Moroccan Flag NGO Law Monitor: Morocco

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 4 January 2014


Morocco has undergone a series of major reforms since King Mohammed VI ascended to the throne in 1999, including the passage of substantial amendments to the Decree on the Right to Establish Associations in 2002 and approval of a new constitution in 2011. As a result of the more enabling legal environment, Moroccan civil society has undergone a substantial expansion. However, implementation problems have been reported in the case of associations touching on "red line" topics of Western Sahara, the monarchy, and the religion of the state. If implemented properly, however, Morocco's legal framework for civil could be considered among the most enabling for civil society in the entire Arab world and a model for other countries.

Like many Arab countries, Morocco has recently faced social movements that have resulted in constitutional reform. This included many amendments that enable the development of the state and society. According to new constitutional amendments, civil society is considered a partner in public policy and freedom of association and the need to create public institutions with the participation of associations is constitutionally recognized. This constitutional reform may not play its sought role effectively, however, if relevant national laws are not changed in compatibility with constitutional amendments and with human rights demands and international standards.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Associations
Registration Body Headquarters of the Local Administrative Authority
Approximate Number 90,000
Barriers to Entry Administrative officials sometimes refuse to accept registration applications (registration is voluntary).
Barriers to Activities Organizations which pursue activities that are "illegal, contrary to good morals, [or which aim] to undermine the Islamic religion, the integrity of the national territory, or the monarchical regime, or call for discrimination" are prohibited.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Organizations which pursue activities that are "illegal, contrary to good morals, [or which aim] to undermine the Islamic religion, the integrity of the national territory, or the monarchical regime, or call for discrimination" are prohibited.
Barriers to International Contact n/a
Barriers to Resources n/a

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Key Indicators

Population 32,309,239 (July 2012 est.)
Capital Rabat
Type of Government Constitutional Monarchy
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 73.04 years
Female: 79.32 years (2012 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 68.9%
Female: 43.9% (2009 census)
Religious Groups Muslim: 99%; Christian: 1%; Jewish approx. 6,000 persons
Ethnic Groups Arab-Berber: 99%; Other: 1%.
GDP Per Capita $5,100 (2011 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 130 (2013) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 49.3 (2011) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 28.6 (2011) 100 – 0
Transparency International 88 (2011) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: 4 (2012)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 87 (2012) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1979
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No --
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1979
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1970
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1993
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1993
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 1993
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2009
Key Regional Agreements Ratification* Year
Arab Charter on Human Rights Yes 2004 (signed but not ratified)
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Note: Morocco withdrew from the African Union in protest at the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara).
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The first Moroccan Constitution was passed in 1962 after the country regained independence from France. The Constitution has undergone a number of revisions, most recently in July 2011 following the events of the “Arab Spring.” Article 12 of the July 2011 Constitution guarantees the right of civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations to operate in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Morocco.

In light of the Arab spring, Morocco witnessed constitutional reform in 2011. The new constitutional amendments include provisions related to freedom of association: Articles 12, 29 and 33.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national legislation includes the following:

  • Decree on the Right to Establish Associations (Decree 1-58-376 of 1958 as amended by Decree 1-733-283 of 1973 and Decree 1-02-206 of 2002)
  • Decree to Implement the Decree on the Right to Establish Associations (Prime Ministerial Decree 2-04-969 of 2005) [English] [عربي]
  • Circular on the Conditions of Recognizing Public Benefit for Associations (Circular 1 of 2005) [English] [عربي]

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

The Ministry in charge of Relations with Civil Society created the National Dialogue Committee on Civil Society and Constitutional Role; the Committee is composed of relevant government sectors, CSOs and experts. The national dialogue on civil society and constitutional roles aims to ensure the widest participation of non-governmental organizations in setting the legal rules and bases for participatory democracy in accordance with the constitutional provisions on the right to submit petitions and the right to participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policies as well as other relevant constitutional provisions. The national dialogue aims to formulate joint governance rules, in addition to drafting a national charter on participatory democracy. Many organizations refused to take part in the national dialogue under the pretext that the Committee does not reflect the whole Moroccan civil society. These organizations confirmed the need to develop the modernist societal model in order to achieve participatory democracy.

The Ministry of State for Relations with Parliament and Civil Society proposed a new Prime Ministerial Circular on the Conclusion of Partnerships between the State and Associationss in December 2012. The Circular aims to promote partnerships between the Moroccan government and civil society. It also aims to promote good governance principles, accountability, and transparency in the implementation of the Moroccan government’s program to fund civil society. However, the order may restrict Moroccan CSOs’ ability to seek and secure resources from diverse sources. As with any law or regulation, there should be adequate consultation with civil society about the circular to help ensure that it meets the needs of both government and civil society. For more information, please contact ICNL

We are unaware of any other pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting NGOs. Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

The Decree on the Right to Establish Associations (Decree 1-58-376 of 1958 as amended by Decree 1-733-283 of 1973 and Decree 1-02-206 of 2002) allows for the formation of an association out of any "agreement to achieve a constant cooperation between two or more persons using their information or activities for a non‐profit purpose."

Public Benefit Status

Although the Decree on the Right to Establish Associations, Decree on Public Benefit Status for Associations, and Ministerial Circular on the Requirements and Process of Awarding Public Benefit Status all set out a procedure by which associations can apply for public benefit status, no Moroccan law sets out clear conditions for what activities qualify as public benefit. A grant of public benefit status entitles the association to tax benefits and the ability to apply for government financial support. It is unclear, however, how many associations are recognized as public benefit status organizations. 

Barriers to Entry

Morocco follows the Lebanese model of a “notification” rather than “registration” system. Obtaining legal personality is voluntary. Organizations which desire legal personality should file a notification with Headquarters of the Local Administrative Authority in which the organization's headquarters are located. The Administrative Authority is required to provide a dated receipt at the time of notification and is required to respond within 60 days. If no response is received, the association is considered a legal entity.

Although the law appears to give very limited discretion to government officials over an association's notification, Human Rights Watch has reported that “employees of the Ministry of Interior” may “refuse to receive an association's founding documents... or issue a receipt confirming the place and date of submission,” effectively depriving some organizations of the ability to attain legal entity status or apply for default registration under the 60-day automatic registration process.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Article 3 of Decree 1-58-376 of 1958 (as amended) prohibits the formation of associations that pursue objectives which are “illegal, contrary to good morals, [or which aim] to undermine the Islamic religion, the integrity of the national territory, or the monarchical regime, or call for discrimination.” Moroccan authorities regularly use this vaguely-worded provision to refuse to accept the notification announcement of Amazigh (native Berber) and Sahrawi (Western Saharan) organizations, including among others the Iz’uran Association, the Imal Association, and the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Violations Committed by the Moroccan State.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Decree 1-58-376 of 1958 (as amended) and the Criminal Code of Morocco prohibit membership in groups which are deemed seditious, violent, or in furtherance of terrorist activities. Punishment for participation in aiding terrorism is punishable by lengthy imprisonment and even death. Participation in an association which has the "features of special armed groups" or "may affect the unity of the national territory" is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. In June 2009, for example, the Casablanca Court of First Instance sentenced the Amazigh president of the Rif Human Rights Association to three years imprisonment for “insulting behavior towards State institutions” and the receipt of foreign funds to “undermine and discredit the Moroccan authorities’ efforts in the fight against drug trafficking.”

Barriers to International Contact

There are no legal barriers to international contact and communication.

Barriers to Resources

There are no legal barriers to the receipt of resources, whether from domestic or foreign sources.

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Universal Periodic Review: Morocco (2012)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Morocco
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
U.S. State Department 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Morocco
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2010: Morocco
Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 2013
IMF Country Reports Morocco and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Morocco

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

European NGO Denounces "Serious" Violation of Human Rights in Western Sahara (September 2013)
Morocco "violates seriously human rights in its country and in the occupied territories" of Western Sahara, Europe's Central and Eastern Alliance for Solidarity with the Sahrawi People claimed. The reaction of the European NGO comes after the visit made by Moroccan minister of foreign affairs to Hungary where the two sides made a joint statement at the end of the visit. "We consider worryingly that the joint statement doesn't mention that Morocco seriously violates human rights in its country and in the occupied territories of Western Sahara," NGO said in a letter sent to the Hungarian minister of foreign affairs János Martonyi.

Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility officially launched in Morocco (April 2013)
An exchange seminar with the civil society organizations that are partners of the EU in Morocco, was held in Rabat. The event was the occasion to launch officially the 18 new partnership projects with civil society funded by the EU in 2012 (for a budget of approximately €4 million), as well as the new capacity building programme for civil society organizations in Morocco (budget of approx. €1.2 million), financed through the civil society facility set up by the EU in the Neighbourhood.

Is Morocco on the path to democracy?‏ (November 2012)
Morocco is not yet an exemplar of Jeffersonian liberalism, but it is on a path paved with democratic principles. Making the Berber language an official language of the nation along with Arabic is a symbolic gesture of extraordinary magnitude. It recognized universally agreed upon rights, including most significantly the rights of minorities. At long last there is another model for the Arab future, one that Americans and Europeans should embrace wholeheartedly. It is true that there are still challenges ahead of the democracy path n Morocco but the most important is that Moroccans (civil society, political parties and most important youth) have made their irreversible choice to continue their peaceful struggle towards full democracy.

Assaults On Peaceful Demonstrations Calling for Saharawis Self-Determination (October 2012)
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has condemned the acts of repression of the Moroccan regime against the peaceful demonstration calling for self-determination of the Saharawi people. The Cairo-based Organization confirmed that the assault on the peaceful demonstration and injuring of its activists is "a severe violation" of the freedom of expression and opinion, pointing out that the suppression "is the only method that the Moroccan authorities recognize to address the peaceful demonstrations" in Western Sahara. 

Trending away from absolute power (September 2012)
There is no doubt that traditional political parties and human rights activists feel overtaken by the "Facebook insurgents".  Two and a half million Moroccans are Facebook members, making Morocco second only to Egypt in the number of Facebook members in North Africa and the Middle East.  A higher percentage of Moroccans use the Internet, however, than Egyptians do.  And these Moroccans are mobilizing for their own protest against corruption, poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and various forms of indignity. Traditional activists think that Facebook uprisings are not enough to see reform through; public discontent needs to be channeled and framed by traditional political parties and human rights organizations.

"Controlled Development" of civil society (July 2012)
In Morocco, the monarchy and Makhzen have encouraged a controlled development of civil society for several decades, but they haven't always succeeded in keeping it under check. In 2003, in one of the first successful youth-led, internet driven protests against an Arab regime, members of the Moroccan heavy metal community responded to the arrest of 14 fans and musicians on charges of Satanism by starting local and international campaigns to free their fellow metal heads, staging protests at the court house where they were tried and ultimately forcing the government to overturn their convictions.

EU-Morocco 'Action Plan' highlights involvement of civil society (May 2012)
A new comprehensive EU-Morocco Action Plan will provide an operational roadmap for their bilateral relations in the next five years (2012-2016). The new action plan will be fully in line with the political, economic and social reform agenda of Morocco and with the EU's renewed approach to the European Neighborhood Policy. Among other areas, the action plan contains important objectives for the consolidation of the respect of human rights and democratic principles, improved governance and a more active involvement of civil society.

Ten percent of Moroccan NGO’s benefit from 80% of public funding- Minister (April 2012)
According to the Moroccan daily Attajdid, the Minister in charge of relations with the parliament and civil society uncovered shocking findings about the funding of civil society associations in Morocco. The data collected revealed the existence of 70,000 active associations. Only 10% of these associations benefit from 80% of public funding that mounts up to 9 Milliard centimes. He added that 97% of these associations do not submit any document that evidences the financial transactions, such as receipt and vouchers.

Young Moroccans keep Arab Spring spirit alive (March 2012)
The youth-led February 20 Movement in Morocco has simmered down to a core group that includes many female activists. They are keeping an eye on constitutional reforms enacted last year that some say didn't go far enough. "We want real, radical change," says one.

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The foregoing information was collected by Essaadi Mostafa, Director of the Center for Local Development in Casablanca, Morocco.