Arab Reform and Foreign Aid: Lessons from Morocco

In the years since Mohammed VI ascended the throne, Morocco has taken many steps toward social, economic, and political transformation. A vigorous public debate over concepts such as democracy and power is visible. Citizen participation has increased, and individual and women's rights have expanded. Journalists press the limits of free speech, and a vibrant and growing Islamist political party is challenging the parliament to play a more active role in public policy and governance. Indeed, a broad consensus favoring political reform and social change can be seen across a wide spectrum of Moroccan society. Yet, uncertainty lingers. Morocco faces serious socioeconomic ills and unemployment. The unresolved dispute in the Western Sahara persists, sapping both resources and energy. And the risk of terror after the 2003 Casablanca bombings remains.

Morocco's emerging discourse on democracy, reform, and royal power has seized the attention of officials in both Europe and the United States, many of whom embrace the king's vision and want to support Moroccan development and modernization. The United States and Europe have supported economic development programs in Morocco for decades, alongside efforts to boost human rights and fight corruption. But it was the Bush administration's post-9/11 embrace of democracy and political change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as strategies to combat extremism—and the EU's realization at the same time of the inadequacies of the existing Barcelona process—that transformed Morocco from a friend to a strategic U.S. and European priority. The heightened importance Western powers ascribe to Middle Eastern reform and Morocco's prominence as both an example and test case of that reform raise a host of issues for Americans, Europeans, and Moroccans. This volume addresses some of those issues, including: What are the most important elements in a Middle Eastern country's reform process? What is the optimal relationship between the host government and foreign donors? Is transatlantic consensus on these issues achievable, or even desirable?

Haim Malka is a fellow with the CSIS Middle East Program. Previously, he was a research analyst at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Jon B. Alterman is senior fellow and director of the CSIS Middle East Program. Prior to joining CSIS, he served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Jon Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program

Haim Malka