, planners said.
The Moroccan delegation follows a parallel trip by 20 professionals from Somerville April 15 to Tiznit, organized through the University of the Middle East, a Somerville-based group that organizes educational development programs for Middle Eastern and North African teachers.
"The basic idea is getting people to get together and meet each other," said Ray Matsumiya, the university's executive director. "Between the mayors, they both have strong visions of internationalism."
Tiznit is one of four Somerville sister cities. The others are Gaeta, Italy; Nordeste, Portugal; and Yucuaiquin, El Salvador.
Abdellatif Ouammou, president of the Tiznit City Council, said in an interview that he hopes to come up with creative projects that will benefit both cities.
"We both have the same vision of how to design and conceive the modern city," said Oammou, through a translator. "It works around the high quality of human beings. We really believe in the human capacity."
Together, the dual exchange sought to evoke ideas, partnerships, and understanding between the two cities, during a time of increased uncertainty in the Arab world, the university said.
The groups came together to talk youth unemployment, which played a key role in some of the popular uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and other North African countries, drawing a stark backdrop for the discussions, the university said.
The initiative "tackles one of the most vital and timely topics in the Arab world and is just one component of the extraordinary Sister Cities relationship," according to the university.
"As the world gets more interconnected there is a need to work more with people from other cultures," said Matsumiya, the executive director.
The delegates visited Somerville High School, City Hall to meet with Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, toured studios in Teele Square, and visited the Massachusetts State House.
"Both are small cities, similar populations, lots of artists and many engaged people," said Samira Idelcadi, an English teacher from Tiznit who attended a University of the Middle East program in 2006, and facilitated the sister city agreement that was formalized in December 2009.
Idelcadi said most of the students in Tiznit graduate from secondary schools and go on to university or other post-secondary schools, leaving many with fewer options without advanced education.
"We're more interested in finding vocational work," she said in an interview Monday night at Brickbottom Artist Studios, where about 100 gathered for a potluck reception.
"I'm taking lots of ideas," Idelcadi said. "Connecting our youth, our schools, and how we plan."
News from afar turns personal for Uncle Gene. April 30, 2011
My niece, Ayanna Kane Williams, loved living in Milwaukee a few years ago.
A native of the Washington, D.C, area, she was working for Hunger Task Force as part of a national fellowship. When she first informed me about her nine-month assignment in Milwaukee, I assumed my 24-year-old niece picked the city because she wanted to be close to her favorite Uncle Gene.
(I call her "my favorite niece" as a family joke; she's actually my only niece. I also have five nephews.)
Ayanna, a graduate of Colgate University, told me it was just a coincidence that she was assigned to Milwaukee. (I'm still not convinced.)
She spent much of her time here working at various programs for the Hunger Task Force and enjoying the city's lifestyle, including going to the lakefront, picking apples, attending Brewers games and hanging out at various coffee houses.
She liked Milwaukee so much that she came back the following year just to visit friends she had made in town.
A year ago, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent on assignment to Morocco for two years. Her mother - my sister Edna - held a big farewell party with dozens of family members and friends to send her on her way. Since then, I've always kept thoughts of Ayanna uppermost in my mind and made it a point to keep up with international news from Africa and surrounding areas.
After all, these days it's a small world.
The latest headlines out of Morocco reported that a bomb filled with nails was detonated at a busy tourist café in Marrakech and killed 16 people, including 14 foreigners. Responsibility for the bombing has yet to be claimed. As is often the case in that part of the world, al-Qaida is a possible suspect.
Thankfully, I managed to reach Ayanna on Friday to check on her safety. She told me the rural village where she was lived was located about an hour and a half from the bombing.
"I'm safe and doing fine," she said.
She had been in constant contact with Peace Corps officials - and her parents - since the bombing. She had been advised the Peace Corps would make a decision whether to evacuate its volunteers or consolidate with another group in a different part of the country.
She's lived in a small village for more than a year now; most of her day-to-day duties involve providing support for other Peace Corp workers who serve as teachers and health counselors in the mainly Muslim country.
Ayanna told me the most difficult barriers involve speaking the local language and learning the cultural differences. After more than a year, she is still adjusting but had plenty of friends and associates who made things easier.
She was pleased to receive a call from her Uncle Gene inquiring about her safety.
"Don't worry," she said at the end of our talk. Of course, that's pretty much impossible.
Ayanna said she had been trying to find more news about the bombing on the limited Internet service she had available but had not been able to follow most of the recent reporting.
In fact, she found most news in Morocco dominated by one story in particular.
"The only news they are writing about is the royal wedding," she said. "Actually, that was pretty disappointing."
During our talk, she also mentioned that she hadn't heard about the killer tornadoes in the South or the news about the release of President Barack Obama's birth certificate.
But the marriage of Prince William with the "commoner" Kate Middleton was apparently big news in Morocco, just as in other countries across the globe.
The royal wedding might have been the stuff of fairy tales, but terrorism is deadly real-life stuff, which is why I was relieved to talk to my niece and confirm she was doing well.
In a week when major news stories - both substantial and frivolous - seemed to dominate, everything else seemed to shrink in terms of importance.
That's what happens when news becomes personal.
I appreciate the fact my precious niece is on a wonderful adventure due to her determination to find a way to contribute to society in a positive way. But I honestly can't wait until her safe return.
Also, I have little doubt if she were back in the U.S., she'd probably find a way to get involved in relief efforts to help the people in Alabama and other states affected by the tornadoes.
That's my favorite niece, always with her priorities in the right place.
Contact Eugene Kane at (414) 223-5521 or email@example.com. Read his Raising Kane blog and follow him on Twitter @ eugene_kane
Morocco’s Vision Forward. By RPCV Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir (Morocco)
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
THE fatal terrorist bombing of a tourist cafe in Marrakech that took the lives of 16 people makes it more urgent for Morocco to implement its vision, which is a new social contract. In a rapidly transforming North Africa and Middle East whose people are demanding broad-based socio-economic development and major political reform, Morocco is attempting to meet these critical needs by engaging people in their own development.
Morocco’s vision is to invest in development initiatives that result from local people engaging in participatory democratic decision-making. As Morocco’s King Mohammed VI describes it, “the citizen is both the engine for and the ultimate objective of all the initiatives launched.”
Morocco’s vision is integral to its regionalization (or decentralization) structural reform plan to transfer power and responsibilities to sub-national levels to enable closer response to the needs of the public. Regionalization was first announced in 2008 by the king, who stated in his recent speech to the nation that its implementation timetable will be moved up and will include regionally elected members of councils with authority to carry out its decisions.
Morocco’s vision to advance development through democratic processes is also reflected in the 2010 amendments to its Communal Charter—requiring locally elected assemblies to create multi-year development plans based on public participation which are submitted to ministries for possible financing. The vision shapes Morocco’s National Initiative for Human Development, created in 2005 to advance sustainable development projects more heavily aimed to serve rural areas, and has achieved mixed results.
As full of potential as these and other programs are that reflect Morocco’s vision, their efficacy is measured to the extent that they actually advance civic engagement in development. The question is: Are members of villages, towns, and neighborhoods together considering their needs, opportunities and challenges, working through conflict, and creating shared development plans that they implement with public-private financial, technical, or other partnering support? Currently, the short answer is not nearly enough to achieve the social changes Morocco needs now.
For Morocco to make its vision a reality, it must finally alleviate the severe poverty of its rural people who make-up about 40 percent of the country, and 85 percent of their households earn less than the national average.
The prevalence and low value of cereal crops in Morocco—representing only 10 to 15 percent of agricultural revenues yet occupying 75 percent of usable agricultural surface areas, according to the Agency for Agricultural Development—is indicative of the terrible inefficiency of continuing subsistence agriculture and the anemic pace of rural development.
Three percent of rural Moroccans move to cities each year most of whom would prefer to stay in their villages if there were opportunities. This exacerbates urban slum conditions whose residents feel excluded from human development prospects, and some have gone on to commit notorious terrorist acts.
The day before the bomb blast in Marrakech, Morocco’s king made a statement through the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Maritime Fishing to “strive doubly hard” to achieve the goals of the Green Morocco Plan.
This multi-year, multi-billion dollar plan has I believe identified the main agricultural challenges and set its goals and budget accordingly, including emphasizing Aggregates or Cooperatives since 70 percent of farmers own less than 5 hectares.
However, the Green Plan must avoid the main drawback of the National Initiative—it is too top-down like the ministries that administer it—and actually create broad-based rural development driven by participatory democracy. The experiences of successful projects in Morocco strongly suggest that these programs should be implemented nationally:
Training locally elected members of rural communal councils and village representatives in their own communities in facilitating participatory planning activities will help villagers to together asses and identify projects they most need and want.
The commune is Morocco’s most local administrative tier and they are in the best position to learn from the people the projects most important to them. Morocco’s regionalization should give communal councils maximum allowance, including budgetary and administrative, to pursue the development plans of the people. Council members and village representatives will facilitate participatory democratic discussions leading to development actions of the people, which is Morocco’s vision forward.
Most common rural priorities communities express are fruit tree agriculture, irrigation, potable water and women and youth empowerment. Morocco should greatly expand building community nurseries of tree varieties that grow naturally (the country is fortunate to have many). This will enable rural people to retain some of the value added from their transition to a cash crop economy.
It is a loss of economic value and self reliance to rural families when agencies provide them with fruit trees that are on average thirty times the cost of young saplings that can be planted in community nurseries that local people are trained to manage. The price of trees inhibits Morocco’s agricultural transition, and decentralizing nurseries to communities could enable them to provide at cost most of the billions of trees that are needed.
Tree nursery programs with women’s cooperatives and youth centers and schools are immensely empowering.
These recommendations developed from hundreds of village meetings that resulted in dozens of sustainable projects in different parts of Morocco that were facilitated by the High Atlas Foundation, of which I am a part. Will the agencies given the responsibility to bring Morocco’s vision forward train leaders to really listen to local communities to implement their project priorities across the country? Morocco’s vision forward depends on it.(The author is a sociologist and president of the High Atlas Foundation -highatlasfoundation.org - a non-government agency that was founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers and is dedicated to community development in Morocco.)
Rural healthcare in Morocco focus of antipoverty effort. By Siham Ali 2011-04-27
A new push to provide adequate medical treatment to rural communities in Morocco includes provisions for mobile clinics.
Rural areas in Morocco lag far behind cities in terms of access to medical treatment, Health Minister Yasmina Baddou concluded at the first national meeting on rural healthcare.
"Our goal is to enable citizens and children to have the same chances of survival regardless of whether they are in cities or the countryside," the minister said at the April 18th conference.
According to the health ministry, 43% of the rural population lives at least 6 kilometres away from a healthcare centre, and 25% of people live more than 10 kilometres from one.
Baddou said that despite the efforts made to boost infrastructures and human resources, there was still a long way to go before people living in rural areas would be able to access the proper healthcare. She added that her agency had drafted an action plan in order to bridge the gaps.
"This strategy will focus not only on the construction of healthcare centres, but also on mobile units, especially for childbirth and specialist services," the minister told parliament on April 18th.
But the government effort was criticised by parliamentarian Abdelhamid Saadaoui, who said that there was a shortage of doctors, adding that "sometimes there is just one nurse who gives consultations and only comes once a week".
"To facilitate access to healthcare in rural areas, we must take infrastructures and human resources into account," Saadaoui said.
Zohra Ouardi, who lives in a douar in Taza, told Magharebia that although there was a community health centre a few kilometres from her home, it only provides basic healthcare and local people have to travel to the city to see specialists. Often, she said, people prefer to treat themselves with plants as they do not have enough money to travel to the city.
Among the authorities' efforts, the health minister pointed to an increase in the number of healthcare facilities to 2,630, 74% of which are located in rural areas. These basic facilities house a total of 518 maternity units, 373 of which are in rural areas, she said.
She added that other measures implemented include the provision of emergency obstetric care, greater availability of medicines and ongoing training. She also said that nearly half of newly recruited doctors were posted to rural areas.
Baddou ent on to say that under the 2011-2012 plan, healthcare services provided by basic facilities will be expanded and improved in line with accredited national standards. Furthermore, outpatient care in remote areas will be expanded and improved, and partnership schemes will be consolidated.
The 2008-2010 period saw an improvement in terms of infrastructure and equipment, service provision, the supply of medicines and the boosting of human resources, according to Khalid Lahlou, population director at the health ministry. Despite this improvement, he added, partnerships with healthcare programmes must be forged.
The partnership with the National Human Development Initiative, for instance, has contributed 1.8 billion dirhams since 2005. The money was used to purchase ambulances for mobile teams and to build healthcare centres.
Zoellick says Morocco's Human Development programme 'encouraging'
Casablanca - President of the World Bank Group Robert Zoellick on Thursday hailed Morocco's anti-poverty programme the National Initiative for Human Development, saying that its results are encouraging.
Human Development programme still faces some challenges, but the results already obtained are encouraging, said Zoellick in a speech before HM King Mohammed VI in Casablanca at the opening ceremony of the Second meeting industry.
The Initiative, he said, has funded over 22,000 projects, up to $ 70,000 per project on average, with an over $ 1.5 billion budget appropriation for five million beneficiaries.
Poverty rate reduced from 36% to 21% in the targeted rural areas and 40,000 jobs were created, since 2005, thanks to micro-projects funded under the Human Development initiative, he added.
According to Zoellick, Morocco is on the track to exceed the targets of the Millennium Development Goals in terms of water supply and sanitation, recalling, in this regard, that the WB provided 285 million dollar to support the Kingdom’s efforts in this sector.
HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa chairs Board of Directors of Mohammed VI Foundation for Environment Protection
Rabat - HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa, chairwoman of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment chaired, on Friday, the Foundation's Board of Directors.
The Council was attended by Energy, Mines, Water and Environment Minister Amina Benkhadra, Secretary of State for Water and Environment Abdelkbir Zahoud and Vice-President of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises Abdelmajid Tazlaoui and other Boards' members.
At the beginning of the council's proceedings, HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa welcomed the tangible results achieved since the setting up of the Foundation in June 2001, a statement of the Foundation said.
Thanks to its dynamism and strict management, the Foundation has become a major player in the civil society in the field of environment, said HRH Princess, adding that this position has been strengthened since the Foundation was co-opted into the Economic and Social Council.
Stressing that all the Foundation’s programmes are conducted on the scheduled timing, HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa reviewed the 2010 results and future prospects, the statement said.
The Clean Beaches programme should evolve into a comprehensive programme to include all Moroccan beaches that benefit from the bathing water quality, thereby increasing the number of concerned beaches from 57 to 127.
This will enable, added the document, to incorporate this programme into the broader context of coastal protection, which the Foundation launched with the International Coastal Conference, held in October 2010 in Tangier and chaired by HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa.
The Green Key programme, which is an eco-label that the International Foundation was able to relocate in 2007, is part of Morocco's tourism strategy.
Today, 40 institutions are labelled as part of an initial leading operation and the pace should accelerate in 2012 in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry and business operators.
Regarding the Voluntary Carbon Offset Programme, launched in April 2009, it aims to encourage public and private institutions and citizens to reduce and offset their CO2 emissions. To date, eight Moroccan big companies have joined the initiative.
Qualit'air programme is meant to set up a national network to supervise the quality of air across Morocco's main cities and launch an eco-epidemiological study in partnership with the Health Ministry.
As part of the programme on the Renovation and Development of Palm grove, the document said some 400 000 palm trees were planted up to date.
For the Eco schools programme, it was boosted since the signing of the agreement between the Foundation and the MEN in April 2010 to create 690 Eco schools by 2013.
On this occasion, the statement said, Her Royal Highness congratulated the Foundation teams for adapting smart means to promote Eco-schools, while taking into consideration regional specificities.
Therefore, the Foundation is now increasingly required to provide an overall coordination and implement educational programmes in major projects like Marchica, the site of the Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of the Mediterranean.
Regarding the City of Flowers programme, the statement said that its first phase, which focused primarily on rehabilitating historic gardens, comes to an end with the reopening of the Ermitage gardens in Casablanca.
New America Media, News Feature, (RPCV/M) Brian Seilstad , May 04, 2011
MARRAKESH, Morocco — When Morocco awoke Monday to yet another Arab Spring shock — the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden — this nation was already reeling from the terrorist bombing last Thusday's of the Argana Cafe in Marrakesh, which claimed 16 lives and wounded dozens more.
Monday also marked the day after Morocco's Labor Day, when people traditionally gather to demonstrate for political and economic reform, especially in Casablanca, Rabat and other cities.
The Morrocan victims of the April 28, 2011, attacks share much with the American victims of Sept. 11, 2001. They represent a microcosm of what made the country great.
For the United States, people were sipping their morning coffee as the workday started at the bustling economic center of the World Trade Center. For Morocco, its international group of Europeans, North Africans and locals were simply and peacefully enjoying a mint tea or fresh squeezed orange juice, while gazing over one of the world's most famous squares — the Jemaa el Fnaa.
American Teacher at Home in Morocco
I came to Morocco in 2005, as a Peace Corps volunteer, knowing relatively little about this country, language or culture. However, thanks to the support of the Peace Corps and the deep sense of hospitality and sharing Moroccans have for each other and outsiders, I learned how to thrive in this different place. I quickly felt at home.
I settled in the town of Amizmiz, about 60 kilometers south of Marrakesh, and the simple cafes surrounding the Jemaa el Fnaa were a frequent meeting place for me and the collection of friends that every Peace Corps volunteer acquires while serving.
Fools in the Terroist Zone
In response to last Thusday's bombing at the Argana Cafe in Marrakesh and reflecting on what the past months in the Arab world may hold for the future of the region, one of my former writing students, Khadidja Ihsane, composed the following short essay:
"Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools." To me, this famous quote pronounced by the genius Albert Einstein is definitely a tangible explanation to what is happening today in the Arab World. Lately, we have witnessed the uncontrollable fury of Arabs swept by a wave of revolutions and attacks not only against foreigners, but also against each other. It is crystal clear that behind all these violent acts there is an insatiable desire for change. However, the way this thirst is trying to be quenched has not been suitable so far, and the bomb that struck the main square of Marrakesh on April the 28 is the irrefutable proof.
In fact, assuming that this was a plot executed by al-Qaeda for religious reasons, we should not forget that the religion, Islam, they worship is the same one that fosters tolerance between religions and promotes the right to choose one's own religion. They also forget that when innocent people are killed by Muslims, this opens not only the mouths of non-Muslims to point out the cruelty of Islamic movements, but also the door to a certain hatred between Arabs and non-Arabs.
The worst thing about this tragedy is that stereotypes are spreading throughout the whole world through the media. Nowadays, all Arabs are unfortunately falling prey to the nickname of "terrorist."
In five years if such deeds are still done in the name of religion, the Arab world will look like a jungle with a derisory reputation where each one is creating his own laws. Moreover, more conflicts will take place since Arabs are themselves not in perfect agreement with each other. This is like a gun that is now pointed toward non-Muslims, but which will turn against Arabs one day as these attempts are done randomly and unreasonably.
Violence can induce no fruitful upshots, but only more violence. Furthermore, when authors of these acts kill people, this does not provide the chance for people to think about the choices they have made in their lives, but rather convince them about the righteousness of hating other ideologies and existence as well. Unfortunately, generations will grow with the same ideas about Arabs and, who knows, maybe non-Arabs will themselves deciding to take revenge and behave more atrociously through the advanced technology they have.
Differences in belief are not meant to create conflicts or to kill people; They are rather meant to let people think deeply and use wisely their intellectual potential. When such brutal deeds are done, they paralyze the sense of distinction between the right way and the wrong one and develop the feeling of abomination between humans.
Decisions and documents matter, and the new constitutions and laws being debated now throughout the Arab world will, if done well, create the foundation for more free and productive societies. If done poorly, they may only cement the corrupt and sclerotic systems that led to these protests in the first place.
Because of my proximity to Marrakesh and the closeness developed with people there, I came to consider myself a "Marrakeshi" in a way. To Moroccans, the word denotes a joking and charming personality that makes people happy.
In addition to the good fortune of living near Marrakesh, I met my wife, another Peace Corps volunteer, here in Morocco. After a short hiatus back to the United States, from 2008-2010, we resettled in Morocco as teachers at Al Akhawayn University, a public Moroccan institution in the small town of Ifrane in the Middle Atlas.
We teach academic English to incoming students at this university, which has adopted the American system of education in contrast to the more prevalent French system. All classes at Al Akhawayn University are taught in English, and the American system provides a solid liberal arts basis and specialized education to students who, we hope, will become the future leaders of Morocco.
Teaching in a place like this university and in a country like Morocco has particular challenges and gifts. In your classes, you face issues directly that are challenging the nation and world — Islam, terrorism, social development — and you are happy to know that these discussions do not stop at the door.
The Moroccan King's Speech
In the context of the Arab revolutions of these past months, my students have not only been following the regime changes and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere as historical events, but they have also seen Morocco's king, Mohammed the Sixth, address these changes — particularly the Moroccan protests of February 20 — with a now-famous speech on March 9.
In it, the king opened the door to constitutional, economic, judicial and political reforms that will shape the course of this country for many years. Today, virtually every news program is devoted to the reforms and the actions of Morocco's new Political and Economic Council, the constitutional reforms, the regionalization program and many related issues.
Teaching here brings the chance to be on the forefront of history with the very people whose voices will eventually lead this country and region. Sometimes, however, living history is painful, as those in Morocco and the Arab world know all too well.
On April 28th, I was starting my grammar class when one of my students told me that there had been a bombing in the Jemaa el Fnaa. Naturally, this disturbed me, but I felt that in the midst of teaching a class, a teacher has to move things along. Thus, I taught the lesson, videotaped student speeches, reviewed homework about quantifiers and modification of nouns — the important stuff.
At one point, though, I noticed that this student was tearing up and seemed lost in thought about her beloved city, but she pulled herself together and the class moved through. This is a student I especially enjoy for her hard-working attitude, open mind and, her genuinely delighful Marrakeshi personality.
Following class, we all started talking about the bombing. Having no details at that point, the group speculated about the bombing, offering potential narratives. Was the perpetrator an Islamic fundamentalist, politically motivated person or just a crazy guy.
The discussion veered into how this made us feel, and another girl from Fes said that the scariest thing was that the bombing could have been anywhere at any time. A person can be sitting in a nice cafe in Marrakesh, or a bus in Meknes, or a cyber-cafe in Casablanca — all sites of bombings or attempted ones in the last decade — and suddenly find themselves under attack.
The victims themselves are entirely innocent and with no connection to whatever political, religious or philosophical point the attacker wants to make. As a result, said my student, people stay home out of fear for their safety.
Devastation at Argana Cafe
On the news the night of April 28, I saw the devastation of the Argana Cafe. What's more, I realized that the victims of such attacks spread far beyond the dead and wounded. News reporters interviewed several witnesses to the event, and it was palpable how utterly shocked and violated they felt.
Sometimes, they were at a loss for words to describe exactly what they had seen or were and experiencing. One Moroccan man could hardly speak through his disbelief and sadness as he described the event. Another shocked Marrakeshi, described the scene in the only way he knew how: "I thought I was in an American movie."
We still do not know who committed the act, but it is becoming clear that it was relatively sophisticated, using some a remote detonator to explode a chemical bomb packed with nails and pieces of scrap metal that were embedded in the flesh of the victims.
The perpetrator(s) allegedly entered the Argana Cafe, ordered an orange juice, set down the bomb and exited. Was it al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, the Salafis or others? Of course, conspiracy theories abound. It seems best to withhold judgment until the investigation by a team of Moroccan and European experts is complete. We all pray for justice to be done.
As one of my students, Iname Msaidi, remarked, "As an Arab student living the wave of change, I believe that it is time to make our voices heard. In other words, it is time to address the real problems such as unemployment, education and health care, which concern all Arab citizens."
This will take time, but terrorism and violence threaten to inject fear into the process and may cloud people's judgement at a time when clear minds are the most precious commodity in society.
America and other countries may celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden as the final chapter in some epic battle, but Moroccans have only just turned the page in their most recent battle with terrorism. They are unlikely to feel much comfort from the death of the leader of al-Qaeda thousands of miles away if, as is alleged, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb is the group behind the April 28 attacks. We pray for the ability to see the straight path through these difficult times.
The Future in Our Students
For myself, I came to Morocco to settle, build a family, work for a university and live my life as an ad hoc member of Moroccan society. Just last weekend, two days after the Marrakesh bombings, I was on a committee sitting in a room at Al Akhawayn University interviewing candidates for next year's freshman class.
When these students came in, we asked if they would like to conduct the interview in Arabic, English or French, and throughout the day we had students, each a high school graduate, speak all three fluently and intelligently.
One girl wore the head scarf; another was as fashionable as any young woman in New York. A boy had lived in Abu Dhabi with his father for three years, while another came from Al Hoceima, 320 kilometers to the north and spoke Tarifit, one of Morocco's several indigenous languages.
We asked them questions about themselves, mathematics and current events. All of their faces darkened when they spoke about Marrakesh. I'm not sure what they were feeling — I sensed sadness, of course, but also the frustration that, in the midst of this promising and progressive Arab Spring, their country has to face the old specter of terrorism.
Nevertheless, their commitment to their country is strong. One girl spoke about having to fight her school's guidance counselor, other students and even her own father, who all wanted her to only apply to universities in the United States. But she wanted to stay in her own country and attend Al Akhawayn University.
Having the chance to teach and know students like Khadidja, Iname and other promising young minds such as those we interviewed on Saturday, being able to wake up every day speaking Arabic and French with friends and colleagues, and living in a part of the world that is experiencing some of the most dramatic change in the past 50 years is the very reason I came back to Morocco. I have no intention of leaving anytime soon.
As long at Morocco exists, I hope that my family and I can exist within it.
Study reveals alarming hike in unmarried mothers in Morocco.
By Martin Jay, for CNN May 3, 2011
Casablanca, Morocco (CNN) -- Single mothers in Morocco are breaking records.
A recent study published by a Casablanca support group for single mothers says the number of Morocco's unmarried mothers in 2009 is at least double those in 2008 -- 27,200 compared with 11,016 the year before, according to the Institution Nationale de Solidarite Avec Les Femmes en Distresse.
As in most Muslim countries, it is considered an intolerable shame on a family in Morocco if a daughter falls pregnant outside marriage. In many cases, families totally reject a daughter who becomes pregnant before marriage.
• A recent study says number of unwed mothers in Morocco rose dramatically from 2008 to 2009.
• Study shows 60% of unwed mothers are younger than 26 and a third younger than 20.
• Strong prejudice still remains against unwed mothers from most groups of society.
Morocco's unmarried mothers are mostly young, said Houda El Bourahi, the institute's director. The study shows 60% are younger than 26 and a third younger than 20, she said.
According to the 350-page report, the mothers are often in "vulnerable" professions, such as house servants, and the majority have a low level of schooling. Often, the women believe that their sexual partners will marry them, and so agree to their demands, according to the study.
Despite Morocco being modern in so many respects, strong prejudice still remains against unwed mothers from most groups of society.
"It's time to put an end to prejudices held against these women though who are considered by (Moroccan) society as prostitutes," El Bourahi said. "These women are rejected by their families and by society and are not protected by the law."
Since the end of last year, 7,000 women in Casablanca alone had been assisted at the organization's Center of Listening on the outskirts of the city, the commercial capital of Morocco with a population of almost 4 million. Furthermore, 2,000 children have been accepted legally by the civil state and 540 have been recognized by their fathers.
The women's rights agenda has accelerated dramatically in recent years in Morocco largely following an initiative by King Mohammed VI to give women more equality, both at home and in the workplace. A new law adopted in 2004 gave women more rights as wives, for example.
Still, few men accept unmarried mothers and their offspring despite less of a stigma these days toward women who take up jobs and consider virginity to be an outdated virtue. While many men consider single mothers to be prostitutes, sex workers reportedly represent a tiny percentage of Morocco's unmarried mothers.