The government is preparing a new strategy for the advancement of civil society, which is expected to be implemented starting in 2026.
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 following popular protests in 2011. These reforms have enlarged the legal space for civil society, expanding its rights as well as its role in policymaking and the public sphere. As a result of the more enabling legal environment, Moroccan civil society has undergone substantial development. Some challenges persist; for instance, associations touching on sensitive topics such as Western Sahara, the monarchy, and religion, have reported some resistance from authorities, both within and outside the bounds of the law. If implemented properly, however, Morocco’s legal framework for civil society could be considered among the most enabling in the Arab world and a model for other countries.
|Registration Body||Headquarters of the Local Administrative Authority, NGOs Directorate|
|Barriers to Entry||Administrative officials sometimes refuse to issue registration receipts. (Registration is voluntary, but required for an association to carry out financial transactions among other things.)|
|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||Legal registration is required to receive funds – including foreign funds – and carry out financial transactions. An additional license is required to do domestic fundraising, and officials sometime deny license applications.|
|Population||37,067,420 (2023 est.)|
|Type of Government||Constitutional Monarchy|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Male: 72.26 years
Female: 75.72 years (2023 est.)
|Literacy Rate||male: 83.3%
female: 64.6% (2018)
|Religious Groups||Muslim 99% (official; virtually all Sunni, <0.1% Shia), other 1% (includes Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i); note – Jewish about 3,000-3,500 (2020 est.)|
|Ethnic Groups||Arab-Berber: 99%; Other: 1%.|
|GDP Per Capita (PPP)||$8,100 (2021 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||123 (2022)||1 – 191|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||94 (2022)||1 – 140|
|Transparency International||94 (2022)||1 – 180|
|Fund for Peace Fragile States Index||85 (2022)||179 – 1|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 13
Civil Liberties: 24 (2023)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
40 – 0
60 – 0
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
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 popular protests and other events of the “Arab Spring.” Following the 2011 amendments, the Constitution provides more expansive rights for civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations, and guarantees their freedom to operate in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Morocco. The relevant articles include the following:
The associations of civil society and the non-governmental organizations are constituted and exercise their activities in all freedom, within respect for the Constitution and for the law.
They may not be dissolved or suspended by the public powers except by virtue of a judicial decision.
The associations interested in public matters and the non-governmental organizations, contribute, within the framework of participative democracy, to the enactment, the implementation and the evaluation of the decisions and the initiatives of the elected institutions and of the public powers. These institutions and powers must organize this contribution in accordance with the conditions and modalities established by the law.
The organization and functioning of the associations and the non-governmental organizations must conform to democratic principles.
The public powers work to the creation of instances of dialogue, with a view to associate the different social actors with the enactment, the implementation, the execution and the evaluation of the public policies.
The freedoms of reunion, of assembly, of peaceful demonstration, of association and of syndical and political membership, are guaranteed.
The right to strike is guaranteed. An organic law establishes the conditions and the modalities of its exercise.
The participative mechanisms of dialog and of acting in concert are implemented by the Councils of the regions and the Councils of the other territorial collectivities so as to favor the participation of the citizens and of the associations in the enactment and the application of the programs of development.
The citizens and the associations can exercise the right of petition with a view of demanding the inclusion in the agenda of the Council, a question relevant to its competence.
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 Parliament intends to develop a new strategy on the advancement of civil society, including government funding and support to CSOs, by 2026. The strategy will focus on access to, tracking, and managing public funding; civil society participation in public policymaking; civil society capacity-building; and the environment in which CSOs are formed and develop. The government hopes that the strategy will promote an independent, structured, organized, and strong civil society that participates in development and is effective and influential.
The association is the main form of non-governmental organization in Morocco. 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, which it defines as “an agreement to achieve 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. Obtaining public benefit status entitles the association to tax benefits along with the ability to apply for government financial support. The number of associations with the status is small, however: A report issued by the NGOs Directorate in 2014 stated that nine associations had applied and obtained public benefit status during the previous year, bringing the number of organizations with the status to 206.
Barriers to Entry
Morocco provides for establishment and registration via a “notification” process, however in practice the process effectively requires prior government approval and can present a significant hurdle for associations. Under the law, obtaining legal personality is voluntary: Article 2 provides that “associations can be freely established without prior permission, provided that” the notification process is followed. Accordingly, per Article 5, organizations that desire legal personality should file a notification with the Local Administrative Authority in which the organization’s headquarters are located. The notification application must contain information including: the name and purpose of the association; the name, nationality, age, profession, residence, and national or foreign ID of its founders; and the address of the association’s headquarters. According to the law, once the complete application has been submitted, “a receipt is to be delivered within 60 days.” If no response is received, the association can carry out its activities (Article 5).
While the law appears to give limited discretion to government officials concerning an association’s notification, in practice the authorities may refuse to receive the notification documents, or issue the notification receipt. The lack of a registration receipt effectively deprives some organizations of legal entity status. While unregistered associations may implement activities, moreover, registration is required in order to carry out financial transactions, including receipt and possession of funds to support those activities.
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 in prison. In June 2009, for example, the Casablanca Court of First Instance sentenced the Amazigh president of the Rif Human Rights Association to imprisonment for three years 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.” It is worth noting that in June 2018, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA) issued Decision 20-18 on ensuring the pluralistic expression of the currents of thought and opinion in audiovisual communication services.
In 2018, the government launched the portal for public participation, allowing citizens to exercise their right to submit motions and petitions to the parliament, public authorities, and/or local councils. During the launch, the Prime Minister stated that, “Civil society should play a bigger role in decision-making. We want civil society to play a greater role in the process of thinking and proposing, not only from afar but through the press, and in an organized way.” However, a year later after its launch, only four petitions had been submitted, and the portal showed that no motions have been submitted.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal barriers to international contact and communication.
Barriers to Resources
There are limited legal barriers to the collection of resources, whether from domestic or foreign sources. The primary obstacle facing associations is legal registration, without which they are unable to conduct financial transactions as discussed above. In addition, organizations must apply for an additional license before they may collect donations, though the NGOs Directorate generally grants a fundraising license to most of those organizations that apply. Foreign funding is not subject to major restrictions, and in practice many organizations receive funds from abroad.
Barriers to Assembly
Article 29 of Morocco’s 2011 Constitution provides broad protection for the freedom of assembly, stating: “The freedoms of reunion, of assembly, of peaceful demonstration… are guaranteed.” Law 76 on Public Assemblies, which was passed in 2002 to supplement Decree No. 1-58-377, further regulates the right. The legal framework for assemblies is not well publicized, however; even many civil society organizations are unaware of the details of provisions regulating assemblies.
Law 76 on Public Assemblies contains a number of vague and broadly-worded provisions, which gives authorities much discretion in their implementation of the law. Chapter 6 provides, for instance, that organizers of assemblies must “prevent any statement that contradicts with the public order and manners, or that involves incitement for a misdemeanors or a crime.” Chapter 13 of Law 76 on Public Assemblies also provides that “if the local administrative authority deems that the assembly in question threatens public security, it can ban [the assembly] upon a written decision that shall be served to the signing applicant to their selected places of abode.” The use of vague terms such as “contradicts with the public order and manners,” and “threatens public security” gives wide discretion to the authorities to interpret the provision the way they deem fit.
Chapter 3 of Law 76 on Public Assemblies governs the process for notifying authorities prior to a public meeting. (Associations and legally constituted groups are exempt from the notification requirement for their meetings.) Organizers that wish to hold a public meeting must notify the local administrative authorities at least 24 hours in advance and obtain a stamped receipt of acknowledgement. The notification must include the day, time, place, and purpose of the meeting, as well as the names, professions, and addresses of three people domiciled in the province where the meeting will occur. The public meeting may take place 24 hours after obtaining the stamped receipt.
Law 76 also provides a process by which registered, established groups – including associations, political parties, unions, or professional bodies – may hold demonstrations on public roads. (Only such groups may do so; demonstrations on public roads by any other entity are barred.) Demonstration organizers must submit a notification statement to the local administrative authority at least three days beforehand (Chapter 12). The statement must include: the organizers’ names, nationalities, residence and identification number; the demonstration’s venue, date, time, route, and purpose; and the signatures of three individuals who live in the province where the demonstration is planned.
For both public meetings and demonstrations on public roads, if the organizers are unable to obtain the stamped receipt on the declaration, they may send the authorities a registered letter containing the same information with acknowledgement of receipt. However, the law does not require the authorities to procure either the stamped receipt, or acknowledgement of receipt for the registered letter; accordingly this provides a means for authorities to effectively prohibited assemblies, for instance based on their political or cultural content.
In addition, the local administrative authority has the power to ban a demonstration it deems likely to disturb public security (Chapter 13). The ban must be served, in writing, to the organizers at their places of residence. The organizers may challenge the decision before an administrative court, however this process often involves significant delays and is not required to be expedited, and as such is rarely effective.
The law does not provide for spontaneous assemblies. Accordingly, given the prior notification and receipt requirement, spontaneous public meetings and demonstrations likely fall under the law’s provisions concerning “mobs,” and are prohibited. The advanced notification requirement does not apply to assemblies that are part of local customs, however. The last clause of Chapter 11 of Law 76 on Public Assemblies provides that “assemblies on public roads that are according to local customs shall be exempted from permit requirement.” Examples of such assemblies are weddings, circumcision celebrations, and funerals.
Time, Place, Manner Restrictions
Law 76 on Public Assemblies provides that assemblies may not take place after midnight, or beyond the time stated in the notification permit. For demonstrations, the law gives the local administrative authority to modify the route or timing on the grounds of traffic interference or security. The authority may also prohibit the display of emblems, flags, or other rallying symbols in public places, via a written decision.
Fines and Criminal Penalties
Law 76 provides for criminal penalties in the case of violation of the law. Chapter 9 provides that any violation of Law 76 will be punished by a fine of between 2,000 and 5,000 dirham (USD 240-595). A similar fine and possible prison sentence of 1-6 months is specifically provided for relatively minor infractions, including making an inaccurate declaration that is likely to mislead authorities regarding the nature of an assembly, or attempting to engage participants in an undeclared or prohibited demonstration. A repeat offense is to be published by imprisonment from 1-2 months and a fine of 2,000-10,000 dirham (USD 240-1,190).
The Constitution provides robust protection for the rights to public participation and access to information, in the Preamble and Articles 1, 6, 8, 12-15, 19, 27, 33, 136, and 139. In addition, the legal framework contains numerous provisions that protect these rights:
- Organic Law 111.14 on Regions includes provisions on participatory mechanisms in the regional councils (Articles 116-118).
- Organic Law 112.14 on Provinces includes provisions on participatory mechanisms in the provincial councils (Articles 110-112).
- Organic Law 113.14 on Communies includes provisions on participatory mechanisms in the communal councils (Articles 119-121).
- The Organic Law Specifying the Conditions and Modalities for the Exercise of the Right to Submit Legislative Motions and Organic Law Specifying the Conditions and Modalities for the Exercise of the Right to Submit Petitions to Public Authorities cover citizens’ rights to submit petitions to these government bodies. The internal bylaws of the House of Councilors and those of the House of Representatives lay out the procedures for submitting legislative motions.
While many citizens are aware of the legal requirements in the Constitution and the Organic Laws of the Regional, Provincial, and Communal Councils, the requirements in the internal bylaws of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors are largely unknown. In addition, the government has also created a National Portal for Citizen Participation, which allows the electronic submission of motions; however, only specialists are aware of this, and it is underutilized. Challenges to public awareness and use of the options for public participation include lack of understanding of the legal requirements; lack of capacity building efforts to familiarize associations or citizens with the requirements; weakness, and sometimes absence, of public debate on ways to develop these requirements; and lack of best practices on community participation.
There are also ways in which the legal framework and state practices restrict public participation. While Article 12 of the Constitution stipulates that the public authorities shall create consultative bodies to consult with different social actors on the enactment, implementation, execution, and evaluation of the public policies, no laws define public consultation and public consultation mechanisms. Although a draft law was prepared in 2014, it still has not been enacted. In addition, the conditions required for the exercise of the right to submit petitions or motions can be difficult to comply with. For example, 25,000 signatures are required for a motion, and 5,000 signatures are required for a petition. The country lacks a law on associations that is in line with national and international developments, as the current decree on associations no. 75.00 is not compatible with the protections enshrined in the 2011 Constitution. As a result, associations’ experience and expertise in human rights and democratic development does not translate into participation in public affairs.
The Constitution and Organic Laws provide for civic participation and public consultation by marginalized groups. However, they leave enabling participatory mechanisms to the competent authorities. As a consequence, these mechanisms differ from one authority to another. For example, some councils have taken a gender-sensitive approach to consultative bodies memberships by assigning a specific percentage for women, and some have done something similar for people with disabilities.
|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||2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Morocco|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Failed States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Morocco and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Morocco|
The draft law regulating collecting donations from the public is restrictive (July 2022) (Arabic)
Law No. 18.18 regulating the collection of donations from the public and the distribution of aid for charitable purposes created widespread controversy, especially among activists in the field of public charity, who believed that the developments brought by the law did not respond to the expectations of civil society actors. Mustafa Al-Ferjani, head of the Basma Foundation for Social Works, confirmed that “the amendments that affected the public charity law did not respond even to a small part of the expectations, demands, suggestions and recommendations of civil society actors.”
Associations refuse to limit the task of “monitoring public money” to the Ministry of Interior (April 2022) (Arabic)
The law regulating contractual voluntary work in Morocco is in force (August 2021) (Arabic)
Law No. 06.18 regulating contractual voluntary work entered into force. The law specifies the conditions for access to contractual voluntary work, whether for Moroccans or foreigners, the obligations of the organizing bodies, the rules for organizing and monitoring this work, and penalties in the event of a breach of it. Among its most prominent developments is the exemption of cash and in-kind donations granted by private individuals to legal persons in order to finance the organization of contractual voluntary work from tax, and the creation of a national registry for contractual voluntary work.
Government launches the platform for “civic engagement” (July 2018)
Morocco’s HACA Launches Official Website to Receive Public Complaints (January 2018)
Protesters, activists, and journalists detained over Rif protests must be released (November 2017)
Government releases First Annual Report on Partnership between the State and Associations (July 2017)
Morocco arrests leader of northern protest movement (June 2017)
Al-Othmani Approves Petitions Committee Decree and the Establishing of Electronic Portal (May 2017)
Parliament proposes to monitor foreign funding to associations (May 2016)
Moroccan Foreign Affairs Asks Embassies and International Organizations Not to Fund Civil Society Organizations Except Through Diplomatic Channels (April 2017)
Morocco’s smiling face and heavy hand (November 2015)
Persistent restrictions on rights group (April 2015)
Study by the Ministry of Interior on the Status of Civil Society in Morocco (December 2014)
Human rights organizations accuse Hassad of misleading public opinion (November 2014)
Moroccan human rights organizations boycott the national dialogue on civil society (March 2014)
Al-Chobani: The creation of a ministerial committee on civil is near (March 2014)
European NGO Denounces “Serious” Violation of Human Rights in Western Sahara (September 2013)
Is Morocco on the path to democracy? (November 2012)
Assaults On Peaceful Demonstrations Calling for Saharawis Self-Determination (October 2012)
“Controlled Development” of civil society (July 2012)
Ten percent of Moroccan NGO’s benefit from 80% of public funding- Minister (April 2012)
Young Moroccans keep Arab Spring spirit alive (March 2012)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The foregoing information was collected by Essaadi Mostafa, Director of the Center for Local Development in Casablanca, Morocco.