I recently returned from a week-long trip to Morocco where USAID brought together the heads of our offices from across the Arab world to reflect on how we can and should adjust our work in response to the Arab Spring.
Among the many themes we discussed was the central role of youth in the recent demonstrations. USAID has a strong record of engaging youth throughout the region, but we are always looking to doing more, and in creative ways.
While I was in Morocco, I took the opportunity to visit several USAID projects. One of the most memorable visits was to the Morocco Civil Society and Advocacy project – also known as “SANAD” (meaning “support” in Arabic). The purpose of this project is to help young Moroccans feel engaged with their government. This is more important than ever because of political transformations that are under way in the country and throughout the Arab world.
Seeing the wave of protest spreading across the Arab world, on March 9th the King of Morocco announced the creation of a new commission called the Consultative Commission on Constitutional Reform (CCRC). The CCRC has been tasked with proposing constitutional reforms to strengthen political participation and transparency by June. A constitutional referendum is scheduled in early July and an elections in October.
USAID is supporting several youth groups by organizing regional and national debates with over 1000 participants from eight regions in Morocco. The youth groups are also helping to produce two memorandums on reforms that will be officially submitted to the CCRC.
The Moroccan youth I met with talked about specific articles in the Moroccan constitution that they wanted to see changed, and how they wanted to see them changed. They spoke about the need for economic growth and had their own ideas about that. And they spoke about the future character of their nation.
What was clear to me through these meetings was that Moroccan youth, like their counterparts across the Arab world, can be tremendous resources to their own societies, if only their potential is unlocked.
Hady Amr is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East at USAID. Follow him on Twitter.