Mobilizing Local Partnerships in Morocco
by Monceyf Fadili
Poverty in Morocco, notably in urban areas, has been the object of sustained attention from the state over the past few years due to the size of the problem.1 Poverty is increasing in a context of accelerated urban growth (2.8 per cent) caused by natural population growth and rural exodus (220,000 people per year), economic and social shortcomings (in education and employment, health, housing, community facilities, etc.), and the effects of structural adjustment policies implemented during the 1980s. Out of a mainly urban population of 26 million inhabitants,2 one million live in a state of absolute poverty in the urban environment whilst six million are living in poverty in the broader sense of the term (people who are vulnerable to poverty). This represents 45 per cent of the urban population.
The recognition of this social scourge has led to the integration of poverty reduction as a priority area of development intervention3 within a number of pilot programmes at the national level. One of these is the pilot programme to combat poverty in urban and peri-urban areas.4
Beyond mobilization in favour of disadvantaged populations, these pilot programmes, particularly those initiated in urban areas, have made it possible to devise and test a new approach to development that is based on:
(a) The creation of multiple partnerships with all the players in local development;
Partnership initiatives involving non-state actors are still on the whole dependent on being supervised by the central administration. There has, however, been a progressive change of behaviour with the setting up of collective operational projects. Governmental services that were essentially focused on ad hoc operations, restricted to their field of intervention and cut off from one another, are learning to integrate exchanges with other local players and to adopt a more enabling perspective in their conventional and centralized approach. While there is still some reluctance regarding, for instance, the delegation of power, financial autonomy, inter-ministerial coordination and capacity-building, these institutional structures are now responding to urgent social needs and are able to cooperate amongst themselves within a concerted framework.
The municipality is certainly the most appropriate framework for tackling the question of urban poverty and guiding local players. As the forum for urban management par excellence, the municipality is progressively practising partnership by creating areas for coordination and dialogue which involve local players in development projects in areas such as income-generation, social integration and better access to housing and basic services.
For councillors, the most important need is to work in a different way, by contributing directly to the struggle against poverty. They are aware of the growing problems that face their municipalities, such as inadequate infrastructure, shanty-towns, illiteracy, underemployment and delinquency, as well as increasing poverty. Partnership activities offer them an opportunity to achieve greater visibility on a town-wide scale, to form bonds with communities and neighbourhoods and to strengthen of relationships of trust, which helps them to carry out their mission to the best of their mandate.
NGOs and beneficiary populations
Local partnership and the fight against poverty are mobilizing themes for non-governmental organizations and associations, as they can now operate within a political context that is open to civil society and social development. For those endowed with know-how, guidance and operational community-based activities, they allow them to evolve from charitable type of activities towards concerted projects aimed at social integration and sustainable human development.
The NGO associations make up a key element of the local partnership, owing to their position as links to destitute populations and their leadership role in the supervision of projects. There is, however, some question regarding their ability to tackle the many challenges posed by poverty.
Lessons Learned So Far
The impetus created by community activities has changed the position of beneficiary groups from one of distrust to one of trust, the intermediaries being neighbourhood leaders and NGOs. In this regard, for target groups, the growing participatory approach and the creation of partnerships represent a credible facilitation framework for development projects that produce tangible results.
The reaction from women, who are often the heads of households, has been positive in regard to projects that address their needs. In addition to their solidarity in a difficult social environment, women demonstrate willingness to move into sustainable forms of organization such as micro-businesses and cooperatives.
The first results are not, however, free of questions regarding such factors as the change from small-scale, local-type experiments to the regional or national level and the involvement of other partners such as the private sector. In the context of urban crisis where one of the greatest problems is urban poverty, maintaining what has been achieved and moving towards bigger and more durable interventions depends on the strengthening of institutional and financial instruments. Local players in development, particularly the state, need to establish the foundations for these instruments, with a view to their durability.
1 The indicator for human poverty as defined in the Human Development Report 1997 indicates that 41.7 per cent of the Moroccan population suffer from human poverty. United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), 1998 - 2001, Rabat, May 1998, page 16.
2 1994 census. Estimate for 1999: 28.2 million; estimate for 2010: 33.2 million.
3 Kingdom of Morocco National Strategy Note, 1996 - 2000, Morocco/United Nations, Rabat, February 1996, page 31.
4 Programme co-funded by the Ministry of Employment, Professional Training, Social Development and Solidarity and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with technical support from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements UNCHS (Habitat).
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]