For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Location: North Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, southern border with Western Sahara, eastern border with Algeria.
Area: 446,550 sq. km. (172,413 sq. mi.) slightly larger than California. (The disputed territory of Western Sahara comprises another 267,028 sq. km. or 102,703 sq. mi.)
Cities: Rabat (capital), Casablanca, Marrakech, Fes, Meknes, Tangier.
Terrain: Coastal plains, mountains, desert.
Climate: Mediterranean to more extreme in the interior and south.
Land use: Arable land, 19%; permanent crops, 2%; other, 79%.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Moroccan(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 34,859,364. (The population of disputed territory Western Sahara is 385,000.)
Annual population growth rate (2009 est.): 1.479%. Birth rate (2009 est.)--20.96 births/1,000 population. Death rate (2009 est.)--5.45 deaths/1,000 population.
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99.1%, other 0.7%, Jewish 0.2%.
Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%.
Languages: Arabic (official), several Berber dialects; French functions as the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy (definition--age 15 and over can read and write)--total population 52.3%; male 65.7%; female 39.6% (2004 census).
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009 est.)--36.88/1,000. Life expectancy at birth (2009 est.)--71.8 yrs. total population; 69.42 yrs. male; 74.3 yrs. female.
Work force (2010 est.): 11.62 million.
Unemployment rate (July 2010 est.): 8.6%.
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: March 1972, revised 1980, 1992, and 1996 (creating a bicameral legislature).
Independence: March 2, 1956.
Branches: Executive--king (head of state), prime minister (head of government). Legislative--bicameral Parliament. Judicial--Supreme Court.
Major political parties: Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), Istiqlal (Independence) Party (PI), Party of Justice and Development (PJD), Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), National Rally of Independents (RNI), Popular Movement (MP), Constitutional Union Party (UC), Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS).
Suffrage: Universal starting at 18 years of age.
GDP (2009): $91.11 billion.
GDP growth rate: 4.9% (2009); 4% (2010 projection).
Per capita GDP (PPP, 2009): $4,552.
Natural resources: Phosphates, fish, manganese, lead, silver, and copper.
Agriculture: Products--barley, citrus fruits, vegetables, olives, wine, livestock, and fishing.
Industry: Types--phosphate mining, manufacturing and handicrafts, construction and public works, energy.
Sector information as percentage of GDP (2007): Agriculture 12.4%, industry 29%, services 58.5%.
Monetary unit: Moroccan dirham. Exchange rate per U.S. dollar = 8.08 (2009 average).
Trade: Exports (2009)--$13.86 billion f.o.b. Major partners (2009)--France 24.5%, Spain 21.2%, India 5.3%, Italy 4.6%, United States 3.3%, and United Kingdom 3.3%. Imports (2009)--$32.82 billion c.a.f. Major partners (2009)--France 15.7%, Spain 12.1%, China 7.8%, United States 7.1%, Italy 6.5%, and Saudi Arabia 4.4%.
Budget (2009): Revenues--$25.9 billion; expenditures--$28 billion.
Budget deficit: 2.2% of GDP (2009 est.); 3.5% of GDP (2010 proj.).
Debt, public external (2009): $19.36 billion.
Moroccans are predominantly Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber ancestry. The Arabs brought Islam, along with Arabic language and culture, to the region from the Arabian Peninsula during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Today, a small Jewish community remains as well as a largely expatriate Christian population; both enjoy religious freedom and full civil rights. Morocco is also home to a 300-500-person Baha’i community which, in recent years, has been able to worship free from government interference.
Arabic is Morocco's official language, but French is widely taught and serves as the primary language of commerce and government. Moroccan colloquial Arabic, Darija, is composed of a unique combination of Arabic, Berber, and French dialects. Along with Arabic, about 10 million Moroccans, predominantly in rural areas, also speak one of the three Moroccan Berber dialects (Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight). Spanish is also used in the northern part of the country. English is increasingly becoming the foreign language of choice among educated youth and is offered in many public schools from the fourth year on.
Most people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range that insulates the country from the Sahara Desert. Casablanca is the center of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Spain and also a major port; "Arab" Fes is the cultural and religious center; and "Berber" Marrakech is a major tourist center.
Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school (age 15). Nevertheless, many children--particularly girls in rural areas--do not attend school, and most of those who do drop out after elementary school. The country's literacy rate reveals sharp gaps in education, both in terms of gender and location; while country-wide literacy rates are estimated at 39.6% among women and 65.7% among men, the female literacy rate in rural areas is estimated only at 10%.
Morocco is home to 14 public universities. Mohammed V University in Rabat is one of the country’s most famous schools, with faculties of law, sciences, liberal arts, and medicine. Founded over 1,000 years ago, Karaouine University, in Fes, is the oldest center for Islamic studies in the Maghreb. Morocco’s most prestigious private English-language university, Al-Akhawayn, was founded in 1993 by King Hassan II and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in Ifrane. Its curriculum is based on an American model.
Morocco's strategic location has shaped its history. Beginning with the Phoenicians, many foreigners were drawn to this area. Romans, Visigoths, Vandals and Byzantine Greeks ruled successively. Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the 7th century A.D., bringing their civilization and Islam. The Alaouite dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since 1649, claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
Morocco's location and resources led to early competition among European powers in Africa, beginning with successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Following recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco, the Algeciras Conference (1906) formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. The Treaty of Fes (1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones.
Nationalist political parties, which took shape under the French protectorate, began a strong campaign for independence after World War II. Declarations such as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live), served as a base for the independence movement. A manifesto of the Istiqlal (Independence) Party in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement and remains a strong political party.
In 1953, France exiled the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V and replaced him with the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa. Ben Aarafa’s reign was widely perceived as illegitimate, and sparked active opposition to French rule. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and Morocco gained independence on March 2, 1956. In 2006, Moroccans celebrated their 50th year of independence from France.
Morocco regained control over certain Spanish-ruled areas through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated into Morocco with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of Morocco in 1969. Spain, however, retains control over the small coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north.
Hassan II became King in 1961. During the 1990s, King Hassan made great strides toward economic and political liberalization. He died on July 23, 1999, and was succeeded by his son, Mohammed VI, who pledged to continue the reforms.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Morocco is divided into 16 administrative regions (further broken into provinces and prefectures); the regions are administered by walis (governors) appointed by the king.
The Moroccan constitution provides for a strong monarchy but a weak Parliament and judicial branch. Dominant authority rests with the king. The king presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the prime minister following legislative elections; appoints all members of the government taking into account the prime minister's recommendations; and may, at his discretion, terminate the tenure of any minister, dissolve the Parliament, call for new elections, or rule by decree. The king is the commander in chief of the military and holds the title of Amir al-Mou’minin, or Commander of the Faithful, the country's religious leader.
Since the constitutional reform of 1996, the bicameral legislature consists of a lower chamber called the Chamber of Representatives, which is directly elected, and an upper chamber, the Chamber of Counselors, whose members are indirectly elected through various regional, local, and professional councils. The councils' members themselves are directly elected. Parliament's powers are limited, but were expanded under the 1992 and 1996 constitutional revisions to include some budgetary matters, approval authority, and establishment of commissions of inquiry to investigate the government's actions. Though never used, the lower chamber of Parliament may dissolve the government through a majority vote of no confidence.
The most recent parliamentary elections were held in September 2007 and were regarded by international observers as free and fair. However, voter turnout was disappointing, with only 37% of registered voters casting ballots. The Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) won the popular vote, but came in second behind the Istiqlal Party in the number of parliamentary seats. Abbas El Fassi of Istiqlal was appointed to be Prime Minister by the King. El Fassi formed a government based on a minority coalition composed of Istiqlal, the leftist Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), and the centrist National Rally of Independents (RNI). A special election to fill eight seats in Morocco’s lower house of parliament was held in September 2008.
Under Mohammed VI, the Moroccan Government has undertaken a number of economic, social, and political reforms, including the 2003 Moudawana, a reform of the family status code, and the 2006 Equity and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated allegations of human rights abuse from 1956 to 1999. In 2005, the King launched the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), a project to address poverty in rural areas and combat social exclusion in urban areas. The government initiated a number of other important reforms, upgrading the national education system, overhauling the health care regime, broadening the scope of medical insurance, and facilitating access to housing to achieve its human development goals.
As an “Arab Spring” swept the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and early 2011, Moroccan officials and the general public watched closely as neighboring countries sustained massive, sometimes violent, protests leading to significant regime change. Protests in Morocco have been smaller, more subdued, and generally peaceful, but continued into spring 2011. The King has taken steps to address some demonstrator demands, and on March 9, 2011, gave a major address calling for constitutional reforms that, if implemented, could have the potential to alter significantly the distribution of power among the monarchy, government, and Parliament.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mohammed VI
Prime Minister--Abbas El Fassi
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation--Taieb Fassi Fihri
Ambassador to the United States--Aziz Mekouar
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Mohammed Loulichki
Morocco maintains an embassy in the United States at 1601 - 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-462-7979).
The Moroccan economy has been characterized by macroeconomic stability, with generally low inflation and sustained, moderately high growth rates over the past several years. Morocco's primary economic challenge is to accelerate growth and sustain that improved performance in order to reduce high levels of unemployment and underemployment. While overall unemployment stands at 8.6% (2010 est.), this figure masks significantly higher urban unemployment, as high as 31% among young urban males.
Recent governments have pursued reform, liberalization, and modernization aimed at stimulating growth and creating jobs. Since early in his reign, King Mohammed VI has called for expanded employment opportunities, economic development, meaningful education, and increased housing availability. The government has pursued an ambitious program of reforms to increase productivity and competitiveness of the national economy through sectoral strategies targeting energy, fisheries, industry, commerce, agriculture, tourism, and logistics. Promising reforms have occurred in the financial sector. Privatizations have reduced the size of the public sector. Morocco has liberalized rules for oil and gas exploration and has granted concessions for public services in major cities. The tender process in Morocco is becoming increasingly transparent. The government has invested considerably in infrastructure development, in particular Tanger-Med Port at the Strait of Gibraltar. When completed in 2014, Tanger-Med will be Africa’s largest port. Many believe, however, that the process of economic reform must be accelerated.
While economic growth has historically been hampered by volatility in the rainfall-dependent agriculture sector, diversification has made the economy more resilient. Despite an unfavorable international economic environment, Morocco’s economy grew by 4.9% in 2009, aided by an exceptional agricultural harvest. GDP was expected to grow at a 4% rate in 2010 and is projected to expand by 5% in 2011.
Through a foreign exchange rate pegged to a basket of important currencies and well-managed monetary policy, Morocco has held inflation rates to industrial country levels over the past decade. Inflation fell from 3.9% in 2008 to 1% in 2009, mainly due to the fall of world and local food prices. Inflation was projected to hover around 1% for 2010 and to reach 2% in 2011.
The persistent merchandise trade deficit driven by the country’s need for imported energy has been largely offset by inflows including transfers from Moroccans resident abroad, tourism revenue, and foreign investment. Since 2007, Morocco has run a current account deficit, mainly driven by a negative trade balance. In 2009, the current account deficit stood at 4.5% of GDP. Foreign exchange reserves somewhat declined in 2009 but remained adequate, making up nearly 7.6 months' worth of goods and services imports ($23.5 million). These reserves and active external debt management policies give Morocco ample capacity to service its debt. Current external debt stood at $19.3 billion at the end of 2009. As the country significantly reduced both its internal and external public debt, in March 2010, Standard and Poor's raised Morocco's foreign and local currency ratings by one notch (to BBB- from BB+ and to BBB+ from BBB, respectively).
In January 2006, the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Morocco went into effect. The U.S.-Morocco FTA eliminated tariffs on 95% of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products with all remaining tariffs to be eliminated within 9 years. The negotiations produced a comprehensive agreement covering not only market access, but also intellectual property rights protection, transparency in government procurement, investment, services, and e-commerce. Other chapters spell out consultation and assistance mechanisms in the areas of labor and environmental protection. The FTA provides new trade and investment opportunities for both countries and has encouraged economic reforms and liberalization. Since its entry into force, bilateral trade between the two countries has increased 112% (2009 est.)
Morocco is a moderate Arab state that maintains close relations with Europe and the United States. It is a member of the UN and belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). King Mohammed VI is the chairman of the OIC's Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee. Although not a member of the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity--OAU), Morocco remains involved in African diplomacy. It contributes consistently to UN peacekeeping efforts on the continent.
Morocco is active in Maghreb, Arab, and African affairs. It supports the search for peace and moderation in the Middle East. In 1986, then-King Hassan II took the daring step of inviting then-Israeli Prime Minister Peres for talks, becoming only the second Arab leader to host an Israeli leader. Following the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, Morocco accelerated its economic ties and political contacts with Israel. In September 1994, Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices. These offices were closed in 2000 following sustained Israeli-Palestinian violence, but Moroccan-Israeli diplomatic contacts continue.
Morocco was the first Arab state to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and sent troops to help defend Saudi Arabia. Morocco maintains close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which have provided Morocco with substantial amounts of financial assistance. Morocco has supported efforts to stabilize Iraq following the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
Morocco was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and declare solidarity with the American people in fighting terrorism. Morocco has experienced terrorism at home as well. On May 16, 2003, Moroccan suicide bombers simultaneously attacked five sites in Casablanca, killing more than 40 people and wounding over 100. More than a million people subsequently demonstrated to condemn the attacks. In April 2007, a series of suicide bomb attacks occurred in central Casablanca, one taking place near the U.S. Consulate General and another near the American Language Center. The bombings demonstrated Morocco’s vulnerability to extremists who capitalize on widespread poverty and social exclusion. In February 2008, Moroccan authorities arrested nearly 40 members of an alleged terrorist network, led by Abdelkader Belliraj, confiscating weapons found in members’ possession. In September 2009, Moroccan authorities arrested 24 members of an alleged terrorist network linked to Al Qa’ida that recruited volunteers for suicide bombings in Iraq and intended to carry out attacks in Morocco, according to the Interior Ministry. The foreign fighter pipeline coming out of Morocco remains a concern, given reports of Moroccans going to Mali and Algeria to receive Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) training. Of those trained, the majority have gone to Iraq, but some have recently returned to Morocco. However, there have been no successful AQIM attacks in Morocco to date. In February and March 2011, Morocco voiced support for the international community’s efforts in Libya, including the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
In addition to traditional security measures, King Mohammed VI has promoted significant initiatives to counter extremism and dissuade individuals from becoming radicalized. Each Ramadan, for example, the King hosts a series of religious lectures, inviting Muslim speakers from around the world to promote moderate and peaceful religious interpretations. The religious reform launched in 2005 included training of the Ulema (religious scholars) Council and the retraining of imams (prayer leaders) to ensure improved academic background and performance in the fields of education and counseling in religious matters, social conduct, and pious behavior. The reforms included women as stakeholders by training a number of women as counselors, preachers, and supervisors to improve conditions for women, counsel young girls, and instill a sense of strong commitment to Islam’s tolerant ideals. In his 2009 Throne Day speech, the King highlighted the moderate and tolerant nature of the Sunni Malekite rite, which, he emphasized, forms an integral part of Moroccan identity.
Morocco's top foreign relations priority is its claim to Western Sahara. Relations with sub-Saharan African countries have been complicated by the Western Sahara issue, as many African states recognize the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government-in-exile of the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia El-Hamra y Rio de Oro (Polisario) as the territory’s legitimate government. As a result of Algeria's continued support for the Polisario Front in the dispute over Western Sahara, relations between Morocco and Algeria have remained strained over the past several decades, although the two countries have full diplomatic relations with periodic high-level contact. The African Union also recognizes the SADR, and Morocco withdrew from its predecessor, the OAU, in 1984 in protest. Nevertheless, Morocco maintains close relations with numerous, mostly francophone, states in West and Central Africa.
For more than 30 years, Morocco and the independence-seeking Polisario have vied for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory. Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara is based largely on a historical argument of traditional loyalty of Sahrawi tribal leaders to the Moroccan sultan. The Polisario claims to represent the aspirations of the inhabitants of Western Sahara for independence.
From 1904 until 1975, Spain occupied the entire territory, which is divided into a northern portion, the Saguia el Hamra, and a southern two-thirds, the Rio de Oro. In 1969, the Polisario Front was formed to combat the occupation of the territory. In November 1975, King Hassan mobilized 350,000 unarmed Moroccan citizens in what came to be known as the "Green March" into Western Sahara. The march was designed to both demonstrate and strengthen Moroccan claims to the territory, and it is celebrated to this day. On November 14, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania announced a tripartite agreement for an interim administration under which Spain agreed to share administrative authority with Morocco and Mauritania, leaving aside the question of sovereignty. With the establishment of a Moroccan and Mauritanian presence throughout the territory, however, Spain's role in the administration of the Western Sahara effectively ceased.
After a period of hostilities, Mauritania withdrew from the territory in 1979 and signed a peace treaty with the Polisario, relinquishing all claims to the territory. Moroccan troops occupied the region vacated by Mauritania and later proclaimed the territory reintegrated into Morocco. Morocco subsequently built a fortified berm around three-fourths of Western Sahara and exercises de facto administrative control over 80% of the territory.
At the OAU (now African Union) summit in June 1981, King Hassan announced his willingness to hold a referendum in Western Sahara. Subsequent meetings of an OAU Implementation Committee proposed a cease-fire, a UN peacekeeping force, and an interim administration to assist with an OAU-UN-supervised referendum on the issue of independence or annexation. In 1984, the OAU seated a delegation of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the shadow government of the Polisario, which provoked Morocco to withdraw from the OAU.
In 1988, Moroccan and Polisario representatives agreed on a joint UN/OAU settlement proposal for a referendum, but, due to disagreements over who could vote and what options of self-determination could be voted on, it never took place. In 1991, the UN brokered a cease-fire and settlement plan and established the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (known by its French acronym, MINURSO), which deployed a roughly 200-person monitoring force to the territory.
The UN continues to explore with the parties ways of arriving at a mutually agreed political settlement and to promote confidence-building measures between the parties in the interim. In 2003, former Secretary of State James Baker, working as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Personal Envoy, put forward a peace plan calling for a referendum on issues of autonomy or integration with Morocco. While the Polisario Front and the Algerian Government accepted the plan, Morocco rejected it. After a 7-year effort to assist the parties in coming to an agreement, James Baker resigned as Personal Envoy in June 2004. In August of the same year, Kofi Annan appointed Alvaro de Soto Special Representative for the Western Sahara to continue Baker’s work. Special Representative de Soto left his position in May 2005 and was replaced in July 2005 by Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands. Van Walsum oversaw four rounds of talks and retired in August 2008. A retired U.S. diplomat, Ambassador Christopher Ross, was named the Secretary General’s new Western Sahara envoy in January 2009. Ross determined that informal talks and a focus on confidence building measures would be necessary before formal talks could produce meaningful progress. He conducted the first round of informal talks between Morocco and the Polisario in August 2009. Algeria and Mauritania again attended as observers. Since then, Ross has made several trips to the region and held five additional rounds of informal talks, the most recent from March 7-9, 2011, in Malta, but progress has been elusive.
The Western Sahara dispute remains the primary impediment to regional integration and development goals and Moroccan-Algerian relations. The parties were able to set aside some of their differences when, in August 2004, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar led a mission to the region that resulted in the release of 404 Moroccan prisoners of war who had long been held by the Polisario. Today, approximately 90,000 Sahrawi refugees live in camps around Tindouf, Algeria. The exact number of refugees living in these camps is not known, since there has never been a reliable census of the population. Several thousand Sahrawis also live in the Moroccan-controlled area of Western Sahara among a large number of Moroccan settlers. Morocco considers the Western Sahara part of its national territory, while the Polisario, with Algerian support, insists on the right of the people of the Western Sahara to self-determination.
The United States has consistently encouraged the parties to work with the United Nations and with each other, in a spirit of flexibility and compromise, to find a mutually acceptable settlement. In this spirit, the U.S. supported UN Security Council resolutions 1871 (2009) and 1813 (2008), which took note of the Moroccan autonomy proposal presented to the Secretary General on April 11, 2007, and welcomed the serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward toward a settlement. Both unanimously adopted resolutions took note of the Polisario proposal as well, which was presented on April 10, 2007. The U.S. Government fully supports current efforts by the UN Secretary General and Ambassador Ross to find a peaceful, sustainable, and mutually agreed solution on the Western Sahara conflict.
Seven Sahrawi human rights activists returning from a visit to the Polisario camps in Tindouf, Algeria were arrested by Moroccan police in Casablanca on October 8, 2009. The activists, who publicly criticized the government of Morocco and King Mohammed VI in a press conference which aired on Algerian television, were referred to a military court, and charged with harming external state security. Four of the activists have been released on humanitarian grounds, while the remaining three await trial; their case has been transferred to civilian court.
On the 34th anniversary of King Hassan II’s march into Western Sahara, King Mohammed VI outlined a decentralization plan to improve governance and promote political, economic, and cultural integration of “the southern provinces” into Moroccan society. The November 6, 2009 speech stated that when it comes to the Western Sahara, there is no middle ground between patriotism and treason.
On November 14, 2009 Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar, arriving on a flight from the Canary Islands, was detained at Laayoune airport in Western Sahara. Moroccan authorities maintained that Haidar initiated a process of renouncing her Moroccan citizenship when she listed “Sahrawi” as her citizenship and the “Territory of Western Sahara” as her country of citizenship on her immigration forms. Moroccan authorities held her passport and returned Haidar to the Canary Islands. Following a 32-day hunger strike that generated widespread international publicity, Morocco readmitted Haidar into Laayoune on December 18, 2009 on humanitarian grounds.
In mid-October 2010, several thousand Sahrawis set up tents on the outskirts of the capital city of Laayoune, in protest of perceived unequal treatment under government policies with regard to the distribution of subsidized housing, jobs, and social benefits. The Government of Morocco dismantled the tent encampment on November 8, 2010, provoking riots in Laayoune and leading to allegations of human rights abuses at the hands of Moroccan security forces by local and international activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and media.
Morocco was the first country to seek diplomatic relations with the Government of the United States in 1777 and remains one of our oldest and closest allies in the region. Formal U.S. relations with Morocco date from 1787, when the two nations negotiated a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Renegotiated in 1836, the treaty is still in force, constituting the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history. As testament to the special nature of the U.S.-Moroccan relationship, Tangier is home to the oldest U.S. diplomatic property in the world, and the only building on foreign soil that is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the American Legation in Tangier (now a museum).
U.S.-Moroccan relations, characterized by mutual respect and friendship, have remained strong through cooperation and sustained high-level dialogue. King Hassan II visited the United States several times during his reign, meeting with Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. King Mohammed VI has continued his father’s tradition; he made his first trip to the U.S. as King on June 20, 2000 and visited again in 2004. Prime Minister Driss Jettou also visited Washington in January 2004. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Morocco in December 2004 to co-chair with Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa the first meeting of the G8-BMENA "Forum for the Future." In November 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Morocco to attend the sixth G8-BMENA Forum and met with King Mohammed VI.
A key partner in promoting security and stability in the region, Morocco is a major non-NATO ally, contributes to UN-lead multilateral peacekeeping operations, and participates with U.S. forces in major bilateral exercises on the African continent.
As a stable, comparatively moderate Arab Muslim nation, Morocco is important to U.S. interests in the Middle East, as well. Accordingly, U.S. policy toward Morocco seeks sustained and strong engagement and identifies priorities of economic, social, and political reform; conflict resolution; counterterrorism/security cooperation; and public outreach. In August 2007, the U.S. and Morocco signed a Millennium Challenge Compact totaling $697.5 million to be paid out over 5 years. The Compact was designed to stimulate economic growth by increasing productivity and improving employment in high-potential sectors, such as artisanal crafts and fishing.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its predecessor agencies have managed an active and effective assistance program in Morocco since 1953 exceeding $2 billion over its lifetime. The amount of USAID assistance to Morocco in FY 2009 was $18 million, with an estimated $24.5 million allotted for FY 2010. USAID’s current multi-sectoral strategy (2009-2013) consists of three strategic objectives in creating more opportunities for trade and investment, basic education and workforce training, and government responsiveness to citizen needs.
Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) small grants support Moroccan NGOs in advancing peace, participatory democracy, and prosperity for Moroccan citizens. Approximately $1 million per year is awarded to Moroccan NGOs for civil society capacity building projects, public awareness campaigns, civic responsibility outreach efforts, and other key factors in democratic development.
The Peace Corps has been active in Morocco for more than 40 years, with the first group of 53 volunteers arriving in the country in 1963. Since that time, nearly 4,000 volunteers have served in Morocco in a variety of capacities including lab technology, urban development, commercial development, education, rural water supply, small business development, beekeeping, and English-language training. In 2009, 254 volunteers served in Morocco, working in four sectors: health, youth development, small business, and the environment.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Judith Chammas
Director, USAID Mission--John Groarke
Political Counselor--Gregory Thome
Economic Counselor--Michael DeTar
Agricultural Affairs Officer--Hassan Ahmed
Commercial Counselor--Jane Kitson
Public Affairs Officer--Mary Jeffers
Consul General, Casablanca--Elisabeth Millard
The U.S. Embassy in Morocco is located at 2 Avenue de Marrakech, Rabat tel. 212 (37) 76-22-65.