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Interview with Leila Hanafi on How the Moroccan Diaspora is Pioneering Rule of Law Reform

If you don’t know by now, there are two things I’m passionate about promoting more of in the rule of law sector. The first is more youth-focused efforts and the other is increasing the role of Diaspora’s in this field. The Moroccan Diaspora has been active on both fronts! In 2011, Morocco took the unprecedented step of providing their Diaspora with guaranteed rights under their new constitution. The Diaspora is now pioneering the first round of virtual consultations around the world to receive feedback from Moroccan civil society organizations working abroad on just how they can become involved in rule of law efforts in Morocco. To learn more, scroll below to read my interview with Leila Hanafi, an appointee to the Moroccan commission on  National Dialogue on  Constitutional Reform.

Can you talk a little about how you’ve mobilized the Diaspora to participate in this process?

This is a landmark initiative in Morocco to use technology to engage with the Moroccan diaspora abroad. Although this consultative process also included physical consultations with the Diaspora in Europe, our Commission realized that it is not sufficient as the Moroccan Diaspora is dispersed across the world and not only concentrated in Europe. Here, it should be noted that Moroccan emigration evolved at an unprecedented pace starting from the 1960s. As a result, today Moroccans living abroad represent around 10% of the total population of the country (over 3.6 millions), and constitute the largest and most dispersed African immigrant population in Europe.

Can you also provide any background on the type of civil society organizations that have been involved in the consultations?  

Thus far, the majority of organizations that have been active actors in the consultations are youth-oriented ones that mobilize the youthful population of Moroccans residing abroad as well as community-development oriented ones.

Much of the questions in the first round of consultations focused on the perception Moroccan civil society organizations abroad have of the new constitution and whether the mechanisms to enable inclusion of the Diaspora in decision-making processes are sufficient. Why was perception an important priority to start off with?

The focus on this perception analysis was deemed essential as it was never concluded before. As Morocco is concerting efforts to develop organic laws, starting with an analysis of perceptions is the precursor for cementing diaspora’s interest and understanding of what’s coming ahead; and also to promote the enhancement of an enabling environment for Diaspora engagement, including organic law development, and active participation in this consultative process.

As such, this virtual scoping exercise is informing the reporting to the National Commission on focus areas that ought to be priorities for the development of the organic law  for public participation of Moroccan civil society  outside the country.

The Moroccan Commission on National Dialogue and New Constitutional Prerogatives is currently compiling the responses you’ve received from your initial consultations. Any chance we can get some initial insight on what you’ve found so far from your consultations?

Credit: Morocco World News

Credit: Morocco World News

Yes, there is a general consensus that:

  • As the number of Moroccans living abroad increases, the need to bring them under the protection of the constitution becomes essential.
  • Boost Civic Engagement: Capacity building and technical assistance for Moroccan civil society groups active abroad  that can contribute to preserving a Moroccan identity through development, linguistic, religious and cultural dimensions
  • Need to enhance Participatory governance and the diaspora’s engagement and democratic representativeness remain an issue. More diaspora members should be present in consultative processes that are initiated by the Moroccan government: Participatory governance and the diaspora’s engagement and democratic representativeness remain an issue although the 2011 adopted constitution tackles the diaspora (i.e. Articles 16-17-18 -30-163).    

In the West, Diaspora’s are often thought about almost exclusively in economic terms and the remittances they provide to families back home. How do you envision the Moroccan Diaspora’s role in engaging with rule of law efforts 5-10 years from now and what kind of efforts do you believe they can be most effective with?

The Moroccan Diaspora can facilitate the:

  • Transfer of expertise and cross-fertilization of experiences from their host countries towards their home countries in the area of law making.  To ensure that the process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient, inclusive approach with the Diaspora is essential.
  • Policymakers in Morocco increasingly recognize the value that Diaspora populations bring to development efforts at home, not just as senders of remittances but also as sources of human capital and direct and indirect investments.  Yet the existing mechanisms of Diaspora engagement, while positive, are insufficient if not integrated in a broad-based strategy, premised in an inclusive legal framework for positive engagement.
  •  It is particularly important in the wake of the Arab Spring as Morocco has adopted a revised constitution that tackles the rights of the Moroccan Diaspora. Participatory governance, Diaspora’s political rights, and democratic representativeness remain a key area for elaboration, notably that the 2011 adopted Constitution tackles Diaspora rights (i.e. Articles 16-17-18 -30-163). As the number of Moroccans living abroad increases, the need to bring them under the protection of the constitution becomes essential.

Also, it is worth noting that Morocco is part of many international legal instruments relating to human rights   law. Some stipulations of the  2011 Moroccan Constitution declare that international conventions ratified by Morocco should be applicable directly as domestic law. Some of these provisions relate to the Moroccan Diaspora abroad. However,   the non-economic aspect of diaspora contribution remains secondary. This is, particularly,  relevant in terms of access to rights and the urgent need to focus on a rights-based approach when analyzing Moroccan Diaspora engagement.

Any tangible steps made in the ongoing development of Morocco cannot be successful without the healthy marriage of good governance and the active participation of its citizens not only inside Morocco but also OUTSIDE the country.  This   landmark initiative for Morocco- which has the potential to empower Moroccans, in their home country and abroad- to participate in policy-making, through mechanisms of public consultations and dialogue has the potential to inspire concerted actions and meaningful progress in ushering in a new era of participatory rule of law in Morocco.

What was one thing that surprised you to learn when working on these consultations?

The overwhelming responses not only from Moroccans residing abroad but also second- generation of Moroccans who were born and raised abroad and still fully engaged in Moroccan affairs

Leila Hanafi is a Moroccan American lawyer and the founder of the international law firm and think-thank ARPA, the Alliance for Rule of Law Promotion & Alternative Dispute Resolution, in Washington DC, USA.

2 comments on “Interview with Leila Hanafi on How the Moroccan Diaspora is Pioneering Rule of Law Reform

  1. Pingback: AMLEN | Interview with Leila Hanafi on How the Moroccan Diaspora is Pioneering Rule of Law Reform

  2. Pingback: Diaspora Advises Morocco on Rule of Law Reform | Reinventing the Rules

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This entry was posted on February 20, 2014 by in Interviews.

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