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Morocco's Poor Human Rights Record
Morocco is a north African country situated on the Atlantic coastline of the African continent. The country is governed by a constitutional monarchy headed by King Mohammed VI. Although the government features an elected legislature and other democratic institutions, Morocco’s poor human rights record indicates that the country is still far from egalitarian.

Morocco’s government possesses many authoritarian aspects that favor the monarch, often at the expense of the population. According to the Moroccan constitution, the King can dissolve parliament, dismiss government officials, demand elections and unilaterally create laws at his whim.

Even though the King’s broad executive power gets shared with the prime minister, the King has the authority to choose the prime minister in the first place. Unsurprisingly, the King’s executive dominance and de facto legislative ability leave civil rights and civil liberties in Morocco vulnerable at all times.

Not only is the Moroccan government structurally ill-equipped to defend human rights, but the government also suffers from procedural failure.

The right to due process gets often violated in Morocco, with numerous reports of mistreatment, failure to abide by the rule of law, and even torture on the part of Moroccan authorities. Prisoners and people in pretrial detention are subject to abuse and inhumane conditions. Also, the Moroccan judiciary often denies the accused of their right to a fair trial.

Aside from Morocco’s inhumane justice system, the people of Morocco face oppressive legislation and blatantly authoritarian policies. The rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press are strictly limited in Morocco. Under Moroccan law, the people are forbidden from criticizing or demonstrating against the monarchy, Islam, the state’s official religion, all due to fear of imprisonment.

Additionally, women in Morocco do not possess equal rights. According to the 2004 Family Code, women do possess neither the same rights of family inheritance nor divorce as men. Although the legal age of marriage has been raised to 18, Moroccan authorities continue to permit marriage to underage girls.

Morocco’s government also victimizes the LGBT community. In Morocco, same-sex intimate relations are considered illegal, and many queer couples face jail time as a result.

Despite Morocco’s poor human rights record under King Mohammed VI’s government, the state of human rights in the country is better than in previous reigns. During the infamous “Years of Lead” period in the late 20th century, politically motivated killings and unaccounted disappearances were rampant.

There were no documented instances of such violence in 2016, according to the State Department’s annual report. Also, the government has ended the practice of trying civilians in military courts. Similarly progressive, Morocco has become more accepting of refugees and migrants and plans on revamping their current asylum policy.

Overall, Morocco’s poor human rights record harms the legitimacy of Morocco’s government and the quality of life of its people. On a more positive note, the country is slowly making progress in correcting these shortcomings and transforming Morocco into a more just and free nation.

Isidro Rafael Santa Maria

Photo: Pixabay


When many Americans hear “Morocco,” they likely conjure up the image of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart standing on an airplane tarmac in Casablanca. Almost four decades after the release of the movie, the impact of refugees escaping Moroccan forces has become an ingrained issue among northwest African countries. The following 10 facts explain the fascinating history of refugees in Morocco, both those running away from the North African nation and those running to it.

10 Facts About Refugees in Morocco

  1. Morocco, long controlled by Spain, earned independence from France in 1956. In 1976, Morocco laid claim to the Western Sahara, an area south of Morocco, after Spain withdrew from the territory.
  2. This action incited a decades-long war between Morocco and the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s liberation movement, that lasted until 1991 when the United Nations brokered a cease-fire.
  3. The suspension of hostilities left Morocco with de facto control over two-thirds of Western Sahara. As a result, thousands of refugees from Western Sahara fled to Tindouf, Algeria.
  4. 2016 data from the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that 90,000 Western Saharan refugees remain in camps in Tindouf, Algeria. They have not returned to their native region because a referendum to vote on the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco — promised in the 1991 U.N. cease-fire — has yet to occur.
  5. While the situation seems desperate, many of the refugees remain hopeful that they will one day return to their homeland. They consider themselves to be a democratic movement and strive for gender equality. A U.N. program flies the refugees back to Western Sahara for short-term visits.
  6. Algeria, where the Western Saharan refugees now live, has a historically strained relationship with its neighbor, Morocco. Most recently, 41 Syrian refugees were stuck between the borders of the two countries for weeks until Algeria accepted them.
  7. The North African nation has received an influx of refugees since the start of the Syrian civil war, signaling a new chapter for refugees in Morocco. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than half of the 6,000 refugees and asylum-seekers currently in Morocco are from Syria.
  8. The UNHCR works with public and private partners to provide assistance to these refugees. The Moroccan Ministry of Education, for instance, guarantees the right of all children to enroll in primary classes, regardless of legal status.
  9. Morocco currently extends protection from deportation to most refugees and migrants, even if they entered the country illegally.
  10. Most of these refugees attempt to use Morocco as a means to enter Europe, believing that it is the safest passage, though most end up waiting for months in cramped immigration centers. About 200 refugees make the crossing to Europe each week.


As the number of refugees continues to swell and the fear of terrorism increases, the status of refugees in Morocco will be questioned. Nonetheless, the Moroccan government and the global community remain committed to finding a long-term solution so that the rights of each refugee are recognized and that they have a place to call home. Refugees continue to impact northwestern Africa in numerous ways.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Water Supply in MoroccoIn Morocco, water supply and quality can be the deciding factor in the survival of a community. Today, 83 percent of Moroccans have access to improved drinking water, and 72 percent have access to improved sanitation. However, in a steadily growing population, the percentage of Moroccans lacking such access are faced with many challenges. Here are eight facts about water quality in Morocco.

8 Facts About Water Quality in Morocco

  1. In just half a century, Morocco’s population has more than tripled from 10 million to 32 million. Mass migrations have brought more than half the population to cities, giving rise to “tin cities,” or slums. These communities are located on the outskirts of urban areas, where access to clean water, electricity and sanitation services does not exist.
  2. The one-third of Moroccans without access to proper sanitation services are at high risk of waterborne diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, malaria and typhoid.
  3. Agriculture is responsible for 19 percent of Morocco’s GDP, but only 15 percent of agricultural land has access to irrigation. Due to a lack of sanitation services and inadequate wastewater treatment, the already scarce water resources for irrigation are often contaminated.
  4. Due to climate change, rainfall in Morocco is predicted to decline by as much as 50 percent by the year 2050, increasing the risk of droughts.
  5. Between 2004 and 2011, Morocco’s own Cities Without Slums urban development campaign created 100,000 new housing units in different parts of the country, providing 1.5 million people with access to water, power and sanitation.
  6. In 2016, USAID provided 336 Moroccan families with information on the best sanitation and hygiene practices. It also rehabilitated the retaining walls of a community’s water reservoir to prevent contamination.
  7. The same year, Moroccan farmers received irrigation advice for their crops from USAID through an SMS service, helping the country’s agrarian society achieve the greatest potential from limited resources.
  8. Also in 2016, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization teamed up with USAID to create a regional drought monitoring system that serves to maximize early warnings for droughts in North Africa and the Middle East.

While steps are being made toward a promising future, efforts of local and foreign aid to improve water quality in Morocco and strengthen resources must gain momentum in order to counter the effects of a growing population and a warming world.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr

Boeing Ecosystem: Striking Manufacturing Deal with Morocco
In September, the country of Morocco signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the aerospace industry giant Boeing, signifying a leap forward in pursuits to increase the industrial presence of the company in the North African region. Boeing aeronautics and astronautics, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jets, established a separate joint entity with Safran Power Systems in 2015 and is now manifested as MATIS Aerospace. Investment in the creation of a “Boeing ecosystem” seeks to attract aeronautical suppliers and to facilitate a spike in exports of manufacturing exports in the sector.

In 2013 the Oxford Business Group attributed a $1 billion turnover and the employment of 10,000 individuals to the Moroccan aerospace sector. The nation’s aerospace industry is now ranked 15th internationally and is the host of 120 companies in the sector.

Morocco, through the establishment of the Boeing ecosystem, aims to create over 8,000 jobs and projects annual export revenues to reach $1 billion. Hindered growth forecasts as a result of the European financial crisis have increased the vitality of growth of the job market. In 2012, The World Bank reported unemployment among citizens ranging from 15 to 29 years of age to be 30 percent, which is especially startling considering these individuals constitute 44 percent of the working-age citizenry. The IMA aeronautics institute, strategically located next to the international airport in Casablanca, also provides prospective employees with new hire and continuing education resources and is a state-run collaboration between the aforementioned government and industry.

Strategies for the development of Morocco’s industrial sector from 2014 to 2020 have also been outlined in an Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI). The Moroccan Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Investment and Digital Economy highlights the establishment of half a million jobs, equally derived from foreign direct investment and a renovated industrial hub. A nine-point rise in the nation’s industrial share of GDP to 23 percent by 2020 has also been recognized as pivotal to reach the plan’s aim for industrial growth.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in MoroccoThough Morocco’s GDP growth rate has decreased from 4.4 percent rate in 2015 to below two percent this year, the country eradicating hunger for its citizens.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report titled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” Morocco has made significant progress in the reduction of hunger.

The United Nations group reports that the nation has successfully achieved the Millennium Development Goal to cut the number of the population living in hunger by half in 2015. Addressing food insecurity in Morocco has been a priority with hunger levels currently below 5 percent.

The vast progress in hunger reduction that has earned the Northern African country praise from the United Nations is the result of an economic plan launched in 2008. “Plan Maroc vert,” a plan for a green Morocco (PMV), aimed to stimulate socioeconomic development through agriculture. The plan stipulated policies that maximized production from large-scale farms and supported small-scale farms in reducing poverty and hunger through venture capitalism.

Since 2008, several banks and international agencies have invested $12 billion have been in an estimated 700 mechanization, irrigation and soil fertilization projects.

The Moroccan ministry of economy estimates an additional $2 billion have been spent on 500 small-scale projects to help farmers bring more diversity to their businesses, increase harvest yields and experiment with new seed varieties. Private agricultural investment firms hope to bring Morocco’s fruit and vegetable export potential to fruition in Europe.

Agriculture makes up 15 percent of Morocco’s GDP, with up to 40 percent of the population working in the sector. As a result of the PMV, the agricultural industry has grown by approximately 7 percent, exports have increased by 34 percent and farmland use has risen by 11 percent. These production increases have contributed to decreasing the rate of hunger in Morocco from 7.1 percent and 4.6 percent two years ahead of schedule.

Despite the remarkable progress, some critics of the PMV believe the initiative has prioritized the interests of large-scale agricultural production firms over the needs of rural farmers living in poverty. The FAO reports that small-scale farmers, especially females, often find difficulty in obtaining financial support and technical training. The heavy reliance on rain for abundant harvests has also worried officials of the Morocco’s ability to recover from the effects of climate change.

However, the PMV has exposed neighboring countries to an alternative economic plan. “The plan Maroc vert has created an irreversible momentum without precedent,” Michael George Hage, an FAO representative in Morocco told the Guardian. “It has played a determining role in food security and is inspiring several other African countries.”

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Green GrowthBasic energy services are the cornerstone of any robust poverty reduction strategy. Providing power to the poor is a prerequisite for the improvement of many other indicators of development. For example, it is very difficult to study at night, run a hospital, or start a business without some basic access to electricity.

That is why power access is often the focus of international development policy. Currently, the Electrify Africa Act of 2015 has been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting consideration. This piece of legislation directs the President to partner with aid recipients in Africa to develop their power resources.

However, while providing power is an important first step in relieving abject poverty in developing countries, it also can be an opportunity to sidestep further environmental damage. Growing concern with climate change is motivating large aid donors to turn their attention towards green growth and the development of renewable energy resources for their recipients. The logic behind this is that, with the help of already-industrialized nations, developing countries should not have to progress through dirtier energy resources, such as coal and oil, and instead can benefit from more efficient, earth-friendly technologies.

The World Bank, cognizant of both the threat of climate change and the lack of energy services for the poor, is adopting an overall strategy of “green growth.” Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s climate change envoy, explains that “we have to keep economies growing to bring shared prosperity for all, but we also have to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.” Balancing growth with a reduction in emissions could involve encouraging developing economies to invest in renewables, emphasizing climate-friendly agriculture, or instituting some sort of carbon tax.

One tangible way in which the World Bank already encourages green growth is through issuing “green bonds,” development loans set aside for renewable energy projects. The value of issued green bonds currently amounts to about $8.4 billion total.

Green energy investments can take many different forms, depending on the unique needs and economic environment of the country in question, and do not always involve large infrastructure projects. In Malawi, for example, there is a large focus on providing small solar lights to some of the poorest communities, so that children can study at night, and people can make money by using their personal solar devices to charge mobile phones. SunnyMoney, a social enterprise backed by the UK’s aid agency, is working to distribute the technology in small villages in Malawi. The lights are paid for initially with donor support and sold to villagers on credit.

Even small solar devices can have a huge impact on quality of life. Acreo Kamera, the headmaster of St. Martin’s secondary school in Nambuma, is enthusiastic about the lights’ impact on education. “I would say the performance of the pupils will definitely improve enough to get people to pass exams. Now they can stay later at school and revise. Without light, pupils have had little chance to read or write. Everyone will save money on torches and batteries and reduce living costs, too,” he said.

Elsewhere, in countries such as Bangladesh and Morocco, government-supported green energy programs are providing jobs and basic energy services, not only improving quality of life for the poor but creating long-term economic investments. In rural Bangladesh, a government-run program has resulted in the installation of an estimated 3.5 million home solar systems, also creating thousands of jobs to service the new infrastructure. Similar developments are being undertaken in Morocco, with a special long-term emphasis on creating an energy grid suited to running off of sustainable energy sources such as wind and hydropower.

Providing basic energy services to the poor is one of the most direct ways of encouraging growth and development. Access to electricity, even if it is just enough to charge a phone or power a light, can enable those in developing countries to fully take advantage of their educational and economic opportunities. However, in a world where climate change is a growing threat, aid donors and aid recipients are forming strong partnerships to provide power services to the people that really need them.

Derek Marion

Sources: International Business Times, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

credit line for morocco
On July 29, 2014 the International Monetary Fund approved a new $5 billion dollar credit line for Morocco in an effort to support further reform by the government. The original PLL, or Precautionary and Liquidity Line, which was approved in 2012, expires in August.

This newly approved liquidity line will replace the older one that was initially instilled for $6.4 billion during economic crises following the Arab Spring movement. Morocco’s recent successes in reform policies helped gain the approval of the new $5 billion dollar PLL.

Morocco’s subsidy reforms and wage and investment tightening “helped cut the central government deficit to 5.4 percent of gross national product last year from 7.3 percent in 2012 and we expect a further fall to 4.3 percent of GDP by 2015.” Deputy managing director of the IMF, Noayuki Shinohara, commended Morocco’s economic fundamentals and the implementation of their policies stating that they “have contributed to a solid macroeconomic performance in recent years.”

Morocco will have access to the $4.5 billion in the first year and the full $5 billion in the second year of the agreement.

The value of this agreement is equivalent to 4.4 percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product and can be used to support further reforms that lead to inclusive economic growth. Although authorities expressed they do not intend to withdraw from the credit line, as it will provide a source of money if the country faces external economic forces such as rising fuel prices.

The PLL that was introduced in 2011 is designed to meet the liquidity needs of any member country that has displayed strong economic policy and implementation but may still face some economic vulnerability. The IMF explains, “the PLL arrangement will allow the authorities to pursue their home-grown reform agenda aimed at achieving rapid and more inclusive economic growth while providing them with useful insurance against external shocks.”

Although Morocco’s economy grew in 2013 by a total of 4.4 percent, it is predicted to grow by only 2.5 percent in 2015 due to a decrease in agricultural output.

Morocco’s rural areas are where the majority of the country’s poverty is concentrated. Morocco has four million citizens below the poverty line, three million of which live in rural areas. Seventy five percent of the rural poor depend on farming for their livelihood yet are limited access to “non-irrigated arable land, which has… poor agricultural potential.”

Hopefully Morocco’s economic growth will spread to these rural areas sooner than later. The PLL agreement with the IMF could be potentially helpful for this purpose.

– Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: ABC News, Reuters 1, CNBC, Reuters 2, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: African-Markets

rural morocco
Who?

Over 30 million people live in Morocco. The population is disproportionately young, and 4 million of the people are impoverished. Almost half, or 43 percent, of the population lives in rural areas. The rural population is made up of “people engaged in artisanal fishing, landless people, rural wage earners, unemployed young people and women in all categories.”

What?

Morocco has an income disparity between the richest 20 percent and the poorest 20 percent. The income disparity between rural and urban areas is also very significant. The poverty rate is almost 15 percent in rural areas, but in urban areas, the poverty rate is a third of that. Furthermore, illiteracy rates are nearly twice as high in rural areas as in urban areas.

Between 2003 and 2004, 12 percent of the rural population was underweight; this is double that of the urban population.

Maternal mortality rate is 130 per 100,000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate is almost twice as high in rural areas. A very small number of rural children receive an education. Compared to the 44 percent of urban children who attend secondary school, 16 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys attend secondary school. Amongst this percentage, over 300,000 children drop out every year, and almost half of the children must repeat a year.

However, the status of Morocco is rapidly improving. From 2000 to 2010, the poor population decreased by nearly half. A slowed population growth, improved economic growth, infrastructure development, microcredit and contributions from non-government organizations have reduced poverty rates.

When?

From the 1990s until the early 2000s, the Moroccan government engaged in economic reform and deregulation of the economy. Over 100 companies were privatized by 1998, resulting in a significant growth in the country’s gross domestic product. However, the population in rural areas still experiences high rates of poverty, which results in high levels of migration to urban areas.

Where?

The high poverty rates, as evidenced, are seen mostly in rural areas. Coastal regions tend to have lower poverty rates, while Morocco’s mountain and south regions have the highest poverty rates.

Why?

As detailed by the gaps in education and maternal mortality rate statistics, the cycle of poverty rages on in rural Morocco. According to the Carnegie Papers, Morocco faces high illiteracy, and its economic growth is inconsistent. If the economy continues to improve and extend development programs to the rural population, the rates of poverty will decline. Should access to education or economic opportunity decrease, rates of poverty, particularly in rural areas, will increase.

– Tara Wilson 

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, UNICEF, Third World Centre for Water Management, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Photo: AdventureCompany

microcredit
A new experimental study, out June 10th of this year, examines how microcredit, or the lending of small amounts of money at low interest to new businesses in the developing world, may not help jump start poor populations’ financial growth as much as some may think.


The authors of the study, Bruno Crepon, Florencia Devoto, Esther Duflo, and William Pariente, randomly assigned 162 villages in rural Morocco to either receive microcredit (these villages would serve as the treatment group) or not to receive it (and these would serve as the control group).

The researchers, who are affiliated with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (or J-PAL), found that microcredit does not lead to families and businesses exiting poverty in the long-run.

This is in opposition to a similar study conducted by Shahidur Khandker and Hussain Samad of the World Bank in March 2014 which found that microcredit increased personal expenditure, labour supply, household assets and schooling of children in impoverished communities of Bangladesh.

Furthermore, Bono, whose humanitarian work in developing nations is highly documented, has lauded microcredit as an effective means of alleviating poverty, stating, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Give a woman microcredit, she, her husband, her children and her extended family will eat for a lifetime.”

However, the researchers at J-PAL found that microcredit decreased the amount of time Moroccan laborers spent on work. The effect on investment was greatly offset by a reduction in income from wages. The researchers concluded that access to microcredit, at least in Morocco, did not result in income gains, personal consumption or education of the youth.

Writers at the Economist are attempting to analyze the conflicting results of these two studies, and learn why they produced such significant differences. One theory is that microcredit may only reduce poverty and increase income in the long run, making short term studies irrelevant and ineffective at gleaning a meaningful answer.

The two studies also took place in two very different countries on separate continents. One can reasonably conclude that there may be social, environmental, or political factors at play, as well. Economists refer to this issue as “external validity,” meaning the extent to which a study’s results are generalizable outside of its given context. The effects of microcredit may not be clear until researchers readily take place, setting, and social and political structures into account.

Further research is needed to know whether lending sums of money to businesses in poor areas of the developing world may actually be a beneficial policy. Crepon and his co-authors are currently planning a follow-up experiment to study the long term implications of microcredit. All involved hope to find some answers to these questionable methods of alleviating global poverty.

-Paige Frazier

Sources: The Economist, The World Bank, MIT Economics, Look to the Stars
Photo: African Microfinance Network

hunger
By the end of 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognized 38 countries that were able to reduce by half the proportion of people suffering from hunger. The result meets the objective for the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal. In 2014, more nations continue to successfully reach the goal.

On 16 June 2014, the FAO recognized China, Morocco and Chile for their exceptional efforts in the fight against global hunger and for achieving the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal, bringing the total number of nations to 40.

China has made significant strides. In 1990 – 92, 272.1 million people suffered from hunger; today that number has been reduced to 158.0 million. The progress accomplished by the Chinese is even more remarkable when looking further back into the nation’s history. In 1979, more than one third of the people in China were hungry and that number has declined to less than 10 percent, which is lower than in the United States. And the country has moved from a recipient of aid to a major global aid donor.

Morocco was also congratulated and formally acknowledged by the FAO for its hunger reducing policies. Impressively, undernourishment in the country dropped from 6.7 percent in 1990-92 to under 5 percent in 2011-13.

The FAO recognized Chile as well. Chile had already achieved the first Millennium Development Goal in 2013. The FAO awarded Chile with a diploma for achieving the 1996 World Food Summit target, which is a more challenging goal to achieve. The 1996 target stipulates that a country decrease the number of hungry people by half in 2015 as compared to the level in 1990. Chile was able to attain this by decreasing undernourishment in the population from 9 percent in 1990-92 to less than 5 percent in 2011-13.

Of the first 38 countries that reached the U.N. goal in 2013, currently 18 have also achieved the World Food Summit target.

The success of these three nations and the other 37 countries demonstrates how governments across the world are taking effective steps to fight hunger and are achieving tangible results. While the task of eliminating hunger may appear daunting, the FAO emphasizes the fact that the goal can be accomplished and that these nations are models for achieving it.

During the ceremony, the FAO also recognized regional movements that have formed to meet the U.N. Zero Hunger Challenge, which seeks to completely eradicate hunger. The organization expressed its support for the 2025 Latin American and Caribbean Hunger-Free Initiative and the African Union’s endorsement of the zero hunger goal for 2025.

While these achievements are pivotal, the FAO continues to stress the need for a continued global effort to reduce hunger. Despite the progress made, more than 840 million people go hungry everyday.

In order to engage continued commitment to fighting hunger and specifically ending malnutrition, the FAO and the U.N. World Health Organization, WHO, are organizing a global governmental meeting, titled the Second International Conference on Nutrition, which is scheduled for November 2014.

-Kathleen Egan

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, China.org.cn, Africa Top Success
Photo: China.org.cn