By Justin Bibee
By Justin Bibee
Rabat – Morocco has made great strides in recent years with a series of constitutional and legal reforms.
Morocco’s 2011 Constitution incorporated strong human rights provisions to protect the rights of its citizens with respect to free speech and assembly, and other fundamental rights. However, the implementation of these reforms has so far been slow. In 2015, for example, Moroccans exercised their right to peaceful protest in the streets, but police violently dispersed them, seriously injuring hundreds including women.
Coming to Morocco as an American Peace Corps volunteer, I have witnessed these events and have been profoundly affected. As soon as I arrived I fell in love with Morocco and the Moroccan people. While Morocco is a beautiful country aspiring to join the developed world, extreme poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy, and gender inequality persist in Morocco. I wish to see the Kingdom and its people prosper, and it weighs heavily on my mind and brings tears to my eyes when I see what many Moroccans are going through.
Morocco has been one of the most progressive countries in the region in adopting human rights advancements and the establishment of institutions aiming at promoting human rights. However, despite the existing comprehensive legal and institutional framework, effective implementation is lacking, and significant challenges persist. The circumstances of people especially in rural areas across the country is appalling, as they live in extreme poverty without access to basic services such as adequate health, decent housing, or even drinkable water. These are of concern to me as human rights issues that cannot wait to be addressed and require immediate attention from the highest levels of national government.
Morocco has the wealth, knowledge, and awareness to take better care of its most needy people. What Morocco seemingly lacks is the political will and action on the part of the government. The leaders of Morocco need to take stronger steps toward advocating for and addressing human rights as a measure to ensure the economic growth of Morocco.
Many people mistakenly believe that in the absence of violence, there is peace. However, oppression and marginalization of people may still exist, not as loud or as visible, but just as devastating to the development of people and nations. Governments should stop viewing human rights as a problem, and instead view the commitment to human rights as a tool for development.
A peaceful, stable, and prosperous Morocco is one that can be delivered only through responsible, accountable leadership, a culture of respect for human rights, institutions for good governance, and most important, the sanctity of the rule of law. All of these factors contribute to economic stability and growth.
But it is not only the government’s responsibility. There is a great deal that Moroccan citizens can do on their own, proactively. Moroccans should not use “dysfunctional government” as an excuse for inaction. Moroccans should not wait for the government to introduce laws protecting freedoms. The citizenry should demand that they do. But do so peacefully, and legally. You yourself can make a difference by ensuring that you are not violating anyone else’s human rights and by standing up for those whose human rights are being violated.
Unfortunately, my term here is over, and I leave Morocco well aware of the challenges Moroccans face, yet optimistic about Morocco’s future. I hope that the potential I have seen in Morocco for a bright future will be realized. I believe that what happens to Moroccans is largely up to Moroccans, as it has always been and always will be. No challenge raises a bigger threat to Morocco’s economic development than continuing human rights violations. Eradicating them is a challenge. But no challenge Morocco faces lies beyond the power of Moroccans to surmount.
Photo by Cris Toala Olivares / Reuters
Justin Bibee served as United States Peace Corps Envoy to Sidi Kacem, Morocco from 2014-2016
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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