On Thursday July 4th, 2013, the High Atlas Foundation held a conference with university students, members of civil society organizations (CSOs), representatives of government, and community participants.
The event took place at the local Cultural Center and was an opportunity for the newly created Coalition of over 30 CSOs in the city of Mohammedia that benefited from HAF program (funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative) in participatory democratic planning and project management – to present their strategic plans and advocate for their social and economic opportunities. The President of the Coalition, Mr. Ben Kacem El Yamani, presented their mission, goals and objectives and a detailed action plan for the upcoming six months.
During the conference, HAF’s President Yossef Ben-Meir signed partnership conventions with two local NGOs; the newly created Coalition of Associations in Mohammedia, and the Association Salma for Development and Integration, a leading association in the Commune of Sidi Moussa Ben Ali, represented by its President, Mr. Sdafi Abdelillah. These two new partnerships came to ensure and support a long-term and structured collaboration between HAF and CSOs in Mohammedia, where HAF offers the capacity-building and guidance necessary for CSOs to become ‘schools of democracy’, a place where the citizens learn democratic ideals and procedures, advance of diversity and pluralism, promote mutual acceptance and willingness to compromise, trust and cooperation, and where CSOs and citizens can influence government officials to adopt positions supporting their members and follow formal rules that facilitate open, free and fair social debate and decisions.
The conference was a great opportunity for participating CSOs to contribute and effectively play their role as a key player in developing, implementing and evaluating government programs and policies, particularly those related to key services and decisions that affect people lives, as Morocco’s constitution clearly defines the role of CSOs as crucial in evaluating government policies and proposing reforms (Article 12).
The event also presented an opportunity for representatives of government agencies and elected officials to share their feedback and suggestions on the programs and activities presented. They commended the CSO initiatives and invited them to coordinate efforts and resources in order to address key social and economic issues of their city.
The culminating part of the conference was when Professor Khalid Mayar El Idrissi facilitated a discussion on CSOs’ contributions towards achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Morocco. After presenting the goals and the country’s present status towards achieving them as highlighted in different reports, many questions were discussed: Is the CSO community rising to the challenge? Are the partnerships among NGOs and with the government and the private sector productive and optimal?
At the end of the session, Dr. El Idrissi summarized several recommendations for the CSOs, including working towards improving:
- Local capacity, in terms of knowledge and skills to implement the MDGs
- Local information and public awareness about the MDGs
- Capacity to undertake integrated and participatory planning (horizontal coordination)
- Skills in introducing performance budgeting for effective implementation
- Capacity for creating a framework of MDG indicators and monitoring mechanisms
- Local procurement capacity which acts as an impediment for high quality and the efficient delivery of public services
- Lack of a national enabling environment for effective local development (e.g. legal and regulatory framework supporting decentralization, financial resources, organizational systems and mechanisms, values, norms and social practices that influence people’s decision and behavior)
- Support from international agencies and donors to promote local governance and local poverty reduction activities
A very special highlight and reason for celebration of the conference was the presentation of Certificates of Completion to students and representatives of CSOs, and recognizing them for their civic engagement, volunteerism and active participation and contributions to the HAF-MEPI capacity building program. Congratulations!