Spotlight On… Social Watch Morocco

This month, “Spotlight On…” will turn its attention to the Middle East, to take a look at the experience of the Social Watch coalition in Morocco, one of the most broad-based and active groups of Watchers in the Maghreb region, who will be hosting this year´s regional capacity building workshop in October.

Social Watch Morocco traces its origins to 1996, when L´Espace Associatif (EA), a grouping of locally-based civil society organizations and human rights activists, was created as a platform to contribute to democratic development processes in the country.  EA quickly joined forces with the Lebanon-based Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) to make linkages with other like-minded civil society networks promoting economic, social and cultural rights in the region.  In turn, ANND, which has comprised part of the Social Watch network since its inception in the wake of the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, encouraged EA to take the lead in the formation of a national Social Watch (SW) coalition in Morocco.  In 2001, EA and its affiliated organizations became part of the SW global network, with the submission of the first country report for Morocco for that year´s global Report.  Since that time, the Moroccan coalition has continued its monitoring, advocacy and capacity-building efforts, contributing to both national and international debates on gender rights and poverty reduction.

Currently, the membership of EA and of SW Morocco is as diverse as it is locally-rooted.  Over 120 human rights, trade union, womens´, youth, and rural organizations as well as individual activists with geographical representation throughout the entire country are linked to the two initiatives.  EA members work on a broad spectrum of issues which are grouped into three thematic “poles”: economic, social and cultural rights; education; and environment.  These issues are then brought to the fore through concrete projects focused on popular education and analysis; institution and coalition-building for civil society organizations, and campaigning and advocacy.  Some examples of projects currently being carried out by EA are: “Inclusive Schools”, which combines elements of research, advocacy and capacity-building to promote civil society participation in the design and application of education policies on a local level; and “Gender Mainstreaming”, which aims to increase awareness regarding the need for inclusion of gender issues in both advocacy work related to economic and social rights and in the internal functioning of community organizations and NGOs.  In addition to its linkages with SW and ANND, EA is also an active member of other regional and global civil society coalitions, such as the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Reseau Euro-Mediterraneen des Droits de l´Homme (Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network), as well as the Maghreb and Moroccan Social Forums. 

In the context of its work as focal point for SW in Morocco, EA takes a collaborative approach in its monitoring, advocacy, and communications activities.  Every year, the wide range of civil society organizations that promote SW in the country are convened for a series of discussions related to the topic which is that year´s thematic focus for the global SW Report.  Afterwards, the national report for Morocco is written, taking in to account the analyses presented at these encounters.  The report writing process is also used to stimulate new branches of advocacy work among civil society.  For example, as a result of the discussions that took place at the meetings to prepare the Morocco chapter for the 2008 SW Report, focused on human rights, specific campaigns related to the right to health and the right to education were developed.  This year it is expected that the report writing process will translate into an ongoing effort to monitor the economic, social and environmental impacts of the anti-crisis measures being taken by the government.  After the global Report is published, launch events are held every year, as an important moment to disseminate key SW messages regarding social and gender rights to both the media and policymakers.  The Moroccan SW Coalition is also active in the internal governance of SW, with EA President Anas El Hassnaoui currently serving as part of the SW Coordinating Committee. 

Additionally, SW Morocco is committed to supporting the capacity-building efforts of the global network in the African and Middle Eastern regions, playing host in 2007 to the “Information Exchange and Advocacy Training” workshop attended by Watchers and potential Watchers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.  This October, another SW workshop to strengthen institutional capacities regarding human rights budget analysis and social indicators is being organized in Rabat by SW Morocco together with the SW Secretariat and other African and Middle Eastern SW groups for Watchers from francophone African and Middle Eastern countries.  This workshop will be an excellent opportunity for Watchers to not only build their skills to enhance civil society monitoring efforts but also to learn from the experiences of successful coalitions, such as the Moroccan SW group, on how to transform these monitoring activities into real tools for concrete social change.

For more information on the work of Social Watch Morocco and Espace Associatif, see: