In This Week’s News:
· Peace Corps Volunteers Partner with Special Olympics Athletes in Morocco
· Fez sacred music Festival celebrates wisdom.
· Renewable energy to boost Morocco jobs.
· UNAIDS: HRH Princess Lalla Salma takes part in First Ladies' meeting in NY
· Morocco, WB sign $4 mln-donation agreement to integrate climate change in development of Morocco's Green Plan
· Best things to do in Morocco
· Sacred Music Sparks Dialogue at Fes Festival.
· MOROCCO: Reform as a path to a genuine constitutional monarchy
· Peaceful anti-government protests allowed to proceed, more planned
· Young Moroccans show political maturity.
Peace Corps Volunteers Partner with Special Olympics Athletes in Morocco June 08, 2011
Washington, D.C., June 8, 2011 – More than 20 Americans serving as Peace Corps volunteers supported 250 athletes with intellectual disabilities at the Special Olympics games in Tangier, Morocco on May 25, 2011. The athletes competed in track & field, table tennis, bocce, or gymnastics. Volunteers supervised the competition, kept score, cheered, and awarded medals at the closing ceremony of the games.
"It was rewarding to see the children excited about the competition,” said Peace Corps volunteer Jacqueline Stewart who is serving with her husband Jim Stewart. “Some were just happy to finish and it wasn’t about winning. The affection they have for one another was really wonderful.” Jacqueline Stewart and Jim Stewart are from Braintree, Ma. Jim Stewart, noted that one of the highlights of the games was cheering on a 12-year-old boy who completed a 50-meter race with his four-wheel walker. At the closing ceremony, Jim awarded him with a gold medal.
This is the first time Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco have participated in the Special Olympics, which was created by Peace Corps’ founding Director Sargent Shriver’s wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Early this year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams and Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver designed to increase opportunities to support youth and people with intellectual disabilities through innovative programs around the world.
“It was an emotional day for me because it reminded me of my family,” said volunteer Sarah Hollemans of Grand Rapids, Mich., whose oldest brother has cerebral palsy. “There were times when I teared up. Just seeing one kid reminded me of my brother. I’m glad Peace Corps volunteers are joining the effort to promote the Special Olympics in communities in Morocco because people with disabilities are an underserved population.”
In addition to Morocco, Peace Corps volunteers are participating in Special Olympics initiatives in countries such as Ecuador and Peru. In Washington, D.C., twelve staff members from Peace Corps headquarters volunteered at the Special Olympics D.C. summer games held at Catholic University on May 24, 2011. Staff supervised the softball throw and standing long jump competition and awarded medals at the closing ceremony.
About Special Olympics:Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics Movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in places like China and from regions like the Middle East to the community playgrounds and ballfields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.
About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.
Fez sacred music Festival celebrates wisdom.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Fez – 10/06/11
International artists and philosophers gathered in the ochre city to celebrate wisdom, serenity and love.
The 17th Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, which runs through June 12th, continues to draw a dazzling array of renowned artists and thinkers from across the globe.
The atmosphere of multicultural harmony and peace reigns at the ten-day event. Sufi nights, concerts, awareness workshops and art exhibitions take participants on a colourful journey of chant, rhythm and culture as they explore the "ultimate meaning of existence" and "wisdom of the world".
The festival has now established itself as one of the international cultural scene's must-see events, said director Faouzi Skelli. It is no longer simply a place where culture is consumed but an outlet for creativity and new experiences, with the involvement of famous and rising artists from East and West, he said.
According to Skelli, the forum itself – a kind of "spiritual Davos" – is an ideal venue to observe the ever-changing world which surrounds us, to shed new light on it from various cultures and sources of wisdom, and perhaps to bestow on it greater serenity and understanding.
Wisdom is a "dialogue between reason and passion", according to French philosopher Edgar Morin. The most important thing is to make a major effort to understand otherness, to see one's own complexity, recognise and criticise one's own character and conquer fear of others.
"We find ourselves in an age which is far from being wise, given that we are witnessing excesses, cultural drift and hyper-complexities to which we have no answers," Morocco's roving ambassador Assia Bensaleh said.
She pointed out that wisdom is an evolutional concept, not only over time but over space as well. "The most violent conflicts have arisen from the fact that each person thinks they have the monopoly on wisdom," Bensaleh added.
Lebanese artist Julia Boutros, who captivated the audience on June 5th, described her message as a humanitarian one, aimed at building better nations in hopes of a bright future for the next generation.
"We live in difficult times, and I don't think anyone can predict the future, or what awaits them," she said. "So each of us has a duty to act sensibly to unite the country, and not to divide it."
This festival enables artists to meet and to be creative, said Robert Fedida, founder of the Hevrat David Hamelech choir. He spoke of his "unbreakable connection" with Morocco, which inspired him to "set up a Judeo-Andalusian choir in Strasbourg".
For many, the event was also an opportunity to discuss the historic changes engulfing the Arab world.
"It's a metamorphosis for Maghreb and Arab youth," Mahmoud Cherki, a student from Meknes, told Magharebia. "We now know that we can bring weight to bear and have a role at the heart of society. We simply need to believe it and get down to work."
Renewable energy to boost Morocco jobs.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 08/06/11
Morocco hopes the clean energy sector will give a new impetus to its economy and generate jobs.
More than 50,000 clean energy jobs will be created in Morocco by 2020, with a quarter of them in the wind and solar power sectors, the government recently announced.
Renewable energies will account for 42% of Morocco's electricity generation capacity by 2020, Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra said at a May 31st conference in Oujda. The government will invest 73 billion dirhams (6.4 billion euros) to install a new power output of 3,640 MW by 2015.
To meet the demands of the job market, Morocco looks to train a new generation of alternative energy experts.
"We're going to discuss the issue with the various parties concerned, including universities, in order to address our needs in terms of human resources," the minister said.
Participants in the conference signed an agreement to create a training institute for renewable energies and energy efficiency. The accord stipulates the creation of a vocational training system tailored to the needs of businesses in the clean energy sector. It also provides for financing preliminary studies, supporting technical expertise and creating training facilities.
A number of Moroccan universities started offering graduate and postgraduate courses in renewable energy in order to promote the training of skilled workers in the domain, the department of higher education said.
"For several years, the government has understood the scale of the shortage of specialised expertise," said economist Mohamed Nadiri. "Accordingly, several institutes have been created to support the country's new economic orientation."
Young people are becoming increasingly aware of the new needs of the job market and are trying their best to choose university subjects that will stand them in good stead.
This sector is highly promising as it comprises several areas that are currently developing, said Amine, a graduate student in renewable energies and energy systems.
"I'd never thought about this industry before," he told Magharebia. "The ambitions that the government has set out since 2009 have encouraged many students to change direction. It must be said that these goals are very ambitious and will help to boost the economy and create jobs for young people. New power stations will be commissioned over the next few years."
Karim El Ouardi, a student who has passed the baccalaureate, has already chosen his path as he is planning to study subjects that will orient him towards the energy systems sector.
"My parents and my older brother advised me to do this," he said. "I'm convinced it's right, because I couldn't even hope to choose a sector that is in higher demand in the job market."
UNAIDS: HRH Princess Lalla Salma takes part in First Ladies' meeting in NY
New York (UN) - HRH Princess Lalla Salma took part, on Wednesday at the UN's headquarters in New York, in a meeting of First Ladies on "Eliminating new HIV infections in infants by 2015".
Thirty First Ladies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean attended the event to mobilize support to achieve the goal of zero new HIV infections among children by 2015.
The meeting was held during the first day of the UN high-level meeting on AIDS scheduled June 8-10.
The Kingdom of Morocco is represented in this event by HRH Princess Lalla Salma.
The Moroccan delegation includes also Health Minister Yasmina Baddou, Morocco's permanent representative to the UN Mohamed Loulichki, chairwoman of the Moroccan Association to fight AIDS Hakima Himmich and chairwoman of the pan-African organization to fight AIDS (OPALS) Nadia Bezad.
The debate was co-chaired by Ban Soon-taek, wife of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and Azeb Mesfin, First Lady of Ethiopia and President of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS.
Around 1,000 babies are infected with HIV each day, 90 per cent of whom are in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is also the leading cause of maternal mortality in developing countries.
The First Ladies agreed to advocate for comprehensive access to maternal and child health services and to advance 10 action steps on return to their respective countries to ensure that children are born free from HIV and to promote life-saving HIV services for women and children.
Among the 10 steps is supporting efforts to increase the number of centres providing free maternal, newborn and child health services, including treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to children.
“Women and girls must be at the centre of the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé. “When women protect themselves from HIV, they protect a whole new generation from HIV.”
UNAIDS says Morocco 'a model' in terms of prevention
New York (UN) - Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé lauded, on Thursday in New York, Morocco's achievements in terms of fighting AIDS, saying that the Kingdom is a "model in terms of prevention and treatment in the region."
Morocco succeeded, over the past few years, in asserting itself as a model for the Maghreb, Africa and the Middle-East in terms of progress made in the disease treatment and prevention, Sidibé told MAP following a meeting with HRH Princess Lalla Salma at the UN's headquarters, on the sidelines of the high-level meeting on AIDS (June 8-10).
The Kingdom is represented in this meeting by HRH Princess Lalla Salma.
The Executive Director hailed HM King Mohammed VI's personal commitment to this matter.
He also applauded the action by HRH Princess Lalla Salma, Chairwoman of the Lalla Salma Association for the Fight against Cancer and goodwill Ambassador of World Health Organization (WHO), which bears the message of the fight against AIDS.
The meeting was attended by Health Minister Yasmina Baddou, Morocco's permanent representative to the UN Mohamed Loulichki, chairwoman of the Moroccan Association to fight AIDS Hakima Himmich and chairwoman of the pan-African organization to fight AIDS (OPALS) Nadia Bezad.
Morocco, WB sign $4 mln-donation agreement to integrate climate change in development of Morocco's Green Plan
Rabat - Morocco and the World Bank (WB) signed, on Wednesday in Rabat, an agreement related to a donation for financing the project of integrating climate change in the development of Morocco's Green plan (PMV).
The donation, totalling 4.3 million dollars, is granted by the World Environment Fund (WEF).
Signed by Economy Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, Director of the Maghreb Department in the World Bank Simon Gray and head of the Agricultural Development Agency Ahmed Hajjaji, the agreement is meant to foster the capacity of Moroccan farmers to adjust to the impact of climate change within the framework of the PMV.
Approved on May 17, the donation aims to integrate measures of adjustment to climate change in projects carried out as part of the PMV through reinforcing the capacities of public and private institutions and farmers.
It is destined for small-scale farmers in the regions of Chaouia-Ouardigha, Rabat-Sale-Zemmour-Zaer, Tadla-Azilal, Doukkala-Abda and Gharb-Cherarda-Beni Hssen.
Best things to do in Morocco. Jun 06 2011
The top ten things to do in Morocco.
1. Cook a tagine in Essaouira
The laid-back beach town of Essaouira is the perfect spot to learn how to prepare a tasty Moroccan tagine, a flavoursome stew slow cooked in a conical-shaped dish also called a tagine, cleverly designed to seal in the spicy fragrances.
Take a four-hour workshop in authentic yet sleek L’Atelier Madada (lateliermadada.com) in the lofty grounds of boutique hotel Madada Mogador. Suss out how to make the perfect cup of mint tea, laced with lashings of sugar, a vital part of Moroccan culture served after every meal.
After cooking the richly-flavoured tagine and indulging in the fruits of your labour, enjoy a tour of the hippy town’s fish and spice souk (market), chock full of olive mountains, highly patterned tagine dishes, caged chickens and suspicious looking medicines – herbal Viagra anyone?
Much of what’s on offer is not for the faint-hearted: think blood-smeared decapitated rams’ heads. Escape the gore by retreating to one of the market’s small spice shops, stocked with an array of glass jars filled with heady spices, henna dyes and sweet smelling perfume sticks, such as gazelle musk, taken from behind the animal’s ear. Once the cooking class is over, explore the coastal town’s bohemian shops, sandy beaches and art galleries.
2. Surf in Taghazout
A 25-minute drive north of Agadir, Taghazout is a mecca for surfers as it boasts an enormous stretch of coastline and 330 days of sunshine a year with temperatures rarely dropping below a toasty 20 degrees.
Surf spots aren’t as swamped as those in Europe and the US, and the warm water and consistent waves makes for a pleasant ride. Whether you’re a novice or a super-star surfer, Taghazout has a break for you.
Hash Point is known as the lazy man’s spot because it’s an easy right-hander that breaks near the shore, ideal for those who loathe paddling, while the Super Wedge offers small fun waves.
Stay at surf camp Taghazout villa, set on the water’s edge at Hash Point, which offers surf guiding. See surfmaroc.co.uk.
3. Haggle in the souks
Marrakech’s lively souks are a maze of small shops that curl around the backstreets of main square Djemaa el Fna.
A whirl of patterned rugs, gaudy slippers, spices, chess sets and hand-crafted crockery, the markets are best explored at night when pretty lanterns light the way. Don’t be shy about haggling; it’s an essential, and expected, part of the process. Shopkeepers will often want you to enjoy a cup of mint tea with them as you come to an agreement on a price.
Effective discount plays are to say you’re from Africa or Eastern Europe and a student. Walking away can often bring a price down dramatically too. Beware of pushy market sellers who try to corner you in their shop in an attempt to force you to buy. Never be bullied into buying something you don’t want!
5. Get scrubbed clean in a hammam
Don’t expect an entirely soothing experience when visiting a hammam (traditional steam bath), which can be found in luxury hotels and riads.
You’ll be given a no-holds-barred scrubbing with black soap, which will wipe away any trace of dirt or tan, before having a bucket of water thrown over you, and then sweating it all out in the sauna.
The experience is normally topped off with a soothing massage, so you leave feeling rejuvenated and super-clean.
6. Visit a film location
Famously known as the Hollywood of Morocco, Ouarzazate is home to the Moroccan Film Studios where epic films, such as The Jewel Of The Nile, Cleopatra, Lawrence Of Arabia and some scenes for Star Wars were shot in its desert-like landscape. Visitors can go on a guided tour of the film sets. Also meriting exploration is the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou, an 11th century Unesco-protected kasbah which provided the backdrop for Russell Crowe’s swashbuckling Gladiator movie.
The well-preserved town marks the start of the road of a thousand Kasbahs, known as one of the world’s oldest trading routes. It’s freckled with ancient Kasbahs with buildings built from mud and straw, while olive and date palmeries break up the dry desert landscape, along with small markets selling prickly pears and watermelons.
Sex And The City 2 was filmed in the recently opened Mandarin Oriental Jhan Rahma Hotel, in Marrakech, although the movie was set in Abu Dhabi.
7. Hike in the High Atlas Mountains
Escape the tourist hordes and hustlers in Marrakech by heading to Morocco’s mighty High Atlas mountains, home to terraced crops, snaking rivers and Berber villages.
The wild and rugged peaks of North Africa’s highest mountain range, some of which top 4000m, can be reached from Marrakech in two hours, and can be explored by hiking, mountain biking or horse riding. Visit as a day trip from Marrakech or spend a few days trekking through rugged terrain and camping in rustic Berber tents.
8. Stay in a Riad
Beautifully decked out with colourful cushions, lanterns and mosaic-tiled floors, riads are traditional Moroccan houses set around a courtyard and are normally situated near the souks in the middle of the medina. Many have rooftop terraces with reclining seats, which afford views of the medina. Riads cater for everyone from budget to money-is-no-object travellers.
In cheaper riads, expect rooms to be small and simple with a curtain (if you’re lucky) separating the bathroom and bedroom. If you find the prospect of no bathroom door terrifying, you can either banish your other half/buddy from the room when you need the loo or start singing when on the throne.
Luxury riads offer hammams, terrace pools, whirlpool baths and plush rooms (with bathroom doors). Book through hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com.
9. Explore Djemaa el Fna
Djemaa el Fna is the pulsing heart of Marrakech, a big square that’s chock-a-block with snake charmers, leashed monkeys (which will somehow find their way on to your back) and storytellers.
At night, the square is filled with plumes of cooking smoke infused with sizzling aromas from the open-air food market made up of pop-up stalls with gas fires, where cooks are dressed from head to toe in white, and cheery waiters will vie for your custom with promises of “Asda price” tucker. Eating here is a no frills-affair – you will sit on plastic benches, but the food is delicious and the prices are low. Food ranges from brochettes (meat skewers), salads and couscous to fish and snails. Agree a price up-front to avoid getting ripped off.
10. Visit Todra Gorge
The looming cliffs of Todra Gorge, in the High Atlas Mountains, make a rugged contrast to the lush-green landscape. Watch your back for oncoming motorbikes and mules if you walk through the canyon at its narrowest point, surrounded by 300m cliffs. The soaring rock face can also be explored on a horse-riding excursion.
When to go: Spring and autumn is the best time to visit, as summer can be scorching.
Getting there: Fly to Marrakech with Ryanair or easyJet.
Get more info: visitmorocco.com
- Janine Kelso
read more: http://www.tntmagazine.com/tnt-today/archive/2011/06/06/best-things-to-do-in-morocco.aspx#ixzz1OyfNbuyk
Sacred Music Sparks Dialogue at Fes Festival. 06/ 7/11
The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is in full swing in Morocco. Launched after the first Gulf War, this renowned musical event is now in its 17th year and, despite the troubles of our times, draws a large audience from around the world.
The ideals and ambitions are no less than world peace and understanding. But there are some hard elements here in Fes that lend these utopian hopes some reality. Music does stir the soul, and you could not find a better illustration of humanity's diversity and rich history than in its sacred music. Ancient music from India and Sardinia, contemporary music and film from Africa, Brazil, Europe, and the United States are all on the packed program of this festival that runs from June 3-12. So the idea is that savoring the diversity of music will inspire people to see difference differently and more positively. The diversity of spirituality commands a new look at what religion means, individually and to humanity.
And the city of Fes holds proudly to its role as a spiritual capital of Morocco and, even more, as the keeper of the ideal of Andalusia, where knowledge and wisdom flourished and peoples from different religions lived in harmony. After 1492, Muslims and Jews fled to Morocco, many to Fes, and the traditions of music and art have flourished ever since in this city that blends past and present.
Integrated in the Fes Festival since 2001 is a forum that also has high aspirations. The forum is held outside (as is most of the festival, except when it pours rain as it did last night) at the Baatha Museum courtyard under the branches of an ancient and enormous barbary oak. There's something magical in listening to a political activist from Egypt debate a French philosopher with birds singing and leaves gently trickling down.
But the idea is not debate but to do something that is so tough in today's world: to bring very different, often passionately opposed ideas and people together in a civilized atmosphere where they will listen. The idea is that the inspiration of sacred music amid the beauty and rich history of Fes will make people think differently about tough problems, whether relations among religious communities, environment, social justice, or democracy and governance. People speak as individuals and listen as individuals. Miraculously, the formula often works, and new ideas and relationships are hallmarks of the forum's history. The forum was dormant for four years but is now revived. It's perhaps a dream to set a place where ideas can be freely exchanged, passion and wisdom blended, inspired by the spiritual and the profane and voices from all corners of the world. But it's a dream well worth pursuing.
The Fes Festival this year has as its theme a 12th century poem, "The Conference of the Birds," by the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar. Its message is wisdom, and the search for wisdom over different stages, disappointments and hope. That's the theme woven through the festival's programs.
Part of the forum since its inception, I am absorbed in the five days of morning exchanges, with the task of summarizing each day's explorations and themes. Subsequent posts will take the five themes, day by day.
Game of Thrones. BY JAMES TRAUB | JUNE 10, 2011
Morocco is the Arab world's last chance to prove that monarchs can reform their countries without getting thrown out of them.
Is reform possible in the Arab world? Is there, that is, a fourth path beyond revolution, repression, and the wholesale bribery deployed by the wealthy Gulf states? If peaceful evolution is possible anywhere, it is in Morocco. And we won't have to wait more than a week or two for the first clues about which way Morocco will go.
The Arab Spring reached Morocco on Feb. 20, when over 100,000 demonstrators, mostly educated young people, took to the streets in 53 cities to demand change. King Mohammed VI, 47, one of the generation of allegedly progressive young rulers in the region, allowed the protests to unfold unimpeded. The demonstrations continued, and on March 9 the king took the extraordinary step of appearing on television to promise constitutional reforms which, if actually implemented, would place real restraints on his powers.
This is precisely how those of us who wrote in years past about democratization in the Arab World imagined that change would one day come: pressure from below -- and outside -- would lead to reform from above. That was the premise behind President George W. Bush's "Freedom Agenda," and calls for the United States and other Western states to support indigenous reform movements in the region. But that premise turned out to be wrong. Leaders like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and King Hamad bin Khalifa in Bahrain recognized that real reform jeopardized their rule; they were prepared to open the valves just wide enough to let off steam, and then jam them shut the moment citizens began to imagine that they could actually shape their own destiny.
And that, in turn, is why the choices in the Middle East have dwindled to revolution, repression, and bribery. Since no leader has been prepared to even begin to go down a path that could lead to his downfall, citizens have realized that real reform requires regime change. They've succeeded in Egypt and Tunisia; been checked, so far, by overwhelming violence in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain; and remained silent in Saudi Arabia. Only in Jordan and Morocco, both ruled by new generation monarchs, has there been meaningful hope for liberalization. And Jordan's King Abdullah has been far vaguer about the path of change than has Mohammed VI.
In his March 9 speech, the king promised "comprehensive reforms." The prime minister would henceforth be chosen by the winning party, not by the palace. The parliament would gain "new powers that enable it to discharge its representative, legislative, and regulatory mission." The judiciary, currently run by the Judicial Supreme Council under the control of the king, would be granted "the status of an independent power." New mechanisms would be established to strengthen political parties, now widely deemed moribund. And the king announced that he was impaneling a committee of legal scholars to produce a draft constitution not by some remote future date, but by June.
The king's speech provoked every possible degree of optimism and pessimism from Moroccans and Morocco experts. Tahar ben Jelloun, the country's leading novelist, told me that he viewed the speech as "historic -- the first time the monarchy has laid out a vision of reform." If the changes the king proposed are in fact adopted, ben Jelloun says, Morocco's next elections will be "totally free," and will lead to the appointment of a prime minister with the same broad powers enjoyed by the prime minister of France (a less-than-encouraging analogy, given the way President Nicolas Sarkozy runs roughshod over his own government).
Of course, what was once touted as the new generation in the Arab world, whether the young kings of Jordan and Morocco or second-generation autocrats like Bashar al-Assad of Syria, have almost always disappointed the hopes they've raised. Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, says, "Mohammed has promised substantive reforms time and again, and has always portrayed himself as a modernizing reformer and democratizer. But he's never lived up to that; it's been largely cosmetic." Hamid sees the king's speech as more of the same.
MOROCCO: Reform as a path to a genuine constitutional monarchy. June 7, 2011
When King Mohammed VI announced broad changes to Morocco’s constitution in March, he signaled a shift from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The new, elected government that results from these changes will be accountable to parliament, have an independent judiciary, offer a more decentralized governance system, provide broader individual liberties and offer women the same chance of winning elected office as men.
The changes came suddenly. Before massive protests erupted in Morocco on Feb. 20 — part of the upheaval that has swept across North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East — the political scene seemed stagnant; no political party was pressing for constitutional changes.
On that day, however, protesters in more than 50 Moroccan cities called to set boundaries on the king’s powers and hand over the executive prerogatives to an elected government that voters can hold accountable. The king apparently received the message, although he did not make any explicit reference to the protests in his speech.
The announced constitutional reforms open new opportunities for political life in Morocco. Seven significant suggested changes included in the reforms would do the following:
Shift executive power from the king to the prime minister. The prime minister will serve as the head of the executive branch and is fully responsible for the government, the civil service and the implementation of the government’s agenda.
In the current constitution, the prime minister is responsible only for coordinating activities among the ministers of government. With the prime minister selected from the political party that enjoys a majority in parliament, parties will need to develop their economic and social platforms.
Shift power from the king to electors. The revisions will change the process of naming the prime minister, who under the current constitution is appointed by the king regardless of election results.
Expand the scope of the legislative domain and provide parliament with new powers. The legislative domain is explicitly restricted in the current constitution. Any legal issue not explicitly mentioned as being part of the domain of law belongs to the regulatory field, and can be handled by governmental decrees.
The legislative process grants dominance to the executive branch over parliament. The government controls the agenda of parliament and gives priority to bills it submits to parliament over those initiated by members of parliament. Finally, the government can legislate between regular parliamentary sessions. As such, the constitution has allowed the parliament to delegate its legislative power to the government.
Strengthen the judiciary and guarantee its independence. Morocco’s constitution sets out the principle of judicial independence. In practice, however, the judiciary is subject to executive influence.
The king serves as chairman of the Judiciary Supreme Council that is mandated to manage judges’ careers (nomination, promotion, mobility and disciplinary sanctions). In addition, the Ministry of Justice sets the agenda for the council’s quarterly meetings and submits the council’s recommendations to the king, who issues final decisions.
Shift power and resources from the center to the regions. The revisions will empower regional councils that are directly elected by voters instead of regional representatives of the executive (mainly the Ministry of Interior).
Promote participation by women in managing public affairs and promote their political rights. The new constitution is expected to favor equal access by men and women to elected office. It would likely include mechanisms to promote women’s representation in parliament and on local councils, and to guarantee a certain number of seats for women in parliament.
Strengthen the rule of law, expand personal freedoms and ensure human rights in political, economic, social and cultural areas. The preamble of the constitution is expected to explicitly affirm Morocco’s commitment to human rights as universally recognized. Morocco’s Amazigh identity will also be mentioned in the constitution and the Amazigh language will be made an official national language in addition to Arabic.
The planned changes will not lead to a parliamentary constitution in Morocco, but they will introduce the separation of powers and reduce the king’s all-powerful role in government. As a result, political parties and civil society should remain vigilant about the changes and seize the opportunity of regional upheaval to push for additional reforms.
Political parties play a pivotal role in any well-functioning constitutional democracy. They should allow a new generation of political leaders to emerge and open their doors to youth who no longer trust politics or parties. Compared to those of other countries in the region, Morocco’s political system has become much more open over the last decade, but political leaders lacked a strategic vision and adopted a purely opportunistic behavior, trading requests for political reforms for ministerial portfolios and other private benefits. They cannot blame the regime for all of their woes.
Now that youth outside the political parties have pushed for constitutional changes, political parties must heed the message. No effective democracy can be achieved with closed, archaic and fragmented political parties. It’s time for them to change along with Morocco’s constitution.
-- Lahcen Achy in Beirut
Peaceful anti-government protests allowed to proceed, more planned
June 6, 2011
Anti-government protests against Morocco's monarchy in the North African country's two largest cities were allowed to proceed and ended without violence Sunday.
About 60,000 protesters gathered in a main square in Casablanca, activists said, but no riot police showed up to limit the crowd, as they have at previous demonstrations.
Riot police were also absent at protests in the capital of Rabat, where videos posted online showed thousands marching down a main road leading to parliament, chanting, “The people want to overthrow tyranny! The people want to overthrow corruption!”
The demonstrators are marching now to parliament," blogger Mamfakinch wrote at about 1 p.m. while live blogging the protests. "No intervention by police, who merely regulate the marchers."
The king appears to be taking a softer stand against the demonstrators than in recent weeks, when riot police clashed with protesting crowds, allegedly beating them with batons. It appears to be an effort to limit activists' broadening support as they attempt an Arab Spring uprising similar to those of Tunisia and Egypt.
Activists emphasized online, however, that the lack of violence should not be confused with a lack of repression.
"These protests are taking place today at the same time the Makhzen [the Moroccan regime] are launching a campaign of unprecedented defamation and disinformation against the movement," Mamfakinch said.
Police were seen watching from a distance as the crowds marched in Rabat and Casablanca, called on the government to resign and demanded better jobs, education and healthcare.
Some demonstrators said undercover police mingled with the crowds.
Protesters in both cities waved posters of Kamal Amari, who on Thursday died from wounds he suffered during clashes with police on May 29 in Safi, about 200 miles south of Rabat.
“Martyr rest, will continue fighting,” they chanted.
Protesters could also be seen in online videos assembling in Safi to honor Amari and rally against the government.
Dozens of injuries have been reported as a result of the weekly protests in recent months. The demonstrations have been mostly organized by the February 20 movement, a coalition of secularists, leftists, Islamists and independents. The group is planning similar demonstrations next weekend, according to postings online.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo
06/10/11 Arezki daoud
Washington / Morocco Board News--- The Moroccan people are holding their breath on what's coming on the political front. Insiders involved in the political reform with front seat view of a proposed draft of the new constitution promised by the King say this one is a "game changer." Many even go as far as calling it "revolutionary." But how revolutionary is this draft document? For those seeking smooth transition to democracy, they are going to be hugely disappointed.
In many critical areas, it seems as if the reform commission used a thesaurus to change words to make it sound like a real change is happening. But the reality is otherwise. The King will continue to rule, may be not so directly now yet certainly via proxy.
For example the King will now become the "Supreme Representative of the State," instead of the "Supreme Representative of the Nation." Well what does that mean in real terms? As far I can interpret, he will continue to call the shots no matter what, in fact solidifying the Monarchy's control of all State affairs.
Then it is said that the Amazigh language will be national language. Then again neighboring Algeria has had the Amazigh language recognized in its constitution for several years. Yet, a visit to Amazigh land in the Kabylie region of Algeria and one can see blatant discrimination against the Amazigh people in the hands of those who represent the State. So let's not be fooled, recognizing Amazigh language means nothing if not followed with actions on the ground and that means economic resources to those people.
Now further into language semantics: the draft constitution proposes to erase the term Prime Minister and replace it by President of the Government (President du Gouvernment). Let's be real here, this is just a exercise in synonyms shifting and if the King is the "Supreme Representative of the State," changing the name would mean nothing, except that one person will be called Mr. President. Furthermore, the famous Article 19 is maintained with some changes called by the authors as "revolutionary" as well, but which I consider window dressing. Article 19 still insists that the King is the Commander of the Faithfull because of the "historical legitimacy" to the benefit of the Monarchy, whatever that means. But the draft constitution says the King can remain source of new laws (called Dahir) but only in religious matters. That may be true, yet the fact that no movement by the new President can be made without Royal consent is indicative that the King will continue to call the shot and will make decision by proxy.
OK I don't mean to be all negative. I do recognize that the fact that Mr. President will come from the political party with the highest number of votes in the legislative elections is somewhat a better idea that what we have been used to. In this case, the President may be more tempted to report to the voters and that's a good thing. But something suggests that we are not getting the full story. What's the link between the President and the "Supreme Representative of the State." Is the latter like the British monarch? Or does he (always a man) have the ability to impose policies and government decision. The truth is the real power still remains that of the King.
Still on the positive front, the cabinet and the Walis (Provincial Governors) will be appointed by the President. How this will happen and what is the role of the Monarchy remains to be seen as well. One more problem in this picture is about the other proposed idea of decentralizing government put forth by the King himself, an idea that calls for the regions to decide on who would govern them at the local level. If the President is now trusted to appoint the Walis, with Royal consent, then should we expect the King's regionalization initiative to be scrapped?
Well, here's the truth: nothing the President will want to do would happen without the explicit agreement of the King. That's been in the constitution forever, and it is in the proposed "revision." And so we are back to square one.
As for the parliament, its legislative coverage will theoretically expand from 9 areas to 40. The Chamber of Representatives will be able to form Commissions of Inquiries if 20% of its members agree. Motions to Censure and the removal of the government can be approved with only 33% of the body. Personally, I think this is excessive, a policy clearly meant to weaken the President and his cabinet. Here again, the Executive branch is stuck between the Monarchy, without which nothing can be done, and the Parliament, which acts as a deadly threat that can clearly be used by the King to reset the agenda and remove the threat, if any.
Meanwhile, it appears the Monarchy is slated to gain some more power, ironically in the name of "less power." For instance the Justice Minister will no longer preside on behalf of the King over the nation's highest judiciary body, the Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature (CSM). Instead, the function will swing back to the Monarchy. But the good news there is that female judges for the first time will be allowed to join the CSM, and so we give the Commission some credit on that front.
How will these changes be greeted in Morocco? Very simple: millions will be disappointed and their fight for democracy will go on. Millions of others, typical conservative pro-Monarchists will support it, calling it "revolutionary." Outside of Morocco, the typical reactions from the likes of Paris and Washington would be the usual congratulatory statements of a democracy on the move, and some in these governments will privately express their displeasure for the lack of progress, but only privately.
In the final analysis, unless the King comes forward with new changes in draft 1, we are anticipating sustained tension on the Moroccan political scene going forward, not the likes we see in Siyria or Yemen, but much more subtle movements. The momentum built by the youth pro-democracy movement will not slow and might be reignited by these latest announcements. We conclude that at this stage the response of the commission appointed by the Monarchy as lackluster as a lot more remains to be changed.
Young Moroccans show political maturity.
By Siham Ali 2011-06-05
A government-organised survey revealed that young people have an unexpected and growing interest in politics.
Moroccan youths feel capable of taking their destiny into their own hands and are eager to play a significant role in their country’s reform process, a new poll indicates.
Two-thirds of young Moroccans are dissatisfied with what politicians are doing, according to the poll released at the May 23rd-24th youth meeting in Bouznika. Respondents to the youth ministry’s survey also said that politicians look out for their own interests and do not understand the problems of the kingdom's youth.
"The dinosaurs in our political parties now have to make way for young people after many years of marginalisation of young people," said Hatim Ouardani, a 21-year-old student. "The political stage, which is suffering from many unhealthy practices, can only turn over a new page if young people play a bigger role."
Contrary to what people used to believe, youths are no longer shunning politics; they just need to be given the opportunity to show what they can do, Ouardani added.
"We want young people to be able to access politics and decision-making posts on the strength of their abilities. To this end, they must be supported by experienced people," said 26-year-old bank clerk Farida Hamdaoui.
According to Hamdaoui, efforts made by today's leading political figures should not be undone. Instead, she said, a balance between the aims of the various parties is needed so that people can focus on new priorities, including eliminating corruption and creating representative institutions.
"Since February 20th, it has become clear that young people have something to say about politics and the direction Morocco is heading in," said political analyst Mohamed Saadi. This, he argues, is why politicians are talking more about young people and the role they must play in all strategies, not only as beneficiaries but also as a source of ideas.
Labour Party Secretary-General Abdelkrim Benatiq said he favoured the full involvement of young people in the political reform process. He said they are an important factor in the change equation and they must keep a watchful eye on the transparency of the upcoming elections.
"We must believe in the creative abilities of young people and offer them a climate that encourages discussion and creativity," Youth and Sport Minister Moncef Belkhayat said May 23rd at the Bouznika conference. The minister also said he believes that young people can make an effective contribution to innovation and economic development.