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05RABAT1853 2005-09-02 17:14:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE DIALOGUE: ITALIAN NGO SAYS

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM KMPI KDEM MO 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: On September 1, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca and
Alison Smith, representatives of the Italian NGO "No Peace
without Justice" (NPWJ), briefed Poloffs on preparations for
the upcoming Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD) to be held
in Morocco on October 1-3. While Figa-Talamanca and Smith
explained that planning was basically on track, and were
pleased that invitation letters to ministers had gone out,
NPWJ has not settled on a venue for the event but is leaning
toward Rabat instead of the coastal town of Skhirat 20
minutes outside the capital. They identified two substantive
issues that still need to be resolved with the GOM: first,
NPWJ wants to ensure that the Moroccan civil society
participants are seen as co-hosts of the event; and two, they
want the outcome statement to be a "consensus document" and
not a chairman's summary as the GOM is currently advocating.
Figa-Talamanca said he had no reason to believe an
endorsement of the Foundation for the Future would not be
part of the outcome statement, but he recommended, knowing
the importance to the US, that the US keep an eye on this
issue and be prepared to intervene directly with the GOM if
necessary. Due to the unavailability of staff of the
Moroccan NGO Alternatives during August (most of Morocco is
on holiday during August), Figa-Talamanca explained that
Maroc 2020 was now the lone counterpart to NPWJ among
Moroccan NGOs. The Moroccan MFA, NPWJ, and the Italian
Embassy will brief G-8 and BMENA Ambassadors on the DAD on
September 6 in Rabat. END SUMMARY.



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Organization of the October Dialogue


--------------------------





2. (U) On September 1, Polcouns and Poloff met with Niccolo
Figa-Talamanca and Alison Smith of NPWJ to discuss the
organization of the October 1-3 DAD meeting. Figa-Talamanca
explained that some eleven staff members have arrived in
Morocco to help with the organization of the meeting. He
said NPWJ was leaning away from Skhirat, twenty minutes
outside of Rabat along the Atlantic coast, as a venue,
primarily because of the attractiveness of the Rabat Hilton
as a conference site. He envisaged erecting tents on the
Hilton grounds for meals and discussions. NPWJ designers,
following the theme established in Venice, envisage devising
a table arrangement in the form of an eight-sided star,
allowing ministers to sit at the same table as civil society
representatives. Figa-Talamanca explained the seating and
symbolism was important to ensure that government and civil
society are seen as equals during this dialogue. While not
finalized, NPWJ believes that this arrangement will
facilitate discussion and convey the overall message of
government and civil society on an equal footing.



3. (SBU) Figa-Talamanca explained that the colloquium (the
Morocco event is now formally known as the "International
Colloquium on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes")
will focus on three areas: (a) technical aspects of the
electoral process, e.g., regulations, OSCE practices, laws,
polling; (b) political pluralism through the media, e.g., the
role the media plays during elections, how information is
disseminated, the difference between state-owned and
privately-owned media organizations; and, (c) the status,
standards, and role of political parties. (Comment: these
are the same three areas noted in the materials faxed to
NEA/MAG per Ref A). Underlying these three focus areas is
the purpose of preparing civil society organizations for
interaction with governmental structures as well as the wider
public. Figa-Talamanca stated that the end result of the
colloquium is to have the participants endorse that political
pluralism requires both the government and civil society.



--------------------------


Issues to Resolve


--------------------------





4. (C) Figa-Talamanca explained that there were two "pending
political issues" that NPWJ needed to work out with the GOM:
first, NPWJ wanted to ensure that Moroccan civil society
representatives (most of them still not identified) were seen
as co-hosts of the colloquium. He said government and civil
society representatives would serve as co-chairs for the
working groups, and that was also important. The second
issue, he said, was to ensure that the outcome document was a
consensus document. He said the MFA (Director for Bilateral
Affairs Youssef Amrani) was pushing for the outcome summary
to be a chairman's statement. He said the MFA "fears"
getting into a negotiation over the text. Figa-Talamanca
acknowledged that the invitation letters have been
deliberately vague on this subject, to allow time for NPWJ
and the GOM to sort it out. He emphasized that Amrani does
not want the GOM embarrassed during the DAD and accordingly
prefers that much of the discussion remains "generic."
Figa-Talamanca emphasized that the outcome document need not
be ground-breaking or unique -- merely a positive statement
on the dialogue and the process, "to which everyone can
applaud."



--------------------------


Foundation for the Future


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Figa-Talamanca said he knew how important the
Foundation for the Future was to the US. He saw no reason
why the Foundation would not get mention and favorable
treatment at the colloquium and in the outcome document. He
urged the US, nevertheless, to follow this issue closely and
be prepared to intervene directly with the GOM if necessary
to ensure a positive outcome.



--------------------------


Briefing the G-8 and BMENA Countries


--------------------------





6. (SBU) NPWJ is preparing background papers on the three
focus areas noted above. These papers will be introduced at
a briefing of G-8 and BMENA Ambassadors in Rabat on September


7. Figa-Talamanca said he had had asked the British
Ambassador in Rabat to make a short statement at the briefing
supporting the DAD. Figa-Talamanca hoped that NPWJ Secretary
General Gianfranco would be able to attend the Rabat
briefing, which would chaired by the MFA, NPWJ, and the
Italian Ambassador. Figa-Talamanca hoped the King would be
able to receive Gianfranco at some point during his visit.



--------------------------


Maroc 2020


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Figa-Talamanca said NPWJ originally wanted a
committee of NGOs with which to work in organizing the DAD.
He said Amrani, however, was concerned about not being to
exert sufficient control over such a body, and had designated
two NGOs, Maroc 2020 and Alternatives, as the appropriate
counterparts for NPWJ. Alternative members were unavailable
in August, Figa-Talamanca said, so Maroc 2020 had emerged as
NPWJ's sole counterpart. Alternatives, nevertheless, would
participate in the DAD, he hoped.



8. (SBU) Figa-Talamanca said Maroc 2020 Director Ali Belhaj
was actively trying to encourage buy-in to the DAD within
Moroccan civil society and the media, many of whom had been
critical of the Forum for the Future. Figa-Talamanca said
Belhaj had met with the Islamist Party of Justice and
Development (whose Secretary General had participated in the
Venice dialogue) and members of the Moroccan media such as Le
Journal editor Aboubakr Jamai, who had been critical of the
Forum for the Future.



9. (SBU) NPWJ hopes as many as thirty NGO representatives
from Morocco will attend the DAD, Figa-Talamanca said, since
the colloquium is on Morocco's home turf. Two to three
representatives from each of the other BMENA countries will
attend the DAD. He said the full list of Moroccan
participants is not yet available.



--------------------------


US Follow-up


--------------------------





10. (SBU) Polcouns asked if there was anything in particular
the US could do at this point to support the organization of
the colloquium. Figa-Talamanca said he hoped the US would
urge the best possible representation from government
ministers. He said it was not critical to have foreign
ministers at the colloquium, but really ministers that
oversee election processes in their countries.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





11. (C) We will remain in close contact with the NPWJ team
and the MFA in Rabat and report on new developments.
Amrani's desire for a chairman's summary is based on the
success of this approach at the Forum for the Future
preparatory meetings in New York and at the Forum itself.
Amrani told DCM separately he intends to share the draft
Chair's statement with the US and wants it to be a document
that helps advance US objectives in supporting reform.

RILEY