Building Resilient Communities to Combat Terrorism

Two recent publications tackle the issue of state fragility and policy choices for the US in addressing vulnerable countries and communities. An inaugural paper directed at the incoming administration, is a result of a joint project by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, and the United States Institute of Peace. It is aptly titled “U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility,” and is co-authored by William J. Burns, Michele A. Flournoy, and Nancy E. Lindborg, all veterans of the US government, respectively at the State Department, Department of Defense, and USAID.  Additional Policy Briefs are already being published “to discuss the implications of fragility on existing U.S. tools, strategic interests, and challenges.”

The second is a series of blogs being published by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which deals with “supporting democratic resilience to violent conflict.” Both efforts seek to focus conceptual and policy-making energy on lessons learned since our involvement in Afghanistan and how the US can avoid the pitfalls of what had been called “nation-building” and other efforts to promote democracy and governance in emerging political societies.

‘State Fragility’ poses four criteria for making policy choices: clearly articulating US priorities;  allocating limited expertise and resources;  and building on international support and and local capabilities for building resilience.  What is of particular interest is the assumption that those countries that are managing their affairs are less of a priority in this series because the failures of fragile states have a higher probability of destabilizing the country and surrounding nations.

In the MENA region, this means that more effective state actors such as Morocco will have to continue to expend high levels of energy and resources to combat extremist forces that seek to undermine its security, stability, and prosperity. Others working to implement a comprehensive CVE strategy, such as Tunisia, or those with a go-it-alone approach based on local sensibilities, i.e. Algeria, will have to rely primarily on its own capacity to continue the fight against radicals.

Protecting Democratic Gains

In this context, the NDI series aims directly at what we know will enable the path to democracy for those countries already committed to that mission. Although the pace of democratization may be too snail-like for some observers, there can be no doubt that the trend toward greater political accountability and local decision-making is becoming more prevalent in countries not in conflict in the MENA region.

Why is this critical? As the NDI paper points out, “A key goal of democratization is peaceful politics. Political battles may be inevitable, but in stable democracies they are not waged by armed groups, but through institutions such as elections, parliaments, the media, and civil society organizations.”

Morocco, on the eve of its second parliamentary election since the new constitution was adopted in 2011, recognizes the crucial value of building political institutions resistant to political manipulations. The process has been and continues to be a lengthy one with several moving parts: local elections reflecting the regionalization policy of devolving more political decision-making to locally elected officials, a judiciary and election commission increasingly independent of the central government, a cabinet lead by the party that garners the largest number of votes, and greater freedom of appointments by the government rather than the palace, among other factors.

There are many studies that indicate that countries that mature into full democracies “have the lowest levels of violence towards their own citizens and are more peaceful neighbors than autocratic states.” Thus NDI engages countries that are evolving their democratic institutions, policies, and values.

Morocco is consolidating its democratic advances by empowering civil service organizations to act as advocates and service providers, pressing political parties to build constituencies based on policies and capable candidates, and prodding Parliament to take significant responsibilities for building an accountable process for debating and enacting legislation.

Tunisian faces as many internal as external challenges ranging from manipulations by traditional power centers to sustain the status quo,  parliament that struggles to move out of crisis mode, and rapidly evolving security services to combat internal and external threats.

As the NDI blog points out, its work is to build “conflict resilience at all of these levels – institutions, policies, and norms –  simultaneously, by promoting peaceful elections, bridging conflict divides, supporting effective post-conflict transitions, and ensuring citizen security and inclusive political processes.”

Through its programs in Morocco and Tunisia, NDI promotes the adoption of effective strategies that enable the country to evolve its democratic capabilities. In these efforts, NDI’s programs are strongly facilitated by King Mohammed’s commitment to enhancing the capacities of all members of Moroccan society to take up their full roles and responsibilities as citizens.

In Tunisia, democracy capacity-building is hampered by the need “to foster a more representative political environment where political parties compete effectively on behalf of citizens’ interests, parliament conducts responsive legislating and oversight, and civil society plays an active role in overseeing the political process,” efforts which require a degree of internal stability which is still evolving.

The MENA region needs success stories to encourage citizens to press for needed reforms rather than opting out of politics as usual or turning to more militant alternatives. It is in America’s interests to consistently and sustainable support its friends.


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Moving Maghreb Economic Integration Forward – Hopefully

Blog: Beating the drum for regional integration–again

This past week, yet another regional conference was held promoting economic integration in the Maghreb/North Africa. Despite all of the splintering tendencies emerging from the Arab uprisings, there is still a strong pull among leaders for greater cooperation and coordination that goes beyond security arrangements to attack the root causes of economic stagnation.

The twin economic shocks of the Arab uprisings driving away tourists and potential investors and the decline of customer markets in Europe have greatly affected rates of growth throughout the Maghreb. Greater economic cooperation, particularly to access new markets and achieve greater economies of scale, would appear to be obvious, but then intraregional politics excels at obfuscation, not innovation.

At the 4th Paris Economic Forum – Casablanca Round, Tunisia’s former finance minister, Jaloul Ayed said that the lack of a working Maghreb Union linking Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya is costing each country between two and three percentage points of growth. “I stress once again the absolute need for the Maghreb Union… a Union which would facilitate shared prosperity for all peoples in the region.”

His remarks were echoed by Morocco’s finance minister, Nizar Baraka, who noted that in order to “seize opportunities in a time of crisis, efforts needed to be pooled at the regional level. The democratic enthusiasm in the region should be harnessed and consolidated as democracy can only be meaningful if it translates into job creation, the restoration of social mobility, and improvements in citizens’ lives.” Minister Baraka, who was named by The Banker as the “best Minister of Finance in the Middle East” and “Minister of Finance 2012-Global Award,” speaks from hard fought experience in steering fiscal policy through the turbulence that has buffeted Morocco over the past two years. “This is why, for us, economic integration is essential and could be achieved through a cross-Maghreb growth pact with a shared ambition and a unifying aim: shared prosperity for all and the creation of a society of trust in North Africa,” he said. Baraka added that a competitive bloc needed to be created, so that it could position itself as a partner to the European Union.

While the economic benefits from a robust Maghreb Union may be somewhat obvious, as important in the long run is the positive impact on job creation, foreign direct investment, coordination of commercial regimes across borders, and the strengthening of the productive capacities of small, medium, and large enterprises at various stages of the value chain through competition, integration, and greater focus on competitive advantages. It would also have a salubrious impact on workforces throughout the region, focusing skills and capacity-building within competitive sectors to increase available pools of talent. All of this would engender greater regional stability to complement what is happening in the security realm.

Former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn spoke about Morocco’s economic potential as well as the difficulties facing the region. “We have moments in history where we must make difficult decisions that allow us to locate and seize the positive,” Moroccan daily L’Economiste quoted Strauss-Khan as saying. A sharp warning was given by Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at the UK think tank Chatham House. She pointed out that about 75 percent of the region’s population falls between 18 and 30, which provides challenges and opportunities for the region’s economic recovery as there is an accessible workforce in the Maghreb that is well positioned to provide growing services to its neighbors in Europe whose populations are ageing. The countries of the Maghreb must make full use of this asset, Spencer said, adding that it was essential for the aspirations of the youth to be realized.

One of the commentators at the conference, economist Mehdi Zariri, highlighted the fact that the countries of the Maghreb are experiencing the same social and economic problems and must therefore come together to establish common strategies. “It’s vital to capitalize on the ways in which the economies of Maghreb nations complement one another, as they could form a strong economic unit in Africa,” he said.

It is this historic regional complementarity that holds the greatest promise for spearheading the economic growth critical to meeting the needs of the restive populations. Moving beyond rhetoric to concrete agreements that result in regional projects across key sectors—IT, transportation, value-added agricultural products, banking, specialty manufacturing, and renewable energies—is energizing private sectors to challenge business practices that under serve the needs of the Maghreb. The drums are beating.

IMF report card gives Morocco thumbs up – for now

IMF report card shows challenges to sustained economic growth in Morocco

While there is a great deal of common wisdom about what the Arab governments need to do to more effectively participate in the global economy, there is much less certainty about how to get there. With no magic formula to follow, there is growing attention to the role of multilateral institutions in supporting progressive policies. For example, as Morocco continues to move forward with its economic reform agenda, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed its first review of Morocco’s performance required under a two-year Precautionary Liquidity Line (PLL) arrangement. Agreed last August, the PLL arrangement makes available approximately $6.3 billion over two years to support the government’s program of economic reforms. The PLL provides access to liquidity against external shocks such as decreases in exports caused by shrinking markets in Europe or factors such as an excessive jump in imported energy prices.
The IMF recognizes that some form of fiscal backup is needed by countries with sound economic fundamentals and a history of moving on reforms so that their efforts continue despite factors beyond their short and medium term control. So the PLL is not a handout or a subsidy; it is meant to facilitate the government’s capacity to continue to make the needed hard decisions that will strengthen the Moroccan economy over the long run.
In its statement following the Board meeting, Ms. Nemat Shafik, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, commented on the report. She praised Morocco’s “overall sound macroeconomic policies” and noted that the “worsening of the external environment and a below-average harvest” were threatening further progress.
The PLL brings into sharp relief the conundrum facing Arab governments attempting to respond to popular demands to increase jobs, broaden subsidies, and reduce barriers to accessing markets through government intervention. As Mohsin Khan pointed out in his article last week, the temptation to implement short term fixes through government employment programs, increased general subsidies, and protectionist measures end up mortgaging the country’s future fiscal health. And this is what Morocco is trying to avoid. By attacking subsidies over a four year period, and using the PLL as a safety net to avoid excessive borrowing and budgetary imbalances, the government is hoping to achieve “stronger and more inclusive growth.”
Ms. Shafik mentioned that “The arrangement…has provided Morocco with an insurance against external risks and supported the authorities’ economic strategy.” This gives the government breathing room to “move ahead with the reforms of the general subsidy system and the pension system and to better target social protection.”
Nemat Shafik is no stranger to the dislocations that accompany deep economic reforms. As the youngest ever vice–president of the World Bank and a member of the senior management team at the International Finance Corporation, she has spent several decades promoting reform policies that include “Efforts to strengthen competitiveness and better equip the economy to respond to external shocks…” She strongly emphasizes the role of the private sector and notes that “The planned fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, such as those to improve the business climate and professional training, will help underpin external sustainability.” I have always been impressed with Nemat’s wisdom and clarity, and Morocco will clearly benefit from the IMF’s support and sound advice.
One of the outcomes of the Arab uprisings is the challenge of facilitating growth without compromising the future solvency of the country. While the Gulf countries have the resources to weather short and medium term challenges, countries such as Morocco face strong domestic pressure against painful changes that affect their citizens even if they can bankrupt the country. So the PLL tests Morocco’s commitment by providing short and medium term support to facilitate the long term health of the economy. It is a partnership worth applauding and supporting.

"Business as usual" means lost opportunity in Maghreb

“Business as usual” means lost opportunity in Maghreb

We know there’s a deficit in private sector investment the Maghreb. Will the newly launched AMU investment fund make a difference?

D-PAD: A checklist for framing training content and delivering sustainable results

The Arab uprisings are the clearest indicator to date of the region’s need for more and better jobs, better matches between what goes into education and comes out to the workforce, and restoring a sense of value to skilled and semi-skilled jobs critical to maintaining a well-functioning social and physical infrastructure.

While there is much emphasis on the integrating digital technology into training methodologies, a more effective approach focuses not only on the tools, but on the solutions. In the US alone, there are three million jobs waiting to be filled by people with the rights skills and the motivation to work and to work in new locations. Just as there must be an eco-system for entrepreneurship to thrive, a similar eco-system must be constructed for workers so that they add value to the process as products and services are brought to market.

So, not being fluent in I-PAD, I thought it might be useful to derive a framework, which I call D-PAD, to focus attention on the key content and context (environmental) issues in any skills-centric/jobs program. It is a checklist that will guide various stakeholders (potential employers, decision-makers, regulators, reformers, trainers, students, management, consumers, etc.) to smart decisions for defining content and context for recruiting and motivating the current and next generation of skilled workers.

First caveat: this thinking is not ground-breaking. I’m taking the charts, models, and paradigms of some top companies and translating them into something that hopefully is easy to digest without a consultant’s playbook. Second caveat: although this posting reflects the work of companies in Middle East and North Africa, the concern for more effective and durable training solutions is global and touches all levels and sectors of public policy and economic development.

 D-PAD is actually 5D-PAD.

In my experience, to begin the process of corralling market needs into a sustainable training regime, there are five steps:

  1. Define the goals as precisely as possible and include as many stakeholders as possible from the private and public sectors, and the institutions
  2. Discover the factors that promote and inhibit the goals (SWOT works) and discuss timeframes and constituencies that are relevant to the process
  3. Determine priorities, resources, and various cost-benefit parameters including gender, urban/rural, minorities, accessibility, and other relevant issues that influence decision choices; get sign-off from funders/regulators
  4. Design the learning objectives for both hard and soft skills and the work environment that is both the goal (where to work) and the process (how to work, ethics, career orientation, retention, performance, etc.)
  5. Develop the specific training materials, train the trainers, agree on the metrics, and move to the PAD

Of course these five action categories have multiple subsets and much fuller descriptions but that is for another article or two.

 The PAD – Acquiring skills for a lifetime

We now know that there are very few lifetime positions, although vocational self-employment still has great potential in that regard. Every job, from maintenance to programming, requires periodic if not continuous updating to be relevant to the marketplace. So the PAD has two functions: outline a learning/training regime that is both skills and career focused (hard and soft skills), and build in an emphasis on sustainability, that is, a flexible format that enables graduates to develop over time their own learning goals to have staying power in the economy.

  •  Preparation takes the results of the 5D process and defines what intellectual and physical capabilities the students and trainers need to make the program regime worth the effort. The most interesting challenge is working with prospective employers to define today’s job requirements without losing sight of how jobs in some sectors are evolving continually.
  •  Acquisition focuses on the learning/training materials and methodologies. Is there one-size that fits all? Considerations include quality of trainers, gender issues, embracing both soft and hard skills in a limited period of time, availability of mentoring/apprentice/OJT programs, counseling (why do so many want to own their own business; few succeed), and dozens of other concerns such as amount and accessibility of equipment, status/cultural factors, etc., etc. A critical key is developing cost effective solutions that are scalable and efficient, relying in large part on private-public sector partnerships; but it’s only one key.
  •  Demonstration deals with trainee and trainer performance. Societies in the Middle East and elsewhere still have a heavy cultural emphasis on avoiding shame so performance issues, in classes/labs, at the prospective employer, and elsewhere have to consider both the metrics and the process of achievement.

Okay, that’s the snapshot of D-PAD and a summary of what to consider in defining priorities and resource requirements to develop market-ready job seekers.