03 May 2016
Category : Opinion
Since June 2011, I have had the immense professional and personal good fortune to be able to work on the development and consolidation of one of the greatest political, social, and institutional breakthroughs in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989: the so-called Arab Spring.Diego Blázquez in a work meeting.
This year, 2016, marks a momentous five years since of the eruption of this social and political movement which, starting in the impoverished city of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, spread throughout the Arab-Islamic world. Many of its consequences continue to reverberate today. In the context of this more or less significant anniversary, many analyses have emerged, most of them pessimistic in light of the chaotic situation in the Middle East, riven by the Syrian civil war, the rise of DAESH, instability in Libya, the consolidation of modern Islamist parties in some of the countries, and the backward progress of rights and guarantees in others. This post is not intended to deepen or take part in these analyses based on geo-strategy, international relations, or political science by experts in these and other fields. Rather, I am content to pass on my experience over these years as a worker in the area of cooperation with FIIAPP.
After spending 28 months in Tunisia collaborating in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly in the area of educational and occupational inclusion, since May 2014, I have been very excited to be involved in the management of a new Twinning project with the Kingdom of Morocco.
I left Tunisia having intensely experienced the entire political transition and the constitutional reform period. I arrived just as the results of the parliamentary elections were being announced, and I left a few weeks after approval of the new constitution in a festive atmosphere of great relaxation in which a dynamic and modernising process of political consensus was anticipated.
This new project was concerned with the institutional and technical strengthening of one of the new institutions formed in the constitutional reform process of 2011. With the creation of the Inter-Ministerial Agency for Human Rights, Morocco complied with one of the recommendations of the United Nations: to establish permanent government mechanisms to coordinate the relations of the States Parties to human rights treaties with their respective monitoring bodies.
At the same time, this body, reporting to the Prime Minister, was required to centralise actions for making human rights a cross-cutting issue in the different public policies, in collaboration with the responsible technical departments. With this decision, and with the creation of a powerful and independent National Human Rights Council, Morocco was implementing one of the recommendations of its internal process of national reconciliation and transitional justice issued by the country’s Equity and Reconciliation Commission. In addition to the 2011 constitution, it established various bodies to provide follow-up and monitoring in the area of human rights, such as the Authority for Parity and the Fight Against All Forms of Discrimination (APALD). And, lastly, the National Plan of Action on Democracy and Human Rights was created in a participatory manner and with international input.
No sooner did I arrive at my post, I had the opportunity to participate in the Second World Forum on Human Rights, hosted by Morocco in Marrakesh, which was attended by delegations and activists from numerous countries. Morocco announced the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment within the framework of intense convention-related activity on the subject, recognising the pseudo-jurisdictional competences of some of the human rights committees and various reservations.
As in the case of Tunisia, optimism and faith in the reform processes, of course, should not be confused with complacency or ignorance of reality. And so, following these major decisions of a “macro” nature, the important and significant tensions that have built up in this process, and which are not easy to resolve, should not be swept under the rug. At times, these tensions have been manifested in open conflicts, such as with Amnesty International in the spring of 2015, or with the European Union itself at the start of this year, or currently in the context of the United Nations. No one can hide or deny the fact that this is not an easy transition, for both internal and external reasons.
From its modest position and the simple contribution institutional cooperation can make, it will be hard for these tensions and difficulties to be overcome. But we do what we can to equip the Public Administration with the means and resources to successfully confront the challenges ahead of it and for which society expects answers and solutions.
As with the Tunisian experience, in Morocco I have been able to work with and personally get to know numerous young people, both men and women, who firmly believe in an intense process of ongoing and stable reforms that will, each in its own way, make it possible to deepen and improve the rule of law and democracy in their country. Young people with tremendous preparation, the majority of which, nevertheless, see a very limited horizon for their expectations and capacities. But there are also broad sectors that, for different reasons, see some reforms as serious threats to their way of life and what they consider to be their identity. And, lastly, every day I discover how the main concern of a large swathe of society is just to survive each day with the greatest dignity possible in a context of low salaries, high prices, and scarce public services.
In this difficult equilibrium of optimism and realism, my daily experiences in Morocco and Tunisia make me very aware of the difficulties and threats, of the precariousness of the processes unleashed by Mohamed Bouazizis’ self-immolation in December 2010. But also of the responsibilities on both sides of the Mediterranean, as well as our mutual dependency. As the refugee crisis shows us in an extremely raw way, the social, economic, and political stability of our southern neighbours is essential for our own social, economic, and political stability. By weaving together, little by little, the threads of joint work and cooperation, these internal tensions can be dissipated gradually, and we can confront the external issues, because these are common threats. And that is the other big contribution European institutional cooperation, and the Spanish government through FIIAPP, can make today, because working to make Maghrebi institutions more democratic, robust, and transparent will also make for a more democratic, robust, and transparent Europe.
Diego Blázquez is an expert from the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP).
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.