By Mohamed Saadouni
Morocco’s brand-new “Parallel Youth Government” is bringing young people together to lead what they are calling the “battle for reform”.
The minister in charge of relations with Parliament and civil society, Lahbib Choubani, described the initiative from the Moroccan Youth Forum is a “unique” experiment in the Arab world.
“I’m happy about the birth of this experience in Morocco. What pleased me in this project is that it is a dream,” Choubani said at a June 2nd press conference launching the programme. “Youth are dreaming of a beautiful future,” he said.
The Islamist minister said just thinking about a youth government carries with it a kind of boldness, saying, “Young people want to engage in interaction with the centres of decision-making, want to submit suggestions and solutions, and I think that this is a beautiful thing.”
The minister promised to open up Parliament to them so they can attend meetings of MPs and make proposals, as well as raise issues of concern in the context of what he called “the civil initiative”.
The project is backed by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an American NGO, along with the British Embassy in Rabat.
During his speech on the occasion, Jeffrey England, who heads up the NDI in Morocco, said that his institute “aims to support parties and push them to focus on encouraging interaction between citizens and elected [officials] and to support the political participation of young people”.
In an exclusive statement to Magharebia, Parallel Youth Government Prime Minister Ismail Hamraoui said: “This special youth initiative is led by young people without any party affiliation or ideology.”
“This is only the beginning in the battle of reform. Our motto is fighting corruption and the corrupt and propelling the country forward,” he added.
Asked about the possibility of opposition parties seeking to co-opt the youth government, the youth prime minister said with a smile that it was “not possible”.
“We are independent young people, and our government is independent and impartial. Political calculations don’t interest us, because our main concern is the interest of young people and the nation, removed from narrow political calculations,” Hamraoui said.
Btisam Ghazawi, Communication Minister and official Spokesperson for the Parallel Youth Government, said in the opening speech to announce its formation that the group “will work to launch a new youth dynamic to keep up with political developments, monitor government performance, and work to inform the public on assessment of the government’s work and on alternative projects that could have been resorted to in all the decisions taken”.
While many young people valued the initiative, others attacked the idea. On Facebook, young Moroccans criticised the project as “an initiative of the opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party”.
One young person from the February 20 Movement commented on the news by writing: “These well-off young people graduated from French institutes [and] are not entitled to represent Moroccan youth.”
With young people making up more than a third of the population, youths represent a valuable asset for the kingdom. But the latest report on youth unemployment, issued February 2012, said that more than a million people between the age of 16 and 34 were out of work.
Notably, the new government in its 2012 government platform expressed its commitment to developing an integrated national youth strategy and opening a national dialogue and public debate on issues of youth and civil society, prompting fast movement toward bringing the Parallel Youth Government project to fruition.