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Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, at the end of her visit to Morocco* (5 - 12 October 2015)

Rabat, 12 October 2015

Members of the press, ladies and gentlemen,

I am addressing you today at the conclusion of my official visit to Morocco, which I undertook at the invitation of the Government from 5 to 12 October 2015 to evaluate the realisation of the right adequate and nutritious food in the country as recognised in international law. The following statement outlines my preliminary findings and recommendations based on the information gathered during my visit. My final report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2016.

Firstly I would like to thank the Government of Morocco for the invitation. I very much appreciate the full cooperation extended to me during the visit. During my stay I met with various representatives from relevant Government Departments as well as representatives from national human rights institutions, international organizations, academia, development agencies and civil society actors and organizations. I also visited a variety of projects in Agadir and Midelt.

In recent years Morocco has benefited from several important reforms, particularly the adoption of a new constitution in 2011. The new Constitution incorporates strong human rights provisions and lays the groundwork for more inclusive economic growth. I commend the significant efforts that have been made in this regard and would encourage further engagement to ensure that the right to food is explicitly recognised in the Constitution. The development of a national framework law on the right to food would complement the reforms and ensure implementation at the domestic level. Ratification of the Optional Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would ensure further protection of the right to food.

Overall I have found that Morocco has a wide range of well formulated and well-intended policies and strategies compatible with international standards to realise the right to food. However implementation gaps combined with a lack of coordination among relevant agencies have impeded progress in this regard. The development of a national strategy on the right to adequate food with time-bound benchmarks and effective implementation plans for each region, along with the necessary budgetary and fiscal measures to ensure implementation should be made a priority. Accountability mechanisms should also be strengthened.

The development of crucial economic and social reforms have significantly contributed to Morocco’s commendable accomplishment in reducing extreme poverty (from 16% to 6% since 2010) and eliminating hunger. The significant strides that have been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals are largely due to the impact of the National Initiative for Human Development (NIHD), which in itself is a well structured and comprehensive programme. I was particularly impressed by the success of women’s cooperatives that I met with who are benefiting economically from this initiative as well as being empowered. However I noted that there are some structural disparities in implementation, and gaps in necessary infrastructure. I would therefore encourage further efforts to ensure that the projects are disseminated to all regions with particular attention being paid to those living in remote areas, and vulnerable groups. Additional financial support would further benefit these projects.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy since it contributes to 18% of the Gross Domestic Product and provides employment to around 40% of the labour force. The 2008 Morocco Green Plan has significantly boosted the agricultural sector by promoting the integration of agriculture into international markets and assisting the sector in achieving growth. It has had a positive outcome in terms of the potential benefits from cooperative production, processing and marketing of local products. However I have also noted that lack of public coordination services, and environmental constraints along with gaps in ensuring effective consultation with local populations has hindered progress in some regions. Efforts should be made to ensure that the Plan benefits all particularly those being targeted by Pillar II, including small holder and family farmers. Infrastructure should be improved in remote areas to ensure easy access to markets, and to attract investment to rural areas, while projects that target young farmers should be encouraged. Existing monitoring and evaluation processes should also be strengthened to ensure transparency, non-discrimination and participation by all relevant parties.

Desertification and increasing potential for drought as a result of climate change will have a considerable impact on agriculture over the coming years. Morocco is situated in a fragile ecosystem with enriched bio-diversity. The adaption policies outlined in the Morocco Green Plan are important and due care should be taken to ensure that large scale farming and intensive agriculture provided for Pillar I do not drain resources such as fresh water and lead to land degradation. Agroecology should also be injected into future projects as a means of protecting biodiversity, environmental resources, maintaining social equality, and climate change friendly agriculture. Intensive use of fertilisers should also be avoided. Overall efforts should be made to ensure that a balance it maintained in implementing projects through Pillar I and Pillar II.

During my visit to Dakhla, Western Sahara, I visited a number of agricultural and fishing projects, as well as a women’s cooperative. The fishing industry is an important export oriented sector and while international regulations are being followed care must be taken to ensure that small scale fishermen are protected. While significant efforts are being made to develop infrastructure and many are benefiting from projects being developed, economic growth is not benefiting all. More effort needs to be made to ensure that benefits of projects are disseminated equally. Projects being developed must be inclusive and fully participative ensuring that the most vulnerable are targeted.

I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to everyone who took the time to meet with me, particularly those who shared their personal experiences, as their contributions have been vital to the success of my visit. I will finish by reiterating my commitment to continue the dialogue initiated during this visit in a spirit of cooperation.

END

* The Special Rapporteur also visited Dakhla, Western Sahara, on 10 October 2015. The visit should not be interpreted as expressing any view concerning the present or future status of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara.