A resource for journalists
Following a discussion with friends in the media industry, they expressed that there is a lack of articles in English about Morocco and specifically about Morocco-US relations. So, here I am with this modest work that I hope will be used by journalists for covering the two countries relations.
It’s a selection of op-ed’s, articles and think tank reports.
I am sure that these resources will be helpful for all the journalists, bloggers and analysts who will be covering the upcoming visit of King Mohammed VI to the President Obama on Friday, November 22.
I am also going to collect quotes from leaders from both countries in order to use them in the articles. Thus, let me know if you are interested in expressing your point of view about the upcoming visit and US-Morocco relations in general? Or, if you are interested to get quotes from leaders of one of the two countries for an article? Send me an email to : firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMNISTS – OPINIONS :
Morocco, the King and Reforms
Its been 38 years since King Hassan II of Morocco ordered the Green March, when 350,000 Moroccans escorted by some 20,000 Moroccan troops marched into the territory that was then the Spanish Sahara. When the former colonial power vacated the territory, it left behind a whole lot of trouble, a war that lasted more than a decade and a half, and political tension that would persist to this day.
The territory was claimed by Morocco as theirs while the newly founded Polisario Front, backed by Algeria fought for an independent Sahrawi republic. Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees fled the Moroccan-annexed territory to settle in refugee camps run by the Polisario in southern Algeria. Over the years many have returned to their homes in what is now Morocco’s Southern Province, where the Moroccan government helps them find lodging and employment.
Still many families remain separated as thousands of others are still trapped in a political limbo as Morocco and the Polisario failed to reach an equitable agreement amid ongoing efforts by the US and the UN to reach a diplomatic solution. Meanwhile the Sahrawi refugees continue to exist in what is most likely the harshest living conditions on the planet.
But a lot of sand has passed through the hourglass since then and much has changed in the world, in Morocco and in the former Spanish colony.
Not least among these changes is the ascension to the throne of King Mohammed VI, upon the death of his father.
The new king came to the throne with new ideas and the will to make of Morocco an example for the rest of the Arab world when it comes to human rights, openness, individual freedom and reforms.
It was not an easy job for the young king who inherited a heavy burden from his father along with a discreetly repressive political system. The tourists, after all, were not to be frightened away but local politics were at times hazardous.
If the tourists were not to be harassed, the prisons on the other hand were full, the police were brutal and human rights were practically non-existent. But King Mohammed VI persevered and turned Morocco into a very different country than the one his father ruled.
Addressing the nation on the 38th anniversary of the Green March, the king stressed Morocco’s commitments and achievements on human rights, noting the openness and freedom enjoyed by Moroccans in the Southern Provinces as well as in the north.
“Our aim is to see the Moroccan citizen properly honored, endowed with the attributes of full-fledged citizenship,” he said. “It is in this spirit that we have undertaken a series of profound reforms and major projects,” including the establishment of national institutions and regional bodies for the protection and promotion of human rights that are “known for their independence and credibility.”
King Mohammed VI rejected attempts by adversaries “to undermine Morocco’s reputation” and ignore its progress on freedom and human rights. He pledged to continue to work with human rights organizations and to reach an equitable political solution for the Western Sahara with the UN and its Special Envoy, and international partners who recognize Morocco’s achievements.
The king vowed to build on those achievements and on Morocco’s investment in the Southern Provinces by adopting the new regional development model proposed for increased economic and political autonomy. This is “an integrated developmental vision, based on an objective analysis of the current situation in our Southern Provinces… to make them a space for integrated development, instrumental in providing a dignified life for the people of the region.”
King Mohammed VI reiterated Morocco’s commitment to helping other African countries achieve the same dignity and human rights progress through continued cooperation “and active solidarity with these countries….”
He also noted that Morocco’s commitment to human rights extends to African immigrants, through Morocco’s “new comprehensive policy on immigration and asylum issues, based on a humanitarian approach in line with our country’s international commitments and respectful of the rights of immigrants.”
The king stressed Morocco’s “sincere commitment” to promoting peace and the rule of law in Africa, most recently through its “support for our sister country Mali in its fight against extremist and terrorist groups.”
Indeed, it is largely thanks to the reforms instituted by the king that Morocco has been so successful in avoiding the political upheaval facing other countries in the region.
Claude Salhani is a political analyst specializing in the Middle East and North Africa.
King Mohammed VI Of Morocco Builds New Financial City For The World
Ever since he ascended the throne in 1999, his Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, has nursed one persistent ambition: to transform Casablanca, the Kingdom’s largest city and economic center, into Africa’s leading financial hub.
To achieve this, in 2010 the King announced the creation of one of his most ambitious projects, the Casablanca Finance City (CFC), a regional financial center and a privileged entry point for Northern, Western, and Central Africa.
The Casablanca Finance City (CFC) is a custom-made village being developed for large national and international foreign institutions looking to operate in the region and gain access to French-speaking African markets. The city will cater primarily to institutions in 3 key sectors: financial services, professional services and regional and international headquarters activities, offering eligible companies operating in these sectors a marketplace to undertake their activities on a regional and international level.
“What CFC plans to do is sell market access to French speaking Africa and giving fiscal and financial incentives to financial institutions, professional services firms such as legal and consulting companies as well as large multinational firms with regional headquarters,” Abdelmalek Alaoui, Managing Partner of Global Intelligence Partners, an adviser on the project said in an email statement.
The Casablanca Finance City zone zone sits on 100 hectares and will be located at the central axis of Casablanca’s new city center (Casablanca-Anfa), an area situated at the heart of Casablanca and at the crossroads of important highways such as Rabat and El Jadida.
While the CFC is still undergoing construction, companies from around the world are already applying for operating licenses. At the moment, more than 25 companies have obtained CFC status. Already, the new financial center is attracting growing interest from investors. In June last year, Abu Dhabi-based Asset Manager Invest A.D obtained a license to operate in the new financial center. In July 2013, FinanceCom, an investment holding company controlled by Moroccan billionaire Othman Benjelloun, signed an agreement to construct its headquarter offices in CFC.
“We want to bring the giants here. Think of the biggest names in the world of finance and professional services – Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JP Morgan, General Electric, Bowman Gilfillan, all of them. This is for them. There is a huge market in Francophone Africa which remains largely untapped. The CFC will provide a stable, reliable and relevant platform for international institutions to access these markets,” a senior executive at the Moroccan Investment Development Agency (AMDI) said via email.
An increasing number of international companies are setting up operations in Morocco considering the Kingdom to be a suitable platform for their investments in North, West and Central Africa because of its world class infrastructure, skilled labor force, cost competitiveness and business-friendly climate. At the moment, there are close to 3,000 international companies already active in Morocco and using the Kingdom as a springboard to access opportunities in the wider region.
“With Casablanca Finance City, we will be providing a professional and pragmatic answer to their financial convergence issues in Africa,” Saïd Ibrahimi, the CEO of Casablanca Finance City Authority said in a recent op-ed piece.
Ibrahimi feels there is a crucial need for a new African financial hub. According to him, the rationale behind the new city is straightforward. Africa recorded an average annual GDP growth of 5% during the last decade, thereby becoming the fastest-growing region in the world after East Asia. But in spite of this, Africa, particularly Francophone speaking parts, still lacks a major financial center. There are only 2 African countries listed on the 2013 Global Financial Centers index- Johannesburg, which comes in at 62, and Mauritius, which ranks in the 70th position.
“I believe that Morocco is in a strategic position to serve as a hub for the French-speaking part of Africa located in the North, West and Central parts of the continent,” Ibrahimi said in a press statement.
The CFC Head believes that Morocco stands out as the most logical option for a financial center because of socio-economic reasons including political stability within a regional context of agitation within the context of the Arab spring, as well as strong historical ties with Africa, sustainable macro-economic indicators and free trade agreements with the European Union, the United States and the Middle East. Morocco also has improved access to African markets through key agreements with African countries.
CFC-based businesses stand to enjoy some incentives specially designed to encourage and facilitate their setting up. For one, the government has put in place an attractive tax framework for companies with CFC status and the Casablanca Finance City Authority will offer fast-track procedures for company creation and people fluidity (visas, residence permits and work contracts). They will also offer training programs and financial qualifications to provide investors with all the necessary skills to develop their businesses.
The CFC will welcome its first tenants in 2016.
Mfonobong Nsehe, Contributor
I chronicle Africa’s success stories and track its richest people
Sahara conflict: Open Letter to President Barack Obama
Monday 18 November 2013
Today the Moroccan people celebrate the 58th anniversary of the their country’s independence. But this independence is still not complete yet, as an the undisputable sovereignty of Morocco over an integral part of its territory is still subject to unfounded claims.
Thirty-eight years ago millions of Moroccans marched with their hearts and 350,000 Moroccans marched physically into Morocco’s southern provinces in the Sahara to reclaim Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory which remains contested to this day.
In recent colonial history, the Sahara was geo-politically misnamed Western Sahara for obvious colonial reasons. Yet, undeniably for centuries of rich traditions, the Sahara was linked to the Moroccan Kingdom through allegiance by its different tribes. “Allegiance” in Islamic cultures and societies was the equivalent of voting nowadays. This territorial unity changed in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies when colonial France and Spain divided amongst themselves the Moroccan Kingdom as they expanded in Africa.
When Morocco obtained its independence from France in 1956, the Sahara and other territories were still under Spanish control. Morocco’s official claim to the Sahara began before the UN started at the height of the colonial power’s physical withdrawal known as decolonization in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Morocco was the only stakeholder with respect to the sovereignty of the Sahara. Morocco was the only country that had brought this question to the consideration of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee. It was at the persistent and assertive insistence of Morocco that the UN body included the Sahara on the list of non-self-governing territories that needed to be freed from the yoke of colonialism.
It was not until 1973 that the Polisario — during the context of the cold war when Algeria and Libya’s Gaddafi and other non-aligned nations used the Sahara as a strategic geopolitical conflict zone – appeared on the scene, and claimed to be the sole and legitimate representative of the Saharawi population from a strictly political secessionist claim fueled by the cold war. An unnecessary war pitted Morocco against the secessionist Polisario from 1976 to 1991. In 991, the United Nations undertook to negotiate a solution to end this dispute.
Yet after a decade of unsuccessfully trying to organize a referendum in the Sahara, because the two parties could not agree over the eligibility of voters, the United Nations began calling on the sides to find a durable and mutually acceptable political solution.
Morocco presented an Autonomy Plan in April 2007, which was hailed by the United Nations Security Council as a “serious” and “credible” solution to end the conflict. Deeply entrenched in their cold war tradition to support the Polisario and undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity, countries such as Algeria, Cuba, South Africa and Nigeria persist in claiming that the only acceptable solution is through a referendum on self-determination.
Many experts, including the former UN Special Envoy for the Sahara, Peter Van Walsum concluded in recent years that a viable state cannot logically and possibly be established in the sparsely populated desert territory. Morocco has without a doubt assumed that responsibility for the region since 1975 and has invested billions of dollars in developing infrastructure and communities. There have been droughts and major natural calamities in the region, and the Moroccan Sahara has never been in the headlines for that matter. The structural transformation has been beneficial to the populations living in the region for the last thirty seven years. All one has to do is visit one of the Southern Provinces to see the result of Morocco’s efforts and investment.
Unfortunately, after several formal rounds of negotiations and nine informal rounds of talks since 2009, the UN approach to the conflict has seemingly reached its limits. This is due in part to the fact that the UN has focused only on full independence as the only way to achieve self-determination for the Sahrawi population while disregarding Morocco’s legitimate interests and other feasible ways to realize their autonomy, such as free association and [autonomy, which have proven the basis for resolving other disputes. The Moroccan autonomy plan, thus, is a compromise solution that can meet the claims of both sides – keeping the territory within the Moroccan state while also allowing for the population’s self-determination.
It is time for the UN to exercise due diligence and chart a new course for Morocco and the Sahara. We call for a real and positive involvement by the US.
One fallacy today for the international community’s approach to resolving this long-standing conflict is to treat it like many of the other former European colonies in Africa and Asia by establishing the newly independent countries on the basis of their arbitrary colonial borders. While this may have been convenient, especially where there was less history of previously defined nation-states, in geo-political terms Morocco has more to deal with than just a haphazard division that the colonial powers previously agreed upon. This issue needs urgent resolution, among other things, to avoid the region becoming a breeding ground for Al Qaida North Africa and putting Morocco on a collision course with international terrorism. The concept of territorial “independence” clearly does not apply in the case of the Sahara and Morocco.
As Moroccan-Americans, we call upon your trusted voice of wisdom and the power it commands to actively intervene on behalf of Morocco with the long held traditions of cooperation to end the stalled negotiations, so that Morocco can move forward with a resolution to this longstanding destabilizing issue. The importance of doing so has become even more apparent with the dangerous and destabilizing challenges facing the Maghreb and the Sahel, chief among which is the spread of criminal and terrorist activities by Al Qaida North Africa Network.
The challenges facing Mali must serve as wakeup call to world communities and world leaders that this region needs the attention and the commitment of the international leadership. The lack of state authority resulting from the longstanding dispute, and the miserable conditions of the approximate 80,000 people who live in almost total seclusion in the Tindouf camps in Algeria, becoming progressively infested with Al Qaida operatives, leaves the territory and population vulnerable to terrorist and criminal networks lurking in the region. In October 2011, three humanitarian aid workers were kidnapped at the Polisario run camps by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).
It is urgent to see the conflict end. The need is pressing for Morocco to find a solution to the conflict with the Polisario.
In this regard, the Moroccan community calls upon you to weigh in at the Security Council and push for an urgent and immediate adoption of an approach that takes into consideration Morocco’s vital national interest in the Sahara. However imperfect the Moroccan Autonomy Plan may be, it is in line with international law and the principles of self-determination. It constitutes a basis for reaching a final solution to the conflict, as it offers a middle ground between independence and centralized government.
Some argue that Morocco does not respect human rights. However, Morocco is a country that received high praise for being a democratic model in North Africa and the Middle East. Morocco is on a positive track, and is working toward a greater commitment to human rights, and will respect an autonomy arrangement for the Sahraouis.
With respect to the human rights record of the Polisario, Algeria and all other invisible geopolitical interests in the region, the Polisario still refuses to allow the UNHCR to conduct a census of the population in the Tindouf camps.
At this juncture, what the region of the Sahel and North Africa does not need is a failed and non-viable state that would eventually fall prey to criminal and terrorist organizations. What this region needs is the existence of states that are likely to preserve stability in the region.
On behalf of members of the Moroccan-American community, Moroccan residents in the US, and all Moroccans, we strongly urge that the United States play a positive and effective role in bringing this conflict to a conclusion in an equitable way that ensures Morocco’s national security and promotes stability in the region. Moroccans believe in your leadership to help facilitate this endeavor to a permanent solution the Sahara conflict.
A Monarch Visits Mali
A new president takes the helm in Mali today, and Moroccan king Muhammad VI is in the Malian capital Bamako as an honored guest, to congratulate him personally as well as lay out plans to build on a relationship the king has been nurturing. Ahead of his visit, civilian doctors and medical units of Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces have been dispatched to Bamako to set up a field hospital to boost the impoverished city’s limited medical capacity — and in the Moroccan capital Rabat, a new public discussion has been focused on how Moroccans can help Malians boost civil society, political participation, and sustainable economic development. (Here’s a video of the king’s arrival and reception.)
At a time of turmoil and terrorism in the African Sahel, the kingdom’s focus on Mali is hardly coincidental. Nor could the timing be less poignant: Earlier this week, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIM) — a group whose affiliates managed to occupy a portion of northern Mali the size of France last year — released a video calling for attacks on Moroccan civilian targets.
The king and his supporters are doing their part to fight terrorism in a distinctively Moroccan fashion. And at a time of great American reluctance to intervene in distant crises, it behooves the United States to learn more about the kingdom’s efforts and tap into them.
By way of context, since February 2005 the Moroccan king has visited more than ten countries below the Sahara, from Gambia and the Republic of Congo to Guinea and Niger, as part of a strategy to enhance Morocco’s role as a supporter of political, economic, and cultural development on the continent, as well as help broker regional security. The development efforts have yielded a new electrical infrastructure that powers 550 villages along the Senegal river and a new system for the manufacture and distribution drugs for malaria, diarrheal diseases, and cholera in Africa’s poorest countries. These official visits by the king have never been a matter of fanfare: They are always accompanied by no-nonsense delegations in the human development realm, as well as economic specialists, proponents of political reform — and, to be sure, senior security and intelligence personnel. This bouquet of human resources is arranged in accordance with a unique vision for fighting political violence: In public statements across the continent, the king has repeatedly stated that state-of-the-art military operations, intelligence work, and policing must be combined with anti-poverty measures, a cultural strategy to counter extremist trends, and political reforms that fight corruption and foster opportunity.
This approach, which has won the king credibility and a sizable following below the Sahara, is part and parcel of the hard-nosed counterterrorist stance that saw Morocco at the forefront of pressing the UN Security Council to authorize an African military force to intervene in Mali last year. And with the king’s meeting today with newly-sworn-in Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, these efforts come full circle: Keita’s contacts with the Moroccan political class run deep. To the Malians who voted him into office, he has committed to reforming the country’s governance, strengthening the rule of law, and fighting corruption — while also building an indigenous military capacity to eventually hold Mali’s borders without the need for foreign troops.
Keita has clearly signaled, both publicly in Mali and through protracted contact with Rabat, that he sees the Moroccan leadership as playing a mentoring role in his efforts. Most dramatically, he did so today in the course of his inaugural speech. With 26 heads of state in the audience, he began his talk by singling out the Moroccan king and his people for appreciation. He said that the Moroccan monarch is not just a head of state but also a symbol of tolerance. As “Amir al-Mu’mineen” — the country’s highest religious authority and an arbiter of Islamic teaching, he has provided a model for other multi-religious countries, the president said in substance. Mali, in which tension sometimes flares between Muslims and Christians, is well served by drawing lessons from the Moroccan model. Keita spoke a few words in Arabic — not the dominant language in his country — as a special gesture. In response, the king delivered a speech of his own, committing his country “to provide support to Malian development programs, particularly in terms of staff training, basic infrastructure, and health … to promote communal relations, promote trade and investment between our two countries, and in doing so, promote the use and transfer of skills and capital.”
Viewed from Rabat, this partnership is one of over a dozen alliances with strategically vital states below the Sahara that stand in need of support. Morocco occupies an important middle space between the advanced democracies of the West on the one hand and the developing world’s beleaguered transitioning states on the other. The king’s proactive decision to use this standing as a catalyst for change in Africa is a win-win-win — for Moroccan regional aspirations, the continent’s aspirations for growth, and global security concerns focused on the Sahel in particular, especially troubling to Western capitals.
As the United States grapples with a triage of crises calling urgently for American attention — from Damascus and Cairo to Mali and the broader Sahel — the question of the hour is how Washington can continue to advance reform, progress, and security in the developing world given limited resources and a waning public appetite for foreign intervention. The Moroccan example offers the beginnings of an answer: A pro-American kingdom offering inspiration and service to a war-ravaged continent can also be a bridge between that continent and the many Americans who care about its future.
Ahmed Charai is the publisher of L’Observateur du Maroc and other newspapers and the owner of Morocco’s largest private radio network Med radio. As an expert on Morocco and North Africa, he sits on the Board of Directors of The Atlantic Council of United States and the Board of Trustees of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He is also member of The National Interest’s Advisory Council.
King Mohammed VI sparks national conversation on education
Posted on August 27, 2013
“Why is it that so many of our young people cannot fulfill their legitimate professional, material, and social aspirations?”
This is the question that King Mohammed VI himself put forth to the nation in August 20 speech to the Moroccan people. The speech was given on the 60th anniversary of Morocco’s “Revolution of the King and the People,” in which the French Protectorate authorities deposed then-Sultan Mohamed V, an act that is viewed today as ultimately strengthening the nationalist independence movement.
The King skillfully compared the revolution against colonization to today’s revolution for human development and social and economic progress. He emphasized his personal commitment to strengthening education and touched on some of the achievements Morocco has made in education, including widespread expansion and high enrollment rates for both males and females.
However, the King also leveled direct criticism at the current system. The King pointed out that he himself is a graduate of the public school system and the Law School of Mohammed V University in Rabat, and yet, stated in no uncertain terms that he is “indeed sad to note that the state of education is worse now than it was twenty years ago.”
Among the King’s major critiques were a lack of coordination of the education system with the labor market, and the Arabization policy that has students learning in Arabic at primary and secondary levels and then switching to French in technical programs and in higher education. The King also addressed the huge costs many Moroccan families incur to send their students to private schools or abroad, viewing this rising trend of privatization as evidence that many Moroccans do not have faith in the public system.
And while the King lauded vocational and professionally oriented programs that helped graduates integrate into the labor market, he made a marked contrast to university programs that he called all but “factories” for producing unemployed graduates.
The King called upon educational institutions to take advantage of Moroccans natural propensity to cultural openness and linguistic aptitudes by training Moroccans for sectors that are in demand, such as call centers and the car industry. He also called for renewed focus on vocational training programs and called attention to that fact that despite Morocco’s unemployment crisis, many Europeans are actually migrating to Morocco now to work in trade fields, a reality that many Moroccans have found surprising to say the least.
One of the most important changes the King addressed was a call for continuity of reform. The King explained: “It hardly makes sense for each government to come with a new plan every five years, and disregard previous programs, particularly as no government will ever have the time, during a single mandate, to fully implement its project.”
The King’s criticisms seemed leveled specifically at the current government of Prime Minister Benkirane, although no names were mentioned directly, who he credited with dropping crucial elements of Morocco’s Emergency Education Program, including curricular reform at the primary level, the creation of high schools of excellence without consultation.
In fact, the King pointed out that his speech on the same occasion last year had laid out major reform initiatives, and yet a year has passed without government action. This time, he did not outline reform priorities yet again, preferring to take concrete action himself.
He directed the Higher Council for Education (HEC), in its current formation, to carry out an evaluation of the achievements of the National Charter for Education and Training ten years after its passage. Although the National Charter for Education and Training calls for an annual review of educational accomplishments and needs by the HEC, the HEC has been undergoing re-structuring for a number of years now, putting its work on hold. Rather than waiting for the current government to finish re-structuring, the King took action into his own hands by calling on the existent HEC to recommence its work and provide an assessment of the current state of education in the Kingdom.
The King’s tone was at once harsh and sincere in his concern. His criticisms, which come as Moroccans are preparing to return to school, have already launched a national conversation on education in Morocco. Whether real changes can actually be implemented, however, is yet to be seen.
Elizabeth Buckner, PhD Candidate in International and Comparative Education at Stanford School of Education.
The King’s Speech
Like so many people, The King’s Speech, the movie, moved me on many levels. It brought to reality the humanity of a distant figure, a man’s simple struggle to rise to the occasion, to stretch himself for his people. To do the right thing. Earlier this week, like so many others, I continued my search on Facebook and Twitter to stay abreast of all the momentous change raging across the Arab world, I stumbled across another King’s Speech that also moved me to tears.
Throughout North Africa and the Middle East, many people are rightfully demanding greater political freedom, economic opportunity, the rule of law, transparent government and reform in a rush to greater quality of life in a modern world. Many women are finally making their voices heard in the tumult of this new history and another King is listening to them. King Mohammed VI of Morocco began the challenge of moving his people and country forward since assuming the throne as a young man more than ten years ago. The changes announced by His Majesty this week are a further step in the right direction toward democracy and a better life for all Moroccans.
There is a balance to tradition and modernity than can be mirrored in tolerance and compassion. As we watch the region roil, we wonder why the ‘Mubaraks’ are blind to the needs of their people, how the ‘Ghadaffis’ can be so cruel. The speech of this King, who has already brought about positive change, including a new Family Law that protects women and children along with other reforms that put his people first. His speech outlined his pledge for ongoing democratic development through constitutional, judicial and political reforms. This is a moment of profound change in the region. His contrast to the other so-called leaders is breath-taking and provides a model for the world.
The King’s response to demonstrations was to set up a new body to defend human rights in a more direct and meaningful way. The new National Human Rights Council replaces an existing organization which had a more consultative role. The new Council will be made up of representatives of public authorities, non-government organizations, political parties and independents. The contrast to the on-going tragedy in Libya is more than significant. It is worthy of a Nobel Prize. We should be helpful in our support for this government and the people of Morocco. Here is a man and a government that is capable of both human rights and responsibilities.
As we consider the will of a young King to move forward the reforms he started ten years ago, his actions show his commitment to a continuation of reform in Morocco. As blood flows in the region because of intransigence and greed, a man who stretches a little taller to help his people, both male and female, move into the modern world deserves our thanks and respect. While Colin Firth’s King’s Speech won an Oscar and our hearts, this King’s speech shows us how a better world can really be — and we haven’t found an award for that yet.
Kathryn Cameron PorterFounder & President, Leadership Council for Human Rights
The Moroccan-Jewish experience and why I have hope for peace in the Middle East
Washington, June 25, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry has made it his personal mission to revive peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Yet many wonder: after so much loss and pain, can there ever be peace? Can Jews and Muslims ever coexist?
While no one knows for sure how the peace process will unfold, I have found hope in my heritage and the history of the country in which I was born, Morocco.
Jews have lived and prospered in Morocco for at least 2,000 years, and Morocco’s 2011 Constitution officially recognizes the Jewish influences that have “nourished and enriched” the national identity. During World War II, then-King Mohamed V defied the Vichy government’s request to enact anti-Jewish legislation, reportedly saying, “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccans.” More recently, King Mohamed VI has endorsed and supported the preservation and renovation of Jewish heritage sites in Morocco, as well as of Jewish burial sites in Cape Verde, where many Moroccan Jews settled in the 19th century.
These high-level examples of tolerance and respect are undoubtedly unique in the Arab world. But moreover, they are reflective of Moroccan culture as a whole, from the bottom up. I know because I’ve experienced it.
As a Jew growing up in Meknes, a city in the northern part of the country, I attended public school, studying alongside Muslim (and Christian) classmates. To this day I remain friends with many of them, and not once did I feel different from them in anything but our religion. Even then, our traditions were always welcoming, constantly overlapping. Jewish families would often invite their Muslim neighbors for the traditional Shabbat meal on Saturday afternoons, where we served “dafina”—a stew of meat, potatoes, eggs, chickpeas and grains seasoned with favorite Moroccan spices like turmeric and cumin. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, I remember that the mayor of Meknes and many government officials, including the chief of police, were invited to receive a special blessing from the rabbis.
My favorite example of these exchanges is Passover. According to Jewish law, households must get rid of all bread products before Passover. In Morocco, we would give these to our Muslim neighbors before the start of the holiday. For eight days, Jews could not eat at Muslims’ homes due to the dietary restrictions. But at the mimouna—the festival meal marking the end of Passover—they joined us for a true feast, bringing sweets as a symbol of hospitality and friendship. Of course we were invited to Muslim holiday celebrations, too. Their holidays were like open houses, where everyone was welcome.
Though I left Morocco decades ago, and life has taken me to France, to Switzerland and now to the United States, where I’ve built a business and raised a family, I travel to Morocco frequently to visit old friends and familiar places. Morocco remains an important part of my identity.
The documentary “Tinghir-Jerusalem: Echoes from the Mellah” captures my experience in many ways. The film recounts the memories of Jews and Muslims who once lived together in the Moroccan Berber village of Tinghir. As Muslim, Moroccan-born filmmaker Kamal Hachkar finds, the Muslims of Tinghir wonder to this day why their neighbors left them; and the Jews, now in Israel, look back fondly on their lives in Morocco, many still identifying themselves as Moroccans.
Recently, the Moroccan American Cultural Center screened the film here in D.C. as a salute to Jewish American Heritage Month. More than 100 people attended—Jews, Muslims, Berbers, Moroccans, Americans— eager to believe in the seemingly impossible. They watched in awe. They laughed when Aisha, a Jewish woman who had left Tinghir at a young age, remembered with nostalgia her time in Morocco, back when there were “no washing machines to give you headaches.” When the filmmaker said in a live Skype interview that what he found in making this film was the humanity that unites us all, they applauded.
Perhaps the audience understood that Morocco can serve as an example of coexistence between Muslims and Jews in the Arab world. I believe it does, and that there is hope for peace.
Sir Charles Dahan is vice president of the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry.
Morocco enacts migration reform
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 14/11/2013
Morocco on Monday (November 11th) announced plans to regularise the status of up to 40,000 illegal immigrants.
The scheme is part of a new Moroccan migration policy introduced in September to comply with international agreements.
Priority will be given to 850 immigrants considered asylum-seekers by the UNHCR who will benefit from legal residency rights automatically.
Six additional categories of foreign nationals are covered by the regularisation operation, which Morocco intends to run from January 1st to December 31st, 2014.
Foreign spouses of Moroccan citizens who can prove they have resided with their partners for at least two years, foreign couples who have lived together in Morocco consistently for at least four years and children from both of the above categories will benefit from the measure.
In addition, immigrants in possession of a valid work permit of at least two years’ duration, foreign nationals who can prove five years’ continuous residence in Morocco and other expats affected by a serious illness and on Moroccan soil prior to 31 December 2013 will also obtain legal residency rights.
A bureau will be set up in each prefecture and province across Morocco to receive and approve regularisation requests.
A national appeal committee will also be created, with the involvement of the National Human Rights Advisory Council (CNDH).
In a press conference on Monday, the Moroccan expatriates and migration affairs minister, Anis Birou, stressed that this was a bold approach to tackling the various problems of migration experienced by Morocco for years.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad pointed out that the special operation to regularise immigrants’ status was part of a “political decision” taken by Morocco.
“Morocco has made it very clear that it wants to deal with the problems of migration. Our country has between 25,000 and 40,000 illegal immigrants, most of whom have come from Sub-Saharan countries as well as from other countries around the world,” the interior minister noted.
In order for the action to take place, a new legal and institutional framework will be set up, with improvements to the legislation on migration, asylum and human trafficking.
It will follow a global, people-centred and human rights approach based on the terms of the constitution, explained inter-ministerial delegate for human rights El Mahjoub El Haiba.
Political analyst Hamid Chentoufi said the new migration strategy was like a double-edged sword: “On the one hand it is built on human rights, allowing thousands of immigrants to stay legally. But on the other, it will encourage an influx of other migrants. This will present huge security problems, especially at the borders.”
Immigrants were delighted at the news of the exceptional regularisation. Franck, a 28-year-old Ivorian national who has lived in Morocco for five years, has always aspired to legal status so that he could access a decent job.
“I’ve been working as a builder on the black market, even though I have a law degree. I live in constant fear of being arrested and deported to my home country,” he said.
“My main motivation was the dream of getting to Europe. But it’s difficult to achieve that, especially with Europe going through an economic crisis,” he noted. “For me, it’s good news that I can finally live legally in Morocco. At least I won’t be exploited economically.”
Moussa, 34, from Mali, shares his enthusiasm. Six years ago he fled his country to seek a better life in Europe. Morocco was only a staging point for him, but he was stuck there for years because it was not easy to get to the other side of the Mediterranean.
He was delighted to learn of the regularisation process, because finally he would be able to work legally.
“Up to now, I’ve been able to work as a car park attendant and a builder, but on the black market. We Sub-Saharan illegal immigrants are paid less than the Moroccans because of our situation. At last the economic exploitation will come to an end,” he told Magharebia.
Reiterates Commitment to Africa, Immigrants, Political Solution for Western Sahara
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ (MACP) — In a speech on the 38th anniversary of Morocco’s Green March, King Mohammed VI stressed Morocco’s commitments and achievements on human rights, noting the openness and freedom enjoyed by Moroccans in the Southern Provinces as well as in the north.
“Our aim is to see the Moroccan citizen properly honored, endowed with the attributes of full-fledged citizenship,” he said. “It is in this spirit that we have undertaken a series of profound reforms and major projects,” including the establishment of national institutions and regional bodies for the protection and promotion of human rights that are “known for their independence and credibility.” He also said that no country accepts being “subjected to behavior that is harmful to their security and stability, especially as violence, subversion and intimidation of citizens are incompatible with human rights, and the exercise of freedom can only be done in compliance with the law.”
King Mohammed VI rejected attempts by adversaries “to undermine Morocco’s reputation” and ignore its progress on freedom and human rights. He pledged to continue to work with human rights organizations and to reach an equitable political solution for Western Sahara with the UN and its Special Envoy, and international partners who recognize Morocco’s achievements.
The King vowed to build on those achievements and on Morocco’s investment in the Southern Provinces by adopting the new regional development model proposed by CESE for increased economic and political autonomy. This is “an integrated developmental vision, based on an objective analysis of the current situation in our Southern Provinces… to make them a space for integrated development, instrumental in providing a dignified life for the people of the region.”
King Mohammed VI reiterated Morocco’s commitment to helping other African countries achieve the same dignity and human rights progress through continued cooperation “and active solidarity with these countries and to contribute to the achievement of the expectations of their peoples who aspire to development and stability.” He also noted that Morocco’s commitment to human rights extends to African immigrants, through Morocco’s “new comprehensive policy on immigration and asylum issues, based on a humanitarian approach in line with our country’s international commitments and respectful of the rights of immigrants.”
The King stressed Morocco’s “sincere commitment” to promoting peace and the rule of law in Africa, most recently through its “support for our sister country Mali in its fight against extremist and terrorist groups.”
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Obama team: 24 nations back U.S. on Syria
David Jackson, September 9, 2013
The Obama administration says two dozen nations back its call for a “strong international response” to chemical weapons in Syria.
The White House reissued a joint statement Monday that nine other countries — plus the United States — had signed on to last week; the new list has an additional 15 nations and ranges from Albania to the United Kingdom. It also includes Germany, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st that claimed the lives of so many men, women and children,” the statement says. “The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime.”
Republic of Korea
United Arab Emirates
The joint statement in full:
“The international norm against the use of chemical weapons is longstanding and universal. The use of chemical weapons anywhere diminishes the security of people everywhere. Left unchallenged, it increases the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st that claimed the lives of so many men, women, and children. The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime.
“We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.
“Signatories have consistently supported a strong UN Security Council Resolution, given the Security Council’s responsibilities to lead the international response, but recognize that the Council remains paralyzed as it has been for two and a half years. The world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability. We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.
“We commit to supporting longer term international efforts, including through the United Nations, to address the enduring security challenge posed by Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Signatories have also called for the UN fact finding mission to present its results as soon as possible, and for the Security Council to act accordingly.
“We condemn in the strongest terms all human rights violations in Syria on all sides. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, more than 2 million people have become refugees, and approximately 5 million are internally displaced. Recognizing that Syria’s conflict has no military solution, we reaffirm our commitment to seek a peaceful political settlement through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique. We are committed to a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria.
“We have contributed generously to the latest United Nations (UN) and ICRC appeals for humanitarian assistance and will continue to provide support to address the growing humanitarian needs in Syria and their impact on regional countries. We welcome the contributions announced at the meeting of donor countries on the margins of the G20. We call upon all parties to allow humanitarian actors safe and unhindered access to those in need.
“European signatories will continue to engage in promoting a common European position.”
Golden Age of Morocco’s Jewish Community will never Die
Posted by Sabah Lebbar on February 26, 2013
A synagogue has been refurbished and inaugurated by a Head of a government. This is no news, if the event is taking place somewhere in Europe, the Americas or inside Israel. But when the synagogue is located inside the walls of the spiritual capital of an Islamic State, when it is dedicated, after having been rehabilitated, by the head of an Islamist party, and when the dedication ceremony is placed under the aegis of this country’s leader, the news is actually breaking, shattering, unprecedented.
This unprecedented event actually took place earlier this week in Morocco, precisely in Fes, when Abdelilah Benkirane, the head of the government and the head of the Party for Justice and Development (PJD) which is leading a governmental coalition in the North African country, made the trip to Fes to preside over the dedication ceremony of the “Slat Alfassiyine” synagogue, placed under the patronage of King Mohammed VI.
This important Jewish place of worship, dating back to the 17th century, has been renovated thanks to the support of various private individuals, including the late Simon Levy, the Toledanos, and the Berdugos, the Foundation for Moroccan Jewish Cultural Heritage, the Jewish community of Fez, and also thanks to donations by Germany.
The “Slat Alfassiyine” synagogue is one of several synagogues located in the Mellah, the Jewish district in the city, which have been closed for years but which have been or are being restored with private donations or with UNESCO funds.
The Slat Alfassiyine Snagogue is a landmark monument of Fez, which is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, and which also hosts Al Karaouine University, one of the oldest and largest spiritual and educational centers in the Muslim world that was founded in 859 by Fatima Al Fihria.
Many Synagogues in Fes, also considered as particularly representative of the Moroccan Judaism specific rite, date back to the golden era of the Jewish community in the city, an era that lasted for nearly three hundred years, starting in the 9th century when Idriss II welcomed large numbers of Jews chased from Andalusia.
At that time, Jewish religious schools in Fes attracted bright scholars, poets and theologians. The Jewish community, which was renowned by its skills in manufacturing gold thread, lace, embroidery as well as jewellery making, was playing a prominent role in the city’s cultural and commercial life. Their influence on Moroccans’ way of life and traditions is still perceptible up to date.
King Mohammed VI has actually lauded the richness and diversity of his country’s spiritual components.
In a message read out on his behalf during the dedication of the Slat Alfassiyine Synagogue, the king said the refurbishment of the worship place is clear-cut evidence to “the richness and diversity of Morocco’s spiritual components and heritage.” He added that “Moroccans are deeply imbued by the values of coexistence, tolerance and harmony between the various components of the nation.” He also called for the restoration of all Jewish temples in Morocco to make of them not only places of worship but also a space for dialogue and cultural revival of the founding values of the Moroccan civilization.
Depending on the dynasty ruling the kingdom of Morocco or on the king at the helm of power, the Jewish community lived hardships at some times and opulence and renaissance at others.
In 1791-92, as an instance, Moulay Yazid expelled the Jews from the city and sent them to a nearby countryside. The Slat al Fassiyine synagogue was transformed into a jail and a mosque was built in the Jewish district. Later on, when Moulay Slimane took over the power, he ordered the destruction of the mosque, because, he argued it was “built on injustice”. The Jews were allowed back, their synagogue was reopened and they were able to pray there for many many years, till 1972 when it was closed. The premises were then used as a rug-weaving workshop and later on as a boxing training center.
Then, in 2010, the late Simon Levy, initiator of the Casablanca-based “Museum of Moroccan Judaism”, unique of its kind in the whole Arab and Muslim World, who was then president of the Foundation for Moroccan Jewish Cultural Heritage, launched a call to help restore and safeguard the monument, symbol of the Fassi rite which is different, to some extent, from the Sepharad rite that was generally followed in the rest of the country. The Fassi rite is preserved in the Ahabat ha Qadmonim ritual, “Love of the elders”, which has crossed the centuries before being collected and printed in the 19th century.
Simon Levy’s call was heeded and funds were collected to cover the rehabilitation costs which amounted to over $150,000.
In the meantime, Simon Levy passed away, but his hope has been fulfilled and the Slat al Fassiyine synagogue has been safeguarded.
Another Jewish worship place in Fes, the Ibn Danan Synagogue, also dating back to the 17th century, was first restored in the 1870s. But the building could not stand the test of time. As the roofs collapsed and the infiltrated water damaged walls, plaster and wood, the place was closed. However thanks to the efforts of Moroccan authorities, the Jewish community of Fes, and the World Monuments Funds, the synagogue was refurbished and reopened in 1999.
The presence of Jews in Morocco dates back, according to historians, to the II century BC. Moroccan Jews have occupied and still occupy high positions in the administration.
During the first half of the past century, the Jewish Moroccan community was 250.000 strong. The numbers dwindled over the years but Morocco still counts the largest Jewish community in North Africa.
Each year, Moroccan Jewish expatriates come from around the world to celebrate their Saints buried in Ouezzane, Safi, Essaouira or Taroudant, in a festival called hiloula. Their Muslim countrymen usually join them to celebrate their shared traditions and memories.
U.S.-Morocco launch strategic dialog amid regional instability
Posted by Sabah Lebbar on September 14, 2012
The United States and Morocco have launched on Thursday in Washington the first round of a strategic dialog meant to boost longstanding relations between the two countries, at a time the region is at grips with insecurity.
This strategic dialog that is triggering a new phase in a centuries-old partnership covers political, economic and cultural cooperation as well as cooperation in security related matters.
The security dimension of the US-Moroccan strategic pact is all the more important as the dialog is taking place on the morrow of the attack on the US consulate in the Libyan eastern city of Benghazi in which four Americans including the ambassador were killed.
The assault on the consulate, initially believed to have been conducted by angry demonstrators protesting an anti-Islam Internet film made in America by an Israeli-American, might have been orchestrated, as underlined by some US officials, by groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda. The heavy weapons used to storm the diplomatic compound and the organization and seemingly good training of the assailants substantiate this hypothesis. As to the date of the assault, US officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether the attack was related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The destabilization threat looming on the whole Sahara-Sahel region, on North Africa and beyond is therefore reason enough to prompt the two countries to focus their cooperation on the security aspect so as to take up the challenge thrown at the region by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other groups affiliated to it. This is all the more so as Washington is fully aware that Morocco, which is bound by historical and civilizational ties to sub-Saharan Africa, is able to promote stability in this region and can be a major player in any conflict settlement.
Washington is also fully aware of the key role that Morocco can play in promoting the economic development of sub-Saharan and Sahel countries in the frame of a triangular cooperation and a multi-faceted strategy of struggle against extremism and destabilization attempts, which put at stake regional and global stability.
The decision to initiate this strategic dialog is also interpreted by some commentators as an additional sign of Washington’s support to the democratic reforms launched by the North African country during the past thirteen years and as a confirmation of its stabilizing role in a troubled region.
The strategic dialog is recognition not only of the historical and historic partnership between the two countries but also of the progress scored by Morocco on the path of democracy and the rule of law, according to observers.
The two countries’ decision to set up a new mechanism to enhance their political, economic, cultural and strategic cooperation is thus viewed as a timely decision that will serve geopolitics as well as the two parties’ interests.
The Strategic Dialogue, result of focused, comprehensive leadership and cooperation by King Mohammed VI of Morocco with three US Administrations, will undoubtedly strengthen Morocco-US relations and implement the two countries’ shared vision for the Middle East and North Africa.
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Morocco’s Vital Role in Northwest Africa’s Security and Development
BY J. PETER PHAM, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
NOVEMBER 12, 2013
In the Africa Center’s most recent issue brief, “Morocco’s Vital Role in Northwest Africa’s Security and Development,” Director J. Peter Pham outlines the country’s increasing reengagement with Africa and its emergence as a key political, security, and economic actor integral to the continent’s future. He argues that Morocco’s willingness to shoulder the challenges in the Maghreb and the Sahel makes it an important strategic partner for the United States.
The publication comes as the White House announced last week that President Barack Obama will host King Mohammed VI on November 22. According to the statement from the White House: “This visit will highlight the long-standing friendship between the United States and Morocco and strengthen our strategic partnership… This visit is also an opportunity to increase our cooperation on addressing regional challenges, including countering violent extremism, supporting democratic transitions, and promoting economic development in the Middle East and Africa.”
Morocco’s comprehensive approach to combating violent extremism and radicalism within its borders is a model for the region. Similarly, its political, economic, social, and justice sector reforms have enabled it to steer clear of the both the revolutionary tumult and violent repression that have beset some of the kingdom’s neighbors. In recent years, alongside widened regional and international security cooperation, Morocco has also become a very significant force for development in Africa, both with the continued expansion of its financial institutions across the continent and a push by other enterprises in broad range of sectors with significant growth prospects in the coming years, including agriculture, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.
The brief argues that the United States should adopt a “triangular” approach to regional security and development efforts, leveraging Morocco’s burgeoning regional geopolitical heft. The kingdom is a designated “major non-NATO ally” (the only country in Africa aside from Egypt to have that distinction).
The Atlantic Council’s Africa Center was established in 2009 with the mission to promote strong geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities towards strengthening economic growth and prosperity on the continent. The Center assists policymakers in addressing the complex security challenges facing Africa, including the problems of state collapse; humanitarian crises; piracy; the growing nexus between extremism and criminality in West Africa and the Sahel; the ongoing political transitions in North Africa; ongoing challenges in Central and Southern Africa; and the growing impact of Islamist extremism on African polities and economies.
Morocco’s African Future
By Haim Malka, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
OCT 30, 2013
Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly vital to Morocco’s future economic growth and security. Morocco has pursued a soft power strategy in Africa for over a decade, but regional and global dynamics create a new urgency for Morocco to diversify its economic ties, boost multilateral security cooperation, and play a more active diplomatic role. While Morocco enjoys some competitive advantage in sub-Saharan Africa, it faces several challenges to transforming its presence there. Diplomatically, it must diversify its ties with larger African economies and overcome constraints posed by the Western Sahara conflict. Economically, the challenge will be to restructure its nascent manufacturing base and diversify its products in order to meet growing African consumer demand. The United States can play a role in supporting Morocco’s engagement in Africa, which complements U.S. policy objectives in both Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.
Morocco After the Arab Uprisings: Evolution Rather than Revolution
Published October 22, 2013
By Krista Hendry and Dr. Ricardo René Larémont*
On September 27, 2013, The Fund for Peace hosted a Roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C. on the future of Morocco in the context of the Arab Spring. The Roundtable discussion, which sought to elicit policy recommendations, was led by Dr. Ricardo René Larémont of SUNY Binghampton. In leading the discussion, Dr. Larémont drew heavily upon his new book, Revolution, Revolt and Reform in North Africa: The Arab Spring and Beyond, that lends significant attention to Morocco. Participants were also provided Dr. Larémont’s discussion paper, Morocco After the Uprisings, which is included at the end of this report. Participants included a range of stakeholders with interest in Morocco including academics, think tank representatives, human rights and democracy NGOs, government representatives, companies, and consultants. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recent history of Morocco, findings from research done by Dr. Larémont, and consider how the U.S. could best support the evolution taking place in Morocco.
MY LAST OP-ED :
Morocco – strategic partner in new era of U.S. foreign policy?
“Morocco can boast several trump cards during this visit”
Banner Icon US & MIDDLE EAST If Obama wishes to mark a decisive turning point in a new foreign policy, he will have to choose his preferred strategic partners in the Arab world. The choice of King Mohammed VI of Morocco appears an obvious one, writes Nabil Ouchagour.
Is John Kerry incompetent? To glance upon the number of articles that criticize him, one may justifiably pose the question. Yet, upon analysis perhaps Kerry is an innocent in the unfortunate position of assuming Secretary of State at the dawn of a new political era.
“The Post-American World”, as the journalist Fareed Zakaria puts it, pushes Washington to launch a real transformation of its “global strategy”. According to the CNN and Time journalist, the United States must learn to share power, create coalitions and build legitimacy. The question arises: Can “The Post-American World” survive a new era in which the United States no longer dominates the global economy, orchestrates geopolitics and influences global culture?
The answer is obviously yes. Different think tanks are actively addressing balance sheets, imagining scenarios and forming recommendations. The influential “Atlantic Council” in September published a report to this end, the title of which says it all: ” US and EU: Lack of Strategic Vision, Frustrated Efforts Toward the Arab Transitions.” The research center underlined the reluctancy of Congress to dedicate a fund for countries in the region, and asked Obama to focus on the needs of Arab countries at a national level. The final recommendation of the report recommends adherence to trade agreements and the promotion of private investment while offering support for economic reform when possible.
“Morocco can boast several trump cards during this visit, due in large part to its position as the primary US interlocutor in the region.”
The report highlights the need for a new form of strategic approach as the best hope for the encouragement of democratic stability in the Arab Spring region. “The United States and the European Union cannot generate or ensure democratic transitions in the Arab transitioning countries; that is the task of their own leaders and citizens.” The underlying message is for the US department of state to intervene as little as possible. The paragraph concludes, however, by recommending the United States and the European Union to pay close attention to the progress of the Arab countries.
If there is one point to add to this report, that stays loyal to the overall theme, it would be, precisely, to compare the analysis issued from various Washington think tanks with the analysis of institutes and research centers local to the Arab region.
In this sense, Morocco is a prime example: An active and diverse civil society, where young people are becoming more and more visible in the political sphere and the most stable transition in the region bolstered by a number of research institutes and think tanks with international credibility. These are propitious omens for the upcoming visit of the Moroccan monarch Mohammed VI to the United States—an event that marks a shift in relations between the two countries.
Though it is the first meeting between President Obama and King Mohammed VI, there is a raft of topics to discuss: The strategic dialogue launched between the two countries for example, or the Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2006, and the Compact Millennium Challenge Account of approximately 700 million dollars.
Morocco can boast several trump cards during this visit, due in large part to its position as the primary US interlocutor in the region. The decision not to take up membership in the African Union pushed Morocco into using an anticipatory and pragmatic approach to its relations with other African countries, a strategy that, after many years, has made it an incontestable leader in the region.
In an article published recently in the Huffington Post, the director of the Brookings Doha Center demonstrated how King Mohammed VI, a graduate of the ‘Arab Leaders, Class of 1999’, is the regional leader who has best handled the transitory process of the “Arab Spring”. If Obama wishes to mark a decisive turning point in a new foreign policy, he will have to choose his preferred strategic partners in the region. The choice of King Mohammed VI appears to me an obvious one.
FRENCH VERSION :
As a Moroccan who has recently moved to USA, I feel a natural interest in the US-Moroccan relations in particular and US-MENA region in general. I will do my best to participate in the strengthening of these relations. It’s an engagement !