Communities in Fez, Morocco, strive to have their voices heard by local authorities planning and implementing local policies and projects, and the newly elected municipal council is more than convinced of the key role that civil society can play in the decision-making process at the local level.

The council’s president, Driss Azami Al-Idrissi, convened civil society representatives in a consultative meeting on March 26, 2016 to help decide best methods for strengthening collaboration with local government and fostering civic participation in public affairs. More than 230 men and women participated in the event, including civil society organizations (CSOs), elected members of the municipal council and local actors.

Opening remarks at the workshop

Maria Longi (on the right) giving opening remarks

Maria Longi, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, reinforced in her opening remarks the necessity for citizens and government to work closely together. “It is crucial for a democracy like Morocco that citizens be consulted and brought into the policy-making and decision-making processes that bear a direct impact on their daily lives,” she said, adding that “successful reform must be the product of both citizen demand and a municipality willing to incorporate citizen input.”

This meeting was an occasion for CSOs to learn more about the new provisions introduced by the 2011 constitution and the organic laws on municipalities related to citizen participation in public affairs. Experts presented on three major themes: methods for citizen engagement, the entity for parity and equality of opportunity and gender, and partnership with civil society.

Brainstorming in CSO workshop

Brainstorming sessions during the thematic workshops

Participants split into working groups to more deeply discuss the different themes and collectively make recommendations for implementing participatory democracy mechanisms and enhancing collaboration between the elected officials and civil society in Fez. These recommendations will be widely shared with other stakeholders in order to gather their views and enrich the debate on the participatory democracy in Morocco.

MOU signing ceremony in Morocco

USAID Mission Director, Dana Mansuri, and the President of Fez’s Municipality during the signing ceremony on March 9, 2016

In early March, Counterpart’s Civil Society Strengthening Program (CSSP) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Municipality of Fez in order to support the partnership with civil society by implementing a three-year action plan that works at the municipal level to build sustainable dialogue and cooperation between elected bodies and civil society. Through this partnership agreement, CSSP will also work to establish networks and coalitions of civil society organizations.

Civil Society Strengthening Program is a four-year program (2015-2018) funded by USAID and implemented by Counterpart International in partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.