Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Morocco is a monarchy with a constitution and an elected parliament. According to the constitution, ultimate government authority rests with King Mohammed VI who presides over the council of ministers and appoints or approves members of the government. While a process of gradual political reform has been underway for a decade, challenges to democratic progress remain. The 2007 parliamentary elections were transparent but were marred by low turnout and a high number of protest ballots. Corruption, limited reforms in the political parties, and inefficacy of the parliament and local councils have caused analysts to express concern that continuing voter apathy will be manifest in the upcoming nationwide municipal elections, scheduled for June 2009. Citizens did not have the right to change constitutional provisions establishing their monarchical form of government. Reports of torture, arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and other abuses by police and security forces continued during the year, along with impunity, substandard prison conditions, and lack of a fully independent judiciary. The government restricted freedoms of speech, religion, and the press; and corruption, trafficking in persons, and child labor remained problematic.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government continues to pursue a democracy strategy that integrates advocacy for reform, assistance, training, and public diplomacy outreach. Public diplomacy efforts promote the expression of democratic concepts and values through the media and in face-to-face interactions, using speakers, video conferences, print and electronic publications, and grants for youth media training. Six specific areas dominate U.S. efforts: strengthening democratic institutions, particularly local governments, political parties, and the technical knowledge of members of parliament, with a particular focus on women's involvement; increasing civil society effectiveness at local and national levels; promoting anticorruption efforts and judicial independence; protecting and expanding freedom of expression; supporting and training marginalized youth; and enhancing the professionalism of security forces. The U.S. strategy is designed to support the government's demonstrated commitment to reform.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The U.S. Government engages the government and civil society at all levels to encourage continued progress in the areas of human rights and democratic reform. Through the annual Human Rights Dialogue, launched in 2007, U.S. officials engage their counterparts in constructive and open discussions on human rights issues, especially on issues of arbitrary detention, physical abuse, impunity, and limits on freedom of expression. U.S. officials meet with government officials and leaders of religious communities to promote religious freedom and tolerance. Through its programmatic efforts, the United States seeks to strengthen local governance by fostering the expansion of citizens' rights, including freedom of expression. The United States continues to promote press freedom through journalist training programs that emphasize journalistic ethics and professionalism. The U.S.-funded Advancing Learning and Employability for a Better Future literacy program, which targets women and Amazigh (Berber) speaking populations, reached over 10,000 women. With U.S. support, the American Bar Association and Morocco's National Judicial Training Institute will develop 15 e-learning modules on the family code (Moudawana) and labor laws for all new and sitting judges and senior family law court clerks in order to ensure the law is applied fairly and consistently.

The U.S. Government is expanding capacity-building programs for local governments and political parties, with a particular focus on female candidates in the 2009 local elections. When political parties reached an agreement with the government in late 2008 to raise the percentage of women in local councils from 0.5 to 12 percent, the United States provided funding for a countrywide support and training program for new female candidates. The United States also supports, through advocacy and programming, activists within political parties who aim to increase their own parties' internal democratic processes, improve the effectiveness of the party system, and reach out to women, youth and economically disadvantaged elements of society. In addition, the United States will increase outreach to, and constructive engagement with, youth and other at-risk segments of society to lessen their vulnerability to extremism and help integrate them into broader democratic processes.

Combating corruption is a growing mission priority, reflecting the government's own commitment in this area. The U.S. Government promotes court system improvements through judicial training and other governmental and civil society actors; enhanced transparency and accountability in local governance by encouraging the adoption of codes of conduct, governance pacts, and stronger audit capacity; and increased civil society advocacy to promote an environment of accountability and transparency. A U.S.-funded educational drama takes anticorruption messages to popular audiences. The United States is also funding the design of an anticorruption curriculum for all court clerks in partnership with the Judicial Training Institute. The U.S. Government will continue to strengthen professional legal associations as they implement ethical codes of conduct. As a result of U.S. support, legal associations began a constructive dialogue with the government on judicial independence and ethics. Embassy officials are beginning to interact with the new government Council for Combating Corruption, which encompasses representatives of government and civil society. The United States will also continue to encourage and support efforts for further government decentralization and strengthening local governments' fiscal independence.

Resolution of the longstanding Western Sahara dispute is essential to advancing regional peace and stability, improving the country’s overall human rights situation, and permitting greater democratic reform. UN-sponsored negotiations under a newly appointed personal envoy of the UN secretary-general aim to find an equitable and lasting solution acceptable to all parties. The United States continues to support UN efforts through advocacy and reporting on human rights concerns, including from the Western Sahara. Extensive diplomacy with government and security officials and a bilateral human rights dialogue help improve the situation in the territory, including advances in freedom of movement and reductions in human rights violations. Direct embassy engagement with human rights activists, victims, and government officials continued in the Western Sahara in 2009.