Syracuse, NY (October 13, 2011) An innovative USAID project is giving youth in Morocco the unprecedented opportunity to play a role in helping their local governments address tough issues such as employment.
The Near East Foundation (NEF) is leading the implementation of the project’s youth component, which is designed to promote reconciliation and cooperation between youth and their local elected officials.
Newly-formed youth councils are helping to bridge this gap and to build a new generation of civic leaders. The councils provide a formal structure for youth to participate in local government. Five youth councils have been established and more are in development throughout the country.
The project’s youth activities are among the first of their kind in Morocco and North Africa.
Before joining his local youth council, Reda El Aala, an eighteen-year old student from the rural community of Sidi Harazem, never imagined that he could make a difference in his local government.
“Before this project, my relationship with the government was limited,” he said. “I never thought that one day I would enter the government meeting room and talk to the President.”
In June 2011, Reda joined his fellow youth council members in launching an ongoing exchange of ideas with their local government president to discuss challenges and identify solutions.
The councils are created with guidance from project officials, who engage local youth in a democratic process to elect representatives. Councils serve as a vehicle for both dialogue and action, and a way to mobilize youth in the community. As they evolve, councils will provide support services to youth, such as trainings in job skills and leadership, as well as social outlets like sports and cultural activities.
Among the 30 to 40 council members, six of them (three male, three female) are elected to a dialogue committee that interacts directly with elected officials and civil servants. They discuss issues facing youth, plan activities, and jointly develop a plan of action that responds to youth needs. In turn, the youth work with external partners to put the plans into action. A $300,000 grant program will soon be launched to finance activities proposed by participating youth.
Through the councils, this effort is building a sustainable model for including youth in local governance that will endure long after the project concludes.
The initiative has gained widespread support from Moroccan government leaders, who are seeking positive and productive ways to work with youth. This timely effort ties closely to the new Moroccan constitution, which requires the creation of youth councils and related activities. The USAID-funded project is being implemented by NEF and RTI International.
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa. Founded in 1915, NEF has worked to empower citizens in disadvantaged, vulnerable communities for almost 100 years. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to find grassroots solutions to their development challenges. Our comprehensive “knowledge, voice, and enterprise” approach is helping build more prosperous, inclusive communities throughout the region.
This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through theUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.