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Morocco Week in Review 
July 20, 2015

Moroccan-American relations seen through “The Magic Window”.
Friday 3 July 2015 - Mohamed Chtatou Rabat
Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Saudi and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East and Islam and teaching Community Based Learning and Amazigh ...

Today, 4th of July, the United States of America is celebrating, with much pride and joy, its Independence Day, Morocco, on the other hand, is celebrating over two centuries of uninterrupted good relations of friendship and beneficial exchange in total respect with his country. Morocco, at the heyday of its imperial might in Africa, recognized within hours the independence of the U.S. and extended its protection to the vessels of this country from the pirates of the Barbary Coast. Today, the U.S. considers Morocco not only as a friend but most importantly as an ally and an important political player in the unstable Arab World and a model for Islam in the Muslim World which is torn apart by radicalism and violence. Both countries have embarked lately in an earnest way on a fruitful strategic cooperation that will hopefully perpetuate understanding and goodwill between the two countries, in the centuries to come.

The agreement on the establishment of Peace Corps in Morocco was affected by exchange of diplomatic notes at Rabat dated February 8 and 9, 1963; entered into force February 9, 1963 and amended by exchange of notes signed at Rabat March 10, 1972 and entered into force March 10, 1972.

This agreement (1) stipulates that: “The Government of the United States will furnish Peace Corps Volunteers as may be requested by the Government of Morocco, upon arrival of the request, to perform in Morocco tasks mutually agreed upon by our two governments. The Volunteers will work under the immediate supervision of private or governmental organizations in Morocco designated by the two governments. The Government of the United States will provide training to enable the Volunteers to perform their tasks more effectively.”

Since the agreement between Morocco and the United States to begin Peace Corps activity in Morocco, about three thousand Volunteers have served there to undertake with its people the search for mutual understanding and peace and to work along with Moroccans to achieve economic and social development in the areas of education, agriculture/rural development/food, renewable energy, health, small business development, wildlife, social services, environmental education, etc.

Historical Background

As a result of a problem of piracy in the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco and the United States signed an agreement of friendship in 1776. This agreement is still in use today.

On this subject Luella J. Hall says: “While vainly soliciting European support, the United States had been neglecting opportunities to deal directly with Morocco. In what was virtually a recognition of the Independence of The United States, Sultan Sidi Mohammad III issued a declaration on February 20, 1778, notifying all consul and Christian merchants in Tangier, Salé, and Mogador that henceforth all vessels flying America’s flag might freely enter Moroccan ports. There they would be permitted to “ take refreshment, and enjoy in them the same privileges and immunities with those of the other nations with whom His Imperial Majesty maintains peace. ” (2)

This treaty was followed by an exchange of emissaries and the establishment in Tangier of An American diplomatic mission known as “The American Legation, that played a major role in strengthening the relations between the two countries. This Treaty which has gone over two centuries without being broken in spite of some political mishaps is considered as being the longest running treaty that the United States has ever had with any foreign country.

The exemplary understanding and friendship that exists today between the people of Morocco and the people of the United States is undoubtedly the result of unrelenting work on both sides of dedicated people who sought to reduce the cultural differences between the two nations and to build a bridge of peace and acceptance over the raging waves of the Atlantic.

Stereotypes

Yet, in spite of centuries of friendship, understanding and peace between Moroccans and Americans, the distance, cultural differences, ignorance of each other and lack of interest combined together have created the ideal environment for stereotyping, bearing in mind that such phenomenon results in a distorted image of reality.

To slip into a stereotype is an extremely easy step to undertake, but to slip out of one takes a bit of goodwill and willingness to acquire knowledge about the other and to get to know him better without bias and prejudice.

In this respect, Moroccans have, with time, cultivated the following stereotypes about Americans as the result of many factors such as the mass-media (radio, television and the cinema mainly) as well as travellers’ exaggerated accounts, etc.

The stereotypes in question are as follows:

Wealth: all Americans with no exception are rich. This idea has in recent years been consolidated by such popular TV series as “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” etc.

Violence: the streets of America are real battlefields where people get killed “like flies” (3) especially in such cities as New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

Beauty: all American women are beautiful, tall and have blond hair and blue eyes.

Selfishness: all Americans are self-centred and have no sense of sharing.

Family: Americans have no sense of family and no respect for old age.

As for the Americans, they harbour the following stereotypes about Moroccans:

Dress: all Moroccans wear robes, turbans, veils and layers of clothes.

Women: all Moroccans women are sensual, exotic, conservative, untouchable, vain and playful.

Men: Moroccan men are egotistical, macho, chauvinistic, exotic, ruthless and scheming.

Religion: Strict, restrictive and extremist.

Society: corrupt, conservative, backwards and reactionary.

Culture: tribal and old-fashioned.

Environment: People either live in Kasbahs or in tents in deserts among palm-trees and camels.

In addition, when the name of Morocco is mentioned, Americans associate it with the all-time great classic film “Casablanca”; starring Humphrey Bogart, and they all think that the hero’s hang-out, “Rick’s American Café”, actually exists. others associate Morocco with another film which is somewhat less popular than “Casablanca”; the film in question is the “Wind and the Lion” Which relates the story of a female American consul who was kidnapped by a local chieftain Raissuli in Tangier in the beginning of the 20th century during the election campaign of President T. Roosevelt and who asked for a ransom in order to free her. While waiting for the money to arrive he fell in love with her.

In reality what happened was that the kidnapped consul was not a woman but a man by the name of Perdicaris who was freed after payment of a ransom by the American Government to Raissuli. In spite of the settlement of the ransom-money President Roosevelt used the incident to give his election campaign, which was, hitherto, running out of steam, some impetus.(4)

In short the stereotypes exist on both sides and they generally are the result of sheer ignorance, lack of focus, exaggeration or gross lampoonery of events for the purpose of mockery and satire.

The Cultural Window
The Peace Corps Act, as established by Congress on September 21, 1961 , states that the broad purpose is to ” promote world peace and friendship” and that its three specific goals are:
1. To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained people;
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served; and
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The goals stated above are certainly great guidelines for the action of the Peace Corps; however, the question that people ask in connection with such an organization is to what extent it affects the lives of people it serves in cross-culture as well in development terms. Gerard T. Rice says in this respect:
The question most often asked about the Peace Corps is: where is the impact ? Because it brings no capital resources, and because it works with small groups of people at the village level, it has always had trouble answering the question. Also, because the Peace Corps has gone about its work quietly, relatively few Americans have been aware of its accomplishment overseas. The Peace Corps recipients however, have been all aware and appreciative. “They come and go” said Essedine Daoud of the Moroccan Press Service, and I think that this is good that no too much great publicity is given, because the best work is done – not in secret – but with discretion. We have a saying that you can achieve what you have set out to do if you don’t show it around, just do it. I think that the Peace Corps is doing just that.” (5)

Reasons for success in cultural interaction

To achieve good cultural interaction in a given environment, many people believe today that certain knowledge of the language is sufficient to that effect, experience has shown that they are wrong. Good cross-cultural communication is achieved only if verbal language is supplemented by non-verbal language which Edward T. Hall quite rightly calls the “silent language.”

“Of equal importance is an introduction to the non-verbal language which exists in every country of the world and among the various groups within each country. Most Americans are only dimly aware of this silent language even though they use it every day. They are not conscious of the elaborate patterning of behavior which prescribes our handling of time, our spatial relationships, our attitudes toward work, play, and learning. In addition to what we say with our verbal language we are constantly communicating our real feelings in our silent language – the language of behavior. Sometimes this is correctly interpreted by other nationalities, but more often it is not.”(6)

Peace Corps owes its success in cultural interaction to the fact that its trainees go through a very intensive training of ten to twelve weeks during which they are not only taught the language but also situations in which to use it, in addition to a very comprehensive cross-cultural course that covers different aspects of everyday life in the host country, as well as background information on history, geography, politics, economics and religion.

The importance of such training lies in the fact that it aspires to create an environment similar to that which the trainee/volunteer will have to live in real life, so by the time he leaves the training site he has enough information to allow him to function in the outside world in an active way, which would make his stay beneficial to him and most importantly to the community he is serving.

The Magic “Window“

The greatest asset of Peace Corps Volunteers is their ability to reach to classes of society that are not otherwise reached by foreigners working in the field of development. It is to be emphasized here that Volunteers not only reach to these people but also affect their lives in a positive manner.

Wherever Peace Corps Volunteers go to accomplish their service, people start immediately contrasting them with other foreigners who work in the area, i. e., the French “coopérants” in general. It is true the two do not compare because the “coopérants” live in nice quarters of the city with other foreigners or with the bourgeoisie whereas the Volunteers quite often live in popular neighbourhoods among the poor. ” Coopérants” draw very good salaries every month ; Volunteers are given a stipend to allow them to live like the people they serve.

“Coopérants” know nothing or very little about the focal language and culture ; Volunteers know both. But, in spite of all these differences Volunteers are remembered for years after they leave because they have succeeded in communicating with the people; they have succeeded in opening a “window” onto their world for the people who can’t afford the luxury of reading books, magazines and newspapers, watching foreign films or documentaries, conserving with foreigners in their languages, travelling and discovering other societies and cultures.

The story of the “Window“

The story I am about to narrate is real and unique. Its value lies in the fact that the message it carries is of importance to different categories of people: development workers, sociologists, anthropologists, culture specialists, etc.

It takes place in a small city by the name of Sefrou, with about hundred thousand people, situated at the foot of the Middle Atlas Mountains about thirty kilometres south of the city of Fes. The story happened in the early seventies of the last century, it involves a sixty-year old illiterate Berber man, who keeps a shop and a twenty-three-year old English teacher Volunteer who shopped there.

The old Berber man and the young Peace Corps Volunteer liked each other from the very first moment they met because, apparently, according to both of them, they did not speak Arabic as well as they would have wished, but in spite of this linguistic handicap, they communicated beautifully.

In the beginning, while the ice was not totally broken, their discussions centred on family, relatives and other insignificant issues. Both of them knew that this was not what they wanted to talk about but it was a necessary preliminary phase, a kind of warm-up for the real thing. Suddenly, one day, while they were sipping tea at the entrance to the shop, the old Berber man cleared his voice and said in a solemn way:

” Son, you know my wife died years ago and all my sons and daughters have married and left. If it were not for your friendship I would feel very lonely though I have family and relatives. The truth is I am not on the same wavelength with them as I am with you. I have a request. You know that I live in a house that has three rooms, and in each room there is a window. I am tired of looking through the same windows; I want you to open a new window for me.”

“why me ? I am not a mason”, said the Volunteer.

The old man went on, “you are a mason of a different kind. I want you to open a magic window on to your world for me.”

Immediately after the discussion, the young Volunteer set to work on the “window.” He wrote to his family informing them of what happened and asking them to send him slides, pictures, picture books and all items that were representative of American culture. Little by little the window was opened and the most extraordinary cross-cultural story started. In six months the old man was able to identify on the map the different regions of the United States in his own descriptive terms. He was also able to identify the major cities giving some information on their population, their monuments, their major industry or attraction, etc.

The old man did not keep the “window” for himself alone instead he shared it with other people. Indeed, he invited the young Volunteer to bring the “window” and go with him on a visit to his native village.

The visit was very important for both of them; for the Volunteer it was his first assignment to the bled (7) with people he had never met and as a result he was apprehensive: would he be a good cultural ambassador? Would he be able to communicate with the village people in spite of his limited language abilities? The old Berber man, on the other hand, had different worries: would the Volunteer like his village and his people? Would he be comfortable with them?

After various arrangements on both sides, when nothing was left to chance, the two men took a souk bus to the village where they were greeted with a great show of hospitality and friendship. In the evening, after a succulent dinner of mechoui, chicken tagine and couscous and the usual tea ceremony, the Volunteer brought out his picture books, slides and maps and both he and his friend, the old Berber man, starting giving explanations and information on various aspects of the US.

This introduction was followed by a slide show that was perceived by everyone as a great experience in cross-cultural communication and consequently the question-answer session that came after the show lasted until early in the morning and for weeks after the event “the window” was the subject of discussions.
Many Volunteers later, the old Berber man and his people in the village are among the most knowledgeable people on American culture, thanks to the “Magic Window”.

The instance of the “the Magic Window” is one of the examples that show how a Peace Corps Volunteer can be a window into his world, from which people can learn about his culture without constraints or inhibitions that result from cultural interactions. There are hundreds of ways Volunteers can be ambassadors of their culture. However it is difficult to quantify the achievements in the field of cultural exchange.

In the Arab world, Peace Corps has played a vanguard role in strengthening relations between the American people and the Arabs, in encouraging cultural exchanges, in improving the image of the US that is, at times, tarnished by political tensions. It is evident in this respect, that Arab Countries where Peace Corps is present have remained friendly to the US in spite of various diplomatic blunders on the part of the Americans, as well as unpopular political decisions and cultural faux-pas.

On the other hand, in some Arab Countries where Peace Corps is not present such development have led at times to all kinds of incidents that have had negative implications for bilateral relations.

North – South Dialogue

In recent years, The North – South dialogue has been the focal point of both developed and developing countries. It came about as the “Third World” was getting deeper into recession and economic crisis after a few years of growth and optimism following independence. But this dialogue was not immediately translated into beneficial development programs mainly because the agencies that were entrusted with carrying out the provisions of this undertaking were frustrated at a very early stage by all kinds of mishaps resulting mainly from poor cross-cultural exchange as well as poor planning.

In Morocco, right after independence the French took upon themselves to contribute to the development of the country they colonized for over forty years. A lot of people saw in the move an attempt to control the economy by attaching different strings to the package and the opposition denounced this as a neo-colonial scheme aimed at restricting the freedom of movement of the country.

The cooperation package consisted of sending scores of “coopérants” to work in the fields of education, health, agriculture, etc. The majority of these “coopérants” “did not come with the mentality of development workers but their presence in the country was an alternative to military service in their home country.

Most of the “coopérants “were snobbish, unfriendly in their attitude towards the native population, hardly ever spoke the language and avoided all cultural exchanges. After two decades of this scheme the French were even more unpopular among the Moroccans than before.

The peace Corps scheme on the other hand, in spite of unfounded allegations of spying, from the opposition in the beginning, soon became popular for the very same reasons that “coopérants ” were not: the Volunteers were friendly and open; spoke the language: learned the culture and participated in it ; lived in modest accommodations, and most of all ; shared their culture generously.

Moroccans always compared the French cooperation program with the American Peace Corps and always concluded that while the French act as a charitable society with an air of superiority the Americans were genuinely involved in development work.

Implications

As result of Peace Corps Volunteers success in attaining Goal 2, many Moroccans had their life changed one way or another:
– Many students specialized in American studies and have completed doctoral dissertations on the subject;
– Many students became English teachers in lycées or lecturers at the university;
– Many marriages between Moroccans and Americans took place;
– Many businesses were started both in America and in Morocco involving the people of the two countries;
– The people of Morocco and the people of the US are closer today than they ever have been in their two hundred years and more of friendship and cooperation.

Notes:
letter (N 504) addressed by the Ambassador of The United States in Morocco, John H. Ferguson to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, Ahmed Balafrej on February 8th 1963, in Treaties and Other International Acts. Series 7297 p. 4
Luella J. Hall, the United States and Morocco 1776 -1956, p. 47
This is a genuine statement made by a Moroccan, middle-aged, urban civil servant male who has never been to the United States but who is fond of American movies.
Charles André Julien, Le Maroc face aux Impérialismes, pp. 44-46.
Perdicaris was kidnapped in May 18, 1904 along with his son –in-law of British nationality. They were released after Raissuli received 70,000 US$ as a ransom and a promise to become regional governor.
Gerard T. Rice, Peace Corps in the 80’s, p. 29.
Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language, p. XIV-XV

References:
Chtatou, M. 1996. “Evaluation of Peace Corps Contributions to the Development of Morocco” in Proceeding of the Symposium on the Celebration of the Bicentenary of Moroccan American Relations Edino: Rabat.
Cooper, R. and Nonthapa. 1982. Culture Shock: Thailand. Times Books International : Singapore.
Hall, Edward T. 1959. The Silent Language. Anchor Books: New York.
Hall, Luella J. 1971. The United States and Morocco 1776-1956, The Scarecrow press: New Jersey.
Hollinger, C. 1956. Mai Pen Rai: Means Never Mind. Weatherhill Asia Book: Bangkok.
Julien, C-A. 1778. Le Maroc face aux Impérialismes, Editions J. A : Paris.
Rice, T. G. 1986. Peace Corps in the 80 ‘s. Peace Corps: Washington D.C.
Williams, R. 1981. Culture. Fontana: Glasgow
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Humanitarian wins award at home and abroad
Kelcy Dolan

“It is a way I am able to serve my community while being abroad,” Justin Bibee, a former Cranston resident currently serving in the Peace Corps, said in an email. “I want to inspire my fellow Rhode Islanders in a meaningful way. When we expose our work – and our thinking – we learn together, we enrich and inspire others, and that is my hope for the people of Rhode Island.”

A few months ago Bibee was making headlines and now he is creating waves of reform throughout not only Morocco but in Pakistan and in the United States.
Bibee, who graduated from Cranston High School East, joined the Peace Corps in 2014 and traveled to Morocco. He is currently living in Morocco working as a youth development volunteer.

Bibee received a citation from Cranston Mayor Allan Fung for “outstanding citizenship” and has been nominated for the “Leader of the Year Award” from Morocco’s most prestigious university, Al Akhawayn University. Bibee is the first non-Moroccan nominee in the history of the award for his various efforts to the improvement of the country. He has built libraries there, started the People’s Advocate Council, which works through community development projects to raise awareness for human rights and continued efforts to reducing poverty, homelessness and promoting education.

Because the award is coming from the same community Bibee has worked so hard to serve, he said the nomination was that much more meaningful.

A school, the Sabawoon Education Academy in Pakistan, which Bibee helped to build, also just opened in early April. He and his team took only 11 months to construct the school and now 13 students are enrolled “with more enrolling every week.” The school is located in the “birthplace of the Taliban,” and one of the focuses of the school’s curriculum is religious harmony “It is our hope that will prepare a generation that believes in religious harmony, peace and equality,” Bibee wrote. “The opening of the school is paramount in contributing toward greater peace both domestically and internationally.”

Bibee continues to work through the Peace Corps and on his own to improve the rights of citizens in those area he works and across the globe. Since the opening of the school and the nomination, Bibee has been working on several projects, the first to establish the 1st Annual Moroccan-American Bilateral Forum on Peace and Development. The forum should act as a platform for both parties to discuss community initiatives to foster peace and development.

Secondly, Bibee is looking to establish Biennial Development Goals, as a “pledge of all the communities in the Gharb region of Morocco to fight the major manifestations of inadequate education, extreme poverty, and human rights violations.” Some of the goals include combating HIV/AIDS, promoting female education and empowerment, and advocating for animal rights.

Bibee said that more often than not, we have the power, ability and “know-how” to address many of the concerns within a particular community, but with a “lack of leadership” these concerns can never be solved.“I have been told by Moroccans – and Americans – that it is not my place to argue the case for human rights in Morocco,” Bibee said, “I wholeheartedly disagree. It is absolutely my place and my responsibility. We are all responsible for advocating human rights to ensure their universal recognition.”

In the same manner, Bibee is working on “reforming the Peace Corps Act” by increasing the focus on human rights by creating a Human Rights Committee within the Peace Corps looking at rights and the lack thereof in some countries is the biggest obstacle to peace. Bibee has also started and has been running the Global Human Rights Project, which has 190 members in 70 countries. The project will establish a network of regional leaders to establish “global solidarity” by collaborating on global awareness and project initiatives concerning human rights. Bibee explained that the greatest motivating factor for him is seeing those he helps smile. Bibee said, “My efforts may not change the whole world, but it can change their world.”
http://warwickonline.com/stories/Humanitarian-wins-award-at-home-and-abroad,103683?category_id=4&content_class=1&town_id=1&sub_type=stories
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SWISS EMBASSY OFFSETS CARBON FOOTPRINT BY PLANTING TREES, SUPPORTING LOCAL EDUCATION AND ECONOMIES IN RURAL MOROCCO
MARRAKESH

The Swiss Embassy in Rabat is offsetting its carbon emissions by supporting Sami’s Project, an initiative from the High Atlas Foundation that is dedicated to increasing the quality of education in rural Morocco. The Embassy’s donation of 46,800 MAD implemented through the High Atlas Foundation and part of a greater effort by the Embassy to counter its employees CO2 transportation emissions, allows 44 primary and secondary schools in rural Morocco, to plant 10,280 fruit trees and herbal and medicinal plants including among others olive, walnut, almond, pomegranate, fig, citrus and argon trees and herbal and medicinal plants such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  
 
The plants and trees will support environmental education efforts with the over 8,620 students (3,661 girls and 4,959 boys), as well as generate revenue for the students and their farming families from the harvest. This project also increases green education in schools by supporting the environmental education efforts at the Pedagogical Center of Environmental Education in Smimou.
 
Speaking about tree nurseries at schools, High Atlas Foundation Program Manager Abderrahim Ouarghidi pointed to the importance of environmental education to student enrichment. “That nursery is going to be not only for generating income for rural families, but it’s going to be a fun and interesting opportunity for the kids to learn stuff about how they can build a nursery, and how they can organically maintain trees that greatly enhance their lives,” said Ouarghidi.
 
Ultimately, the project will encourage sustainable partnerships between schools and farming families to promote synthesis of new agricultural development projects in Essaouira and throughout Morocco. “We’re seeking to be close to the community,” said Ouarghidi. “We’re seeking to be participatory, because (local counterparts) know that they can participate. They know that we’re giving them the chance and a place to express themselves, to make their own decisions, then realize their projects.”
 
Project partners include the High Atlas Foundation, local associations, Provincial Direction of Agriculture, Provincial Delegation of the Minister of National Education, the Agency of Forestry, directions and teachers of schools, involved municipalities and parents’ associations.
 
The Embassy’s support is part of a greater effort by the Swiss Embassy’s Direction of Development and Cooperation to cut CO2 emissions released by employees’ transportation.
 
The High Atlas Foundation, established in 2000, is a Moroccan-US non-governmental organization committed to assisting local Moroccan communities in the identification and implementation of development projects through participatory planning. Founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers, the High Atlas Foundation currently facilitates projects including organic farming, clean drinking water, irrigation, women’s cooperatives, youth and education development, participatory training, and political empowerment.

See photos of the initiatives at https://www.flickr.com/photos/highatlasfoundation/sets/72157651395026676
https://www.flickr.com/photos/highatlasfoundation/sets/72157651643607295h
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Morocco launches toll-free number against corruption  
June 20, 2015

http://en.starafrica.com/news/morocco-launches-toll-free-number-against-corruption.html
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MOROCCO LAUNCHING ECO-TOURISM INITIATIVES
22.06.2015

Focus on eco-tourism is the main objective for Morocco outlined in the Vision 2020 strategic document.

Morocco is part of the “Thousand Gardens of Africa,” a project launched by Slow Food to create a totally ecological and eco-sustainable agricultural model through a direct involvement of local communities. Amongst the new eco-sustainable resorts is Taghazout Bay, a new high level destination in the Atlantic Ocean, with a total surface of 615 hectares, 7 four-and-five-star hotels, one holiday village, villas and apartments, one surf village, one golf court, malls and one argan cooperative. Other projects deal with the urban development of both Essaouira and Mogador, to create new jobs for their inhabitants.
Vision 2020 is the programmatic document providing many investments in the tourist sector. Its goal is to enhance and preserve the historical heritage and the environment, in order to position Morocco among the top 20 tourist destinations of the world.

Investments in tourism in 2014 reached 1.6 billion Euros, amongst which 221 million went for rural and natural tourism, which will bring about 25,000 new jobs. “Tourism in Morocco is 7.5% of our GDP,” says Jazia Santissi, Director of the National Tourist Board, “with an annual sale of 5.3 billion Euros, more than half a million jobs, 10.3 million foreign arrivals and a total 20 million presences.

With 250,000 arrivals (+7% compared to 2013) and +10% presences, Italy is ranked fifth in this strategic market, after France, Spain, Belgium and Germany. The goal for 2015 is to reach 12 million international arrivals. The Board is working on a series of developments, including an app and some special projects such as "Marrakchef Express" and "Donnavventura".
Read more at http://www.tourism-review.com/morocco-focuses-on-eco-tourism-news4611#jOB4h7QMFuYH5e0c.99
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Is Morocco edging towards a culture war?
Abderrahim Chalfaouat Monday, 22 June 2015 09:37

Even though the current Islamist-led government includes parties from across the political-ideological spectrum, Morocco has witnessed an unprecedented "assault" recently on its religious values and social cohesion, triggering reactions from public policies and social activism. Politically, for example, hot debates have surrounded the abortion law. The rift ended with royal mediation, though it is expected to continue in social, political and cultural venues. A series of events then took place which suggest mounting tension over social values, the rule of law and the ability of public policies to maintain cultural stability.

Most of these events have shifted social struggle towards the domains of media and culture. Immediately after the cancellation of the proposed visit to Marrakech by Shimon Peres in early May, clips from a drama film about prostitution in Marrakech, Much Loved, were leaked. The film director, known for his advertising expertise and sensitive movies that aim to shock public opinion, asked commentators not to judge the movie upon the leaked clips. Surprisingly, he did not denounce the leaks themselves. In fact, the clips were among the most shocking in the whole movie. The choice of which clips to leak was far from arbitrary or accidental. Consequently, and following a social uproar, the movie was banned in Morocco for its sensual content and for degrading the dignity of women. The director and main actress are also being sued for pornography, copyright law infringement and child abuse.

Soon after, Jennifer Lopez performed in skimpy outfits at the annual Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival. The concert aired on Moroccan TV, leading to another uproar on social media and in the streets. The backlash urged the head of the government to send a letter to media authorities to uphold the law. An education group has also filed a lawsuit against the nudity-suggesting performance.

Meanwhile, two Femen protestors filmed themselves kissing while topless in front of Hassan Tower in Rabat. The visit of the two French activists known for their nudity seemed to be de-contextualised to most Moroccan activists and commentators, though both claimed to be supporting gay rights. It was understood, possibly mistakenly, as an attention-shifter from the other attacks on Morocco's social fabric.

On the next day, a band used a rainbow-decorated guitar at another Mawazine concert, with pro-gay signs protesting against the forthcoming Moroccan penal code. Placebo bassist Stefan Olsdal wrote a crossed "489" on his naked chest, in defiance of Article 489 in the proposed penal code that criminalises homosexuality.

These orchestrated gestures managed to shift public focus partially towards identity politics. Yet, the law-violating actors expected violent reactions that would have diverted attention from sustaining the nascent and fragile democratic experience towards fighting extremism and terrorism. So far, no violent reactions have taken place. When a group called "We Won't Fast", which seeks the right to eat in public during the day during Ramadan, shared a photo of one of its members drinking water, with Hassan Tower in the background, it claimed that it was shot in the capital one day in the fasting month; there was no proof that it was legitimate. Most of the group's activism this year has been on social media. A news item that the water-drinking activist was attacked proved baseless.

One explanation for these sequential events is that political conflicts get harsher in an election year. The week when identity-belittlement events peaked also witnessed trade union elections. Many observers linked the two, in an attempt to reshuffle the socio-political scenery upon the ideological conservative-leftist dimensions. The government experience clearly demonstrates that ideologically-different parties can cooperate on national agendas. The same holds true for unions and civil society groups. Instead of deepening social rifts, only the solidifying of democracy, reinforcing the rule of law and respecting political institutions will generate more care for the public interest and guarantee mutual respect.

Another possible link is a between the recent events and the cancellation of the former Israeli President Peres's visit to Morocco in early May. Activists understood that Israel would react to the cancellation, especially through its proxies inside Morocco, although they also expected foreign pressure to manifest itself otherwise, and tried to find links between the Femen protests and Israel. The Tunisian Femen protester Amina Sboui left the group following accusations against it of Islamophobia and lack of funding transparency; she feared that topless protests were funded by Israel. It seems that US billionaire George Soros stopped funding Femen when it decided to launch a branch in Israel, suggesting that he had backed topless protests when they were expected in some way to benefit Israel.

In dealing with these provocations, Moroccan civil society and public policies have demonstrated considerable maturity. It is understood that the problem in Morocco today is not the divide between public policies and identity politics, but rather the prospects for fighting corruption and despotism. The current government is an outcome of the freest public expression via the ballot box in modern Morocco, but public expectations are too high in terms of mitigating corruption and despotism rather than identity politics. Civil society and grassroots movements are aware that the 2011 constitution allows them to partake in decision-making. For them, instead of rash reactions, defending identity is better maintained via the rule of law and tolerance of ideological diversity as far as this does not seriously jeopardise social cohesion. Violence would only serve corruption and despotism, which are the really serious threat to the present and future of Morocco.
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/19360-is-morocco-edging-towards-a-culture-war
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Moroccan town’s disabled kids deprived of support centre.

Around 60 disabled children in the Moroccan city of Jerada have been prevented from going to their only local support centre for the past two weeks, after a dispute broke out between the centre’s managers. The incident has shed light on the fragile network of support available for disabled minors in the kingdom.

The centre for disabled people in the city of Jerada, in eastern Morocco, provides three classes for adults and two for children under the age of 16. But at the beginning of June, Jerada’s delegate for National Mutual Aid [Editor’s note: The body is linked to the country’s Ministry for Family and Social Development] ordered both children’s classes to be cancelled, on the grounds of a dispute with the teacher who runs them. Before the parents had even been notified, the classes were cancelled.

According to one mother, “we went there at around 8:30am like we do every day. And we were surprised to see that the locks had been changed. The director just told us that the teacher no longer had the right to give classes here.”

The families decided to head on foot to Oujda – a town around sixty kilometres away - to protest against the classes' cancellation. But on the way there they were stopped by police who ordered them to turn back. So the outraged families held a sit-in in front of the centre. Then a few days later, they headed back to Oujda to try to bring their plight to the attention of the National Mutual Aid’s regional office. But the protest didn't meet with any success.

According to the families that FRANCE 24 has contacted, there have been no classes for the past two weeks. Some parents whose children have been taught by the teacher, Fatima Boumansour, for several years said they would not return to the support centre if she is prevented from teaching.
Rabia, whose daughter has Down's Syndrome, is one of those parents.
This teacher has looked after my daughter since 2003. She was three years old when I started taking her to the teacher’s house. At the time, she looked after the children at her home because there was no centre for them yet. My daughter is now a teenager. She became really close to her, which is normal after so many years. That’s why I think it’s so wrong that they threw her out the door overnight, without even considering the children’s needs.

FRANCE 24 contacted Othmani al-Arbi, the regional coordinator for National Mutual Aid in Oujda, who oversees the centre:

“The teacher doesn’t get on with Jerada’s National Mutual Aid representative. These things happen. He decided to dismiss her and that’s his right, all the more given that she doesn’t have a contract with the centre. The children will still be able to take classes. But first management needs to bring in new teachers.”
Contributors

"I haven’t got anywhere to take her"

In any case, the dispute has laid bare the inadequacy of facilities for people with disabilities, as Fatima – the older sister of a girl with Down’s Syndrome – explains: This centre is the only support centre that exists in Jerada. It’s been horrible since it was closed, because I already look after my dad who has diabetes and now I have to look after my sister. It’s not very pleasant because she has to stay shut in the house all day. On top of that, there are no services for disabled children in normal schools. As a result, I haven’t got anywhere to take her.

My family doesn’t even receive any allowance from the government to help with her condition. Only a few local NGOs help us, by giving us clothes, food and toys. For several years we’ve been asking the authorities to provide us with a bus specially adapted to transport handicapped children to the support centre. The authorities have promised us on several occasions that they would give us one. But we’re still waiting. I had to take the bus four times throughout the day to accompany my little sister, one round trip in the morning, and another in the evening. That takes up half the day.

The last investigation into the living conditions of people with disabilities in Morocco and their education was carried out in 2004. UNICEF bemoaned a “lack of up-to-date, precise data on the education of disabled children” in a recent press release. The UN agency added that an “analysis of the current situation must serve as the basis of a strategy that will be developed to assure these children’s right to a decent education".

According to the investigation carried out in 2004, two out of three disabled children don’t go to school. It reported that while 96% of non-disabled children receive an education, that figure slumps to a dismal 32.4% for children with disabilities.
http://observers.france24.com/content/20150622-morocco-disabled-children-classes-jerada
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The economic revival of the Arabs starts in a small Moroccan border town
Faisal Al Yafai June 22, 2015

Barely a few hundred metres separate the beach in the Algerian town of Marsa Ben Mhidi from the corniche in the next door Moroccan town of Saida. But that distance is a chasm, for the border has been closed for 21 years. The sea, of course, recognises no such arbitrary border. The coast from Morocco sweeps east in a continuous curve into Algeria. Swim out just a little way from the Marsa Ben Mhidi coast and the strutting young men of Morocco are visible.

The border between the two has been shut since 1994. It is the longest closed border in the Middle East. If and when an Arab economic revival comes, it will have to start in the sleepy border towns of Morocco and Algeria.

The economies of the Arab world face a difficult moment. The aftermath of the Arab Spring in the eastern Mediterranean and the legacy of the invasion of Iraq have created a perfect storm of chaos that threatens the most successful and stable region of the Middle East.

But even beyond the security threat, even before the Arab Spring, the economies of the Arab world were not sufficiently integrated. Protectionism, closed borders and the difficulty of people moving have created barriers to trade in a region that practically invented modern international commerce.
Many of the current woes of the region have sprung from, and can be fixed by, policies and economics. But to do that, the Arabs must rediscover what first made them rich: free trade and free movement.

Arab businessmen like to point out that Ibn Battuta would, today, have immense difficulty journeying from Morocco across North Africa.

Opening up the borders of the region to people and lowering the tariffs that stifle trade would be a welcome first step in recreating a genuinely open, borderless Arab market – indeed, it is an essential step. And the test case for that is Morocco and Algeria.

Morocco and Algeria are the two largest countries in the Maghreb (all of North Africa except Egypt). Yet they barely trade with one another – the total amount hovers around US$1bn (Dh3.6bn).

Nor do they really trade with their neighbours. A report from the African Development Bank a few years ago estimated that only 5 per cent of Morocco's trade was with its neighbours. In Tunisia, the number was even worse, just 3 per cent – a smaller number but, considering that Libya and Algeria border Tunisia, a vast missed opportunity. The stifling of trade between the two biggest countries is symptomatic of a wider stifling of intra-Arab business.

True, there has been some positive movement. In 2013, the Arab Maghreb Union announced the creation of a new investment bank to finance infrastructure projects. But the US$100m pledged, while welcome, is tiny – the combined GDP of the AMU is over half a trillion dollars. Infrastructure financing should be in the order of several percentage points of GDP.

In place of trade comes smuggling. Goods (often subsidised) are cheaper in Algeria than in Morocco, and the smugglers all along the border do relentless trade.
But it is the knowledge that cannot be smuggled. Moroccans have benefited from their proximity to Europe and from the large expatriate population in the Gulf states. Taken together, it has given Moroccans expertise in business that their Algerian counterparts, long closed to the world, cannot match. Opening the borders would allow a genuine cross-pollination of ideas, benefiting both countries.

What happens between Morocco and Algeria would occur, on a greater scale, if borders were opened across the region. Those countries with large populations, such as Egypt and Yemen, would soon fill labour shortages in regions like the Gulf. Goods that arrived in Basra, in Iraq, could easily make their way across the Levant to Aqaba on the Red Sea or Latakia on the Mediterranean. (It is an oft-quoted, and broadly true, statement that it is more expensive to move goods between two Arab ports than between the Middle East and Europe.)

Free movement must be accompanied by free trade. The business environment across the Arab world is dire.

A few years ago, a paper published by the University of Oxford estimated it would cost 20 times the average income to start a business in Syria and Yemen – two countries where, for different reasons, the state has comprehensively failed. No wonder, then, that so few new companies are created outside of the cities of the Gulf.

Unable to move easily between countries, stifled in creating businesses and hamstrung by red tape, it is hardly surprising that the creative talent of the Arabs has not been adequately developed. And it is doubly a shame because the greatest benefits to the economies of the Arab world don't need to come from trade with the outside world, but from trade between Arab countries.

Morocco and Algeria are perfect examples of this failure: both trade more with European countries than with each other. Beyond security, so much of the reasons for economic stagnation are political. The Arabs could start trading with each other again. The only thing stopping them is themselves.

http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/the-economic-revival-of-the-arabs-starts-in-a-small-moroccan-border-town#full
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Casablanca: True colors of Arabia

Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city; it is a cosmopolitan Atlantic port, an alluring blend of traditions and modernity. The city celebrates its Roman roots and midcentury elegance with contemporary touches, including a sleek tram system across its center.

In the oldest part of town, wanderers can buy fresh fruit and vegetables off wheeled carts, drink Moroccan tea outside the mosque and engage with the gregarious locals. In the other part of the city, you can dine in high-end restaurants, stay at luxurious hotels and indulge in a luxury shopping spree at Galeries Lafayette, watch a 3-D movie or peer into a three-story aquarium.

Casablanca, Spanish for white house, is the business hub of Morocco. Leading local Moroccan companies and international corporations doing business there have their headquarters and main industrial facilities there. Recent industrial statistics show Casablanca retains its historical position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Casablanca port is one of the largest artificial ports in the world and the largest port of North Africa. The port is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.

People from around the world visit this city searching for the real essence of Arabia where the food is internationally celebrated, the architecture is inspiring, and the culture is a reflection of a true Arab culture…………..
Read the rest here: http://www.arabnews.com/news/766521
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The Naked Truth About Moroccan Baths.
By Meagen Collins

Morocco would be one of the last countries where I’d have expected to end up in a room full of almost naked women. Nudity or toplessness is the norm in a Moroccan hammam, and little foreign me would have to embrace it.
It’s not really a done thing in Western cultures, bathing with others in a state of undress. Sure, when I was a kid my mum would throw my younger brother and me in the tub and create an endless amount of embarrassing photos that would magically reappear on our 21st birthdays. But since then, bathing has been my own private alone time.
Not so in Morocco………..
Read it here: https://www.yahoo.com/travel/the-naked-truth-about-moroccan-baths-122451915632.html
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The Crucial Role of Agriculture in Morocco's Future
By Jean R. Abinader

At MAC, we recently had the opportunity to speak with about 30 American high school students on their way to study in Morocco for six weeks. One of the topics that generated a lot of discussion is how the economy is going to generate the number of jobs needed for the large number of young people entering the market every year. One of the answers they didn't expect was to invest more in the agricultural sector.

Although much has been written about the unemployment rate among university graduates and the high numbers of Moroccans who do not finish secondary school, the statistics are even more dire when one looks at rural areas. Until farm families are able to increase productivity and become more profitable, educating children beyond the mandatory primary school level is a luxury. The challenge is great: more than 95 percent of youth now have access to primary school education, but "less than 15 percent of first grade students are likely to graduate from high school," according to USAID.

Much of the educational gap can be attributed to the difficult economic conditions in rural and overcrowded urban areas - communities that do not have a sufficiently strong local economy to sustain jobs for parents and young people that allow for savings and re-investment in household goods, services, and education. Another issue in rural areas is the cultural constraint that favors males over females in terms of access to education and advancement.
King Mohammed VI outlined these challenges in a keynote speech in August 2013, when he "emphasized the role of education as a leverage for social and economic inclusion and outlined the goals still to be done and the resources to be mobilized to achieve them," according to the World Bank. He called on the government, private sector, NGO community, and international donors to support Morocco's drive for educational reform, which is a key ingredient for economic progress.

But educational reform will not play a major role in rural areas until the agricultural sector is more efficient and profitable. That sector's success is a national priority because it is a major force in the economy. Depending on the annual rainfall, farming can make up more than 15 percent of GDP while employing upwards of 40 percent of the labor force. In order to improve the agricultural sector's performance, the government launched Plan Maroc Vert (PMV), or Green Morocco Plan, in 2008, to support both small and large farms in becoming more efficient and market oriented. The PMV's goal is to increase agricultural production and diversity, and reduce rural poverty and rural-urban inequality. Reducing poverty will enable more rural youth to pursue education beyond the primary level.

Earlier this year, Hafez Ghanem, senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution, authored a working paper "Agriculture and Rural Development for Inclusive Growth and Food Security in Morocco." In it, he argues that supporting small family farmers "needs to be complemented by the introduction of new social safety net programs based on cash transfers, and by building new inclusive economic institutions that represent small farmers and ensure that they have a voice in the policymaking process."

This is no small task under any conditions so why should supporting small farmers become a national priority? First of all, the sheer numbers, as there are more rural workers than urban. If farms cannot sustain families, more unskilled workers will go into urban areas that do not have the services to support them. "Rural poverty in Morocco is about three times higher than urban poverty, and the majority of rural poor depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood," the paper noted.

In addition, food security for all Moroccans is directly related to the health of the agricultural sector. Morocco imports three times the world average of imported cereals and "spends about 20 percent of its export revenues on food imports, which is about four times higher than the world average." With a stronger and more diversified and efficient agricultural sector, Morocco would be less dependent on high-cost imports and have greater control over food security for its growing population.

Family farming is a core concern of the PMV, since "The vast majority of agriculture in Morocco is under family farming," nearly 70 percent of the farms are less than 5 hectares, and large modern farm earns about nine times more than the average family farm. What is important about PMV is that it "tries to balance the desire to develop modern agriculture with the need to support family farmers," an essential outcome to promote rural employment, add value to the agricultural job market, and provide incomes that sustain families on the farms.

The focus on small farms relies on government financing, although farmer stakeholders contribute as well. The overall program consists of 545 projects costing about $2.5 billion over ten years, targeting 950,000 farmers in remote and difficult areas. Enhancing existing production; introducing higher value alternatives; and diversifying activities that contribute to farm incomes are the main components of the plan. In order to strengthen co-ops and other entities serving farmers, there are special provisions covering the role of associations/aggregators that participate in the program.

Plan Maroc Vert demonstrates the commitment of Morocco to its agricultural sector as an income generator, employer, force for stability, and national engine for growth. Lessons learned from other countries are providing examples of how to give farmers tools to access domestic and international markets, encourage greater access to financing schemes that promote productivity, and enhance the roles of producer organizations and cooperatives in affecting decisions that impact their sector. This commitment in large part influenced the decision of the Millennium Challenge Corporation to focus its first compact with Morocco on agricultural development - enhancing the capacity of small farmers to generate value-added production to help raise them out of poverty.

PMV is a worthy program that has the potential to change the face of agriculture in Morocco. As importantly, its success will enable thousands of young Moroccans who live and work on family farms to have the resources and access to education and training that will give them opportunities that seemed remote and inaccessible just a generation ago.
http://allafrica.com/stories/201506260749.html
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Drugs threaten to overwhelm Maghreb youth
Abdelkader Cheref June 29, 2015

In 1994, when the Armed Islamic Group attacked a hotel in Marrakech and killed two European tourists, the Algerian government sealed the borders with Morocco fearing a spread of extremism.

The border has remained closed ever since – and the attack itself remains an incident charged with allegations and counter-allegations by both countries – but the flow of smuggled goods and hashish in particular, has continued unabated.

According to a recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), cannabis resin seizures have increased considerably in Algeria, rising from 53 tonnes trafficked from Morocco in 2011 to 157 tonnes in 2012. By the time that 127 tonnes were stopped in the first eight months of 2013, Algeria had had enough.
Irked by the huge quantities being intercepted, Algerian officials and media outlets pointed the finger at the Moroccan authorities in allowing the cannabis traffic to flourish.

In addition, Mohammed Safahi, vice-president of the Communal Council in the western province of Tlemcen, is reported to have addressed Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, in these strident terms: “Your Majesty, you the so-called commander of the faithful, stop flooding Arab and Muslim nations, from Mauritania and Algeria to Tunisia and Egypt, with tonnes of hash which is planted and harvested in your kingdom.”

Morocco is believed to produce nearly half of the world’s hashish. In the mountainous region of northern Morocco, where cannabis farming started centuries ago, it is claimed that at least 800,000 Moroccans depend on hashish for their primary source of revenue. These workers cultivate some 30,000 hectares, which yield about 15,000 tonnes of cannabis annually and generate $10bn annual sales, according to the Moroccan Network for the Medicinal and Industrial Use of Cannabis, a local aid organisation.

Before the Arab Spring, the Moroccan authorities waged a slash-and-burn campaign against cannabis farming. According to UNODC, this operation, which encouraged farmers to plant orchards and grow olives instead of drugs, dramatically cut the area of cannabis-planted farmland.
But as Morocco’s unemployment rate hovers around 30 per cent, prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s Islamist Justice and Development party as well as the opposition Authenticity and Modernity, are considering decriminalising the hashish industry. The logic for doing so would be that it would regulate the industry and allow the government to generate revenue from it.

In the meantime, Moroccan hashish is flooding into neighbouring countries. The growing traffic in kif (herbal cannabis) is also taking its toll on millions of young men and women in the Maghreb. The hashish route starts in the Rif Mountains and leads to Morocco’s eastern border with Algeria. Transit is facilitated by the payments of bribes to the many guards manning the roadblocks on both sides.

Algeria, with its vast and poorly-patrolled borders, has long been a major transit point. But the country has also lately become a major consumer of cannabis.
Some of the drugs are destined for sale on European markets, but huge quantities of Moroccan hashish transit through the Sahara where so-called narco-jihadists, who control a triangle of no-man’s land between northern Mali and Niger, eastern Mauritania, southern Algeria and Libya, smuggle the shipments to Europe.

There are mounting concerns regarding the links between Moroccan drug barons and narco-jihadists linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. Generally, when networks of crime are established almost anything – from drugs to extremists – will use those paths.

As a UN expert put it: “There is an explosive coalition between drug traffickers, jihadists and corrupt politicians in Africa. The future of that continent and the security of Europe are at risk.”
Dr Abdelkader Cheref is a professor at the State University of New York at Potsdam
http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/drugs-threaten-to-overwhelm-maghreb-youth
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Morocco Is Running Out of Time: Unemployment and stagnation are fueling extremism — and the king's gradual reforms aren't cutting it.
By Robert Looney
Robert Looney teaches economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. July 9, 2015

The Islamic State has thrived by exploiting the anger of the politically and economically marginalized in unstable and dysfunctional countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Why, then, has it begun targeting the relatively stable kingdom of Morocco? Hardly a week passes without Moroccan security services announcing the arrest of members of an alleged Islamic State sleeper cell. While precise numbers are unavailable, between a few hundred and over a thousand Moroccans have been recruited and trained by the Islamic State in Syria. Moroccan authorities fear these radicalized fighters will return to seek further recruits and launch attacks on home soil. What actions the returnees take and the likelihood of their success could depend on the level of popular discontent that awaits them.

On the one hand, Morocco’s rising poverty, growing youth unemployment, and suppression of peaceful political dissent create a fertile Islamic State recruiting ground. On the other hand, with an innovative, growth-oriented approach to development that combines the best of western and Islamic economic principles and a spiritual but anti-theocratic style of Islam that discourages extremism, Morocco could weather the storm — and even transform itself into an economic model for countries seeking to defuse the Islamic State threat. The outcome is far from certain, and ultimately depends on whether King Mohammed VI has the political will to accelerate the pace of reform.

During the Arab Spring in 2011, the king quickly initiated a series of constitutional reforms after pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in Morocco. Though he stopped short of relinquishing his own power in favor of a constitutional monarchy, he did increase the role and independence of the prime minister and parliament. In addition, Morocco’s new constitution provided for greater civil liberties and expanded human rights — although similar promises had been made in the past, only to be rescinded. Nonetheless, the new constitution succeeded, at least temporarily, in defusing the crisis. In contrast to so many other countries,

But if the unrest was to be controlled, Morocco’s deep economic malaise would also need to be addressed. Its economy had been hard-hit by the international economic crisis of 2008-09, with falling remittances and high unemployment among workers returning from overseas. Despite a growth rate of 4.6 percent between 2000 and 2010, levels of poverty, inequality, illiteracy, and unemployment among recent graduates had not improved since 2000, even as elite corruption and cronyism grew increasingly conspicuous.

Both the king and the coalition government formed by the Justice and Development Party (PJD) after the 2011 elections attempted to institute economic reforms. The king announced the expansion of a decentralized strategy to promote bottom-up democracy by allowing communities to take charge of their local affairs. The PJD went even further, promising to create jobs and raise educational levels while curbing corruption and improving government effectiveness, rule of law, and the business climate.

However, while Morocco had moved up two rankings on the Human Development Index by 2013, the country’s progress did not extend to other areas. Economic growth declined to an average of 3.7 percent between 2011 and 2014. The unemployment rate, which had fallen to 9.1 percent in 2010, has since been stagnant, with only 21,000 new jobs created in 2014. This slowdown occurred despite a relatively liberal free market approach to economic activity that attracted $3.4 billion in direct foreign investment.

The composition of Morocco’s unemployment reveals some especially troubling patterns. At 20.6 percent, youth unemployment is especially high and rises to a staggering 39.9 percent among urban workers aged 15-24. The marginalization of such large groups of young Moroccans creates a potential powder keg for revolution. Furthermore, the rate of unemployment rises along with job qualifications — from 4.5 percent for unskilled workers, to 21.7 percent for workers with vocational skills, to 24.6 percent for university graduates. Not surprisingly, Moroccans’ frustration with the government has skyrocketed, as illustrated by the decline in social capital (basically a measure of trust), which plummeted from 13th in the world in 2010 to 84th in 2014.

The poor performance of the Moroccan economy has less to do with the viability of the Moroccan model than with its implementation, particularly in the area of governance. The political and constitutional reforms that were expected to usher in a period of improved governance failed to do so — in fact, because of an over-emphasis on laws and institutional procedures instead of substantive reform, the country’s performance deteriorated on five of the six World Bank Governance Indicators between 2010 and 2013.

Morocco’s economy has been hindered by the slow and tentative pace of change. The PJD seems to have subscribed to the Chinese idea of evolutionary institutionalism. Rather than risk dramatic changes in a new and highly uncertain environment, the Moroccan government has moved incrementally — always looking for better ways to improve the economy, but with minor reforms that can easily be reversed if proven ineffective.

Some excuse Morocco’s incremental pace of change in light of the dislocation and chaos created throughout the region when earlier neo-liberal market reforms were applied too swiftly. However, a more likely explanation is that, despite the appearance of comprehensive economic management, there is little real coordination between the ministries and agencies responsible for implementing key reforms. Because Morocco is still very much a monarchy, the PJD has no control over several key ministries, whose directors report primarily to the king. The faltering pace of economic reform can at least partly be attributed to ministries working at cross purposes, each focusing on its own priorities.

In order to create the necessary economic and social stability to counter the Islamic State, it is critical that Morocco complete its transition from a rent-based, special interest, distribution economy to a modern, production-oriented economy. It can only do so, however, if the government is allowed to apply a pragmatic, consistent, and goal-oriented approach to development. Toward this end, it is critical that the king lend his authority to the PJD to quickly overcome the opposition of vested interests.

While the slow, incremental approach to reform propelled the Chinese economy, China had the option of proceeding at its chosen pace.
King Mohammed VI has said that Morocco cannot have “a two-speed system in which the rich reap the benefits of growth, thus becoming richer, while the poor are excluded from the development process, thus getting poorer and suffering more deprivation.” The question is whether the king is willing to trade some of his vast power and privilege, not only for the sake of human rights and greater income equality, but to save his country from the Islamic State. Unless action is taken soon, the day could come when the choice is no longer the king’s.
https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/09/morocco-is-running-out-of-time/
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Foreign Language Teaching: the French Vs the Moroccan Education System.
Thursday 9 July 2015 - By Mbarek Ahuilat Orléans, France

More than two decades and Morocco suffers from being the least efficient when it comes to education. The latest 2014 UNESCO international education report established Morocco at the 143rd place among 164 countries. By the way, France is 8th.

It’s real shame for this country, which has done several reforms in this domain since the 1960’s. And we should not forget that Morocco is still dedicating nearly 5,4 % of its GNP to education each year. Taking failure after failure, the educational sector cannot apparently achieve a real reform and the state is getting into vain and inefficient expenses in the absence of a rigorous plan which is to be directed by real experts, linguists and specialists.

Education is the major essence of development. It’s the criterion by which we can judge the greatness of a nation and the mirror of a given era society. And as the greatest forward thinking and visionary “unfortunately lost” Mehdi El Mandjara “Education is not a priority, It is the Priority.” Mehdi El Mandjara also emphasized on education and said it to be the clue of development in his co-written book; “Value of Values” with Rich Hickey.

But what does the Moroccan system of education suffers from? What are the means that should absolutely been implemented to ameliorate it? This article has the modest ambition to raise these questions and will especially emphasize on the foreign languages learning at the first place and a comparative study to the French system of education of foreign languages learning.

This first article will focus on the French foreign language learning system from primary school to high school in France so as to make a comparison. The following articles will cope with the Moroccan education system as related to foreign languages learning.

It’s in 1991, and during the Rüschlikon Symposium, that the European shared reference framework of languages was represented for the first time in Europe. This framework offers instruments for the elaboration of teaching and learning programs, guides and instruments of assessment. In France, foreign languages learning is of a high importance and really reinforced since 1991 and thanks to the European shared reference framework of languages (CERCL[1]).

So, In France foreign languages are taught since the first grades of school. And the CERCL is the basis shared by the European Union state members in the conceiving or the elaboration of programs. It is the fruit of several years of linguistic research leaded by the EU experts in the domain of education and applied linguistics. Published and established starting from 1991, it constitutes a new and a total approach which aims to rethink language teaching objectives and methods. And it mainly provides shared cornerstones of programs, diplomas and certificates conceptions. In this way, it also fosters the professional and educative mobility of learners.

The framework in question is a conceived tool to respond to the general objective of the European council, which is to reach a bigger unity of its members and to obtain this goal via the adoption of a shared approach in the cultural field. The other goal is a political one as well. It is to establish a European stability against “xenophoabia” and to ensure Democracy proper functioning. So, languages and cultures can very well contribute to fulfill those goals and promote a better awareness of the OTHER. It’s a plurilinguism promotion tool, whatever the level of mastering is. Still, the logic of mastering several languages is as important as the interaction of these different languages and cultures.

This framework introduces at least 4 novelties or innovations:
1 – A common reference levels (from A1 to C2).
The global language competence scale reveals 3 general levels subdivided into six large common levels:
Level A: elementary user of the language (= mandatory school), itself subdivided into introductive or discovery level (A1) and intermediate or common level (A2).
Level B: independent user (= high school), subdivided into threshold level (B1) and advanced or independent level (B2). It corresponds to a limited but efficient competence (Wilkins[2]) or an appropriate answer in common situation (Trim[3])
Level C: experimented user of the language, subdivided into C1 (autonomous) and C2 (mastery).

These levels mark out foreign languages learning. And C2 should not be confused with the native language competence. This latter is situated beyond and cannot therefore constitutes the ideal model for evaluating language learners.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and thanks to these competences descriptors that it represents for each level, permits establishing a solid and objective basis for the reciprocal learning of languages. This kind of standardization allows coherent referential elaboration in each language and for each common level. It also helps teachers, students, lessons designers and certificates institutes to coordinate their efforts and situate their productions; one to each others.

2 – The communicative competence division into language communication activities.
These activities fall under four important areas: reception (listening and listening), production (oral expression and reading), interaction (taking part into a conversation) and mediation (namely sharing and taking part into a conversation). To be more particular, the competences to develop are the following: oral understanding, continuous oral expression, oral interaction, written comprehension and writing. So, we can henceforth talk of “language communication activity groups” instead of “competence groups.”

The notion of “competence” aims to designate more general components: socio-linguistics, pragmatics or linguistics (this latter including lexis, grammar and phonology) without forgetting the cultural competence (all that one should know about the country where the language is spoken and the proper culture of the country in question.)

3 – The notion of “Task” (une tâche):
This is very interesting as the task is highly linked to the action approach theory. It should be done through the way of realizing a task and accomplishing certain actions. So, the worth of the language is not dissociated from the accomplished actions by the speaker or the social actor. This notion can not only integrate the pragmatic actions (for example assembling a kit furniture following an instruction notice) but the conceptual (writing an argumentative or a book) one as well.

Following this perspective, the linguistic competence may be either completely aroused as in the case of writing a book or partly as in the instance of assembling a kit furniture following an instruction notice or not at all as in the case of preparing a plate from memory. Hence, the linguistic competence is a competence type which comes into the task realization.

We may up to now summarize le frame in question and say it to be the amount of competences mastering levels ( linguistic or non linguistic) entering in the tasks’ achievement. This approach fosters some incidents on the “learnings” and their conception. This means that we should classify and cross the linguistic activities and associate the “sayings” to the “doings.”

4 – A new defining of the communication competence and which take into consideration numerous organized components from A1 to C3:
(The linguistic component, The sociolinguistic component and The pragmatic or practical component.)
4.1 – The linguistic component is entailed via the tasks and communication situations nature. It is connected with the “know” (knowledge) and the “know how” (the skills) related to vocabulary, syntax and phonology.
4.2 – the sociolinguistic component (close to the sociocultural competence) is to be highly considered because the language is a social phenomenon. Speaking is not only making sentences but there comes into play all the language use features as well, namely social relationship markers, politeness and manners, popular wisdom expressions, dialects and accents.
4.3 – The pragmatic component refers to the action approach of the language and the discourse strategy choice to reach a precise goal. It is about organizing, adapting and structuring the speech. This component links and makes the connection between the speaker and the situation.

The sociolinguistic and pragmatic components are scarcely part of social environment of learning. Communicating is finally using linguistic codes (linguistic competence) related to an action (pragmatic competence) in a given socio-cultural and linguistic context (sociolinguistic competence).

This European shared reference framework of languages is to be dissociated from the European language portfolio. This latter is developed into three versions: primary school, high school and also for adults. It’s important to emphasize on it because there’s always confusion between the two. But this is another subject on which we will surely come back and talk about.

To conclude, this framework is of great importance and highly profitable to the students and the teachers as well. It’s too early to judge the impact of the frame on the “learnings,” especially when foreign languages don’t figure in the list of prior disciplines unlike French and sciences. They are of great importance in the mandatory learning list. Still, English dominates in the secondary school and starting from the 11th grade (junior high school)[4].

Unfortunately, the Moroccan system of education still seems to be allergic and even sometimes hostile to any foreign contribution. The politics of Arbization had great and bad consequences on the education in general and technology and sciences in particular. This politics has really been a fiasco[5] as Elbiad Mohamed the Moroccan linguist believes.

But today, Morocco’s education should face the news challenges. One of which is the adaptation to globalization and modernity. A big part of the Moroccan city-dwellers are partly francophone and constitutes somehow the elites of the country. In fact, the higher education courses are principally taught in French and so it creates a gap for the students. These latter have up to now exclusively studied in the Arab language. Some say that the arabization is a certain identity protecting shield. Sure enough, French is a part of morocco’s modern history for various reasons and consequently shapes a part of his identity. Still, one can be conscious and respectful towards his history and cultural heritage even if he learns in French. This is what’s going on in the Moroccan private schools and which are sprouting up like mushrooms.

So, what about the Moroccan language landscape, so be it public or private? How is the foreign language learning policy doing? What are the academic options and plans?

It’s true that French is the second language in Morocco. So, what about any other language such as English or Spanish or even German? What is the charter of education and training doing today? What should be done to improve the foreign language learning in Moroccan schools? Is English replacing French as a second language in Morocco?
[1] Le Cadre européen commun de référence pour les langues/ Official journal/ Ministy of education/ May 30th 2001.
[2] David A. Wilkins: British Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Reading, was the Secretary of the first Executive Committee of the British Association for Applied Linguistics at its founding at Reading, in 1967, and whose chairman was Pit Corder. In his “Linguistics in language teaching” 1972 – London: Edward Arnold.
[3] John Leslie Melville Trim (born in 1924 – died on the 19th of January 2013), Director of the Council of Europe‘s Modern Languages projects from 1971 to 1997. He was a key promoter of the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.”
[4] Junior High School: le “Collège” ( starts at 11 years old).
[5] Elbiad Mohamed. “A Sociolinguistic Study of the Arabization Process and its Conditioning Factors in Morocco.” 1985. http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/07/162836/foreign-language-teaching-the-french-vs-the-moroccan-education-system/
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