Monday, July 2, 2007

Democracy in Morocco: the Rabat Panels

Even before the now-finally-blogged trip to Marrakech, I attended a "Moroccan-American Youth Dialogue on Democracy and Security" in Rabat. The conference made both Al-Jazeera and the BBC, and a comment of mine even made it into the final BBC Radio edit (yes, a Katy in international news - I could get used to this...) However, I didn't write about it at first because I wanted concrete ideas on the topic first. Then I didn't write about it because there was a shiny music festival in town and stalking rock stars was more fun anyway. Last weekend, a second conference brought some of those same discussions back to Fes and I still didn't write about it because the whole topic depresses me.

Democracy in Morocco is a pesky, messy question and American democracy promotion a more complicated issue still. And truth be told, I'm not sure that very many people involved in Moroccan or American politics really care if Morocco ever democratizes. Still, it's an interesting case study in American foreign relations and Middle Eastern politics both domestic and international, so here goes...

Part One: the Players

Day One of the conference involved a series of discussion panels representing many of the interested parties. Ali Amar, publisher of the government-critical magazine Le Journal Hebdomadaire, skipped out at the last minute, but Yassir Mezouari represented the Youth section of the USFP (socialist) party, while Lahcen Haddad spoke for the Mouvement Populaire party. Mezouari went on about the need for greater youth involvement in politics and lamented his generation's disinterest (sound familiar?) Haddad described a society in need of greater education and economic stability in order for democracy to flourish, worrying that the present population, impoverished and half-illiterate, is too susceptible to manipulation.

A second panel included Julia Demichelis of USAID and Eric Duhaime of the National Democratic Institute, who discussed the how of American democracy promotion in places like Morocco. Ms. Demichelis was my favorite of the participants, describing parliamentarian education courses in proper legislative etiquette and the creation of a governmental documents library to store and catalog the activities of the legislature. Mr. Duhaime added that the NDI works with a number of local and national organizations, including offering GOTV training to Moroccan political parties (I want THAT job!)

The final group of speakers went off the record because Craig Karp, the political affairs counselor to the US Ambassador to Morocco, did not want his remarks broadcast on Al-Jazeera. I was nonetheless disappointed when he followed his "off the record" request with a presentation carefully crafted and absolutely correct - if you're going to go off the record you might as well enjoy the opportunity to be frank! Mohammed Ben Hammou followed him with insightful remarks I've since forgotten, which is a shame.

We ended the discussion panels with dinner and a free evening to mull over all we'd heard in preparation for the next day's discussions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What comment got into BBC Radio?