Amid the political reform movements that swept through the Middle East and North Africa in the past three years, the government in Morocco responded with a new constitution promoting enhanced citizen participation.
Building a democratic, constitutional state – founded on the principles of participation, pluralism and good governance – is critical for lasting peace and stability, and this new constitution takes steps in that direction. Last month I attended an open forum between citizens and local government officials that aimed to bring those principles to life.
What are creative ways a government and its citizens improve communication with each other? The ideas from the youth leaders, newly elected female municipal officials, and municipality staff, and their enthusiasm to engage with USAID, particularly impressed me.
Hasnae Zahiri, an energetic young woman recently elected president of a rural municipality, told me that USAID’s support for the creation of an Equity & Equal Opportunity Commission helped pave the way for women’s political participation in her district. Of the thirteen members of the committee, four are women from rural areas.
Likewise, Anouar Ahmed Cherif, a member of a local youth council formed with USAID support, told me: “Before the council, our relationship to the commune [municipality] was merely administrative. Now, we have six members who attend the commune meetings and propose ideas and projects.” As a result of his council’s recommendation, a proposal is circulating to transform a nearby forested area into a public park.
To improve government transparency and reduce the risk of corruption and fraud, USAID is helping to establish internal auditing systems within local municipalities. USAID training resulted in the launch of an investigation into an increase in unauthorized construction projects in the city of Safi. Thanks to the program’s success in providing oversight, the municipality is planning to help neighboring communes establish the same system.
These few examples illustrate the important role USAID is playing in helping government institutions at various levels become more inclusive and effective. The work is hard, and results take time to achieve. But the civil society groups, young democracy activists, and empowered political movements shaping the country’s future inspire me as USAID continues helping them in their endeavors.
John Groarke is the former Mission Director of USAID/Morocco. He has served in the Agency for the past eighteen years.