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Internet and Citizen Participation: Moroccan Youths Reinvent Their Democracy

Liviane Urquiza's picture

This week, I had the opportunity to discuss the rise of citizen participation in Morocco with Tarik Nesh-Nash. If the name means nothing to you, it’s time to discover the man behind it!

Tarik Nesh-NashTarik is 34 years old. He’s a computer engineer and is acutely aware of politics in his country. Youth, skills, and an understanding of the issues: Combine ingredients, mix well, and finish off with a generous dash of inventiveness. What you have is a young social innovator ready to revolutionize the role of citizens in his country.

Early 2011. The first buds of the Arab spring are about to bloom. The Moroccan people take to the streets to denounce social injustice, unemployment, and corruption and call for a genuine constitutional monarchy. In March, King Mohamed VI announces the launch of constitutional reforms. Several days later, Tarik launches, a participatory platform he co-founded with another young computer engineer, Mehdi Slaoui Andaloussi. The platform will enable thousands of Moroccans to contribute to drafting the new constitution.

“Citizens should be able to express their opinions before political leaders make important decisions,” Tarik explains. “One of the main objectives of was to inform youths, to encourage them to read and comment on the constitution that would soon govern their country.”

The comments and proposals submitted online were presented to the advisory committee in charge of the constitutional reform. According to Tarik, 40% of the contributions were taken into account in the new constitution.  A remarkable success.

In addition to the success of and (“transparent spending”) – an initiative that reports public spending – Tarik has launched a third collaborative project, this time dedicated to fighting corruption.

On the site (“We won’t be corrupted”), any victim of or witness to an act of corruption (bribery, embezzlement, influence peddling, etc.) can report it anonymously. To protect both victims and individuals who might be wrongfully accused, each report will be verified. Only facts verified by Transparency Maroc, the Moroccan branch of Transparency International, are published anonymously on the site and other social networking sites to make the general public aware of passive corruption – when someone accepts a bribe or allows corruption to occur. senbilise les citoyens pour freiner la corruption

Internet allows young people to take the reins of change

Tarik is one of these young innovators who have paved the way. Now there are a great many young Moroccans who use new technologies to accelerate change in their country. For example, the project was recently awarded the Bobs prize for “Best Social Activism Campaign.” The campaign, created by a collective of young Moroccans, aims to repeal article 475 of the Moroccan criminal code, which allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim, who is generally forced to accept the arrangement.

In short, the priority for Moroccan youths is to ensure that citizens’ views are better heard. To form a collective, or even a virtual community, is proving to be an effective and constructive way to accelerate the social change already under way.

By reducing the influence of interest groups that exert pressure on the government and breaking the silence on corruption, Moroccan youths are seeking influence by proposing a new system of decision making that is more reliable, more respectful of citizens’ opinions, and more transparent.