Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Morocco before the COP22

Mahmoud Bakr reports from Morocco on preparations for next week’s Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Journalists from 28 African countries were invited to tour Morocco recently by the organising committee of the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held next week in Marrakech.

Some 55 journalists were briefed about Morocco’s preparations for this major event, including security protocols and diplomatic relations with African countries. They participated in the COP22 Academy, visited the solar power station at Noor Ouarzazate, reported on the Defence and Climate Change Summit on 7 September in Skhirat, and the negotiators’ informal consultation sessions, also in Skhirat.

“Morocco will soon host the Climate Summit. We have been preparing for this global event for months,” said Samir Sitail, head of communication at the COP22 Steering Committee. “There have been activities in several Moroccan cities, including local, regional and global workshops, lectures, meetings, seminars, celebrations and preparatory activities, as well as diplomatic action worthy of this global event.”

Sitail said the preparations had made this UN summit a major event for Morocco, especially since it was a historic occasion in its own right. The Marrakech Conference will follow up on the initiative of the COP21 meeting in Paris last December, aiming to translate decisions from the Paris Agreement on climate change into reality.

“As the organisers of the COP22, we have opened communication channels and provided resources on capacity and logistical aspects to facilitate participation for all interested parties in the UN summit,” said Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar.

Mezouar said Africa must make its voice heard at the summit since it is the most impacted continent by climate change. It should also seek to benefit from the funds available under the Paris Agreement for those countries threatened by climate change and in order to finance development efforts.

Asked whether Morocco had effectively abandoned the African continent after it withdrew from the African Union (AU), Mezouar said that “Morocco did not abandon Africa, but we did leave one organisation for reasons that are well known – because this body had taken the unprecedented step of recognising a movement as a state without a territory or a people, which contradicts international norms.”

In 1984, Rabat withdrew from the AU after the latter accepted the membership of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which was unilaterally declared by the Polisario Front in 1976 in the Western Sahara. Some countries then granted the SADR partial recognition, but it is not a member of the UN.

“Most African states are our friends,” Mezouar said, adding that his country would likely return to the AU with the support of many other African countries. “But returning to the organisation does not mean recognition of any particular entity,” he stressed, implying the Polisario Front.

“Our absence from the AU has not impacted our relations with the African countries, but it has dampened the intensity of our ties with some countries,” Mezouar explained. There was a new generation of African leaders who wanted economic development for their peoples without adopting narrow ideologies, he said, and these leaders looked positively towards Morocco.

Cherki Drais, the Moroccan minister-delegate for the interior, said his country was undertaking massive security preparations to ensure the safety of the participants at the COP22 Summit. He denied that the Islamic State (IS) group had any presence in Morocco.

“IS has no presence on the ground in Morocco because the security forces have dismantled all terrorist cells and foiled all terrorist plots over many years,” Drais explained.

All efforts were being made to confront extremism in the country through a variety of institutions and not just the security agencies. There was also security cooperation with neighbouring countries, including Egypt, intelligence sharing and visits by security delegations to address security threats.

Drais said he hoped Arab security cooperation would develop further because the threats facing the Arab countries were similar in nature.

He said that since the first terrorist attack in Morocco in 1994, the country had been able to acquire vital expertise in combatting terrorism and securing its territory by taking pre-emptive steps on several levels, especially by addressing the marginalisation of some populations and correcting mistaken ideas of religion.

Highly trained security units had been put in place to guard delegates and key figures attending the UN summit, he said, adding that this was taking place amid complicated security challenges across the globe and growing terrorist threats.

Drais said Morocco was keen on boosting security cooperation among the African and Arab countries. “Morocco is an African country, and our future is in Africa,” he said, adding that the country had signed security agreements with many African countries.

Of the Western Sahara conflict, Drais said the 40-year-old issue “complicates the situation in Africa,” adding that it was “a problem manufactured out of nothing.” Countries “I will not name have been taking advantage of this situation to irritate Morocco,” he said, adding that Morocco had taken “many initiatives to find a solution to this contrived conflict, the most recent one supported by the international community and the UN.”

He said it was unfortunate that despite Morocco’s willingness to find a solution to the problem, other parties were looking for ways to prolong it and complicate conditions on the ground. He said he hoped the UN would be able to convince these countries to contribute to finding a solution.

Abdel-Haq Al-Khayyam, director of the Moroccan Central Office for Judicial Investigation, a counter-terrorism agency, said Morocco had been coordinating with various countries, including Egypt, in its efforts to combat terrorism. Morocco had adopted a pre-emptive approach to combatting terrorism, he said, as well as promoting a broader message of religious tolerance.

In its preparations for the COP22 Summit, Al-Khayyam said Morocco had followed a “comprehensive policy that respects human rights and international law.” He added that the Moroccan authorities had focussed on promoting peace and tolerance. “Councils of religious scholars have been formed on the local and national levels in order to direct religious discourse,” he said, supporting the Moroccan Supreme Council of Ulema [Scholars] formed to “respond to extremist ideas”.

The authorities had “targeted irregular mosques,” he said, not under qualified clergy control, which promoted extremist ideas. It had also launched a dialogue with former jihadists to revise their ideas and facilitate their re-integration into society.

Religious channels such as the Mohamed VI Quran Channel have been set up to promote tolerance and understanding, he said. Moves had been made to revise school curricula to help instil the tolerant principles of Islam in the minds of the young. King Mohamed VI had also recently launched a national plan for development to facilitate social support and create jobs.

The attacks in France over the past two years had highlighted the need for further intelligence-sharing between Morocco and France, Al-Khayyam said. “Morocco is always seeking to cooperate with our African and Arab brothers, including Egypt,” he added. “We are working closely with them to combat terrorist threats.”

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