And just a soon as it had begun, it was over. The two-day Rabat, Morocco, conference was a great success, drawing inquisitive, engaged young people from the US and Morocco to discuss two big issues: democracy and security. While the first day included discussions by three panels of experts, the second day was dedicated to youth dialogue (hence the “American-Moroccan Youth Dialogue” title).

On account of the caffeine delivery delay, we started the day a half hour late, but made up the time throughout the day. We divided the 40-odd participants into four groups, making…? That’s right, 10 for each group. (And we’re not math majors). The groups were given the first topic—“ Democracy”—and were told to discuss for 1.5 hours. Clearly, you could spend years discussing this topic and could approach this topic from many angles. We wanted to give each group the opportunity to speak about what they found most interested and to see what direction the discussion led. I hopped from room to room, and was very impressed and surprised by some of the comments, especially from the Moroccan side. Several young Moroccans were very outspoken and critical of the king and his policies (especially regarding the alleviation of poverty). The Moroccans felt they were able to share these thoughts and these criticisms, which I took to mean one of two things. Either, they felt that this forum was a “safe space” in which criticisms of the king’s policies would be accepted, or they are not afraid to speak out against unpopular policies in general. Either way, I took this is a very good sign.

The second 1.5 hour discussion session was dedicated to “Conflict and Security.” Terrorism in Morocco is completely rejected, deemed “un-Moroccan” and “un-Islamic.” Perhaps even more so than the Americans, the Moroccans spoke about the threat of domestic terrorism and the pressing need to begin to address root causes of terrorism—especially poverty and education. Throughout both sessions, groups were developing policy recommendations addressed to the Moroccan and American Government that were to be voted on and, optimally, ratified in the afternoon.

After lunch, the large group reconvened and debated the 33 draft policy recommendations under the titles: Education, Media, Moroccan Politics and Governance, Combating Terrorism, and American Democracy Promotion Projects. In the democratic tradition, we welcomed amendments (2) and debate about each recommendation. At the conclusion of debate, each participant voted on secret ballot “yes” or “no” to the recommendation. After three hours of debate and amending, we ultimately ratified 20 recommendations (by getting a majority of votes from both nationalities). We were all very pleased with the result, this body of recommendations we had organically created through democratic practice—consultation, voting, consensus.

Laurel Rapp

Rabat, Morocco

Written on May 26