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On the morning of 6th December 2018, I got the chance to attend a panel at the 11th Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD), this year hosted in Marrakech, Morocco. The core theme was focussed on “Honouring International Commitments to Unlock Potential of All Migrants for Development” and was the largest multi-stakeholder dialogue platform concerning migration and development, representing government policymakers, GFMD observers, members of civil society and the private sector. Although the proceedings of the GFMD are non-binding and voluntary, it is hoped that this conference will lay down foundations for the first Global Compact for Migration (for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration), held on 10th-11th December, also in Marrakech.
This UN-led High-Level Political Forum is the first international compact of its kind to address migration, designed to improve the management and co-operation of countries concerning the movement of peoples across borders. This agreement will also address the overarching causes of migration, such as poor access to sustainable livelihoods, the socio-economic and environmental implications of migration upon both origin and host countries, as well as working to enhance the value and impact of migrants for sustainable development.
As it was my first international conference, I was not quite sure what to expect! From my first impressions, it definitely deserved the title of “international”: over 100 nations were represented, including governments, civil society members and NGOs, and amidst the bustle of delegates moving from room to room, I heard Arabic, French, German, English, Spanish being spoken…
Dr Yossef Ben-Meir was one of five guest panellists invited to speak at a side event, organised by “Fondation EuroMedA” which took place alongside the conference’s morning session. EuroMedA is a collaborative organisation promoting relationships between Europe, the Mediterranean region and Africa. They are particularly focussed on the five priority areas of: developing renewable energies, political action and policies directed at Euro-African migration, fighting against violent extremism, developing a common project centred on youth education and training, and creating a new paradigm of development between Europe towards Africa, with regards to sustainable agriculture, energy and commerce.
The panel spoke for about one hour, before opening the floor to questions, during which several interesting topics were broached.
Primarily, the Mediterranean region was discussed as the cradle of peoples and religions, and as such, there is a need to define a common cultural project and unified paradigm for migration across the region and between the wider area of Europe and Africa. The idea of unification was key, as one panellist said, “nationalism flourishes in Europe as a response to the unclear moves governments have taken to deal with migration, and because we are in a system which favourises illegal migration”. But questions were of course raised over
whether it was even possible to have this unified approach to migration, given the historical differences between Europe and Africa.
Another panellist highlighted that the key issues arising from climate change that Africa will face in the future include desertification, food insecurity, drought and soil degradation, all of which could set a new wave of migrants on the move.
Dr Ben-Meir spoke of how the participatory approach is used in Morocco to work towards meaningful sustainable development projects, which can be an alternative to migration for rural communities, as well as the laws in place Morocco has to protect the migrants that settle here.
Once the panel had wrapped up, I also had a few minutes to take a peek at an art installation, of what initially looked like a selection of tents set up in a chilly courtyard: on closer inspection, these tents were beautifully stitched together with national flags and traditional clothing. It turned out to be a project set up to utilise the Antarctic Treaty’s precedent for peaceful co-operation as a message of hope, unity and humanity, for a world without borders and an advocation of Antarctica as a “supranational emblem of human rights”. I left the conference a passport holder for the continent of Antarctica, which to quote it, is a “universal passport for a continent without borders, for the common good of humanity. Climate change has no borders”. As a bearer, I must work to fight climate change, support humanitarian actions, act for sustainable development and spread peace and equality.
Now isn’t that a thought for the day?
Manon is a postgraduate student in Human Ecology at Lund University, Sweden, currently interning at the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco.
Over the weekend, part of the HAF team visited a primary school in Rhamna to check in with community leaders, distribute 140 fruit trees, and join in the excitement of playing and planting with energetic children and volunteers. Activity organizers welcomed us with warm bread and tea, but we couldn’t sit still as the echoes of music and laughter pulled us back outside to join in the day’s activities.
Errachid–HAF Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator–gathers with the children prior to tree planting.
We dug, painted, weeded, and planted, all while appreciating the enthusiasm and compassion the community volunteers emanated and the children replicated.
Rachid Nacer–social work actor–entertains the children with song and dance.
Ibrahim–a HAF volunteer from Algeria–paints a tire prior to tree-planting.
We recognized and admired the school’s health facilities and classrooms, but upon speaking with community leaders, we found that their current challenges included the absence of an organized parent’s association, as well as complications with securing electricity. Normally every school in Morocco has a parent’s association to facilitate familial involvement and support of school activities; these associations typically play an important role in school dynamics. As for the electricity problem, many community members had different interpretations of the conflict, but we ultimately deduced that the current electrical network is serviced by cables connected illegally to bring electricity to the school. In line with HAF’s participatory approach, we asked community organizers about their goals, and they identified their priority of advocating for official electrical lines.
The differences in understanding of the electricity problem and the absence of an official electrical line illustrate a real challenge of participatory action based approaches: they are built on effective communication. Nevertheless, we were impressed by the vibrancy and success of this community’s initiatives, given that they had started organizing on Facebook, a testament to the commitment and insight of community-led action. We will return to conduct participatory meetings with the community to help resolve these issues.
Nisreen–a HAF volunteer from the USA–and school children remove weeds in preparation for tree planting.
The energetic and vibrant atmosphere kept us smiling long after we left. Albayrat primary school exemplified the power and potential of community-based action, and we are glad that HAF could be a part of driving this progress forward.
The beauty of Morocco exists not only in the big cities but also in the charming villages of the countryside. Many villages and residential communities are scattered along the Atlas Mountain range, from the south-west of the country to the far east, and the activities vary from one region to the other. Nevertheless, they share many activities and practices.
Since 2000, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been trying to reach and visit as many villages in Morocco as it can, to work with communities to improve development by creating sustainable projects using different methods of communication.
HAF did a lot of work across the High Atlas Mountains, in Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Taroudant, Errachidia, and in the Fès-Meknes region. The Delegation of Education in Ifrane is one important partner of HAF in the Fès-Meknes region. Together they decided to build fruitful partnerships and facilitate communication between all development actors in the Ifrane. Two years after this decision Ifrane’s Delegation of Education and HAF are very proud of the successful implementation of two fruit tree nurseries in the Assalam school and in the Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. Driven by this success Ifrane’s Delegation of Education and HAF are now planning to expand this project and build another tree nursery in one of the schools of Ain Leuh, a small town located in the center of the Middle Atlas Mountains, about 1450 meters in altitude, and about 28 kilometers from Azrou.
Said Bennani and the HAF nursery caretaker in Ifrane nurseries traveled from Ifrane to Ain Leuh to visit the schools and meet local communities. We were welcomed warmly by a local teacher of Atlas primary school in Ain Leuh. The teacher was happy to talk with us about her village and the primary school she studied in, when she was a little girl! Now she is a prominent woman in her town – she in not only a teacher but also a leader and contact person for all women in the region, who face challenges. The teacher did not hesitate to show us most of the school parts and share with us information about the history and the students who are studying there.
The school was established a long time ago, likely in 1923. It is quite large with 12 classrooms, and new ones have yet to be completed. Moreover, they have free space that they can utilize, if they gave it more attention. We also saw existing trees in the school, while we were there. They had many local types of fruit trees as well as some forestry trees. Moreover, the free land they have is not quite big enough to think about building a new fruit tree nursery. Nevertheless, the teacher spoke on behalf of many local actors there—cooperatives, associations, and the agriculture center—who are working together to make their primary school shinier and engaging the community in the development of their own projects. In addition, HAF are looking as well to join this group of actors to talk more about their interest and the possibilities of how we can create more development projects in the communities. In the school, they have a water canal passing its square, plus a local small well. In addition, the teacher said that they are interested in putting an aromatic and medicinal plants nursery in the school. They have bathrooms and a library with books, which gives me the impression that there are some people in that school or somewhere in the village that are looking to give more to Ain Leuh.
On the same day, I had the chance to visit a local cooperative, which makes wool carpets. In 2015, while I was a volunteer with the agriculture office in Marrakech, I worked with the same cooperative to accompany a group of women from Al Haouz, to visit many sites, in the north of Morocco, granting them more opportunities to learn from different experiences. I remembered the first time I visited them and how they were very active collective women making a variety of beautiful handmade wool carpets.
At the same time, I remembered one of the women from the same cooperative in Ain Leuh visited the HAF office two years ago, when I was a volunteer with HAF. In addition, she participated with Amina EL Hajjami, the HAF Project Manager for Women’s Cooperatives, in visits from the north of Morocco to the South. I visited again the women’s workshop for wool carpets as HAF Project Manager in Fes and Ifrane region. We talked about their challenges, and the future of the cooperative, as well as how they continue to grow the cooperative. Their first interest was looking for help to repair their workplace because the water used to leak inside of the building, preventing them from working comfortably during the rainy and snowy season. They said, “When it is raining, we are not working! Each one of us prefer to stay home.” HAF is looking to help cooperatives like these to solve their problems—community mapping is the best way to achieve this by engaging all the cooperative members.
My last activity before returning to Fez was the visit I had to the Salam School fruit tree nursery. We met with Al Akhawayn university students and the new director of the school to make plans to organize a tree planting event with the local schools and communities in the next two months. Thank you to all HAF partners in Ifrane and Fes region, thank you to Ecosia who founded the fruit tree nursery for the Moroccan communities.