Morocco: A Charter for the Environment

On January 15, in the city of Skhirat, south of the capital Rabat, the Moroccan government launched an ambitious project on environment. A series of regional meetings, workshops and conferences are to follow, sparking a national debate that aims at establishing a Charter for the environment. This effort follows a policy speech delivered last summer by king Mohammed VI in which he insisted on the significance his government is attaching to environmental issues.

The Charter for Environment and Sustainable Development, as it was officially dubbed, will lead among other things to the creation of 16 regional observatories that would provide the government with yearly reports and recommendations on environment and developmental issues. The initiative has now a website with interactive content and a blog in three different languages.

Mabrouk Benazzouz, writing [Fr] for the online regional news website, explains how the new approach is in part about holding polluters to account. He writes:

L’idée de prise de conscience collective et notamment la prise de conscience nécessaire au niveau de tout un chacun et à commencer par les industriels, a imposé un principe nouveau dans notre pays, celui du pollueur /payeur. Madame la Ministre, explique que « ce principe est nouveau, mais tout le monde donc en a conscience, et nous travaillons progressivement pour le mettre en œuvre, à travers les lois et les décrets appropriés, pour faire en sorte que chacun assume ses responsabilités.”

The idea of raising collective awareness, starting with the industries, has imposed a new principle in our country: the polluter must pay. Madam Benkhadra [the Moroccan minister for environment and energy], explains that “this principle is new indeed, but then everyone is now aware of it, and we are working on progressively implementing it through legislation and appropriate decrees, to ensure that everyone assumes his or her responsibilities.”

Big Brother Morocco wonders [Fr] if the decision makers will be up to the task, praising the apparent open process initiated by the government:

Quand on sait qu'il y a très peu d'experts en Écologie au Maroc et Nos chers élus locaux s'y connaissent tellement en écologie que le débat sera, bien sur, soporifique. Dormir debout dans une conférence, ça va être possible avec ces débats sur la charte Nationale de l'environnement. Mais heureusement, le débat sera ouvert au Grand Public, à travers internet et le blog/site de la charte. Il y a même un forum -internet- ou Vous pourrez poster vos propositions et répondre à un formulaire. Ce qui est Louable dans tout cela, c'est que l'état “OUVRE” le débat : une première étape pour instaurer à la fois, un dialogue, et surtout de faire impliquer les Marocains dans les actions à entreprendre.

Given the lack of experts on environment in Morocco – our deputies are not exactly the kind of connoisseurs such process requires – the debate, I'm sure, will be soporific. People risk falling asleep during this national debate for an Environmental Charter. Fortunately, the discussion will be open to the public through the Internet where you can post your propositions and fill in a survey. The fact that the state has opted for an “open” debate is laudable: a first step to initiate dialog and involve Moroccans in the actions about to be undertaken.

Tayyibi A., writing [Fr] on Architecture et Société – Architecture de terre au Maroc recaps the timetable for the project and explains how it was mainly inspired by the French experience:

Octobre/Novembre 2009 : Elaboration du projet de la charte.
Du 15 janvier au 20 février 2010 : Lancement de la concertation nationale à travers les 16 régions du Royaume.
Mars 2010 : Elaboration du projet final de la Charte.
Le 22 avril 2010 : Adoption officielle de la charte.
Le 25 avril 2010 : Célébration de la journée de la Terre.

Le texte de la Charte […] est fortement inspiré dans sa partie la plus importante (valeurs et principes), des articles de la Charte de l’Environnement adoptée dans la constitution Française en 2005!

October and November 2009: elaboration of the project.
15 January to 20 February 2010: launch of a National Consultation throughout the 16 regions of the kingdom.
March 2010: elaboration of the final draft of the Charter.
April 22th, 2010: official adoption of the Charter.
April 25th, 2010: celebration of Earth Day.

The text of the Charter is heavily inspired in its main lines by the French Environmental Charter adopted in the French Constitution in 2005!

Some bloggers however deplored a lack of consistency in the government policy and contradictions between what has been announced and the reality on the ground. Lbadikho posting on Sustainable Mediterranean Rif Now! [Fr], denounces what he describes as the outrageous environmental damage caused in the eastern city of Oujda by the decision of the local governor (unelected official, who's nominated by decree) to uproot a large number of trees. He writes:

Jusqu’à quand cette situation de Walis/Gouverneurs non élus avec plus de prérogatives et de pouvoir que le député ou le maire élu? […] Tout comme la démocratie et le développement vont de paire, le développement durable et la démocratie ne peuvent avoir lieu l’un sans l’autre de façon durable. Seule une réforme constitutionnelle profonde pourrait épargner à des régions comme l’orientale d’être à la merci d’un Wali exogène à leur choix, et encore mieux, d’une technocratie marocaine qui a prouvé ses limites avec tout le mal qu’elle a faite à Saîdia, dans le plus grand crime contre l’homme et la terre que cette région a connu depuis peut être la colonisation.

How long [will we have to bear] this situation where unlected Walis (governors) have more prerogatives and authority than the elected deputy or mayor? […] Just as democracy and development go hand in hand, sustainable development and democracy can not durably occur without each other. Only a profound constitutional reform could spare the people in regions like the East the misdeeds of a Wali they didn't choose, and a technocracy that has proved its limits with all the harm it has inflicted on the Saidia region; the greatest crime against the population and the environment the region has experienced since the colonial era maybe.

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