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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06CASABLANCA1298 2006-11-17 13:50:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Casablanca
Cable title:  

MOROCCAN NGO FOR CIVIC EDUCATION, DEMOCRACY

Tags:   ECON PHUM PGOV PREL MO 
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Forum for Citizenship is an NGO that promotes
democratic principles, civic education, and open political dialogue.
While its efforts have been successful, particularly in creating
clubs to educate youth about democracy, it counts among its
challenges regional instability and the assistance of outsiders who
are didactic rather than cooperative. The organization looks towards
the 2007 parliamentary elections as a test case for the success of
its laudable efforts to encourage genuine democratic participation in
Morocco. Its leaders note, however, that political parties in
Morocco remain, for the most part, timid and empty of content, a
situation which must change in order for democratic principles to
take root. END SUMMARY.



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FORUM FOR CITIZENSHIP


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2. (U) Founded in 1999, the Forum for Citizenship (Forum de la
Citoyennete) is a Casablanca-based non-governmental organization
(NGO) whose mission is to promote democratic principles and
citizenship in Morocco. To this end, the organization has four main
goals. First, it aims to educate Moroccan youth about democracy, and
to encourage Moroccans to participate actively in civic life.
Second, it strives to improve relations between civic actors,
including elected officials, local leaders and average citizens, via
training and roundtables. Third, it supports social science research
that examines such issues as changes in the Moroccan mentality
towards democratic practices. Finally, the Forum for Citizenship
offers a space for open dialogue between union members, politicians,
businessmen, artisans, and anyone who would like to discuss issues of
importance to Morocco and its development.



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WHY IT EXISTS


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3. (SBU) During a visit to the Forum for Citizenship's offices on
November 1, CG and EconOff met with staff members to learn more about
the Forum's goals and aspirations. The organization's president,
Abdelali Masour, started by explaining the evolution of Morocco's
NGOs. While numerous associations arose following independence to
address emerging questions concerning democracy, human rights, and
the constitution, they did not begin to specialize into well-defined
niches until the 1990s. According to Masour, Moroccans now depend
more on NGOs to address critical issues than they do on political
parties, which do not adequately represent all levels of society.
Moreover, political parties in Morocco, in general, are reluctant to
stake out opposing positions on key national issues. Masour's
explanation revealed not only the vital role that NGOs play in
Morocco today, but also the particular importance of an NGO that
teaches people to become active participants in the public sphere.



4. (SBU) Masour noted that education about democracy is weak in
Morocco since not enough effort had been devoted to it. According to
him, "there is no development without democracy." His organization
therefore tries to educate people, particularly youth, about what
democracy is and how it works. To do this, the Forum for Citizenship
has started educational clubs across the country where specially
trained presenters teach democratic principles which they hope will
spread throughout neighborhoods and communities. Some clubs have
existed since 2001, and the organization signed a partnership
agreement with the Secretary of State in Charge of Youth in December
2004 to continue its efforts in civic education and democratic
awareness.



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CHALLENGES


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4. (SBU) When asked what challenges the organization faces, Masour
spoke at length about the need for national and international
stability. While Morocco has a great deal of potential, Masour
argues that its internal problems and those of the Middle East in
general make it more difficult for the Forum for Citizenship to
pursue its agenda, presumably because people are preoccupied with
other issues. Still, he said that various organizations in the
Maghreb have worked together on issues relating to civic education
and responsibility, citing a conference in Algeria and one for female
journalists in Casablanca.



5. (SBU) Masour also said that, while he and his organization
welcome U.S. support, they do not like it when outsiders impose their
ideas or tell them what to do. He was referring directly to the
Forum for Citizenship's experience with the International Republican
Institute (IRI), which he felt had acted as a middleman between the
Forum and government officials, rather than as a partner promoting
direct communication. Work with other organizations such as the
National Democratic Institute (NDI), USAID, and the Center for the
Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) has been more successful. Masour
noted that American organizations can best assist Morocco by
supporting civil society and sharing their experiences, for example
finding stability after World War II or establishing a religiously
and culturally diverse nation.



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2007 Parliamentary Elections


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6. (U) The Forum for Citizenship views parliamentary elections in
2007 as a test case for the effectiveness of what they teach. Not
only do they hope to gauge whether recent reform in Morocco has
changed people's attitudes, but also whether participation in the
political process increases. Ideally, the Forum wants to improve the
ability of associations to influence elections by encouraging them to
talk to candidates and elected officials about their programs. They
also strive to inculcate the importance of voting in youth; even if
they are too young to vote now, they will be able to do so in the
future.



7. (SBU) COMMENT: The Forum for Citizenship and its president,
Abdelali Masour, are a dynamic group that is committed not only to
spreading democratic principles, but also to putting them into
practice. The fact that the organization's promotional and
educational materials are all in Arabic, and that Mr. Masour himself
claims to be more comfortable in Arabic than in French, suggests that
the Forum operates at the grassroots level where their efforts are
most needed. It is encouraging to find a stable and committed NGO
that strives to make Morocco's political space truly participatory.
END COMMENT.

Greene