Center for Research on Environment, Human Security & Governance


AEIF project



Category: Democracy and Human Rights

Region: Near East

Location: Country-wide, Morocco

Project Description:

Many observers have placed great hope in the democratization of North African countries. Yet, authoritarianism remains the norm, and movement toward democracy is both slow and uneven. For many experts, the state of democratic change does not look promising because most of these countries are faced with obstinate domestic and external obstacles that make democracy appear like an unachievable dream. When apparently democratizing changes occur, they deliver far less than they promise: elections are regularly held but are not always clean, pluralistic, or competitive; the legal and institutional structures associated with the rule of law are elaborate, and often well established, but restrictive and under executive domination; the scope of political and social association has been broadened but remains controlled and ineffective. Whenever the region seems to be taking a step forward toward transformation, countervailing strategies by nimble leaders and regimes seem to set the process several steps backwards. Yet, despite the prevailing despair, a more insightful look at the state of the democratization process in some countries of the region may give some signs of hope. Morocco can be given as an enlightening example when analyzing this trend. After a certain political hibernation, the new King is casting himself as a modern monarch when he decides to give more consideration to the needs of the masses (i.e. His last historical speech on March 9th). Since his accession, and besides the improvement of social, economic, and educational performance, he has enacted several structural reforms which are generating changes in many politically-sensitive areas (i.e. human rights, gender equity, political pluralism, power distribution, corruption, governance, justice, etc.). This remains until now a distinguished and unprecedented initiative in the Arab World. It is difficult to argue that all these reforms are merely cosmetic because most of them are substantial. However, there is a certain doubt regarding the extent to which these reforms can generate real outcomes in terms of democratic transition since many favorable factors and pre-requisite conditions are not gathered.


The core idea of this project can be formulated as follows: Democratization process faces many challenges related, among others, to a feeble democratic culture and practice and civic engagement in Morocco. Without educating the student community –the most vital component of the society – on these values and practices, the process will remain slow, fragile and unsustainable. This community can be a reliable agent of change though it suffers from several challenges (weak political and civic engagement, lack of perspective in terms of career visibility, identity and belonging crisis, over-fascination with Western living standards). Hence, our democratic deficiency is partially due to the lack of civic values and practices at the grass-root levels. Student community feeds all spheres and contributes consequently to the reproduction of the same underlying values. Unless this community is empowered, Morocco will remain weak and vulnerable. So, mainstreaming civic engagement and democracy values in curriculum and research, along with related decision-making processes and advocacy, is certainly one of the recommended paths toward an open and democratic Moroccan society. This project provides an insightful added value in this direction.



  • TEAM LEADER: Halima Ouamouch, AP (Fulbrighter and Civic Education and Lealdership Fellow at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA, Faculty of Art and Humanities, Ain Chock, Casablanca)
  • TEAM LEADER: Mohamed Behnassi, PhD (Alumnus and Civic Education and Lealdership Fellow at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA, Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Sciences, IbnZohr University, Agadir)


  • Touria Nakkouch, PhD (IVL fellow, Faculty of Art and humanities, Ibn-Zohr University, Agadir)
  • Hanan Bennoudi, AP (IVL fellow, Faculty of Art and humanities, Ibn-Zohr University, Agadir)
  • Abdesalamzouita (International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP), USA)
  • Driss Bakka, PhD (Fullbright fellow, Faculty of Art and Humanities, Ibn-Zohr University, Agadir)
  • Margaret L. Perkins, PH (Fullbrighter, English Programs for Internationals, University of South Carolina)
  • Abdellah El Hairach (Alumnus, National expert in NIDH , founding and active member of the South Migration and Development Association- ASMD, Laayoune)
  • Said Erradi (Alumnus, coordinator of Souss Women and Children in Distress Association network-RAFED)
  • Samira Idelcadi, MA (Alumnus, Councilor of DYPL-Democratic League for Youth Protection; President of DLSA-Women Leadership and Solidarity Association)
  • Ismail NADIR, Ph.D (Alumnus, CELF fellow, University of Moulay Ismail-Meknes, Morocco)
  • Khadija Safi Eddine, PhD (Fulbrighter and Professor of Arts and Humanities, Hassan II University)
  • Ahmed Radi, PhD (Fulbrighter and Professor of Arts and Humanities, CaddiAyad University)


  • Julia G. Ganson, Ph.D (Program Manager, Middle East & North Africa, Maxwell School of Syracuse University, Executive Education Program, NY, USA)
  • Bronwyn Adam, Ph.D (Director, Faculty Development, Syracuse University, NY, USA)
  • Steve Lux, Ph.D (Program Director, Middle East & North Africa, Maxwell School of Syracuse University, Executive Education Program, NY, USA)
  • Derrick L. Cogburn, PhD (School of International Service-SIS, American University, USA)
  • Charlie Benjamin, Ph.D (Near East Foundation, Syracuse, USA)
  • Mehrzad Boujourdi, Ph.D (Dicretor of Middle East Studies, Syracuse University, USA)
  • Pamela Boss Kefi, MA (Director of the Center of the Deaf in Buffalo, New York)
  • Ben Bennani, PhD (Truman, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature State University, USA)
  • IbnZohr University of Agadir, Morocco
  • Hassan II University of Casablanca, Morocco
  • North-South Center for Social Sciences (NRCS)
  • Moroccan Organization for Human Rights
  • Moroccan Center for Civic Education


This project has the potential to create a certain momentum for change towards the mainstreaming of civic engagement and democracy by research and education in Moroccan universities. No robust and comprehensive initiative has been undertaken in this direction so far. Even in social sciences teaching affiliations, civic engagement is not systematically incorporated.

The entity created within this project will be an efficient Think Tank capable of empowering the process by providing valuable inputs and expertise and help making positive change possible. This role will be enhanced by initiating relevant research and developing more synergy between involved actors and final users of inputs. The entity will serve as a dynamic source of creative ideas, a space for free interaction and exchange with all stakeholders, and a training and advocacy-based instrument. Also, it will serve as an incubator for innovative ideas, leadership cultivation and civic-oriented initiatives. The use of ICTs as a leverage and platform will make this entity and its policy more inclusive.


This project has the potential to contribute meaningfully to the reform of the Moroccan educational system by promoting civic values and practices within the student community. This objective can be achieved by initiating new projects, courses and teaching strategies, extracurricular programs; by asking participating institutions to review and restructure academic programs and processes and the institutional culture; and by focusing the attention of policy makers and opinion leaders on the civic value of the college experience.
How this general objective can be achieved!

  • This project grows out of a concern about low rates of participation in the civic life of Morocco in voting, in advocacy, in local grassroots associations, and in other forms of civic engagement that are necessary for the vitality of our democratization process. By increasing the number of students who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful civic actions; this project intends to overcome the current deficient situation.
  • By conducting a survey to identify specific visions, expectations and needs of Moroccan student community on national scale, further actions to be implemented by this project will be well-informed and relevant to local contexts and specific needs. Key stakeholders will easily appropriate the process.
  • An independent, apolitical entity (dedicated to anchoring civic engagement and democracy culture and practice both in research and education) will be set. This entity will develop a strong synergy between educators, researchers, student community, NGOs, private sector and decision makers. - The entity will also provide training for concerned stakeholders (primarily student community, educators, concerned civil society actors, and officials) who are involved in the same dynamics. Close collaboration with relevant domestic and international partners of the project will be instrumental in achieving this goal.
  • The findings of the conducted survey will enable the entity which will be created within the project to foster a vision of higher education in which critical thinking around citizenship, democracy, and civic engagement is an integral part of the learning experience.
  • On a long term basis, the entity, via the different scheduled activities (workshops, publications, expertise, diversified activities on campuses, etc.), will provide a common platform for students, faculty, staff, and community partners to discuss, understand, and ultimately act for the enhancement of democratization in Morocco.
  • The diversity of persons and partners involved in this project is instrumental in the sense that it is easy to penetrate many key disciplines and sectors and hence mobilize key stakeholders around the adopted actions. The project is assisted by a number of colleagues that work in civic engagement and related fields. The two project leaders are currently US-Sponsored Civic Engagement and Leadership Fellows in Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and esteem qualified to achieve insightfully the objectives of the current project.


The basic concept of the project will be implemented over one year according to four phases. The implementation process will start from October 2011 until October 2012.

  • Phase 1 (October 1st, 2011):

Creation of the Platform for Civic Empowerment and Sustainability (CIVES). During this phase, all identified interested Alumni will be invited to join the platform and assume responsibilities in its governing bodies. To this end, a meeting in Agadir will be arranged in order to present the Platform project and exchange about the best ways to make the platform operational and relevant within the Moroccan new political context. During the meeting, the project implementers and associated partners will take decisions regarding the initial project design and planning and the conduct of the Student Receptiveness Survey (SRS).
Phase 2 (October to December 2011):
Conducting of Student Receptiveness Survey (SRS). The SRS will cover the main universities in Morocco taking into consideration the geographical, ethnic and cultural representation. This Survey will be implemented by the main members of the project team in association with student representatives in a participatory way.

  • Phase 3 (January 2012):

Based on the Survey’s findings, a national workshop will be organized. To this event, and besides the CIVES’s members, educators, student representatives, faculty staff, relevant NGOs, experts from Morocco and USA will be invited to exchange about the best ways to redesign curricula and teaching materials, extracurricular programs, and other programs to increase civic education and engagement. This workshop will be an opportunity to present and share successful and relevant experiences in terms of civic education and engagement, service learning and leadership. Reference to American experiences (especially undertaken by some specific institutions such as Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, SUNY Cortland, etc.) will be made. In addition, the workshop will identify specific needs in terms of academic and professional training.

  • Phase 4 (March to July, 2012):

A series of training sessions will be organized for both educators, teaching program managers, and hopefully relevant decision makers in the educational system. During this phase, the implementers of the project in collaboration with US experts in civic education and engagement will be actively involved in order to meet the needs of Moroccan educational institutions with respect to this area.

  • Phase 5 (August to October, 2012):

The Preparation and publication of a Manual of Higher Civic Education Teaching based on the wealth of information and materials gathered during the whole process. Meantime, the background of the team leaders and their outstanding experience as CELF Fellows, and the other alumni inputs will be instrumental during this phase. The manual will be a reliable source of information and guiding principle and methodologies for educators from different disciplines looking for the development of new courses or affiliations related to civic education.


The expected outcomes of this project can be summarized as follows:

  • Development of useful materials (relevant teaching methods and tools, course syllabi, guidelines for the conception of new affiliations, etc.) which enable interested educators and institutions to make necessary changes in their teaching and research programs in line with the objective of mainstreaming civic education in all disciplines and departments. The Survey’s Findings, the manual produced during the last phase of the project and all data gathered during the project will be a valuable reference.
  • The creation of the Platform for Civic Empowerment and Sustainability (CIVES) will be a durable space for critical thinking and innovation in terms of civic education and engagement approaches, practices and tools relevant to the Moroccan context. This platform will play major role in influencing the public opinion and decision making processes as well as bringing reforms to the educational system in Morocco. This platform is not linked temporarily to the project but will continue to play initial assigned missions in order to achieve its stated goal and agenda priorities.
  • The CIVES will provide a web-based forum which will facilitate networking and permanent interaction between Alumni, educators, student community, activists and decision makers. This web-based forum will be intimately linked to popular social networks, thus enhancing its visibility and broadening its audience and scope.
  • Moroccan universities will be invited to open up on each other regardless of their different specializations, hence reinforcing the interdisciplinary character of their education programs. They will certainly refresh their attractiveness by reorienting their missions and agenda via the incorporation of civic education dimension.
  • Bringing the university down from its ivory tower to embrace a large and active community through service learning and civic engagement oriented activities.
  • The project will stimulate longterm and fruitful collaboration between Moroccan and American academic institutions with respect to civic education and engagement. Hence, the leading role US sponsored exchange programs in sustaining this promising partnership. Joint affiliations can be for instance established with the potential to provide successful and inspiring experiences to other Moroccan universities.