Saturday, April 30, 2011

On Parenting

The stated aim of development work is “to help people help themselves.” This is basically the same principal that goes into parenting. As anyone who has been parented can attest to, parents work and put a lot of time into helping their children, but much of that assistance is indirect. For example, parents can’t make friend’s for their children, but they can sign them up for sports teams to give them extra opportunities to make friends. They can even pack their backpack with so many sweets that their child will have no choice but to share. And if sharing sweets doesn’t buy friendship amongst 8 year olds nothing does.

By the same standard, development workers put a lot of time and effort into helping Host Country Nationals, but much of that assistance is indirect. “Handholding is what we do” as one Peace Corps Volunteer recently remarked. “We find people who want to change the status quo, to improve their lives, and we hold their hands while they do it.” Frequently the changes are something Host Country Nationals are far better equipped to accomplish then development workers, whether because of their better understanding of the personalities and politics involved or because their fluency in the local language.

Peace Corps Volunteers often are just there to stick with their counterparts and motivate them, to agree with them in the face of opposition, to give them ideas when they need them and to make them feel like its possible. In the end it is Community Stakeholders who actually bring change and benefit from it.

Still, it is always nice to have someone there to hold your hand. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Morocco: Marrakesh bomb strikes Djemaa el-Fna square

Eyewitness Hugo Somersham-Jones: "Waiters tried to help injured"

Related Stories

A bomb attack in the main square in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh has killed at least 14 people and injured 20, some of them foreigners, officials say.
The explosion ripped through the Argana cafe in Djemaa el-Fna square, a popular tourist destination.
The interior ministry said evidence now pointed to a bomb attack after initial reports suggested a gas explosion.
Morocco has seen two months of protests against King Mohammed VI amid a tide of uprisings across the region.
The last major terrorist attack in Morocco was in 2003 in the city of Casablanca - 45 people, including a number of suicide bombers, were killed.
'Sounded like a bomb'
Moroccan government spokesman Khalid Naciri told French television that Thursday's casualties involved a number of nationalities but he would not confirm any as yet.
"We worked... on the hypothesis that this could... be accidental. But initial results of the investigation confirm that we are confronted with a true criminal act," he said.
An interior ministry statement added: "Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site... confirms the theory of an attack."
A medical source told AFP news agency that 11 of the dead were foreigners, including five women, but this has not been independently confirmed.
King Mohammed has ordered a "speedy and transparent inquiry" into the attack and demanded the public be informed of the results, a royal communique said.
Witnesses described hearing a huge blast that sent debris flying into the air.
Briton Hugo Somersham-Jones told the BBC he was at his Marrakesh home, close to the square, when he heard the explosion.
"It sounded like a bomb. I went outside and saw smoke and got to the cafe and saw falling masonry. I came out to the main square and saw the first floor of the cafe in ruins.
"People had fire extinguishers, trying to put out the fire, and others were pulling people out from the building - it was pretty bad."
Mr Somersham-Jones, a hotel owner who has been running his business in Marrakesh for six years, said the square was the main area where people congregate and that there had been a deadly gas explosion last year.
Portuguese tourist Alexandre Carvalho told the Associated Press news agency that he had seen injured people being carried away.
"I believe the injured were mostly tourists, judging by what they were wearing," he said.
The UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the blast and that consular staff had been deployed to offer assistance to any British nationals.
It advised UK nationals to stay away from the square.
Djemaa el-Fna square is a Unesco World Heritage site and is popular with foreign tourists, particularly Europeans.
Analysts say the blast could have a serious effect on Morocco's important tourism sector.
One French businessman told Reuters: "You can't find a more emblematic target than Djemaa el-Fna square. With this attack and amid the worrying unrest in the region, tourism will be in the doldrums for some time."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Morocco In the News: April 20 - 25

Clinton highlights Morocco's Family Law
Washington - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted women's gains in some Muslim countries, hailing notably Morocco's 2004 Family law.
    "Muslim women have long enjoyed greater rights and opportunities in places like Bangladesh or Indonesia. Or consider the family law in Morocco or the personal status code in Tunisia," said Clinton at at the Eighth Annual US-Islamic World Forum, held in Washington on April 12-14.     "All over the world we see living proof that Islam and women's rights are compatible," She pointed out.   
    The Eighth Annual US-Islamic World Forum brings together a galaxy of leaders and intellectuals from around the Muslim world to engage in dialogue with US officials and policy makers and promote  relations between the US and Muslim countries.
 Morocco's solar power project, 'one of the World's largest'- Dow Jones Newswires.
Morocco's solar energy project, which aims at providing 14% of the country's electricity needs, is the most advanced in North Africa and "one of the World's largest," the Dow Jones Newswire highlighted on Tuesday.

The solar project is part of a wider effort to boost Morocco's industrial economy, leveraging its proximity to European and African markets with six "clusters" in sectors including autos, aerospace, agribusiness and electronics, wrote the same source. Four bidding consortia have been short-listed for Ouarzazate, the first of a $9 billion project to build five planned facilities aimed at raising the country's solar capacity to 2 gigawatts by 2020, The Dow Jones Newswire quoted Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Ahmed RĂ©da Chami, as saying. The state agency running the project has lined up funding support from multilateral agencies that could be exercised by the winning consortia, added Chami in interview in Chicago with the Dow Jones Newswire. Morocco has been successful in attracting overseas investment against rival pitches from eastern Europe and Mexico, reflecting lower labor costs, but also its location as supply chains shortened, the Moroccan official went on to say. Morocco is looking to improve its competitiveness by moving away from a fixed exchange-rate policy towards a range-bound regime, he said. MAP

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On My Latest Pet

For those keeping track, during my service I have had a number of animal guests stay with me during parts of my service. The vast number of them including ants, cockroaches, crickets, flies, locust and a scorpion were unwanted. Some, included a diseased cat and a dying frog were tolerated with equanimity. And then there was a gecko whose sudden appearance was all to brief. Now however I am playing host to my first animal guest that I actually invited. For the time being, I have a swallow bedding down in the aviary guest quarters.

It happened like this: I always leave the window open to the bathroom because the hot water heater is in there and I want as much of the Carbon Monoxide it generates going outside. One evening last month I went in and discovered a Barn Swallow perched happily upon the towel rack. He was in no way shocked or unsettled by my sudden appearance and merely peered at me warily from his perch a foot away as went about my business. I instinctively named him Franklin and have decided that he has come North from Capetown, South Africa and is staying over here until milder summer weather in Europe entices him further North. 

It is rather cool having Franklin as a guest. His morning chirping echos nicely around the house and is nice to wake up to. Also, I am told the Koran says having swallows in your house is good luck, or something along those lines.

Of course there are downsides. I am not wild about him pooping on the floor. Also, you find yourself subconsciously being a lot quieter when you know you have a sleeping bird in the house. And the worst is that you are a lot more self-conscious when you go to the bathroom.  Knowing a bird is watching you while you go can really make you nervous!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Morocco In the News: The Arabian Spring

Morocco pledges economic fair play after protests
Thu Apr 14, 2011
Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:09am GMT
By Souhail Karam
RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco's anti-trust body will be wholly independent before September to enforce transparency in the award of public procurements and licences to investors and to fight monopolies, its head said.
Since its inception in 2001, the Competitiveness Council has not been able to access government data to assess the scale of under-the-table deals involving licences and contracts handed to individuals or foreign firms without going through tenders.
Such licences have involved mining, fishing and public transport among other sectors as well as contracts worth billions of dollars to supply state-run firms with machinery and equipment.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Sunday, April 17th, 2011, 8:15 PM

....Still in Morocco

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Attrition

I began my time in Morocco very scared and totally overwhelmed. I distinctly remember standing on a patch of gravel by the side of the road under a gray sky, looking around and being totally out of place. The one comfort that I had then was that I was not alone. There were five other Americans with me who were just as misplaced as I. During two months worth of Pre Service Training I was with them seven days a week, as much as fourteen hours a day. They became my support group, my family.
There was A, the older cousin with the mark of Washington DC upon her who is worldly and cool. There was C and his wife, the married cousins who’ve lived in Europe that you visit around the holidays and are wise in the practical matters of life. And lastly there is the brother who you used to butt heads with and his quietly effervescent wife. 
With their help and that of a Playstation II with Pro Evolution Soccer I made it through Pre Service Training and beyond.
It was not however God’s will that all of us should complete our service here in Morocco. A year after swearing in, the first of us returned home. Recently, with eight months left in country two more have gone. This leaves just three of us left, a smaller family carrying on until that day, just a handful of months from now, when we too, god willing, shall leave.
Attrition is a very real aspect of Peace Corps service. So far 24% of those that embarked on this adventure have returned home for medical or personal reasons. It is not unusual to hear through the grapevine that someone you know is no longer in Morocco.
It has been my sad fate to loose half of my CBT group very late in the game. They were there to help me stand when I could not do it on my own. Thanks so much you guys!

Trek Salama

This blog post is dedicated to my CBT and their A’Hearn clan doppelgangers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

International Organizations, Financial Institutions Face Deep Cuts in Spending Bill
By Emily Cadei, CQ Staff
April 12, 2011 – 10:50 a.m.
International organizations and financial institutions took one of the biggest hits among foreign aid programs in the new 2011 fiscal year spending measure Congress is set to vote on this week.
The Senate and the House essentially split the difference between their two earlier proposals for the State Department and foreign operations spending in the new bill (HR 1473). At $48.3 billion, the measure will keep spending for American diplomatic and development programs at approximately the same level as fiscal 2010.
But it does represent a cut of $8.4 billion from President Obama’s funding request for fiscal year 2011, less than the $11.7 billion proposed in the House-passed spending measure (HR 1), but more than the $6.5 billion in the Senate draft.
Many programs, however, still face significant cuts compared to fiscal 2010. Top among them is the United Nations and other international organizations, which will see a more than 20 percent cut in American contributions compared to fiscal 2010 — from $1.7 billion to $1.3 billion. The measure prohibits pay raises for foreign services officers.
The bill also will cut more than $100 million from the International Clean Technology Fund and Asian Development Fund from fiscal 2010 levels, and $45 million from the African Development Fund — all financial institutions that invest in different aspects of international development.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a quasi-independent development agency focused on eliminating global poverty, also faces significant cuts. Its appropriations are down $205 million from fiscal 2010 and $380 million from what the president requested in fiscal 2011.
The account for economic aid to developing countries was reduced by $379 million from fiscal 2010 levels — a 6 percent cut — and $1.9 billion from the president’s fiscal 2011 request.
Some programs, however, have reason to celebrate after escaping far more punishing reductions that were proposed in the House earlier this year.
For example, the United States Institute for Peace, which was established by Congress to combat conflict situations, faces a $10 million cut from its fiscal 2010 funding in the final appropriation, which amounts to a reprieve from the original House GOP bill that would have all but obliterated its $49 million budget. Likewise, the Peace Corps budget will be cut by $25 million from its fiscal 2010 level, which is far smaller than the $69 million cut it faced in the House.
Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the State Department and foreign aid programs, applauded the final bill for blocking some of the deepest cuts in the House-passed bill.
“National security is a three-legged stool of defense, diplomacy and development,” Lowey said in a statement. “I am pleased the agreement reached by the White House and congressional negotiators would restore many of the ill-advised cuts passed by the House of Representatives in February.”
Lowey also cheered the exclusion of language that was in the House bill to bar funding for international aid groups that offer or discuss abortion as a possible method of family planning. Known as the “gag rule,” it has been a political football for years, with alternating Republican and Democratic presidents instituting and then rescinding the policy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is Morocco next in line for mass uprisings?

Demonstrations by unemployed peopleDemonstrations are now a daily event in Rabat

Related Stories

Pro-democracy activists in Morocco are gearing up for more mass demonstrations this month, unsatisfied with the king's pledge to carry out "comprehensive" constitutional reform.
Inspired by the success of protesters elsewhere in North Africa, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets on 20 February.
King Mohammed VI responded three weeks later, promising changes that would dilute his absolute hold on power.
The prime minister calls it a "peaceful revolution". But the protest leaders insist the proposals fall far short of their demands.
"Our first demand is a constitution for the people and by the people - a complete reform," says Montasser Drissi, one of the original group of young protesters.
The February 20th movement grew quickly via Facebook and is now calling for further rallies this Sunday and the following week.
'No Tahrir Square'
The king has ordered a committee to draft constitutional reforms which include making the prime minister elected, not appointed.

Start Quote

They dare to voice criticism that they haven't dared to before”
Mohamed El-BoukiliMoroccan Association for Human Rights
The proposals will then be put to a referendum. But the committee members were chosen by the king himself, convincing protesters that any changes will be superficial. So the demonstrations continue.
"It's good to keep the commission under pressure," explains Mr Drissi. "If the people want change and the king does not - he will be alone. He must listen to the people."
Many of those people are now trumpeting their demands all over the Moroccan capital.
You can barely walk a block in central Rabat these days without passing a protest.
Unemployed graduates are staging a sit-in outside parliament; hundreds of teachers have set up camp in front of the education ministry.
Other groups march along Mohammed V Avenue proclaiming their frustration through loud hailers.
There is no Tahrir Square here, no daily focal point to the protests. But the democratic wave that swept Egypt and Tunisia has emboldened many Moroccans to make unprecedented calls for reform.
"They dare to voice criticism that they haven't dared to before; they dare say we want a king who does not rule, but who is a symbol. They dare to say and discuss this. Before it was not permitted," says Mohamed El-Boukili, of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.
Restrictions on speech
He points out that King Mohammed VI was greeted as a reformer following the abusive reign of his father, King Hassan II, who ruled through torture, killing and forced disappearances.
Man holding portrait of King Mohamed VIMany Moroccans hold their king in high regard
Even so, restrictions on free speech remain: Several newspapers have been closed down, and the king remains unquestionable as Morocco's supreme religious authority as well as monarch.
"There are many civil society actors now creating pressure for change and real reform. There is real demand," says journalist Driss Ksikes. He received a three-year suspended sentence in 2007 for publishing jokes on politics, religion and sex.
"There is disequilibrium now. The monarchy is very strong, and the pressure from the streets for a free Morocco is very important. We know there is an opportunity and maybe there will not be another one," he adds.
So on the top floor of a trade union building in Rabat, the 20 February movement has been plotting their next move.
They have rejected a call to discuss the constitutional changes with the king's committee arguing that would lend legitimacy to a flawed process. Instead there is talk of sit-ins and flash mobs as well as the rally this weekend.
The hope is the movement can harness the frustration of other groups demonstrating for more specific needs - like jobs - and against a culture of corruption.
University graduates formed just one of the crowds marching past parliament last week, angry that their degrees get them nothing without connections or money.
"After events in the Arab world we took the chance to claim our rights too," says Ali, an unemployed English graduate on the march.
"We are suffering, and we could not say that before Tunisia and Egypt. But maybe we have more rights now."
"We're here to protest about many problems, including political ones. But the first is jobs," agreed Lahsin, an out-of-work teacher.
'The king listens'
There are now open calls for the King Mohammed's executive role to be reduced. But after three centuries of monarchy most Moroccans remain loyal to the institution.
Journalist Driss KsikesJournalist Driss Ksikes received a three-year suspended sentence for publishing jokes
Many blame the government or palace advisers for their woes, not the king.
Their demands are for real reform, not revolution.
"What happened in Tunisia won't happen here, because the people love their king," says a man called Driss, sheltering from the sun in a run-down district of the capital.
"He is the only person actually doing things. When people protest, the king listens."
But the scale and scope of these protests are new for Morocco. Mindful of events elsewhere in North Africa, the state is scrambling to respond.
"Everyone is trying to answer young Moroccans great demands for deep change," believes Mr El-Boukili.
He has photographs showing how demonstrators were beaten on 20 February, but says the police have kept a conspicuously low profile ever since.
"People don't want slight changes any more. That will not calm the Moroccans. I hope they will understand this and give the answers the young expect," he says.
"There is a margin of freedoms now which was given under pressure. I hope it will give way to real democracy here in Morocco."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On The Coming Of Summer

There are many significant moments on the journey from winter to summer. It is often rather sunny and warm in winter, with the mild weather being punctuated by weeks of freezing rain and snow higher up. Even late in the season when the heat of the day reaches upwards of 32˚F (90˚F), a storm off the Atlantic can bring a winter relapse. Despite this, there are generally some significant moments that let you know winter is leaving, not to return for many months. Here are these moments catalogued:

1)    The day when it becomes too warm to wear shoes. There is a day when it becomes too hot to wear shoes and socks while waking around without them becoming hot and sweaty within half an hour. This leads to the start of sandal season.
2)    The first day of sandal tan. This follows shortly after ditching shoes and socks, when the sun shining on bare feet leaves a pale band where your flip-flops cover that bit of your feet.
3)    The day when you have to use the cold water during your shower. During winter the pipes and water-heater are so cold that you crave all the warmth your shower can carry. However as things heat up, it starts becoming too much to take and you have to use the cold water tap to cool it down a bit.
4)    When the sun traverses high enough in the sky that as it sets it shines in your western bathroom windows with a powerful yellow light.
5)    The day when the floor inside your house finally becomes warm enough to walk on with bare feet. This is the most important indicator that winter has gone for the year. Since the floor is tile on top of eight inches of concrete it takes a lot to change its temperature. It has to be consistently warm for a long time for the floor to heat up. All the warm sunny days in a row won’t make a difference if the temperature drops to single digits ˚C at night. This year, after a week of hot days and warm nights, sox and slippers no longer were necessary to walk around indoors on March 31st.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morocco In the News: April 1st - 7th

- Amal Hasson    Sunday, 27 March 2011

Washington - Trade exchange between Morocco and the United States, which are bound by a free trade agreement (FTA), stood at more than 2.6 billion dollars in 2010, with Morocco's exports to the US market rising by 54% since the entry into force of the agreement in 2006, the US Department of Commerce (USDC) said on Friday.

Bilateral trade has, thus, markedly risen in 2010 from a year earlier when it had stood at 2.1 billion dollars, according to figures released by the USDC.

Moroccan exports to the United States reached 685 million dollars in the year under review, posting a 46% over 2009, it said.

The two countries' officials say the USA-Morocco free trade agreement, the unique such agreement signed by the USA in the entire Africa, attests to the excellent, special bilateral relations.

"We have a long history of friendship and partnership on almost every level, from economics to educational exchanges, from trade to development, and security," Clinton said two days ago at a joint press conference with her Moroccan peer Taib Fassi Fihri.

Fassi Fihri, for his part, had emphasised the “long-standing, very fruitful” Moroccan-US ties. (MAP)

WB grants Morocco two loans of $342m
Washington - The World Bank's board of directors approved, on Tuesday, two development policy loans (DPL) in the amount of 352 million dollars for Morocco, Bretton Woods announced.
     The first loan, worth 205 million dollars, is aimed at supporting the implementation of Morocco's Green Plan in order to improve local markets' efficiency, the impact of projects aimed at small farmers, the services of the farming sector, water management and the planning of irrigation infrastructure.
   The same source said the Green Plan constitutes an "ambitious" investment programme in agro-food industry and steps up a roadmap to carry out a series of systematic public sector reforms.
    The second loan, worth 136.7 million dollars, is meant to enhance the effectiveness of urban traffic in Morocco's big cities through a good governance of the transport sector and the improvement of urban transport services and infrastructure.
    It will support the reform programme of urban transport and speed up its implementation.

Japan grants over 6 mln dirhams to support micro project associations
Rabat - Japan granted, on Wednesday, a donation worth around 6.575 million dirhams benefiting ten Moroccan associations operating in the field of local micro projects.
This financial support will allow for funding projects relating to providing drinking water, enhancing road infrastructure, improving women conditions as well as promoting agricultural project and educational and health services.
The grant agreement was signed by Japanese Ambassador to Rabat Toshinori Yanagiya and representatives of the aforementioned associations.

 Morocco to build five culture centers worldwide, official
Friday, 28 November 2008 Morocco will launch five cultural centers in the world's major cities that have a large number of Moroccan expatriates, said Minister in charge of the Moroccan Community living abroad, Mohammed Ameur. Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the Moroccan expatriates in Montreal, Canada Ameur said the latter will to host one of those centers that are meant to be not only a symbol of Moroccan culture and identity, but also an opportunity to open up on other communities, and promote the Moroccan culture 
    Ameur, who is on a visit to Canada to enquire about the situation of Moroccan immigrants there, announced a number of measures taken by Morocco to assist Moroccans living abroad, including covering the costs of repatriating corpses of expatriates with limited income, and conducting a study on the needs and expectations of Moroccans as well as new investment areas, mainly in IT, off-shoring, and eco-tourism.
   Ameur said Morocco is aware of the importance of religion for Moroccan expatriates, adding that there is a will to foster a moderate Islam in collaboration with the ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Moroccan Council of Olemas (religious scholars).
   The Arabic language is also an essential component in the Moroccan identity, the Moroccan official said, noting that there are a number of measures to promote its teaching in hosting countries.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

On New Time

Rabat - Morocco will set its clocks one hour ahead on Saturday April 2 at midnight, said an anonymous source from the Ministry of the Modernization of the Public Sector.

Morocco will resume its standard time on July 31, 2011 at midnight. 

Last Year's Blog Post:

In the 1970s the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco made the decision to stop using daylight savings time as it had been doing and instead chose to keep their clocks unchanged as the summer approached. They chose to stay on what is called Universal Coordinated Time or GMT Zulu.
For those that do not know, many governments choose to organize themselves and their citizenry to set their clocks an hour forward in the spring time so as to consolidate daylight during work and active hours and thereby save electricity, or so the theory goes.
Morocco, along with many other parts of the world decided not to take part in this ritual for almost forty years, there being, after all, a ridiculous megalomania in thinking one can control time. Changing the time by governmental decree is disruptive, confusing and ineffective in the many places where people don’t have clocks. Moreover, the Islamic world observes the movements of the moon above those of the sun.
For the last two years however, Morocco has begun re-observing daylight savings time in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and to remain in the same time zone as its European trading partners. What this means for a person in a berber village in the atlas mountains is a choice, the choice to observe Old Time (aka Greenwich Mean Time Zulu) or New Time (aka Western Europe Savings Time). Meeting someone at a particular time must be specified whether Old or New time. Buses and transportation must be clarified. The whole thing is rather confusing and not necessarily effective. After all, shops still open when the owner arrives, things get done when it is light but not too hot out, and you go home when the sun goes down. Whether that is 7pm or 6pm does not matter a whole lot. 

Still, where else can you get away with showing up to a date an hour late and saying, “Oh, I thought you meant the other 6pm.”