Health security, peacekeeping and mediation, and productive interfaith dialogue are among several priorities for Morocco’s discussion at the UNGA session.
By Perri Huggins and Tamba Francois Koundouno
Rabat – As the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened its 75th session, Morocco presented and urged the advancement of its pan-African commitments, efforts, and vision.
The largely virtual UNGA general debate is running from September 22-29 under the theme “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.”
Rabat is flexing its pan-African leadership muscles, highlighting its experiences in health security, peacekeeping and mediation, and counterterrorism.
Morocco has long stressed its commitment to strengthening multilateralism, and
King Mohammed VI has laid out an ambitious multilateral vision since ascending the throne. While committing to solidarity and increased cooperation on the multilateral front, the North African country has increased its focus on driving the pan-African march toward greater continental integration.
At the heart of the royal vision for pan-Africanism, South-South cooperation, and world stability is the need to intensify cooperation on health security, peacekeeping and mediation, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, as well as disarmament and non-proliferation.
Also crucial in Morocco’s African push is the kingdom’s acknowledged contribution to food security and sustainable development in Africa. In recent years, OCP Africa’s investments across the continent, coupled with Morocco’s “royal diplomacy,” have led some observers to describe Morocco as the “face of modern Africa.”
When they speak of Morocco’s growing continental leadership, most African leaders like to point out how OCP’s African ventures are contributing to food security across the continent. In July of last year, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo commended Morocco’s agricultural policies and urged other African countries to follow OCP’s example.
Armed with its newfound status as continental voice on a wide range of issues, including food security, migration, and counterterrorism, Morocco is poised to outline King Mohammed VI’s pan-African vision at the ongoing UN General Assembly.
Rabat is in particular calling to create a framework to support African nations during the pandemic. The “African Heads of State Initiative” is an example of inter-African pandemic cooperation that will feature in the UNGA session.
Morocco’s call perfectly dovetails with the 75th UN General Assembly’s central focus: Salvaging multaralism from the mounting forces of isolationism and reactionary nationalism. “Will we emerge stronger and better equipped to work together? Or will distrust and isolation grow further?” asked the 75th UNGA’s website.
As ever, Morocco’s answer to these questions entailed showing its storied experiences as a driver of solidarity and cooperation, particularly in Africa.
Morocco’s actions in these tumultuous COVID-times provided textbook examples of the kingdom’s “pan-African vocation.” One such example came amid fears that Africa could be fertile ground for the spread of COVID-19. As individual African nations grappled with the pandemic and its impact on their economies, King Mohammed VI ordered shipments of medical aid to 15 fellow African countries in June to support their COVID-19 response.
The UN’s World Health Organization called Morocco’s initiative a “genuine and tangible manifestation of regional solidarity, which is part of the global solidarity that WHO has consistently called for.”
In Africa, meanwhile, leaders have touted the move as an expression of Morocco’s unwavering commitment to Africa and pan-African causes.
Kwesi Quartey, the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission, called Rabat’s COVID-19 aid a reminder of Morocco’s African leadership pedigree dating back to the early years of post-colonial Africa. “The heart of Morocco has always been in Africa and this goes back to the African national liberation era,” he noted.
Peacekeeping and mediation
The 75th general assembly session is also set to review 60 years of Morocco’s achievements in peacekeeping missions. The 12th UN country providing peacekeeping forces, Morocco has recently deployed them to support UN peace efforts in Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Notably, Morocco kept those forces at their duty stations this year despite the strain of the pandemic.
Morocco assumed a vital role as a mediator to resolve post-Gaddafi Libya’s years of strife and political stalemate. Intervening in a climate of profound uncertainty after months of violent confrontations and failed negotiations, Morocco almost took the international community by surprise when it successfully organized an intense inter-Libyan dialogue.
At the end of the Morocco-brokered dialogue, representatives of Libya’s two rival governments signed a “comprehensive agreement” on steps to resolve the conflict. These include criteria, mechanisms, and objectives for “assuming positions of sovereignty.” The UN Security Council acknowledged the dialogue’s result as a “positive step” towards peace in Libya.
But Morocco’s seemingly last-ditch effort to salvage Libya’s political process in fact followed months of unrelenting behind-the-doors diplomacy, US and Moroccan officials who worked together on the Libyan dossier have since suggested.
A neutral player with no interests or favorite party in the Libyan conflict, as Moroccan diplomats have strenuously insisted for months, Rabat has repeatedly lambasted “any foreign intervention” in the crisis. For Morocco, “constructive diplomacy,” buttressed by a UN-led political process, is the safest and most sustainable way out of post-Gaddafi Libya’s long-running quagmire.
Intercultural, interreligious dialogue and the fight against hate speech
In addition to the recent accolades it has received for its “constructive role” in Libya, Morocco has an established reputation as a regional beacon of religious tolerance and harmonious intercultural dialogue. With a worldwide acknowledgement of its efforts in fostering social harmony and religious tolerance, reports suggest Morocco will seek during the UN General Assembly session to promote the need to further fight hate speech.
The US State Department’s 2019 Report on Religious Freedom touted Morocco’s efforts to promote interfaith dialogue. The same year, Pope Francis visited Rabat in a nod to the country’s religious pluralism and tolerance.
Morocco presented the resolution: “Fight Against Hate Speech: Promotion of Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue and Tolerance” to the United Nations in July 2019. The same month 90 states co-sponsored it and the resolution, the first of its kind, passed a vote.
The Moroccan-led resolution’s adoption “envisages the organization of a high level conference on the role of religious leaders” to meet the pandemic’s challenges.