The Latest on Morocco’s Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism
Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 18, 2017
Over the past decade, Morocco has been at the forefront of efforts to counter violent extremism – whether through training imams to preach tolerance or promoting reform and development to ensure that people susceptible to extremist influences have alternative paths. Cognizant of the role of prisons – as both a catalyst for extremism and a place to combat it – the Kingdom has focused some of its efforts on rooting out radicalization among this particularly vulnerable population.
In addition to a program run by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs that brings religious leaders directly into contact with the incarcerated, much has been done to ensure that prisoners are effectively reintegrated into society upon their release. In partnership with civil society actors, religious leaders, and international organizations, Morocco’s Penitentiary Administration (DGAPR) has been working since 2008 on the most effective ways of doing so.
One of its key programs — run jointly with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – focuses on the economic and social dimensions of prisoner reintegration. As highlighted in a just-released UNDP video, Phase I — initiated in March 2016 with funding from the Government of Japan and technical support from the Rabita Mohammedia des Oulémas — included both economic and social elements.
Economically, seven professional production centers were set up in four pilot prisons to provide 400 male and 100 female prisoners with vocational skills training and education to help them reenter the work force upon release.
Socially, peer educators conducted workshops in prisons in Meknes, Salé, Agadir, Safi, Kenitra, and Fez to promote a social discourse of tolerance among detainees. The workshops included initial training of 40 prison personnel and religious counselors and 16 peer educators on international law pertaining to prison conditions and strategies and practices for countering violent extremism in a prison environment. These peer educators then trained an additional 220 people to conduct workshops, reaching over 22,000 detainees and magnifying the future impact of the program.
Phase II of the program was officially launched on July 19, 2017 and will run until 2020. Phase II aims to consolidate the achievements of Phase I by introducing new elements such as e-learning and the multiplication of vocational training centers, while opening up new partnership opportunities with international cooperation institutions, civil society and the private sector. Phase II will work to reinforce capacities and good governance, notably in training and prison administration.
The program on prisoner reintegration is part of UNDP/DGAPR’s broader 2016-2020 strategy to reform prison conditions, which is in itself part of a broader reform process under the leadership of King Mohammed VI. Beyond prisoner reintegration, the strategy aims to humanize the conditions of incarceration, guarantee the safety and security of detainees, and modernize prison administration and governance.