By Anna Jacobs
By Anna Jacobs
Morocco World News
Rabat, February 1, 2013
The FRIDE report on freedom of association in North Africa and the Middle East published a report on Morocco entitled, “Morocco: Negotiating change with the Makhzen.” In this report, they focus on the question of dialogue between civil society and the state, as well as the challenges in this process. They highlight two main approaches to the question of human rights advocacy, embodied by the divergent strategies pursued by OMDH and AMDH. They describe these approaches and how they actually act as a complimentary force:
Advocates of reform adopt different approaches to deal with this reality. To some, closeness to the regime necessarily entails being absorbed by it, thus turning former dissidents into lazy, regime-faithful followers that back away from making real criticisms. To others, cooperation with the regime, or at least refraining from confronting it, is a crucial precondition for any dialogue on reform. Among civil society associations that try to lobby for reform, different approaches are being pursued. Some rely on a more partnership-based approach with the government, trying to avoid direct confrontation.
Others see themselves as a watchdog taking more confrontational positions vis-à-vis the government, in order to advocate special positions and raise public awareness. According to the former, an approach based on dialogue and cautious negotiation is more promising and pragmatic. Human rights organizations pursuing this approach (eg: OMDH) praise positive government measures, but always combine them with criticism of remaining shortcomings and challenges.
Advocates of the more confrontational approach (eg: AMDH) say the soft partnership-based approach leads to coopting, absorption and at times even instrumentalisation by the Makhzen (similar to the creeping co-opting that absorbed the former opposition parties, which first entered government in alternance with the objective of achieving change through cautious negotiations under the Makhzen’s umbrella). Observers say OMDH and AMDH approaches are more efficient when seen as complementary forces: one applies the necessary pressure, the other talks to the government.
Concerning the process of lobbying for migrant’s right and migration policy Moroccan civil society actors normally address their concerns to the National Council for Human Rights, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the European Commission. Furthermore, Moroccan human rights groups open up dialogue about sub-Saharan migrants within the “public sphere” through the press. For example, AMDH held a press conference after a series of violent deportations throughout the Kingdom in June. They were made aware of this through the Council of sub-Saharan migrants and other associations. Afterwards, both OMDH and AMDH condemned the violence, formally, in the francophone press. Telquel published these condemnations in the issue from June 23-29. Both of these human rights associations condemned the “racist crimes,” that occurred throughout Morocco, and especially in the areas of Tahrirt and Nador.  Furthermore, ABCDS typically sends its condemnations of aggressions against sub-Saharan migrants to be published in the Arab press.
In terms of lobbying, some scholars argue that, however minor, some civil society actors such as AMDH, OMDH, and GADEM are involved with dialogue with the government concerning the human rights of migrants in Morocco. Giovanni Maria Semeraro argues in her master’s thesis entitled Migration effects on civil society and institutional landscape: the case of Morocco that:
These three entities represent the main means of communication of civil society and their lobbying activities represent so far the best way to foster a power shift. Smaller but still important roles are played by Cimade, which supports local CSOs and tries to promote cooperation within civil society, and organization networks, which do not operate mainly in Morocco but are the reference point of Moroccan civil society in Europe and in front of European institutions.
I would also add ABCDS to this list of actors that focus on advocacy, especially for migrants in Oujda. Concerning the unofficial sub-Saharan associations, they normally lobby to, and partner with, Moroccan and European civil society actors. When sub-Saharan associations want to organize a protest, they must do this with a recognized Moroccan association. For example, on Labor Day, May 1, the Council of sub-Saharan Migrants in Morocco partnered with the labor union, Organisation democratique de travail (ODT), to organize a march about the rights of immigrant works.
Furthermore, when press conferences are held or when deportations occur, associations such as AMDH and OMDH normally work with members of both the Council and the Collective in order to access information and share their side of the story with other civil society actors, the press, and Moroccan society in general. This process of lobbying, from the sub-Saharan associations towards Moroccan associations, appears as an attempt to insert the opinions and experiences of sub-Saharan migrants into the public space. This, by itself, represents an attempt at countering negative dialogue about sub-Saharan migration in the Moroccan “public space” and thus does challenge the state’s hegemony on this issue.
 Kausch, Kristina, Morocco: Negotiating change with the Makhzen; Project on Freedom of Association in the Middle East and North Africa, Fundacion Para Las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dialogo Exterior (FRIDE), February 2008, P 22-23.
 Telquel, N- 528 in L’essentiel et l’accesoire, “crimes racists,” June 23-29, 2012 issue.
 Interview with Mohammed Tanbi of ABCDS, June 21, 2012 in Oujda.
 Giovanni Maria Semeraro, “Migration effects on civil society and institutional landscape: the case of Morocco; A study on migration related Moroccan civil society” Master’s thesis in International Development Studies at Utrecht University, August 2011, p 79.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Fulbright Program , Morocco World News, nor other affiliated organizations
Anna Jacobs graduated from the University of Virginia Phi Beta Kappa in 2010. She studied Foreign Affairs,Government, and French Language and Literature. She conducted research in 2009 in both Morocco and Algeria for her undergraduate thesis entitled “Sub-Saharan Migration in the Maghreb: the reality of race in Morocco and Algeria.”
To Be Continued …