Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Morocco In the News: May 17 - 24

WB grants Morocco $4.35m to address climate change.
Washington - The World Bank's Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a US$ 4.35million grant to Morocco to increase small farmers' resilience to climate change, it said in a press release on Wednesday.
   It pointed out that the grant is designed to strengthen the capacity of institutions and farmers to integrate climate change adaptation measures in projects which are implemented under the Plan Maroc Vert.
    The press release noted that the Government of Morocco will co-finance the grant with an investment of US$27 million.
     The project "Integrating Climate Change in the Implementation of the Plan Maroc Vert" will finance climate change adaptation measures among small farmers in five regions of Morocco.
    It will include a climate change adaptation component in about ten pilots, targeting about 2,500 small farmers, it said.
Morocco to craft youth charter. By Hassan Benmehdi 2011-05-12
As part of a push to heed young people's demands, Morocco seeks to devise a comprehensive youth empowerment strategy.
Morocco on May 23rd-24th will host the first of a series of youth meetings aimed at adopting a national strategy for the rising generation. The event, set to take place in the small coastal town of Bouznika, comes as a result of young people's heavy involvement in the reform process.
"These will be meetings of the youth, by the youth and for the youth," Youth and Sports Minister Moncef Belkhayat said at a May 9th press conference.
Over 700 youths from 40 groups will participate in the meetings, which will feature thematic workshops to discuss and formulate proposals.
Among topics on the agenda will be employment, education, health, social problems, leisure and culture, religion, citizenship and dialogue between generations.
The first edition will pave the way for a roadmap and an integrated national strategy for the youth, Belkhayat added. A research and statistics report will be presented to shed light on the evolution of Moroccan youths in recent years, initiate debates on the 2020 vision and make proposals for a youth charter, which will be discussed over the period of twelve months.
The organisers set up equipped rooms in each of the sixteen regions of the country to allow 300 young people to watch live the debates in Bouznika.
"We work with more than eighteen youth political organisations to develop an integrated strategy that is able to meet the changing needs and aspirations of the youth," said Younes El Jaouhari, Director for Youth, Children and Women's affairs at the Youth Ministry.
He added, however, that the ministry does not replace in any way the roles and tasks of political parties in the education of youth. The official pointed to a deficit in infrastructure and programmes available to youths.
Young people, however, are unsure if the initiative will yield real results.
If these meetings fail to find functional solutions to the various problems of the youth, "they will have no value", according to Casablanca student Khalid.
"The new information and communications technologies, including internet, have imposed a new way of life on the youth and allowed the emergence of new needs and new aspirations that need to be met without neglecting the importance of involving the youth in the process of political reform and change," said Abdelghani Khalil, from the Chabiba Ittihadia of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP).
''This is a good initiative, as long as it will allow young people to express their grievances and ambitions, as well as become agents of change," said February 20 Movement member Fatimzahra.
"All this will make sense if these meetings result in recommendations that will be implemented on the ground," she added. "Otherwise it will be another useless, mundane meeting.''
Morocco's vision forward By   Yossef Ben-Meir  May 19, 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.

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is a sociologist and president of the High Atlas Foundation (, a non-government agency that was founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers and is dedicated to community development in Morocco.
San Francisco / Morocco Board News---The privileges given to the upper class guarantee its support for the ruler and in return allow him to extract advantages from it.  The middle class is usually maintained in its place through fear and uncertainty, which is why there is a need for dialogue to keep it at ease.  As to the lower class, which forms the majority of the populace, both the upper class and the middle class want it to be ruled with a "fist of iron". 
In the running of state affairs, the statement above applies to all contemporary political systems and to all countries regardless of race, religion, economic status and demographic makeup.  Rulers whether elected presidents, constitutional monarchs, absolute monarchs, or dictators have to face within their socio-political order the demands of the upper class, the middle class and the lower class.

While the upper class controls the financial and economic mechanisms for wealth accumulation to serve itself, the lower class goes through an established pacification program of welfare on the one hand and coercive law and order on the other.  The middle class must be kept in check and hopeful that prices of goods and services will be reduced along with affordable housing, cars, oil and education for their children. The middle class is drowning in consumerism and plastic credit. 

These conditions exist across the board regardless of political or economic ideologies:  capitalism, socialism, communism or fascism or a combination thereof.

Lately, constitutions and voting became a la mode and democracy and freedom became a contagious addiction.  Political parties and labor unions controlled by the upper class mushroomed in the form of one party political systems, two party and or multi-party political systems, and political parties linked to labor unions.

Manipulation of financial and economic markets got out of control, giving an opportunity to the upper class to become greedy and devour more wealth and the surpluses. The middle class is shrinking and the lower class is growing in number and is more impoverished.

Over the last 400 years, revolutions have popped up in different continents in different forms from the French Revolution, to the American Revolution, followed by the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, Anti-colonialist Revolutions, up to the recent Revolutions in Eastern Europe and current Revolutions for regime change. 

Wars were fought from Waterloo to Afghanistan not to forget to mention the first and second World Wars, the Vietnam War, the Arab Israeli wars, Bosnia and Iraq and others. Much genocide was committed in the name of nothing including the use of nuclear weapons and poisonous gas.

While Apartheid in South Africa seems to have relinquished its hold, racism and bigotry are rampant everywhere and women are still treated as dolls and toys by men thinking that they can do anything they want with them.

Fortunately, we have lived to see, to the chagrin of the racists, that a black man is the President of the United States.

Where do we go from here?

Over the centuries, the Moslem world has undergone numerous changes; yet Moslem philosophers who understood Plato and Aristotle and their democratic imperatives and who dealt with the art of government and its improvements in North Africa and Al Andalus explained in their works on the subject matter that leaders of dynasties who ruled in the Moslem world through political and moral obligations have enabled their dynasties to exist far longer in time than those who ignored the moral aspect of the obligations.  This is why wise rulers always surrounded themselves with impartial jurists, enlightened theologians and brilliant advisers in the Moslem World and maintained a dialogue with their people reaching a consensus so that both the political and moral aspects of the art of government during their reign were stressed.

The Arab spring today

The Arab Spring whether in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya or Syria is the direct outcome of rulers not recognizing or adhering to these political and moral obligations in their management of state affairs and in their dealings with the people. In all these countries the upper class saw no limit to the exploitation of the wealth of these nations and served itself, thinking that it could rely on the tools of oppression rather than on the tools of moral obligation. When they no longer feared the tools of oppression, people moved to oust the dictators.

While ruling through Consensus is desirable, it can also be a double-edged sword unless it is the non-manipulated expression of the people. It is inconceivable to think that voting in a regime that has one-party rule in which the “winner” receives 95% of the total votes is not a farce. That type of voting is ludicrous to accept because it lacks a political and moral obligation between the ruler and the citizens.

The Case of Morocco

In my opinion, as to Morocco, I cannot help but use the following chronology of events which cemented the political and moral obligations and commitment between the Monarchy and the Moroccan people as demonstrated by consensual support of the Moroccan people for their Monarchs expressed on many important occasions.

In 1947, the Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef made his speech in Tangier asking for the French Protectorate to end. There was a consensus among the Moroccan people to support their Sultan’s position because of his political and moral commitment towards them, shown by his demanding Morocco’s independence. There was no manipulation of the consensus supporting the Sultan; the Moroccan people were unified behind him.

In 1952, the year that the 40-year Protectorate Treaty between France and Morocco expired, Mohammed Ben Youssef was exiled by the French because he refused to renew the Protectorate and was demanding Morocco’s independence. There was consensus among the Moroccan people to support their Sultan’s position, and they expressed that support by engaging in resistance and uprising for 4 years. The Moroccan people were demanding the return of the Sultan and Morocco's independence. Consensus again reached 100%.  I remember vividly the people’s slogan during the uprising “Ben Youssef Ila Aarshih Wa Shuban Tmout Alih” which means “Ben Youssef to His Throne and the Youth is Willing to Die for Him”. Many Moroccans made the ultimate sacrifice for their Sultan and the independence of Morocco.

In 1956, the Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef became King Mohammed V, and Morocco became independent. The allegiance to the throne was consensually supported.

In 1959, Prince Moulay Hassan became the King of Morocco known as Hassan II.  Among the Moroccan people allegiance to the throne was consensually supported.

In 1975, King Hassan II and the Moroccan people decided to recuperate the Southern Sahara part of Morocco.  This also occurred because of the consensual support of the Moroccan people.

In 1999, Prince Moulay Mohammed became King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Again the Moroccan people’s allegiance to the throne was consensually supported.

In September 2011, a referendum to ratify the Moroccan Constitution will be held. The Moroccan people can either vote Yes or No on the proposed referendum on the amended constitution.

There is a political and moral contractual obligation between King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan people. Of course there is civil dissent and resentment of the elite; of course there is corruption, waste, Hagra and denials of women’s rights and on and on.  There is so much to do to reduce and eliminate the negatives and tackle the challenges of positive change.  No one in Morocco knows that better than the King himself.

Moroccans have been provided with the tools of change: a Constitution, a Parliament and their God-given intelligence. The Moroccans should use these tools to promulgate laws to combat corruption and the malaise of underdevelopment and to promote equal opportunity for all within an avant-garde Constitutional Monarchy.

King Mohammed VI, in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, will maintain, as he has since he was enthroned, the commitment of a political and moral obligation to the Moroccan people. The Constitution, the Parliament and the Moroccan people should be the King’s partners in uplifting Morocco to fulfill all of its aspirations. It will be done faster this way.
Letter from London / Mostapha Zarou: The Road to Morocco.
When Yassir Zenagui came to London the other day, everyone wanted to know if last month’s bombing at the Argana CafĂ© in Marrakesh’s famous Jamaa el-Fnaa Square would have a lasting impact on Morocco’s economy.

After all, somebody said to him, in the first two weeks after the attack—in which 16 people died, including 8 Frenchmen, and dozens were wounded—some 23,000 people cancelled their trip to Morocco for the next three months, with the majority of them from Europe.
Mr. Zenagui was not fazed by the question.

“This is a small percentage—2.8 percent—of our tourist traffic,” he said, “which suggests that Morocco is still a sought-after destination. “I was surprised at the reaction of tourists after the bombing; they reacted positively and they are going on with their business in the famous square.”

“The bombing won’t derail the strong foundation of tourism in Morocco,” Mr. Zenagui added.

It could be argued that he is positive about Morocco because that’s his job. Mr. Zenagui is the country’s tourism minister, and he’s been going through Europe trying to reassure potential tourists not to scuttle their travel plans.

His job apart, Mr. Zenagui—who was interviewed by Al Arabiya in London—speaks with deep conviction about Morocco’s vaunted hospitality and openness toward visitors.

That conviction is reinforced by the fact that the tourism sector in Morocco saw significant growth in 2010, a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2011. It is no wonder that the minister of tourism has embarked on a mission to ensure that tourists keep coming.

According to government statistics, which were confirmed by Mr. Zenagui, foreign tourist arrivals increased by 19 percent last year, and the first four months of 2011 recorded a jump of almost 11 percent over a comparable period in 2010—more than double what has been the trend in the world travel industry. Indeed, April 2011 saw a 16 percent increase in tourist traffic—a record, especially in view of the current geopolitical unrest in the Arab world.

Mr Zenagui said that the tourism sector had become a key tool in driving the national economy, which employs directly or indirectly around 2.5 million people. Tourism in Morocco is an essential contributor to the economy and represents almost 10 percent of gross domestic product. The Moroccan strategy has more than doubled the number of tourists from 4 million in 2001 to 10 million tourists last year with revenue tripled in the last 10 years, reaching more than $6 billion. Thanks to its long-term tourism development strategy, “Vision 2010,” tourism has become a fundamental stimulus for growth and development in Morocco.

The minister has an even more ambitious outlook in this thriving sector: “Our 2020 strategic vision has a greater ambition to double the tourism sector and the revenue three-fold and bring Morocco to one of the top 10 tourism destinations in the world,” Mr. Zenagui said.

Morocco’s market share is between 1.5 percent and 2 percent of the world travel market and this could be increased, as there are 750 million people willing to travel less than an hour or two from Europe to reach the country, the minister said.

Close proximity to Europe along with its increasing frequency of good air connections with major capitals, is making Morocco an ever more desirable destination for a holiday for the European, American Asian and the Arab markets.

Morocco is undergoing reforms and a far-reaching program of reconstruction and developments. The North African kingdom has a tremendous potential and offers real opportunities for investors. The business and investment environment has been much improved with assistance from the 27-member European Union.

Morocco is creating a new financial structure in order to attract investment to the tourism sector to reach the ambitious goals of the 2020 Vision. Among plans is the aim to create a new sovereign wealth fund and to attract investors in private and public partnerships.

However, what is lacking is the bed capacity, leisure parks and museums. Of 1,450 tourist sites only 350 are developed in Morocco.

The minister said that Morocco had already mobilized financial resources for further development in the form of a “Sovereign Wealth Fund” called MFDT (Moroccan Fund for Development of Tourism), which has 1.5 billion Euros (or roughly $1 billion) with the objective of cooperating with the private sector.

(Mostapha Zarou of Al Arabiya can be reached at:
The road to Morocco 15 May, 2011
Screen catches up with Timothy Burrill and Peter Webber who are in Cannes to raise money for their Moroccan set feature The Spider’s House.
The very dapper Timothy Burrill (Roman Polanski’s long-time producer) is in Cannes with director Peter Webber (The Girl With A Pearl Earring) to raise financing for their feature The Spider’s House, which they are hoping to begin production on early next year.
Based on the novel by Paul Bowles, the film is set against the backdrop of the 1950s political uprisings in Morocco, focusing on two former lovers who meet in the medieval city of Fez.
The project has been brewing for a number of years, but the duo told Screen that “it feels like the time is right”.
“The story we’re working with has become so relevant because of what’s happening in the Arab world right now,” says Webber, who describes the film as a combination of The Battle Of Algiers and Casablanca.
“One of the things that fascinates me is the enigmatic attitude between the lovers; they are really wonderful roles,” says Burrill.
The leads are yet to be cast, but Webber has his good friend Alexandre Desplat on board to write the score. And, most importantly, they’ve promised Screen a trip to the set when shooting begins.
Twitter’s window on Middle East uprisings
Commentary: Scholar tracks the tweets that changed the world
By Jon Friedman, MarketWatch May 18, 2011,
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Laila Shereen Sakr expects to see more uprisings in the Middle East. Her source? Twitter.
Shereen Sakr, an Egyptian-American doctoral student at the University of Southern California, has been studying the traffic patterns from Twitter and Facebook that deal with the explosive region. She hopes to better understand the social and cultural changes sweeping through the Middle East.
Her use of Twitter, for instance, is fascinating to me. Journalists have long done research by looking at such tools as government-issued reports. But by examining data from Twitter, Shereen Sakr can come up with first-hand findings.
“I started compiling tweets in August 2010, and I haven’t stopped,” Shereen Sakr said. For a good deal of her research, she studied tweets dealing with “Egypt,” “Libya,” “Syria” as well as other key words and the names of additional Middle Eastern nations.
“I stored tweets every 10 minutes in my database, based on certain subjects, from Twitter’s public feed,” she said. “I pulled about 100,000 tweets every five minutes.”
“My main findings are that tweets give you headlines, and you get a sentiment of the people in various countries,” Shereen Sakr said. “It’s different in every country, from Egypt to Libya to Syria. There are some themes that bring them together. People are protesting their governments in every country. In Syria, the key word is ‘massacre.’”
On Wednesday, Shereen Sakr will present her findings to Facebook executives at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. She’ll be accompanied by Professor Jonathan Taplin, the director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, which has been assisting Shereen Sakr with her research.
“At Facebook, I’m going to tell them that I’m seeing really interesting analytics and that social media can offer cultural analysis to understand the motivations of people who are creating change and transforming the Middle East today,” Shereen Sakr said.
Adds Annenberg’s Taplin: “What we want to accomplish at Facebook is to get them to understand that there is a role for academic research, which could be helped by Facebook. Facebook has strict privacy policies but there are public pages.”
Indeed, under “Syrian Revolution,” 178,475 people “liked” the page.
Shereen Sakr built her first website in 1997, measuring the ratio of phone lines to populations in the Arab world as a way to study the growth of telecommunications. “Email was still green, on black screens, and mobile phones hadn’t taken off yet.”
These findings enabled Shereen Sakr to make progress when she studied Twitter traffic patterns. “I learned people mainly tweet from their phones in the Arab world,” she told me Monday from Los Angeles during a telephone interview.
You might say that Shereen Sakr has been on a lifelong quest to understand the Middle East. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and immigrated with her parents, who were academics, to Dayton, Ohio, when she was 3 years old. The family lived in various cities around the world, and Shereen Sakr eventually graduated from the University of Cincinnati. She also has a master’s from Georgetown University in Arab studies and a master of fine arts in digital media from University of California at Santa Cruz.
Shereen Sakr joined the Peace Corps after college and taught English in Morocco. “That’s when I realized that there is so much misunderstanding between America and the Arab world,” she mused.
“Social media is a window that is interactive and alive,” she said. Shereen Sakr this week will also be launching the first full version of R-Shief, which means archive in Arabic. R-Shief is a digital platform that houses and processes all of the information she has compiled from the Internet.
“My conclusion about the Middle East is that there has already been a social change and there is no turning back,” Shereen Sakr said. “People have stood up against the governments. Social media activated them and turned them on.”

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