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Straight Talk on Morocco’s Youth Climate Activism

As a global climate strike dominates Western headlines, Fadoua Brour of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement shares her views on the ambitions and limitations of Morocco’s youth voice.

Rabat – Today, millions of students and workers are striking worldwide to demand legislative action on the climate crisis. First rising to public attention in the 1980s, global warming and climate change have since become a topic of contentious political debate. Young people and workers who will suffer greater climate impacts are demanding that politicians address the emergency in an unprecedented wave of climate action.

Fadoua Brour, president and founder of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement (MYCM), kindly granted me an interview in between meetings at New York’s Bard College, where she is pursuing a dual MS/MBA in environmental policy and sustainability. 

Brour founded MYCM in 2012 to introduce youth to the climate debate and to build an understanding of climate change and its impacts. During a time of political upheaval in the Arab world, many climate activists hoped to harness popular political will to address the human rights challenge of our times. MYCM is a member of the Arab Youth Climate Movement, an independent international body representing voices from over 15 Arab countries. 

The organization’s main goals are to raise climate awareness, support climate action capacity building for local communities, and provide educational support on climate issues. 

MYCM addresses climate change from a social justice perspective. That is what matters to the young movers and shakers in this activist community. Brour explains that the strategy entails a focus on human impact. She feels that mega-projects like the Noor power station should be evaluated by their impact on local communities. Market concerns and Morocco’s ambitions to take Africa’s renewable energy lead are less telling than real impacts, according to Brour. 

Properly addressing these impacts and their root causes will take enormous ambition. “We need a generation that is fully committed, that understands the climate challenges, and that is passionate about taking action,” she tells me. 

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Personally, Brour focuses on two levels of intervention. As far as networking goes, she connects with regional climate actors to build synergies and link to capacity-building programs. In advocacy, she engages in conferences and conversations to deepen the youth climate dialogue with policy makers. 

She also creates educational tools to simplify an issue as complex as the climate crisis. MYCM’s educational outreach spans from providing high schools and universities with climate curriculum tools to producing engaging podcasts.

Brour discussed how fundraising is, unfortunately, a necessary activity. Money is not action, but resource optimization is necessary to support the group’s mission. Funds are often hard to come by, and the Moroccan government is not contributing. When funds are available, Brour elaborates, a main MYCM priority is supporting Moroccan member NGOs in real-world, community-based projects and trainings.

How to approach the climate dialogue

I explained MWN’s participation in Covering Climate Now, and asked Brour for the most important foundational messages the world should address when delving into the climate conversation with youth. Her first response was “employment.” Climate change is strongly linked to employment opportunities, and high rates of unemployment plague Morocco’s youth. 

Climate impacts human interests, she tells me. Talking about the science is important, but there is a concurrent need to talk about real-world impacts on human wellbeing. 

As our conversation shifted to Moroccan women in climate justice, Brour described a striking insight from field visits to the Taza and Tata rural areas in Morocco’s Ouarzazate province. “We found that women are incredibly involved, naturally,” she recalled. The rural women did not participate in official capacity-building to tackle climate issues. They participate in the family’s survival. 

Many rural men have migrated to urban centers for gainful employment. “These women were left responsible for raising their families, and responding to their needs.”

Women have great potential in climate justice, especially on a local level. Unfortunately, Morocco’s top-down dialogue doesn’t engage this potential, nor does it compel local authorities to take real action, Brour explains.

Read also: After 10 Years of Fighting, Morocco’s Soulalyat Women Find Justice
Delving into operational challenges

I had to ask about operational challenges. I have been following the global youth movement led by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. The protest movement has gained incredible traction, especially in the West. 

At the same time, the governments that these protestors are calling on for climate legislation are generally those of developed countries, major polluters. As a young American, I empathize with these activists’ concern for their future, as they are forced to appeal to a political machine powered by corporate funding and gridlocked by divisive dialogue. 

Morocco is significantly impacted by climate challenges, yet Morocco is not a historic polluter. The kingdom’s official development narrative emphasizes sustainable development and renewables. The country also holds an important position in maintaining stability within a volatile region. Youth activism here must involve a vastly different approach.

Brour maintained her no-nonsense stance as she addressed systemic operational challenges for MYCM. The activist mainly highlighted a lack of funding opportunities, closed doors to dialogue with policy makers, and insufficient media engagement. As far as she is concerned, MYCM’s work can only be truly efficient if all stakeholders collaborate with civil society.

Brour’s frustration was as audible as her determination. “I’m talking to you honestly. The movement did a great job, and I think there are still many chapters of the Arab Youth Climate Movement doing a great job…. But it’s not really how a youth climate movement should be.”

Read also: These Core Policies Position Morocco Among Global Climate Leaders

She emphasized the need for capacity-building for youth members, pointing out that an essential part of the challenge lies in enhancing competencies that enable creative action based on advanced knowledge. Without that, she said, sounding rueful, the movement loses its spirit.

It all circles back to engaging lawmakers and community actors: Meeting the top-down drive with bottom-up dynamics and merging big ideas with implementation procedures that respect local realities and local voices. Brour explained that this is the key to manifesting efficient, sustainable policy

Why, and how, Morocco’s youth movement should act

Brour was late to a meeting at this point, but stayed on the line with me to underscore sincere concern. She referenced the recent floods in southern Morocco. “You know, people died. That was not a simple flood. It was like the whole system—transportation system, infrastructure—was not designed to cope with climate disasters.” 

Morocco is not a major emitter and strongly requires adaptation and resilience measures. That means placing climate strategies in all policy discussions, in all sectors, at all levels. 

Brour mapped this out for me and concluded on two points: “Education and community resilience. This is my hope, and this is why I continue.”