Assessing Local Governance Innovations in Morocco in Light of the Participatory Budgeting Experience in Brazil: The Case of “Civil Society” Federations (Espaces Associatifs) in Al Haouz Province
This paper examines local governance innovations in Morocco in light of the Participatory Budgeting experience in Brazil. Based on empirical fieldwork (in the case of Morocco), and an extensive literature review (in the case of Brazil), the paper reviews the practical conditions in which attempts at co-governance take place. Co-governance arrangements refer to institutional mechanisms that grant local civil society and citizens’ representatives a voice in local government, be it in the form of simple observer status or as a full partner in Participatory Budgeting exercises as is the case in Porto Alegre. The findings from Morocco are based on projects by the American NGO Catholic Relief Services in two rural communes in the Al Haouz province. These projects encouraged the creation of federations of local village associations that were given a voice in local government, and paved the way for the creation of such federations for the entire province and at various levels of government. It is argued that these federations (‘Espaces Associatifs’) constitute arenas for state control and the politicization of local civil society rather than viable partners for co-governance with local government. However, important governance reforms are underway in Morocco that could benefit from insights gathered from the Porto Alegre experience, and that represent interesting areas for future research.