U.S. and European Democracy Assistance to the Maghreb

U.S. and European Democracy Assistance to the Maghreb

External Priorities and Internal Demands in Tunisia and Morocco
Tunis, Tunisia 23 October 2011Tunis, Tunisia 23 October 2011.

The ongoing political turmoil in much of the Arab World- coupled with the simmering budget and debt crises in the West- have posed great challenges for foreign aid and democracy support across the region. While the hot button issues of the Middle East have grabbed much attention, the transitions in the Maghreb countries have received far less interest in the U.S. and Europe.   The political trajectory of the Maghreb countries of course varies significantly, ranging from Libya on the verge of becoming a failed state, to Tunisia which has embarked on a relatively successful trajectory of democratic consolidation and reforms. While Tunisians just completed their second orderly electoral process since their 2011 revolution, significant challenges remain including a weak economy, high levels of unemployment, and an increasingly divided political climate. Meanwhile, Morocco has averted significant upheaval by quelling reform movements through small concessions approved in a constitutional referendum held in July of 2011. While this referendum granted nominal changes to the division of power between the executive and the legislative bodies, these reforms have done little to protect and expand civil liberties.

Within this context, the discussion will take a closer look at U.S. and European democracy promotion and human rights in the Maghreb region, focused primarily on Tunisia and Morocco. The discussions will be framed around the joint POMED/ hbs report on the U.S. foreign assistance budget in the fiscal year 2015 for the Middle East and North Africa. This report closely examines how far the Obama administration has adjusted its engagement and policy toward greater democracy in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. By means of comparison, the panel will analyse the EU’s tools for democracy support in the Maghreb. The panelists will discuss the tools’ main focus and funding levels, and if they actually reflect a change in strategy towards the region. Furthermore, local perceptions of U.S./ EU democracy support and its impact on the ground will be highlighted from a Moroccan perspective.