Moving Forward with Advanced Regionalization in the Sahara – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
April 21, 2016

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Projects, and Programs, MAC

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Projects, and Programs, MAC

Earlier this month, Morocco’s Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) released a new report on advanced regionalization in the Sahara. The report, “The Requirements of Regionalization and the Integration Challenges of Sectoral Policies,” sets out a road map of recommendations that aim to make the region a lever for “integrated, inclusive, and sustainable” human and economic development.

The report is just the latest step in a multi-year process designed to devolve power to the local and regional levels as mandated by the 2011 Constitution. In September of last year, Morocco held historic elections for the local and regional councils, both of which have expanded authority and greater independence in managing and budgeting their respective affairs. How they will do so remains an open question to some degree, hence the timeliness of the latest report.

Key recommendations included:

  • The creation of a high-level national body charged with the strategic management and monitoring  of regionalization;
  • The establishment of structures and communication channels within the ministries involved in regionalization at the national level and the stakeholders at the regional and local levels;
  • The drafting of a national charter of devolution and legislation to guide the transfer of decision-making powers and resources to give localities and regions the support they need to fulfill their new responsibilities; and
  • The development of a regional charter for economic cooperation bringing together the State, the territories, the private sector, and other stakeholders.

The establishment of standard operating procedures, lines of communication, and mechanisms for implementation and oversight are certain to be important elements of the broader regionalization process, which purports to result in an entirely new way of governing the Kingdom and therefore will not be without challenges. By creating a national body charged solely with management and oversight, regions and localities should have both the support and the guidelines they need to move forward.

While the latest report does not yet provide the details that are essential to fulfilling the vision of advanced regionalization, the report’s recommendations are another step in that direction.  It is an exciting time for Morocco – and for those who follow the Middle East more generally. Morocco is the only country in the region that has even begun the experiment of the devolution of power through decentralization in an effort to give more power to its citizens. Its success in doing so and its ability to overcome the challenges inevitably presented by such an ambitious process will have implications for the future of governance throughout the region. Stay tuned.

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