For first time, directs that US aid to Morocco can be used in W. Sahara; Urges State Dept to make resolving W. Sahara dispute a US foreign policy priority; Important steps to bolster, extend Morocco’s reform agenda
Washington, DC (Dec. 23, 2011)—Congress has approved and the President today signed a bill taking action to extend US assistance for Morocco’s reforms to the Western Sahara and advance the longstanding US policy calling for a solution to the Western Sahara conflict based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The action —included in the 2012 Omnibus Spending Report—for the first time directs that US program assistance to Morocco may be used in all “regions and territories administered by Morocco,” including the Western Sahara.
The report puts tangible actions behind US policy supporting Moroccan autonomy in Western Sahara, which is backed by strong bipartisan majorities in the US Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the past three Administrations. It notes Congress “remains concerned with resolving the dispute over the Western Sahara” that for decades has been an obstacle to cooperation, stability, and security in the region, and urges the State Department “to prioritize a negotiated settlement” to the dispute based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
“The US must continue to seek a fair, just, and enduring solution to the Western Sahara in order to promote regional integration and protect US security interests in the region,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the Congressional Record. “Morocco is an important strategic partner, and I support its continuing reform efforts to make it a more democratic and prosperous nation. Last month’s elections in Morocco were another important step toward building a more democratic and inclusive country. The level of participation in the election of a new parliament demonstrates popular support for this reform agenda. I support the democratic aspirations of the Moroccan people and encourage its new parliament and government to follow through on constitutional and other reforms to protect fundamental freedoms and human rights.”
For the first time, US program support for Morocco’s reforms may be extended to economic and social development in the Western Sahara. This includes US assistance to expand the role of civil society, promote women’s rights and entrepreneurship, enhance governance and institutions, facilitate democratic reforms and election monitoring, improve entrepreneurial and small business opportunities, address the growing youth population challenge and need for educational opportunities, improve the delivery of health care services and prevention, and increase the use of renewable energies to promote economic development and protect the environment. Congress has also asked the State Department to produce a report highlighting the steps Morocco has taken to advance human rights and reform in the Western Sahara and elsewhere in the country.
“As the region continues to be shaken by Arab Spring turmoil and transition, this measure represents clear US support for Morocco’s efforts to provide economic development for its citizens,” said Singleton B. McAllister, former senior counsel to the House Budget Committee and general counsel for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under President Clinton. “For the first time, US program assistance will support Morocco’s efforts over the last three decades to raise the quality of life for those living in the Western Sahara.”
“This is great news and the logical next step in US support for our longtime ally, Morocco,” said Robert Holley, Executive Director, Moroccan American Center for Policy. “The Western Sahara dispute has been a roadblock in the region for too long, impeding improved relations, economic integration, and security cooperation. Given the events of the past year, it is a roadblock that it’s high time was removed. This action by Congress is an effective use of US aid funding, enabling assistance to be directed where it can have the most positive impact. Ultimately, it will help extend Morocco’s reform agenda and improve stability and security across the region.”
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. For more, please visit www.moroccanamericanpolicy.org
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