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Participatory Governance in Morocco: Towards Enhanced Engagement of the Diaspora

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By Leila Hanafi: As part of Minister Abdellatif Mazouz, Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in charge of Moroccans living abroad, official visit to the United States in June 2013, the George Washington University Law School, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco and ARPA International organized an interactive discussion at George Washington University Law School in Washington DC, under the theme: Morocco’s Rule of Law Reforms: Towards an Evolved Perspective on Diaspora Engagement.

These Moroccan Ministerial visits to the US are part of the Government strategy to promote an enabling environment for Diaspora engagement. With the ever growing Moroccan population in the United States, the thousands of immigrants from Morocco are an asset to build bridges between Morocco and the US and export their expertise and resources for the betterment of their homeland, Morocco.

With the convergence of over 70 Moroccan-American leaders and international development practioners, the event presented an opportunity to: map the current status of US Diaspora engagement in Morocco through the prism of legal rights as well as lessons learned and focus areas that ought to be priorities for the Moroccan Government based on feedback from participants.

I had the privilege to serve as the moderator of the session, under the chairmanship of Dean Susan Karamanian, Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies, The George Washington University Law School. Other  notable discussants included: Samir Bennis, co-founder of Morocco World News in the US; and  Dick Rowson, President Emeritus of the Council for a Community of Democracies.

Brief Overview & Legal Context:

Morocco is one of the most prominent emigration countries with around 10% of the total population of the country (over 3.6 millions) living abroad,  according to the Ministry in charge of Moroccans living abroad. The five million Moroccans residing outside the Kingdom play an important role in the development of the country, not least in terms of the remittances that they send home. In 2011, Moroccans abroad sent home over USD 6.5 billion – the equivalent of USD 220 for each of Morocco’s 30 million-strong population. 

It is particularly important in the wake of the Arab Spring as Morocco has adopted a revised constitution that tackles the rights of the Moroccan Diaspora. Participatory governance, Diaspora’s political rights, and democratic representativeness remain a key area for elaboration, notably that the 2011 adopted Constitution tackles Diaspora rights (i.e. Articles 16-17-18 -30-163). As the number of Moroccans living abroad increases, the need to bring them under the protection of the constitution becomes essential. This includes promoting the development of an enabling environment for Diaspora engagement, including organic law development, virtual participation/contributions and investment in economic development.

Also, it is worth noting that Morocco is part of many international legal instruments relating to human rights and migration law. Some stipulations of the  2011 Moroccan Constitution declare that international conventions ratified by Morocco should be applicable directly as domestic law. Some of these provisions relate to the Moroccan Diaspora abroad.  In this International Law Context, The UN Convention on Migrant Workers’ Rights is the most comprehensive international treaty in the field of migration and human rights. It sets a standard in terms of access to human rights for migrants. However, it suffers from a marked indifference: only forty states have ratified it and no major immigration country has done so.  So far, countries that have ratified the Convention are primarily countries of origin of migrants such as Morocco. For these countries, the Convention is an important vehicle to protect their citizens living abroad.   However, even though their labor is essential in the world economy, the non-economic aspect of migration remains neglected. This highlights how migrants remain forgotten in terms of access to rights and the urgent need to focus on a rights-based approach when analyzing Moroccan Diaspora engagement. 

What Action Steps for Diaspora Engagement?

Policymakers in Morocco increasingly recognize the value that Diaspora populations bring to development efforts at home, not just as senders of remittances but also as sources of human capital and direct and indirect investments.  Yet the existing mechanisms of Diaspora engagement, while positive, are insufficient if not integrated in a broad-based strategy, premised in an inclusive legal framework for positive engagement.

In this context, I would like to announce that in 2013, the Moroccan Government established the intergovernmental Moroccan commission on  National Dialogue. The Commission represents  an unprecedented opportunity to encourage dialogue with senior representatives from Moroccan government agencies, parliament, academia, civil society, and international organizations on the implementation of the constitution to promote a strong and fair lawmaking process, and, ultimately, greater confidence in the constitution as a blue print for future legislative reform through inclusive participation.  

Any tangible steps made in the ongoing development of Morocco cannot be successful without the healthy marriage of good governance and the active participation of its citizens.  As the representative of the Moroccan Diaspora in the Commission, I hope to engage a wide spectrum of Moroccan Diaspora in North America to promote the enhancement of an enabling environment for Diaspora engagement, including organic law development, and active participation in this consultative process. This   landmark initiative for Morocco- which has the potential to empower Moroccans, in their home country and abroad- to participate in policy-making, through mechanisms of public consultations and dialogue  has the potential to inspire concerted actions and meaningful progress in ushering in a new era of participatory rule of law in Morocco.

 In the fall 2013, this National Dialogue process will expand to the US and Canada and the Commission will be communicating the dates of these consultations, in the incoming weeks. The engagement of the Moroccan-American community members is quintessential in ushering this open dialogue with the Moroccan government through such consultative framework.

It is also worth noting that the American-Moroccan Legal Empowerment Network is concerting efforts with Moroccan-American community members to produce a document, entitled:    The Moroccan-American Community Call for Enhanced Rights. Thus far, recommendations revolve around suggestions to the Moroccan policy-makers to advance political, social, economic, and cultural rights of the Diaspora in the US, in a collaborative manner. These span areas such as the provision of legal aid services to the Moroccans in the US as they do not have recourse to Moroccan legal advisers to help them with their legal inquiries to improving policies to boost Diaspora-led investment and breaking the legal constraints to facilitate investments in Morocco. 

The final document could culminate in a collaborative platform of dialogue between the Moroccan American community and the Moroccan government to enhance the inclusion of this community and its needs and contributions in the reform process of Morocco. 


Leila Hanafi, a contributor and columnist at The North Africa Journal is a Moroccan-American international lawyer and representative of Moroccan Diaspora in the Moroccan  Intergovernmental Commission on National Dialogue. She is the President & Chief Counsel of ARPA International which convened “Morocco’s Rule of Law Reforms: Toward an Evolved Perspective on Diaspora Engagement” at The George Washington University Law School in Washington DC, on June 2, 2013




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