Home Blog

EU Countries Try to Break Second Wave With New COVID-19 Measures

0
EU Countries Try to Break Second Wave With New COVID-19 Measures
Politicians are increasingly setting predetermined triggers for new measures

Rabat – Breaking the second wave has become a new priority as governments across the EU implement more stringent COVID-19 measures. The EU bloc has now recorded over three million cases and a recent uptick in infections has governments worried. Large countries such as France, Spain, and the United Kingdom are seeing new daily case counts in the several thousands.

Amid an emerging second wave in the EU and growing resistance to restrictions, European leaders are apparently trying to depoliticize unpopular measures. Politicians are increasingly setting predetermined triggers for new measures on a regional basis.

France

Cases have risen significantly over the last weeks amid the EU’s growing second wave. On Monday French authorities reported 4,069 new cases. France has introduced a new alert system which ensures that regions where COVID-19 numbers rise above predetermined thresholds automatically qualify for certain preventative restrictions.

Paris remains a hotspot with COVID-19 patients now occupying 30% of all intensive care beds. On Monday, 254 out of every 100,000 citizens were infected by COVID-19, and the rate among the elderly is nearing the threshold of 100 per 100,000. These three factors could soon trigger the French government to implement the status of “maximum alert,” which could mean the implementation of new lockdowns. 

Germany

The EU’s second wave is also hitting Germany. The country recorded 2,089 new cases on Monday as cases reach their highest levels since April. Social gatherings have received the brunt of the blame for the rapid rise as the government aims to keep education and economic actors open. 

Germany is cracking down on parties after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the country could surpass 19,000 cases per day by Christmas. Merkel met with regional leaders to settle on a policy on Tuesday. They agreed that parties will be limited to a maximum of 25 people in areas where infections exceed 35 per 100,000.

Netherlands

The Netherlands recorded 2,909 new cases on Monday. A striking rise in the rate of positive tests has alarmed the national health institute, which recorded a 43% increase in one week. The government has finally recognized the efficacy of masks after long maintaining they did not work. 

Additionally, it has instituted new national measures to stem the spread, such as a curfew for restaurants and bars, and requiring customers to register their presence when going out. The country’s largest cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague will see tougher measures as they have the highest rate of infections.

Young people appear to be the main source for the new spread. Citizens between the age of 20-29 have seen the largest increase in infections. 

United Kingdom

The government in the UK is facing major criticism over its response to the EU’s second wave of COVID-19. The country recorded 7,143 new cases over the last 24 hours, prompting new restrictions on gatherings. 

The UK announced new measures on Monday that restrict gathering in the country’s hotspots starting Wednesday. British citizens in those areas are not allowed to meet with members of other households. The government is likely to implement similar measures in the capital London as the majority of its boroughs reported problematic infection rates.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced embarrassment as he misinformed residents of the northeast of the country about the new measures, apparently unintentionally.

Spain 

Spain has recorded infections higher than its peak in April. The EU’s second wave is in full swing in Spain with cases topping 10,000 daily for nearly two weeks. The country recorded 32,000 new infections over the weekend while the national government clashed with local authorities over implementing measures.

Lockdowns reappeared in Madrid. Over one million of the city’s residents are restricted to their neighborhoods, only allowed to leave for work and education. Parks are closed and hospitality has seen new restrictions. The national government is urging city officials to tighten these measures further.

Growing resistance

Even as clear signs of a second wave have appeared in the EU, citizens appear increasingly skeptical and resistant to measures. The EU is clearly struggling with what the WHO calls an “infodemic” of misinformation online. 

Such media content has led to large demonstrations of disgruntled Europeans. Over 30,000 protested COVID-19 restrictions in Berlin last month. Smaller demonstrations have occurred in The Hague, London, Madrid, and Paris. The common refrain of protesters is a fear that COVID-19 measures constitute a permanent threat to the freedoms they enjoy.

Amid a second wave, the EU is experiencing growing adherence to European versions of the Qanon and anti-vax conspiracy theories. 

Dutch celebrities recently launched the #WijDoenNietMeerMee (We are not participating anymore) campaign against COVID-19 restrictions. In Berlin, protesters stormed the Reichstag on August 29. 

Nationalists across the continent, which is already skewing far right in many places, are using the crisis to grow their membership and feed on public discontent. The rise of the far right could result in more problematic consequences for Europe’s future, evidenced in the controversial immigration policy the EU introduced on September 23.

Read also: Mali Thanks Morocco, King Mohammed VI for Post-Coup Diplomacy

Mali Thanks Morocco, King Mohammed VI for Post-Coup Diplomacy

0
Mali Thanks Morocco, King Mohammed VI for Post-Coup Diplomacy
Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met with Mali's new leaders on Tuesday.

Rabat – King Mohammed VI sent Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita to Mali on Tuesday to meet the country’s new leaders. 

Mali’s recently-appointed transitional president, Ba N’Daou, received the Moroccan official in Bamako. 

Bourita also met with the transitional Vice-President, Colonel Assimi Goita, and the transitional Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane.

The Moroccan foreign minister then held talks with Malian dignitaries, namely Bouye Haidara and Imam Mahmoud Dicko, according to Morocco’s state media.

The Malian officials each expressed their appreciation for King Mohammed VI’s concern for Mali and its people, the source added. 

The North African country has adopted an active role in promoting the stability of Mali as it recovers from last month’s bloodless coup. Mali’s military overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18. 

Morocco recently joined a high-level delegation within the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), responsible for supporting Mali’s civil transition process. Morocco’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Moha Ouali Tagma, represents the country in the delegation.

Last week, Mali’s transitional military government appointed former Defense Minister Ba N’Daou as the new interim president, in line with the junta’s promise to not hold onto power. Colonel Assimi Goita, one of the coup leaders, assumed the transitional government’s vice presidency.

Goita stepped in as Mali’s temporary leader after the coup, and Morocco was the first country to diplomatically engage with the new leadership. Goita received Morocco’s Ambassador to Mali, Hassan Naciri, on August 26.

During the meeting, Goita expressed his “deep gratitude” for King Mohammed VI and Morocco’s crisis resolution efforts, “welcoming the centuries-old relations and the fruitful partnership that bind the two brotherly countries.”

When the coup broke out, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for a “peaceful civil transition, allowing a rapid and supervised return to constitutional order.”

The statement added that Morocco has full confidence that its “Malian brothers” will “draw on values of peace and national harmony” after the coup, emphasizing its commitment to the “serenity and stability of Mali.”

Morocco and Mali maintain a close partnership, particularly on issues of regional security and migration. As part of the Sahel, Mali’s stability is essential in efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism and extremism in the region. 

Read also: Mali’s Foreign Minister: Morocco Plays Important Role in Sahel Stability

UNAOC: Morocco’s FM Reiterates Commitment to Peace, Multilateralism

0
UNAOC: Morocco’s FM Reiterates Commitment to Peace, Multilateralism
Morocco's FM Nasser Bourita delivered on Tuesday an address to the Group of Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Facebook

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita reiterated on Tuesday the country’s commitment to peace, multilateralism, and diversity during the annual meeting of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

Speaking via videoconference, the official stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has “brutally reminded” the world of its shared destiny, trumping all socially-constructed divisions. 

The UNAOC“is more relevant than ever” because it “does not define itself in opposition to a common enemy, but rather in favor of a shared ideal,” Bourita emphasized.

“[The alliance] does not pit us against each other, but brings us together. This is exactly what we need in the current context,” he underlined. 

Morocco is a founding member of the UNAOC, an initiative that seeks to inspire international action against extremism by forging international, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. 

The Moroccan foreign minister emphasized that since the alliance’s establishment in 2005, Morocco has always adhered to its values ​​and principles.

The country’s commitment to the UNAOC lies in Morocco’s diversity, Bourita explained. 

“Here in Morocco, diversity is an identity for the nation, coexistence a way of life,” he said. “The values ​​of openness, moderation, tolerance, and mutual respect between all cultures and civilizations are not a simple slogan, but a principle enshrined in the constitution.” 

Further illustrating the country’s attachment to the spirit of the UNAOC, Morocco decided to organize the 9th edition of the alliance’s World Forum in 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the forum, but this has “neither endangered the project nor undermined our commitment,” Bourita assured. 

“It will be an unprecedented event,” the Moroccan foreign minister said with excitement. “For the first time in the history of the organization, the World Forum will be held on the African continent, on Moroccan soil.”

The challenge of a post-pandemic world

Bourita is optimistic that the world will eventually overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovering from the crisis, however, will not come without challenges. 

The Moroccan foreign minister stressed the need “to build inclusive and cohesive societies, where mutual knowledge is not only structured between societies, but also within them.”

Moving forward, the global community must choose “solidarity, tolerance, peace, and dialogue.”

“Only then can we transform multilateralism from the realm of discourse to that of people-centered and results-oriented action,” he stressed. “And that is precisely what our alliance is aiming for.”

The Group of Friends of the UNAOC met on the sidelines of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly under the theme, “Shaping a better world: building cohesive and inclusive societies in the difficult environment of COVID-19.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, and UNAOC High Representative Miguel Angel Moratinos participated in the meeting.

The annual meeting allows UNAOC member states to celebrate the achievements of the international body and present new activities and initiatives, particularly in the areas of conflict prevention and mediation.

Morocco Sentences Couple to Death Penalty for Child’s Murder, Mutilation

0
Morocco Sentences Couple to Death Penalty for Child’s Murder, Mutilation
Morocco Sentences Couple to Death Penalty for Child’s Murder, Mutilation

Rabat – Morocco’s First Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Tangier handed on Tuesday the death penalty to a couple for their involvement in the murder of a 7-year-old child.

Police arrested the father and stepmother of the boy in November of last year.

The court ruled that the two defendants should also pay a fine of MAD 500,000 ($54,000) to the family of the victim, Moroccan news outlet 2M reported today.

The court prosecuted the father and stepmother of the 7-year-old child on charges of premeditated murder, brutality, and corpse abuse, according to Articles 392 and 399 of Morocco’s penal code.

The case dates back to last November, when police found some parts of the child’s body in a landfill before investigations resulted in the identification of the victim.

Search operations led to the discovery of the rest of the victim’s body in the fridge at his family’s house.

The police initially said the victim’s stepmother killed the boy with a knife in the home

Investigations by Morocco’s security services revealed the father’s invovlement in the child’s murder and mutilation, and therefore he received death penalty.

Morocco has not carried out the death penalty since 1993.

Despite the non-execution of the death penalty, Moroccan activists have called on the government to officially abolish the sentence, citing international human rights standards.

Debate about the death penalty re-emerged recently in Morocco amid the country’s increase of pedophilia and child abuse cases.

After the kidnapping, rape, and murder of an 11-year-old child, Adnane Bouchouf, in Tangier earlier in September, several activists in Morocco signed a petition to call for a death sentence for the perpetrator.

Morocco’s authorities arrested the 24-year-old main defendant along with three other suspects who did not report the crime. 

Morocco, Spain to Resume Repatriation of Moroccans Stranded in Melilla

0

Rabat – Spain and Morocco reached an agreement to reactivate the voluntary repatriation of Moroccans stranded in Melilla since March.

Spanish news outlet El Pais reported that a first group of Moroccans stranded in Melilla will leave the Spanish enclave on Wednesday through Beni Ensar, the main border crossing between Morocco and Melilla.

Government delegate in Melilla, Sabrina Moh, announced the news on Tuesday, the Spanish news outlet said.

The Melilla official said repatriation is voluntary, only concerning Moroccans who request their return to their country.

“All those people who provided their contact details and conveyed their wish to return to Morocco will be able to do so,” the delegate underlined.

Moh said that there will be two sea repatriation trips for Moroccans stranded in Melilla, on Friday and Sunday.

Moroccan health authorities requested capping the groups at 200 people to allow for COVID-19 screening, according to El Pais.

The news outlet said the total number of Moroccans stranded in Melilla since Morocco closed borders in mid-March is unknown. However, the number of stranded Moroccans may exceed 700, El Pais continued.

In addition to Melilla, Moroccan authorities also collaborated with authorities in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, where hundreds of Moroccans were stranded and requested repatriation due to border closures.

Morocco first announced firm lockdown measures in March to limit the spread of the pandemic.

Within the measures, Morocco closed sea, air, and land borders before declaring a state of emergency that went into effect on March 20.

Due to the closures, 33,000 Moroccans were stranded abroad, including in Ceuta and Melilla, calling on the government for repatriation.

In June, Morocco launched a repatriation campaign to bring back citizens stranded abroad. 

On July 15, Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc launched special flights with “competitive prices” for stranded Moroccans wishing to come home.

The flights also concern Moroccans residing abroad, foreigners living in Morocco, and their families.

Tourists from visa-exempt countries with hotel reservations can now also access Morocco, along with business men and women if they have invitations from Moroccan companies.

Moroccan authorities have conditioned eligibility to travel to the country on several measures, such as passing a PCR test within 48 hours of departure for Morocco.

Minister: Morocco Expects 4.8% Economic Growth in 2021

0
Morocco Expects 4.8% Economic Growth in 2021
Morocco's Minister of Economy, Mohamed Benchaaboun - photo: MEFRA/ Twitter

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Economy Mohamed Benchaaboun said on Monday in Rabat that the nation will likely see economic growth of 4.8% in 2021.

The minister announced the outlook before the Finance and Economic Development Committee at the House of Representatives. The forecast accompanies the execution of Morocco’s 2020 Finance Bill and the development of the 2021 finance bill.

Benchaaboun announced the economic growth factoring in a scenario by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which forecast a 2021 growth of 5.2% on the international level and of 5.3% in Europe.

The minister attributed Morocco’s expected economic growth to an upcoming increase in agricultural value by 11%. The figure comes under the assumption that cereal harvest will reach 70 million quintals, citrus production will increase 29%, and production will increase by 14% for olives.

During the session, Benchaaboun also evoked Morocco’s three-year budget programming, suggesting that Morocco’s economic growth could stand at 4.2% in 2022 before reaching 4.6% in 2023.

The minister also stressed the need to implement a policy to support economic recovery through public investment, enhancing employment, supporting financing, and developing sectoral strategies for the most affected sectors through the “pact for economic recovery and employment.”

The pact for economic recovery and employment” is part of Morocco’s economic recovery plan that the Economic Monitoring Committee (CVE) launched in May, when they also introduced other measures. The pact’s signing occured on August 6 in Rabat.

Read also: Morocco’s 2021 Finance Bill to Prioritize Health, Education Sectors

The minister’s declaration follows a 2021 forecast by Bank Al Maghrib. In its forecast, Morocco’s central bank predicted that the country will see economic growth of 4.7%.

Bank Al Maghrib attributed its estimate to a predicted increase of 12.6% in agricultural added value, under the assumption of a cereal harvest of 75 million quintals.

The bank also estimated an improvement of 3.7% in added value in non-agricultural sectors.

In addition to the efforts Morocco is deploying to revive vital sectors such as tourism, Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani has urged ministerial departments to rationalize spending in drafting Morocco’s 2021 finance bill, in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Morocco Confirms 2,076 New COVID-19 Cases, Recoveries Surpass 100,000

0
COVID-19 cases in Morocco as of September 29

Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of Health has recorded 2,076 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours. This brings the country’s total number of confirmed infections to 121,183.

The country also reported another 2,785 COVID-19 recoveries in the past 24 hours. 

Morocco’s total number of recovered COVID-19 patients is now 100,253. The national recovery rate is 82.7%.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health counted 39 more COVID-19-related fatalities, bringing the death toll to 2,152. The mortality rate remains steady at 1.8%.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Morocco stands at 18,778 as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 29.

Morocco counts 440 patients with severe symptoms. Approximately 49 are under artificial respiration.

Health authorities in Morocco excluded 20,753 suspected COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours.

Approximately 2,477,303 suspected COVID-19 carriers have tested negative for the virus since the pandemic broke out in Morocco on March 2.

COVID-19’s geographic distribution throughout Morocco

Health authorities in the Casablanca-Settat region confirmed 1,024 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, in addition to 10 fatalities.

Casablanca-Settat has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in any region in Morocco.

The Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region confirmed 202 new cases. The region also recorded three additional deaths.

The Oriental region registered 196 new cases and four COVID-19-related deaths.

The region of Beni Mellal-Khenifra reported 142 new cases and five additional fatalities.

The Souss-Massa region follows with 135 new cases. The region recorded two deaths.

The region of Marrakech-Safi confirmed 134 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths.

The region of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima registered 70 new cases and two deaths.

The Draa-Tafilalet region follows with 60 new cases. The region recorded zero deaths.

The Fez-Meknes region confirmed 57 new infections. Fez-Meknes saw five more COVID-19-related deaths.

The region of Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra recorded 27 new COVID-19 infections and no additional deaths.

The region of Guelmim-Oued Noun confirmed 23 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death.

Finally, the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region confirmed six new cases and zero fatalities.

Kuwait Appoints Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah as New Emir

0
Kuwait Appoints Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah as New Emir

As Kuwait mourns the death of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, the country has announced the appointment of the new emir on state television. Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah is set to become the new emir of Kuwait.

The heir apparent and half-brother of the late ruler will take the constitutional oath in accordance with Article 60 of the Kuwaiti constitution on Wednesday, according to National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al Ghanim.

The 83-year-old crown prince is set to become the 16th ruler in Kuwait’s Al Sabah dynasty and the sixth emir since Kuwait became independent from Britain in 1961.

Sheikh Nawaf previously served as the minister of defense and the minister of interior. Following the 1990 Gulf War, he became the minister of labor and social affairs until 1992. 

From 1994 to 2003, he acted as the deputy chief of the Kuwaiti National Guard.

Sheikh Nawaf is no stranger to his new royal duties. In July, as Sheikh Sabah’s health was failing, the late emir passed along some of his responsibilities to the heir apparent.  

Like his predecessor, Sheikh Nawaf has prioritized the stability of the region. Gulf News reports he played an active role in the meetings of the interior ministers of the GCC, focusing on promoting cooperation against common threats.  

Read also: Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Dies at 91

Sheikh Sabah died on Tuesday, September 29, at the age of 91. 

After the emir’s death, Kuwait declared an official 40-day mourning period and closed official departments for three days from Tuesday.

The late emir had a history of medical problems, some unspecified. He underwent surgery in July 2020 for an unknown condition and traveled to the US for further treatment. 

Kuwaitis remember Sheikh Sabah for his diplomatic and humanitarian responses to regional issues, such as the ongoing Gulf rift and the Syrian civil war.

Morocco Won’t Normalize Relations With Israel, Here’s Why

0
Morocco Won’t Normalize Relations With Israel, Here’s Why
Morocco Won’t Normalize Relations With Israel, Here’s Why. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP

Washington D.C – The announcement of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prompted a flurry of news reports from American and Israeli media, alleging that Morocco is among other countries in favor of normalizing ties.

For example, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal published articles about Morocco’s alleged desire to follow in the UAE’s footsteps. The Associated Press said Jared Kushner—senior advisor and son-in-law to US President Donald Trump—was due to visit Morocco during the last week of August, a move that did not materialize. Morocco was not among the countries that Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited to push other regional actors to normalize relations, nor has it given the slightest hint that it is looking to take that step.

The tendency to put Morocco at the top lists of countries willing to normalize ties with Israel is not new. In February 2020,American and Israel media claimed confidently that Rabat had given the green light to normalizing its diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for the Trump administration’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara,a 45-year-long territorial dispute that has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.

These are not the first instances of Israeli and American media spreading rumors of this nature. In the run-up to the Israeli parliamentary elections in April 2019, Israeli media claimed that Morocco was coordinating with the United States to welcome a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The rumor spread like wildfire in Moroccan and Israeli media, to the point where many Moroccans began to believe King Mohammed VI was indeed preparing to receive the Israeli prime minister. Even after the fact, many viewed the absence of any denial from the Moroccan government as evidence suggesting a visit would eventually take place.

Western Sahara and interfaith tolerance: the rumors’ weak rationale

The normalization rumors have one thing in common: they suggest that Morocco seeks to use a potential rapprochement with Israel to ingratiate itself with the Trump administration and persuade the United States to favor its position on Western Sahara.

Morocco has no interest in normalizing its ties with Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. It also has no interest in using normalization in exchange for supposed American support for its position on Western Sahara. The primary beneficiary of an unlikely normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel would be Netanyahu. Such diplomacy would help restore his image in the eyes of Israeli public opinion. It would give him the aura of a leader who succeeded in ending Israel’s regional and international isolation by normalizing its relations with Arab countries.

Morocco also does not need to normalize ties with Israel to establish its credentials as a bastion of coexistence between different religions. Among all Arab nations, Morocco is known as a bridge between different cultures and for entertaining strong ties with its Jewish diaspora around the world, including more than a million Israelis of Moroccan origin, the Sephardic Jews. More still, the 2011 Moroccan constitution formally recognized the legacy of Judaism in Morocco.

Maintaining an outreach policy with its Jewish population, and incorporating them in its political discourse, is part of an entrenched policy to promote interfaith dialogue and bridge the gap of inter-cultural misunderstanding. This embrace of Morocco’s Jewish population should not be conflated, however, with a desire to normalize its ties with Israel as long as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rages on without progress.

The weak argument that Morocco could achieve a breakthrough in Western Sahara by welcoming Netanyahu and normalizing ties with Israel overlooks the conflict’s dynamics in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and how the UN works. Though the US is the penholder of the Western Sahara resolutions, it cannot alone impose its view on the other members of the council or change the course of the political process initiated in 2007.

Whether the US wants to advance the Moroccan position or favor Algeria and Polisario Front, it would face resistance from other UNSC members.

In addition, those who brandish the mighty influence of the Jewish lobby in Washington to justify a need for Morocco to normalize Israeli ties to ingratiate itself both with this lobby, as well as with the US administration, overlook the lobby’s slow but progressive decline. This is exemplified by the defeat of incumbent members of Congress in the Democratic primaries to younger and more progressive candidates.

Morocco’s dedication to the Palestinian cause

As long as the Israelis refuse to respect the provisions of all Security Council resolutions on the inalienable right of Palestinians to create an independent state with East Jerusalem as their capital, normalizationwith Israel will not be on Morocco’s agenda.

The aggressive policies Netanyahu has adopted since his return to power run counter to Morocco’s position. Rabat has repeatedly called on Israel to end its indiscriminate repression of the Palestinian people and end its policies aimed at Judaizing Jerusalem and dashing the Palestinians’ hope for an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Supporting the Palestinian people and their struggle for an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital is one of the tenets of Morocco’s foreign policy. Since King Mohammed VI took over from his father King Hassan II in 1999, he has never hesitated to denounce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Morocco is among the countries that rejected the Trump administration’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Following this decision in May 2018, King Mohammed VI, who is the chairman of the Al Quds Committee, sent a letter to President Trump expressing his “deep concern” about his willingness to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Morocco has chaired the Al Quds Committee since its creation in 1975 and championed its mission to defend the status of Jerusalem as a capital of the future Palestinian state and prevent the change of its legal, religious, and political status.

With its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict well-known, Morocco has chosen the path of silence, brushing aside allegations by American and Israeli media indicating its readiness to normalize relations with Israel. The Moroccan government was right to dismiss these rumors and not give them any weight.

Moroccan-Emirati divergence dispels the notion of an Arab monolith

On the other hand, one should keep in mind that Morocco is not the United Arab Emirates and Moroccans are not Emiratis. Unlike the United Arab Emirates, Morocco is a 12-century old nation-state and the Moroccan public is known for supporting oppressed peoples. Proof of this is the support that the people and the Moroccan state lavished on the Algerian people during their war of liberation between 1954-1962.

It is this reading of the Arab world as a monolith that many American observers make that leads them to believe Morocco will finally opt for a normalization of its relations with Israel.

In the UAE, public opinion is never taken into account and is reduced to silence and to praising the benefits of the normalization of its country with Israel and the genius of its crown prince. However, Morocco recognizes an established and politicized public opinion against normalization with Israel as long as the latter violates international law and the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.

One needs only to look at the deference with which the Emiratis reacted to the announcement of their country’s normalization with Israel and compare it with the virulence with which Moroccan public opinion reacts to any hint or attempt at rapprochement with Israel.

Moroccan decision-makers’ awareness of their people’s emotional and religious attachment to Palestine is a factor those trying to draw a parallel between Morocco and certain Gulf countries would do well to consider.

Samir Bennis is the co-founder of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis.

Police Abort International Drug Trafficking Operation Northern Morocco

0
Police Abort International Drug Trafficking Operation Northern Morocco
Police Abort International Drug Trafficking Operation Northern Morocco

Rabat – Police thwarted on Monday evening an international drug trafficking operation in Larache, northern Morocco.

During the operation, police seized 1.02 tonnes of cannabis resin, a statement of the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) announced on Tuesday.

Police found a car in a forested area adjacent to the Muhet neighborhood of Larache. 

Security services suspected the car was transporting a shipment destined for drug trafficking beyond Morocco’s borders through maritime routes.

The driver abandoned the vehicle with 32 packages of cannabis resin, with the drugs weighing in total 1.02 tonnes.

Police opened an investigation to arrest all suspects with links to the drug trafficking network.

The operation is part of Morocco’s approach to combat drug trafficking nationally and at the international level and follows two important drug seizures in Errachidia and Casablanca.

On September 23, police aborted a drug trafficking attempt in Casablanca, seizing 1.992 tonnes of cannabis resin.

One day after, on September 24, police seized one tonne of cannabis resin in an agricultural farm near Errachidia.

Morocco vows major efforts to continue to combat drug trafficking.

Security operations by DGSN, the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), and other units enabled Morocco’s police to seize 179,657 tonnes of cannabis and its derivatives in 2019.

 The number represents an increase of 127 tonnes compared to 2018.

Police also seized hard drugs, including 542,455 kilograms of cocaine, 7,196 kilograms of heroin, and 1,407,451 psychotropic tablets, including 974,983 ecstasy tablets imported from Europe.

Morocco to Support Young Adults’ Transition From Social Welfare Centers

0
Morocco to Support Young Adults’ Transition From Social Welfare Centers
photo: Ministry of Solidarity

Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family launched on Tuesday in Rabat its “Social Mediation” training program to support young adults who leave social welfare institutions at the age of 18.

The integration accompaniment program aims to offer Morocco’s social welfare workers and those they assist with practical tools, according to the ministry.

As young people leaving social welfare centers transition to independent adult life, Morocco seeks to institutionalize services that support their general, successful integration. These services relate to capacities in securing housing, establishing a social network, and finding employment, among others. 

At the launch of the program, Minister of Solidarity Jamila Moussali stressed that the success of young individuals who leave welfare centers is the culmination of sustained efforts from them and from all the administrative and educational operators who worked with them throughout the years.

Moussali considers the number of children who succeed in integrating into society and becoming independent as a reliable index for the success of Morocco’s social welfare centers.

Read also: France, Morocco to Discuss Issue of Unaccompanied Minors in Europe

Launching the social mediation program enabled the ministry to benefit from international experiences, as well as enhance the capacities of Morocco’s social workers and social welfare centers in supporting disadvantaged youth.

The minister also stressed the importance of social mediation workers as multi-knowledge operators with backgrounds in sociology, psychology, and economy, allowing them to follow up with young adults during their departure from social welfare centers.

The Ministry of Solidarity signed a partnership agreement with a Moroccan NGO to implement a project to offer technical support to 25 social welfare centers out of 97 centers in Morocco.

The agreement also comes with an assessment showing that 2,071 children are about to leave their centers. It highlighted challenges such as the fact that 68% are older than 19, and 48% did not finish primary school.

Meanwhile, 22% of these young adults have a high school or college diploma, 56% have a basic professional qualification, and only 6% have a specialized technical qualification.

Mossali also announced that the ministry launched a process with UNICEF for modeling the experience of the accompaniment program. This involves setting up a strategic framework in Morocco to promote social support for young people leaving social welfare centers. 

The framework and its coordination mechanisms center on five axes: Health, education and training, social assistance, social participation, and employment.

The launch of the “Social Mediation” program follows another program that the ministry launched in June. It extends over six months under the supervision of eight experts from Morocco, Europe, and UNICEF, who specialize in legal, medical, psychological, and educational sciences.

The initiative aims to facilitate their exchange of experiences and to enhance knowledge.

Algeria Holds Referendum Awareness Campaign Amid Public Skepticism

0
Algeria Holds Referendum Awareness Campaign Amid Public Skepticism
Algerians voting in 2007. Photo: Magharebia / WikiCommons

Rabat – Algeria’s government has envisaged October to be a month of transition as its constitutional referendum approaches. Ahead of the November 1 vote, the government will run an awareness campaign starting on October 7.

The government of President Abelmadjid Tebboune on Monday announced the campaign to inform the public about Algeria’s upcoming referendum. The National Independent Authority for Elections will work to inform citizens of the proposed constitution. 

The government has not yet announced a date when it will publish the new constitution for public scrutiny. A draft version of the constitution released on May 7 is unlikely to resemble the document approved by the government. Since May, the government and its constitutional commission have worked on amending the document away from the public eye. 

Many in Algeria fear the referendum and the new constitution only intend to maintain the status quo. Political parties and civil society actors have considered the proposed constitution to be biased and have called for a citizen-led constitutional “constituent process.”

Algeria’s largest Islamist party, Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), is urging its members to vote against the new constitution, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The party has voiced criticism of the opaque process in which the government developed the constitution. On Tuesday they cited its “secular nature” as a reason for MSP opposition.

Louisa Hanoune, leader of Algeria’s Workers Party, released a statement on Monday announcing a boycott of the referendum. Hanoune accused the government of aiming to institutionalize civil society and argued the government should focus on the COVID-19 pandemic instead.

She is urging the government to lift its ban on demonstrations. Algeria needs the freedom to openly debate important public matters before a constitutional referendum takes place, according to Hanoune.

Rallies for press freedom arose amid the debate over Algeria’s upcoming referendum. Additionally, lawyers have announced they will strike for two days to protest perceived undue political pressure on the judiciary. As Algeria’s lawyers made their announcement, a new rally for the release of jailed journalist Khaled Drareni occurred in Algiers.

While politicians and activists protest the government’s efforts to push through the new constitution in a lead-up to Algeria’s referendum, activists and lawyers are expressing their discontent. The thirst for democracy among Algeria’s people appears alive and well. Only time will tell if the government’s new constitution recognizes and addresses the public demand for a new democratic Algeria.

Read also: Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Dies at 91

UK’s Lord Goldsmith: COP26 Presidency to Urge Nature-Centered Climate Response

0
UK’s Lord Goldsmith: COP26 Presidency to Urge Nature-Centered Climate Response
UK’s Lord Goldsmith: COP26 Presidency to Urge Nature-Centered Climate Response. Photo shows UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/AP/SIPA

The Covid pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities, on multiple levels. But with any luck, it will also serve as a wakeup call. 

Grubbing out whole ecosystems and perpetuating the grim illegal wildlife trade – not to mention the worst excesses of factory farming – all contribute to dislodging and facilitating deadly new diseases. And at the same time, our routine misuse of antibiotics has compromised our capacity to cope. 

The pandemic is a symptom of our abuse of the natural world, but the science couldn’t be clearer; this crisis will be dwarfed by others if we continue destroying the natural environment and destabilising our fragile climate.

This month, the Living Planet Index showed that populations of key species have declined by 68% in little more than my lifetime – an evolutionary nanosecond. Hundreds of thousands of species face extinction, from marine leviathans to chameleons small enough to balance on the head of a match. 

Every minute, the world loses thirty football pitches worth of forests, making deforestation the second leading cause of climate change

It is the Lorax writ large – a tragedy. And it is a human tragedy too. A billion people depend on the forests for their livelihood. Roughly the same number of people depend on fish for their survival. When nature’s free services fail, it is the poorest who suffer first. 

Turning this around is surely the principle challenge of our age. We can do it, if Governments step up. 

As co-hosts of the next Climate COP, the UK is in pole-position to galvanise global action. On emissions, the market is thankfully racing ahead of the politics, with investment in renewable energy now exceeding investment in fossil fuels. But technology alone cannot prevent climate change

Nature-based solutions, like protecting and restoring mangroves, forests and peatlands could provide a third of the cost-effective climate change mitigation we need, while helping turn the tide on the extinction crisis. Despite this, they attract a measly 3% of global climate funding. It makes no sense at all. 

So the UK will use our Presidency of COP26 to persuade other countries to put nature at the heart of their climate response. 

We have doubled our International Climate Finance, and we will increase our spending on nature.

We are rolling out ambitious programmes – a new £100 million Biodiverse Landscapes Fund to connect critically important landscapes, and the £500 million Blue Planet Fund to restore marine ecosystems. Our Blue Belt initiative is on course to protect an area the size of India around our Overseas Territories, and we are leading the global campaign to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

Money alone won’t solve the problem, but governments hold powerful levers to make markets value nature and attach a cost to environmental destruction. 

Globally, agriculture causes 80% of deforestation, mostly for growing commodities like palm oil, soya, and cocoa. If the top fifty food producing countries follow our lead in replacing their land use subsidies with a system that rewards farmers for environmental stewardship, $700 billion a year – around four times the world’s aid budget – would shift to support nature. 

And we have launched a world-leading consultation on a due diligence requirement on big companies to remove deforestation from their supply chains. If we can persuade other countries too, this could flip the market to make forests worth more alive than dead. 

Today at the UN, our Prime Minister will sign a ‘Leader’s Pledge for Nature’ that the UK has played a leading role in crafting. An ambitious call to action, it recognises the failure of so many previous declarations, and invites every generation to judge leaders on whether they honour their word.

As governments map out their economic recoveries we have a choice. We can prop up the status quo, locking in decades of carbon emissions and environmental destruction. Or we can choose this moment to profoundly reset our relationship with the natural world.

Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Dies at 91

0
Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah Dies at 91

The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah died Tuesday, September 29, at the age of 91.

Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan, Sheikh Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, announced the ruler’s passing on Kuwaiti state television after broadcasting Quranic prayers. 

“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn to the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world, the death of the late His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait who moved next to his Lord,” the royal palace said in a statement. 

The royal announcement did not specify when or where the emir died, but some international media outlets are reporting he passed in a US hospital.

Sheikh Sabah was sworn in as emir on January 29, 2006. He was the 15th ruler in Kuwait’s 268-year-old Al Sabah dynasty and the country’s fifth emir since Kuwait earned its independence from Britain in 1961. 

From 1963 to 2003, he served as Kuwait’s foreign minister, including during Saddam Hussein’s August 1990 invasion. 

Regional diplomacy

Kuwaitis remember Sheikh Sabah for his commitment to resolving regional issues through diplomacy. He pushed for closer ties to Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War and advocated for peaceful solutions to other regional crises.

Under his leadership, Kuwait acted as a mediator in several conflicts. In 2016, Sheikh Sabah notably hosted meetings between leaders of the warring factions in the Yemen Civil War.

Sheikh Sabah also positioned Kuwait as the key mediator in the still-unresolved Qatar diplomatic crisis. US President Donald Trump welcomed his mediation efforts in September 2017, applauding Kuwait’s efforts to preserve regional stability. Regional and international actors such as the UK, France, and Germany also expressed appreciation for Sheikh Sabah’s efforts to mend the Gulf rift.

Humanitarianism

The late emir is also known for his humanitarianism, particularly amid the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis.

He provided $300 million in 2013 to support Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, the largest individual donation among all GCC members. In 2014, then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized Sheikh Sabah’s humanitarian leadership.

“Kuwait has shown exemplary humanitarian leadership in supporting these operations under the compassionate and passionate leadership of [Sheikh Sabah],” the secretary-general said. “Kuwait may be a small country in size but she has a big and broad and compassionate heart.”

When the UN Summit gathered in Kuwait in 2015, the emir pledged another $500 million to aid the Syrian humanitarian crisis.

However, his rule over the oil-rich country was also marked by international political disputes, accusations of human rights violations, the impacts of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, and disruptions to the global oil market. 

Failing health

The emir of Kuwait was in failing health until the end of his life.

Sheikh Sabah underwent surgery in July 2020 and traveled to the US for further treatment. His medical problems were not specified to the public. 

After an unspecified health “setback” in August 2019, Sheikh Sabah canceled a visit with President Donald Trump the following month after being hospitalized. 

The emir had a pacemaker fitted in 2000 and his appendix removed in 2002. He underwent successful urinary tract surgery in the US in 2007. 

Amid his failing health this summer, the emir temporarily passed some of his responsibilities to his heir apparent and half brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah. 

The crown prince, 83, will likely become Kuwait’s next ruler.

Read also: Kuwait Expat Workers Face Increasing Desperation Ahead of Elections

US Defense Secretary to Visit Morocco, Discuss Counterterrorism

0
US Defense Secretary to Visit Morocco, Discuss Counterterrorism
US Defense Secretary to Visit Morocco, Discuss Counterterrorism

Rabat – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to visit Morocco on Friday to discuss counterterrorism cooperation.

The Pentagon chief is set to arrive in Morocco on Friday after concluding trips to Tunisia and Algeria.

AFP reported that the Maghreb tour will mark Esper’s first visit to Africa.

The agency said the defense secretary will open his tour with a visit to Tunisia on Wednesday to hold “bilateral talks with President Kais Ssaied and Tunisia Minister of Defense Ibrahim Bartagi.”

Esper will then deliver a speech at the American military cemetery in Carthage, “where American soldiers who died in North Africa during World War II are buried,” AFP said.

Quoting a senior US military official, AFP reported that the objective of the visit comes to strengthen ties with Tunisia, a major ally in the region, and to discuss the threats extremist organizations including ISIS and Al Qaeda pose in the North African country.

The Pentagon chief will then travel to Algeria on Thursday to hold talks with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

The US military source said the visit to Algiers seeks to “deepen cooperation with Algeria on key regional security issues, such as the threat posed by extremist groups.”

AFP reported that Esper will conclude his Maghreb tour in Rabat to “strengthen the already close relations” in the field of security with Morocco.

The outlet’s source recalled that Morocco hosts the African Lion military exercise that seeks to deepen cooperation between international partners to combat the scourge of terror threats in the region.

This year’s event, however, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senior official speaking anonymously to AFP did not, however, reveal whether King Mohammed VI would personally receive the US defense secretary.

Esper’s visit comes one week after Morocco’s General Director of National Security and Territorial Surveillance (DGST-DGSN) Abdellatif Hammouchi received the US ambassador to Morocco David Fischer. They discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries in several fields, including security.

During the meeting, the two officials discussed US-Morocco counterterrorism cooperation, which has become a model in the fight against terrorism.

American and Moroccan security officials regularly exchange visits to discuss cooperation and means to boost collaboration.

The US has long touted counterterrorism cooperation with Morocco, describing the country’s anti-terror approach as “comprehensive.”

In its annual anti-terror report, the US State of Departement said in June the country’s approach helps mitigate the threat of terrorism in the region.

The report also recalled that all Moroccan security units — including the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), DGSN, DGST, and Royal Gendarmerie — collaborate to ensure the security of Morocco.

Over 2,500 Domestic Workers in Morocco Have Legal Contracts

0
Over 2,500 Domestic Workers in Morocco Have Legal Contracts

About 2,574 domestic workers in Morocco have a contract with their employer and 2,228 are registered in the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) and benefit from insurance as of August 2020. 

Minister of Labor Mohamed Amekraz said Monday that the figure represents an important achievement since Law 19-12, regulating the work of domestic workers in Morocco, went into effect in October 2018.

However, the number of domestic workers who are still working without contracts and social benefits in Morocco remains unknown, due to a lack of statistics.

The Ministry of Labor organized a conference on Monday in collaboration with the Ministry of Solidarity and the CNSS to examine the achievements of Law 19-12 and recommendations to improve it.

According to Amekraz, Law 19-12 is an important legislative text that puts Morocco among the countries that are in line with international labor regulations.

Prior to the law, the minister said, domestic workers in Morocco lacked several rights because they worked informally.

However, he continued, the number of domestic workers who benefit from legal and social advantages is on the rise and will continue to increase.

What is Law 19-12?

Approved in 2016 and adopted in 2018, Law 19-12 requires employers to have written contracts with their domestic workers.

The contract must limit the working hours to 40 hours per week for minors aged 16-18 and 48 hours for adults.

Domestic workers with contracts are entitled to all CNSS benefits, including medical insurance and family allowances.

They also have the right to one day of rest per week and a paid leave after six months of continuous work. The vacation can last for 1.5 days for each month of work.

The law enforces a minimum net salary of MAD 13.46 per hour ($1.45), amounting to at least MAD 1,548 per month ($167.3). Housing and food cannot be deducted from the salary.

While Moroccan officials consider the law to be an achievement, the legal text has received criticism from several international NGOs.

In 2018, Human Rights Watch criticized Morocco’s legal text for the discrepancies between domestic workers and other workers.

The NGO mainly highlighted the discrepancies in working hours and minimal pay. Domestic workers can work up to 48 hours — four hours more than other workers — and receive minimal pay that is 40% less than the minimum salary for other workers.

ISIF’20: Morocco Wins 2 Gold, 2 Silver Medals at Istanbul Innovation Fair

0
ISIF’20: Morocco Wins 2 Gold, 2 Silver Medals at Istanbul Innovation Fair
ISIF’20: Morocco Wins 2 Gold, 2 Silver Medals at Istanbul Innovation Fair

Rabat – Four acclaimed innovations earned Morocco two gold and two silver medals at the 5th International Inventions Fair (ISIF’20) in Istanbul, Turkey, from August 5 to September 27.

The School of Engineering Sciences (EMSI) represented Morocco with two of its development and innovation laboratories: SmartiLab and LPRI.

EMSI won two gold medals for two inventions, the “Micro-Hydro Aeolian Production for Position Energy Building” and “Smart-DPH.”

The “Micro Hydro-Aeolian Production for A Position Energy building” aims to provide an auxiliary source of positive electrical energy within buildings through the introduction of a hybrid system composed of three blocks.

Read also: Morocco Wins 3 Medals at AiSG International Innovation Competition

EMSI’s “Smart-DPH” invention also clinched a gold medal for its commitment to contributing to finding scientific ideas to assist Morocco in its campaign to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the necessary means to improve health services, the school said in a press release.

The project is an intelligent system sterilizer “capable of distributing sanitary products in an automatic and intelligent way,” the press release explained.

“SMART-DPH aims to protect individuals against the spread of pandemics. It makes hygiene products accessible to everyone and protected by advanced sterilization techniques and protects the individual and his family or work environment during each outing or entering of a professional or personal environment,” the statement added.

Silver medal-winning projects

EMSI also won two silver medals for two inventions, including a “Micro-wind turbine system” project and “an intelligent, efficient, and digital hospital management ecosystem.”

EMSI’s intelligent, efficient, and digital hospital management ecosystem” invention ensures the follow-up of patients through the creation of an “efficient and secure digital medical file.”

The digital file promotes exchanges, archiving, and medical summaries for “better monitoring and real-time decision-making of a patient by his doctor,” the school explained.

The second silver-winning invention is an electrical energy source solution at the level of highways “through the introduction of a system merging two types of wind turbines and allowing the transformation and use of the energy of the air.”

EMSI’s inventions have earned Morocco several medals in innovation competitions around the world.

In 2019, Morocco’s EMSI won four medals between April and June at international competitions, including the International Invention and Innovation Show (INTARG).

The school’s laboratories received dozens of prizes and distinctions from federations of France, China, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt, Russia, the Maldives, and Thailand.

Read also: Moroccan School Wins Grand Prix, 4 Medals at Africa Innovation Week

Morocco’s Ministry of Culture to Finance 459 Artistic Projects

0
Morocco’s Ministry of Culture to Finance 459 Artistic Projects

Morocco’s Ministry of Culture is set to finance 459 artistic projects in 2020, out of 1,096 projects that applied for financing.

The ministry unveiled the results of its support program for artists on Monday.

The program, launched on June 15, aims to promote cultural and artistic projects in Morocco. It also seeks to support the various actors in the fields of theater, music, song, choreography, and visual arts, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The support program has an overall budget of MAD 39 million ($4.21 million).

The beneficiary projects include 173 theatre tours, with a budget of MAD 19.63 million ($2.12 million), 140 acquisitions of visual artworks with MAD 3.15 million ($340,500), and 146 projects relating to music, songs, and choreography with MAD 14 million ($1.51 million).

The committee responsible for studying the applications selected the projects to be financed based on several pre-established criteria.

Selected candidates are required to send their physical application documents to the Ministry of Culture by post as soon as they receive their contracts in order to avoid any complications during the payment process.

The initiative to support Moroccan artists is part of a broader program aiming to provide aid to Morocco’s cultural sector amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Read also: Morocco Launches Exceptional Support Program for Artists, Authors

Morocco’s Minister of Culture, Othman El Ferdaous, unveiled the project on his social networks. He highlighted the important contribution of artists and cultural actors in the promotion of social cohesion and unity.

In addition to the financing of artistic projects, the program includes two other initiatives to uplift Morocco’s cultural sector.

The first initiative is the Moroccan Copyright Office’s (BMDA) pre-distribution of the remaining remunerations of authors for the 2020 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the second project concerns a partnership with the National Museum Foundation (FNM) to acquire and exhibit artwork made by Moroccan artists. The initiative would provide creators with financial revenue, as well as more exposure for their work.

Activists Determined to Continue Fighting for Cancer Fund in Morocco

0
Activists Determined to Continue Fighting for Cancer Fund in Morocco
Activists Determined to Continue Fighting for Cancer Fund in Morocco

Omar Cherkaoui, one of the activists who launched a petition to support cancer patients in Morocco, said the signatories of the document will not give up on the fundamental objective of the appeal: Creating a cancer fund.

Thousands of activists launched the petition in December 2019 calling on the government to establish a fund that would improve health care access for cancer patients and offer them free medical treatment.

Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani received the activists behind the petition on Monday and suggested alternative solutions to improve health care for cancer patients.

El Othmani also announced that Morocco is set to launch a national plan to help reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of cancer.

The measures he offered, however, do not include the creation of the cancer fund, one of the fundamental objectives of the activists’ petition.

Read also: Morocco Pledges to Discuss Free Treatment for Cancer Patients

On Monday, Charkaoui said that the signatories of the petition cannot reject any offer, no matter how small, if it is going to ultimately be beneficial for cancer patients.

“All that we can get from the government and snatch it from its teeth, we will accept because it is in line with the spirit of the petition,” Charkaoui wrote on Monday after his meeting with El Othmani.

He said that when El Othmani vowed to generalize vaccinations among girls against cervical cancer, “we felt proud that we were behind this measure. Many of us, and I am one of them, did not know that 1,500 children of 11 years suffer from uterine cancer annually.”

Stressing the need for a cancer fund, Charkaoui emphasized how high treatment costs for cancer make some families helpless.

“We expressed our anger yesterday at the government’s rejection of the creation of the Cancer Fund, and we will continue to demand it until it is achieved.”

However, Charaoui said he and the petition’s signatories felt proud for achieving something.

Morocco’s plans for improving cancer treatment

On Monday, El Othmani suggested the launch of the National Plan for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer 2020-2029, seeking to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality.

The head of government vowed the launch of vaccinations against cervical cancer for all girls, starting in 2021. He said the measure will benefit 350,000 girls annually.

He said that under the plan, Morocco will establish a national committee for cancer prevention and treatment.

“What our country has achieved in the field of cancer control and prevention over the past years is positive and appreciated, but it does not preclude that there are deficiencies that must be reviewed, and we are glad that it is the first time that a national petition has reached this level,” El Othmani acknowledged after his meeting with the petition launchers.

He also  praised the activists for launching the petition, describing it as a “democratic act.”

Morocco’s Ministry of Health estimated that 40,000 Moroccans are diagnosed with cancer each annually.

Last year, cancer patients also launched a “we don’t want to die” campaign on social media to share their struggles about health issues and the expensive cost of cancer treatment in the country.

Under the campaign, patients shared videos to speak about their experiences.

The campaign received support from thousands of Moroccans, inspiring activists to call for the creation of a cancer fund.

The leader of the campaign died on January 4 of this year.

UN Chief Guterres Marks 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths: ‘No End in Sight’

0
UN Chief Guterres Marks 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths: ‘No End in Sight’
The COVID-19 crisis has been a daunting task to contain for WHO and the UN.

Rabat – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced there is “no end in sight” for the COVID-19 pandemic as the world mourns one million deaths. The head of the United Nations released a statement on Tuesday to once again urge global solidarity and highlight individual measures to stop transmission.

Guterres called the devastating milestone a “mind-numbing figure” as he urged the global community to consider each individual death instead of the abstract nature of a large figure. “They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues,” Guterres stated.

The “savageness of this disease” has magnified the pain the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, according to the UN chief. Guterres illustrated the agony of families having to maintain distance as their loved ones perished. 

“The process of mourning and celebrating a life was often made impossible,” he lamented.

Guterres highlighted the significant worry of the World Health Organization (WHO) that an “infodemic” is presenting a daunting challenge to the global community. Misinformation and waning trust in experts are major threats to an effective response to the virus. Guterres urged global leaders and citizens to learn from the mistakes that have led to the grim milestone.

“Responsible leadership matters. Science matters. Cooperation matters—and misinformation kills,” the UN chief reiterated. Global solidarity and cooperation are key to solve the global health crisis, but individual habits are crucial, according to Guterres. “Keeping physical distance. Wearing a mask. Washing hands,” are ways that citizens can “do our part to save lives.”

In the absence of global solidarity and amid an epidemic of misinformation, there is “no end in sight to the spread of the virus,” Guterres stressed. The UN chief stated that the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to result in“the loss of jobs, the disruption of education, the upheaval to our lives.” Guterres urged the global community to consider this a challenge for humanity to overcome.

The COVID-19 crisis has been a daunting task to contain for WHO and the UN. In the face of global division and petty politics, 33 million people have become infected with the virus. Europe is now facing a second wave and Brazil, India, and the US continue to record tens of thousands of new cases each day.

In Morocco, new cases have risen far above initial levels during its months-long lockdowns that were gradually eased in the summer. Morocco’s Ministry of Health reported 1,422 new cases on Monday. 

Predictions by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have warned that without better adherence to government measures, Morocco could still see its death toll rise to 40,000 by the end of the year.

Read also: Morocco Counts 1,422 New COVID-19 Cases, 44 Deaths in 24 Hours

34 Schools in Northern Morocco Receive New Computers, Digital Equipment

0
34 Schools in Northern Morocco Receive New Computers, Digital Equipment
Photo credit: MCA-Morocco

Morocco’s Ministry of Education and the Millennium Challenge Account-Morocco (MCA-Morocco) agency have equipped 34 schools in the northern region of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima with computers and other equipment. The hardware will benefit 33,234 students and 862 teachers.

Completed on September 25, the equipment operation falls within MCA-Morocco’s “Secondary Education” project, aiming to improve the quality of education in Moroccan middle and high schools.

In a joint press release issued on September 28, the Ministry of Education and MCA-Morocco said the new equipment will strengthen the performance of schools and improve the learning process and the academic results of students.

The computers would also allow teachers to provide high-quality online lessons, especially as many schools are closed due to COVID-19.

The equipment, worth nearly MAD 15 million ($1.62 million), includes 1,698 laptops, 146 desktop computers, 460 video projectors and projection screens, as well as several printers, data storage servers, and Wi-Fi routers.

The initiative’s organizers are set to provide training to teachers and administrative staff at the beneficiary schools on how to use the new equipment.

The beneficiary schools are located in Tangier-Asilah (10 establishments), Tetouan (nine), Larache (seven), Chefchaouen (six), Fahs-Anjra (one), and Ouezzane (one). They include both middle schools and high schools.

The “Secondary Education” project, which englobes the recent initiative, has an overall budget of $111.4 million. It goes in line with Morocco’s 2015-2030 vision for education reform and focuses on three main axes.

The project aims to establish an integrated model to improve Moroccan middle and high schools. It also seeks to reinforce students’ learning and promote digital tools. Finally, it hopes to develop a new approach for maintaining educational infrastructure and equipment.

Save Mediterranean Textile

0
Save Mediterranean Textile
Save Mediterranean Textile

Barcelona – The Mediterranean textile sector has suffered millions in losses and company closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an exemplary way, some companies have reoriented their production to respond to the health crisis, but the drop in demand affects all countries in the region, where the textile sector is very important for local economies.

Faced with this exceptional situation, the sector must rethink its position in the market and bet on sustainability. Textile is a key industry that employs millions of workers and can generate large numbers of jobs.

The Mediterranean can compete with any region in the world in terms of speed of communications, logistics, infrastructure, skilled workforce, access to new and high-quality textile materials, creativity and talent to produce.

The manufacture of masks in the region was a breath of fresh air that helped lessen the impact of the coronavirus and demonstrated the imagination and inventiveness that emerged in the textile sector.

Now it is necessary to have a real recovery plan and to take measures to save and restart the sector in this context of crisis. A new, strengthened development model that implies a more environmentally and social sustainable production model, also modernised by available technologies.

The textile sector, one of the most important industries in the world, is an industry valued at 2,500 million dollars that employs more than 60 million workers throughout the production chain, being a true engine of development for the Mediterranean region.

It is obvious that the Mediterranean textile industry should also redesign its social and environmental footprint, take into account natural resources, the problems of pollution, the exploitation of people or animals, and the uneven production and distribution of products. It is a global business valued at more than a trillion dollars, but it must be reinvented.

In addition, the fourth industrial revolution is already here and is impacting the textile business through digital manufacturing technologies, additive manufacturing, 3-D printing and new computational design techniques. Therefore, the time has come for the Mediterranean textile industry to come together to tackle the rapid pace of change and join the fourth revolution.

Many measures can be taken, such as enhancing the value of “Made in Mediterranean” through public-private action in media communication, or the development of a label that symbolises quality, respect for the consumer and the environment. 

It is also possible to take advantage of the Mediterranean’s prominent position as a textile producer to strengthen the fight against smuggling and under-invoicing of imports, as well as to promote consumption, regional textile investments and sustainable partnerships between retailers and manufacturers, with a reorganisation of the production based on flexibility, speed and nearshoring. Furthermore, workers in supply chains must be protected and the lack of protection for informal workers addressed.

The pandemic has reversed globalisation, raising awareness of the importance of regional supply chains, shorter and simpler and therefore more efficient, taking advantage of local workforce, and promoting innovation and the development of new technologies.

It is convenient to support the return to the region of a certain number of industrial activities that promote the local Mediterranean economy. The Mediterranean offers the ideal location as an alternative base to Asia, thus shortening logistics circuits with the European Union and reducing the carbon footprint.

The fashion industry has reinvented itself numerous times. Now it must participate in this revolution towards sustainability, going beyond the next season.

There are good prospects for the area if the competitiveness of Mediterranean exports is strengthened, partnerships between Mediterranean companies are promoted to better compete in the international market, and platforms are created to promote and attract investment in the region.

It is the moment to bet on young creatives who are passionate about new values ​​in fashion, design, innovation and sustainability, providing them with tools and opportunities to influence decisions and create new perspectives. The Mediterranean textile sector must certainly explore the potential of collaboration.

For a long time, the textile and clothing industry has dominated commercial exchanges in the Mediterranean.

Today it continues to play a leading role in improving economic conditions, especially in the south of the region, where the sector is of key importance. About 40% of the European textile and clothing trade goes to the Mediterranean region. The vision of a bilateral development aimed at creating a fully integrated market should create a win-win situation for both sides of the Mediterranean.

New UK Ambassador to Morocco Simon Martin CMG Ready to Begin Mission

0
New UK Ambassador to Morocco Simon Martin CMG Ready to Begin Mission
Photo credit: Morocco's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, received today the UK’s new ambassador to Rabat, Simon Martin CMG.

The British ambassador presented his letter of credence to Bourita and, through him, to King Mohammed VI.

The UK announced the appointment of Martin in Rabat in February. The new UK ambassador replaces Thomas Reilly who served in Morocco between 2017 and 2020.

A father of four, Martin is an experienced diplomat who served at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1984.

He served in several locations across the world, including Britain, Myanmar, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

The new ambassador has held both diplomatic and commercial positions, such as Deputy Head of the Southern European Department, Deputy Head of Mission in Prague, and Deputy Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Before his appointment in Morocco, Martin served as the UK’s ambassador to Bahrain, between 2015 and 2019.

Martin will be the first UK ambassador to serve in Morocco after Brexit. He will have the mission of strengthening relations with Morocco, which British officials consider as a “gateway to Africa.”

Read also: Former UK Minister: Morocco Is Best Gateway Between Africa and Europe

The new ambassador will also have to build on the mission of ambassador Reilly, who succeeded in forging good connections with the Moroccan government, as well as several local partners.

Before the end of his mission in Morocco, Reilly led the creation of a strategic dialogue between British and Moroccan officials and negotiated several agreements, including a UK-Morocco education treaty, an extradition treaty, a mutual legal assistance treaty, and a bilateral trade agreement replacing the EU-Morocco Association Agreement.

Read also: Morocco & UK: Looking Toward the Future Together

Morocco to Save €27 Million Yearly Thanks to Recently-Issued Euro Bond

0
Morocco to Save €27 Million Yearly Thanks to Recently-Issued Euro Bond

The €1 billion bond that Morocco issued on the international financial market last week will result in savings of nearly MAD 300 million (€27 million) per year, Minister of Economy Mohamed Benchaaboun announced.

Morocco will make the savings through reducing interest charges, Benchaaboun explained in an interview with business newspaper L’Economiste on Monday.

The bond that Morocco issued on September 24 will replace an old debt at an interest rate of 4.5% with a new debt at an average interest rate of only 1.7%, the minister said.

Morocco’s Ministry of Economy issued the bond with two €500 million tranches.

The first tranche has a maturity of 5.5 years, a price of 99.374%, and a rate of return of 1.495%, or a coupon of 1.375%.

The second tranche has a 10-year maturity, a price of 98.434%, and a rate of return of 2.176%, or a coupon of 2%.

The issued bond is “an excellent operation for our country,” Benchaaboun celebrated. He explained that the operation’s timing allows for saving more than 100 basis points compared to the bond’s initially proposed issuance in May.

If Morocco issued the bond in May, the Ministry of Economy would have paid a 3.1% coupon for a 10-year maturity. However, thanks to the operation’s timing, the country only has to pay a 2% coupon, the minister explained.

Macroeconomic advantages

Besides the yearly savings of nearly MAD 300 million (€27 million), the issued bond will allow Morocco to avoid drawing on its foreign assets to repay its debts and, thus, maintain sufficient foreign assets in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The recent operation will also allow the country to avoid altering domestic liquidity, which would have further worsened the current bank liquidity deficit.

Benchaaboun’s department consulted with four banks (Barclays, BNP Paribas, Natixis, and JPMorgan Chase) before deciding on when to issue the bond for optimal savings.

Despite the difficult context, Benchaaboun continued, the bond received favorable reactions from international investors. According to the minister, Morocco’s bonds are known for their “indisputable assets,” namely political stability, economic resilience, and a reputable track record.

Morocco is one of the few countries in Africa and the MENA region that was able to maintain a good investment reputation throughout the past decade, Benchaaboun concluded.

OCP Africa Advances Food Security in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal

0
OCP Africa to Support Rice, Millet Sectors in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal
Rice and millet are essential crops in the two countries, but the industries are in need of a boost if they are to effectively mitigate the threat of food insecurity.

Rabat – OCP Africa has forged a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to support the rice and millet sectors in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal. 

The ultimate goal of the partnership is to advance food security in the two countries and improve the standard of living of small-scale producers of rice and millet by strengthening agricultural services. 

Rice and millet are essential to food security in the two countries, but a lack of training, unsustainable agricultural practices, and limited access to financing hinder production. 

The IFC intends to offer advisory services to farmers and agricultural groups that are members of OCP Africa’s Agri Booster program. The OCP program aims to benefit some 12,000 Ivorian and Senegalese farmers by 2022.

Agri Booster seeks to strengthen agricultural cooperatives’ technical, financial, and managerial skills and improve agricultural practices. It focuses on introducing smart solutions for water and soil management amid the threat of climate change.

Read also: Morocco’s OCP to Support Agricultural Cooperatives in Marrakech-Safi

Rice and millet producers in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal are also set to benefit from the digitization of payment systems and improved access to finance.

“This partnership gives concrete form to our vision of releasing the potential of African agriculture in a sustainable way through a holistic approach, involving key players in the value chain, for the benefit of small farmers,” underlined OCP Africa Director-General Mohamed Anouar Jamali, according to Morocco’s state media. 

The partnership with the IFC follows OCP Africa’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cote d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Rice Promotion earlier this month.  

With the MoU, OCP Africa intends to boost rice production in Cote d’Ivoire and make the country self-sufficient by 2025, while the Ivorian government aspires to become one of the largest African rice exporters by 2030.

OCP Africa’s initiative in Cote d’Ivoire includes restructuring value chains for rice-growing activities and broadening access to suitable fertilizers that will improve crop yields.

Similar to the OCP Africa-IFC partnership, OCP’s agreement with the Ivorian rice ministry includes education and training on good agricultural practices and the digitalization of value chains.

Read also: Nigeria’s Obasanjo Commends Morocco’s Role in Africa’s Aspiration to Attain Food Security

OCP, as a phosphate giant and fertilizer producer, aims to share its expertise in agriculture with African partners. Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Ghana have recently partnered with OCP Africa to improve agricultural practices and address challenges of food insecurity.

The company has also carried out its mission to combat food insecurity in Africa in Nigeria, Zambia, Benin, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Rwanda.