By Leila Hanafi
By Leila Hanafi
Morocco World News
Washington, December 16, 2012
December commemorates Human Rights month, a high point around the world in honor of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights. For Moroccan Human Rights organizations, this presented an opportunity to convene a week long caravan to assess Morocco’s human rights developments since the Benkirane Government assumed office. Calls for independence of judiciary; respect of international human rights law standards, and implementation of the constitution were heard from Rabat to Errachidia.
For the Constitution, Morocco, the first country to successfully engage its citizens by rewriting its constitution after the start of the Arab Spring, has been commended for its willingness and ability to incorporate the demands of its population. More than a year into its passage, it is important not to be content with the words inscribed in the new constitution, but, more importantly, their realization.
It is a common view that a major challenge for Morocco’s newly formed government is how successful it will be in implementing the reform that many of the politicians promised throughout the campaign period. As the King himself observed in his July 30, 2011 Throne Day Speech, “No constitution, however flawless it may be, is an end in itself. It is rather a basis upon which a new political pact can be built and capitalized on to uphold the rule of law, human rights and good governance, and bolster development, through efficient, credible institutions.”
Inclusive Governance & Demand for Human Rights
For Morocco, the 2011 constitution marked an unprecedented change by declaring the country’s adherence to human rights as recognized universally as well as recognizing the preeminence of international law over national legislation, as clearly laid out in the new text.
In line with its determination to universal human rights law, the country has adopted, during a meeting of the Council of Ministers last month, three Optional Protocols on Human Rights, namely: the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The decision of ratification was welcomed by human rights organizations in Morocco who consider the protocols to be an essential instrument for the domestication of these conventions and a step forward towards the fight against human ’s rights violations.
Today, it is important not only to look at the letter of the constitution but rather its implementation. It is still unclear whether the constitutional changes will translate into practical laws or whether they are cosmetic changes, only. For a large number of Moroccans, the challenge for the country is not how good or bad the constitution is, but rather how it is implemented. Human rights organizations in Morocco argue that the reality on the ground often shows that local judicial systems are inadequate to respond to the demand for justice that they are supposed to satisfy. Moroccan civil society groups are calling for the promotion equitable enforcement of a strong and fair legal framework through inclusive participation.
Key for the sustainability of a manageable constitutional transition in Morocco will be a strengthening of the country’s governance framework (transparency, accountability and social justice), fostering inclusive growth, and establishing sustainable social protection. The development of Morocco cannot be successful without good governance and the participation of citizens; development in which everyone feels they have a say and a stake. Moving forward, it will be essential to ensure that the lawmaking process provides an opportunity for diverse viewpoints to be considered.
The latest United Nations Arab development report’s main conclusion is that: in order to respond to the demand for dignity, social justice and freedom, there is an urgent need to adopt a “Developmental state” model that is based on a new social contract of mutual accountability and shed the political economy model. This would mean that the state becomes more responsive and accountable to the citizen and allow for the citizen to take a more proactive role in societal affairs.
In this respect, the authors of the UN Arab Development Report are firm and unequivocal in their call for governance systems and political leaders in the Arab countries to make progress, along with citizens, on rule of law, checks-and-balances, and participation.
In Morocco, training programs to strengthen the principle of social accountability could help enhance confidence in the constitution. Throughout the country, lack of participation in and accountability of various state organs is a serious problem, which threatens of institutional legitimacy. With the reformed constitution, transparency and social accountability has shot to the top of the country’s priority agenda. This newly introduced approach has the potential to empower citizens, especially the youth, to participate in policy-making, through mechanisms such as social audits and proactive public reporting.
A new development model, anchored in a rights-based social contract, can set in motion a virtuous cycle of mutually reinforcing political, social and economic inclusion processes. It can open up public space for participation and strengthen accountability mechanisms. For Morocco, the constitution is the base, at least theoretically, of the social contract that the King pledged to re-invent between the people and the state.
The degree of its application and the interpretation of its articles depend on the balance of power between the monarchy, public institutions, and public participation. Government action alone is generally not enough to advance the rule of law. With a collaborative commitment by all stakeholders in Morocco, the rule of law can and will broaden the range of legal aid services to all segments of the populations; strengthen citizens’ capacity to defend their legal rights and exercise control over governmental activities; and prevent and combat government corruption. A multidisciplinary and respectful dialogue will inspire concerted actions and meaningful progress in ushering in a new era of participatory rule of law in Morocco.
Leila Hanafi is a Moroccan-American lawyer and Editorial Board member of Morocco World News
 The German Marshall Fund of the United States, After the King’s Speech – Constitutional Reform and the Outlook for Change in Morocco, July 11, 2011, available at <http:// www.gmfus.org/events/event_view?event.id=1507>.
 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Arab States, Arab Development Challenges Reports (New York: UNDP, 2011).