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Opportunities for Decentralization in Morocco

By Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir  Posted by Yossef Ben-Meir (about the submitter)     Permalink
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King Mohammed VI of Morocco will deliver a highly anticipated speech this November 6th--the anniversary of the Green March of 1975 when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans crossed into the Western Sahara. On this same occasion last year, Morocco's King presented his "roadmap" to decentralize "all parts of the Kingdom, especially the Moroccan Sahara region" and "usher in a complete change from rigid centralized management." The roadmap expands upon the Kingdom's 2007 proposal to the United Nations Security Council for a final settlement of the Western Saharan conflict. Morocco proposes to build the political, economic, and social autonomy of the Western Sahara (and now the whole of the country) within overall Moroccan sovereignty.

How the monarch now follows through on decentralization will greatly determine to the extent he is able to achieve his most cherished goals: sustainable socio-economic development of the Kingdom achieved through participatory democracy; and a resolution of the Western Saharan conflict by way of meeting the self-determined needs of people in the region as part of the Kingdom.

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There are four major paths to a nation's decentralization that have been applied around the world. Morocco's decentralization roadmap is highly innovative in that it combines three of the four approaches. The three arrangements incorporated in Morocco's plan are devolution, deconcentration, and delegation, or what the King often refers to as the participatory democratic method (Morocco's roadmap does not incorporate privatization, and instead intends to use public funds to implement the plan).

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In the past, decentralization in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Canada, and China applied more heavily the devolution model, which emphasizes greater authority and capacities among local government. In Tanzania, under the still revered President Julius Nyerere, delegation occurred in which groups of people living as a community exercised self-government in all matters which concerned their own affairs. And India and Sri Lanka utilized deconcentration, whereby government and community groups collaborate to promote development.

Morocco's incorporation of the three approaches would create a progressive system whereby provincial and local government, and communities and their organizations, exercise decision-making authority, newly built skills, and other capacities, including financial, to carry out greater developmental responsibilities. Furthermore, His Majesty emphasizes that ultimate determination of specific kinds of projects should rest with local communities, or the beneficiary groups. Local beneficiaries are the "engine and objective" and are to "take charge" of programs, with government and civil support.

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The King of Morocco should now use his upcoming November 6th speech to build on the existing roadmap by offering more specifics on the reforms and initiatives that will carry out decentralization. Here are some suggestions:

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