The Réseau Amazigh pour la Citoyenneté (Azetta) used international lobbying to leverage national lobbying channels in order to make it possible for Moroccan citizens to use the Amazigh language to name their children.
Azetta is a network that was established in 2002 to coordinate NGOs working on the fulfillment of the Amazigh cultural and linguistic rights in Morocco. The Amazigh community is subject to a significant number of discriminatory practices at the legal and law enforcement levels. One key issue was a government ban on the right of Moroccan citizens to choose Amazigh names for their children.
Azetta’s efforts show how coordinated efforts at the national and international levels at key moments can increase lobbying effectiveness.
In 2009, Azetta seized the opportunity of national legislative elections to advance their recommendations. The network held roundtables and awareness-raising activities that were well covered by the media. Several meetings were conducted with the political parties presenting candidates to the elections. Through this participative consultation process, Azetta drafted a document containing their recommendations addressed to the appropriate governmental authorities. Azetta also took part in a coalition that monitored the elections, which enabled them to issue a report about the elections and the discriminations affecting the Amazigh community.
At the same time, Azetta prepared a shadow report in partnership with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights on the obligations of the Moroccan government under the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The report was submitted to the UN, which allowed Azetta to attend the CERD’s committee session. There, Azetta was successful in lobbying for concluding observations that included information about the rights of the Amazigh community, ensuring that the issue would be on the agenda for the next committee session on Morocco. Azetta then held a national roundtable in Morocco highlighting the committee’s concluding observations in order to raise awareness and put additional pressure on the authorities.
As a result of Azetta’s parallel efforts of lobbying at the national and international levels, the Moroccan Minister of Interior lifted the ban on the right of Moroccan citizens to choose Amazigh names for their children.
A major obstacle Azetta encountered was on the internal organizational level as the network lacked the skills to write a shadow report that complied with UN standards. In addition, many of civil society actors were not aware about such international advocacy mechanisms. However, through the implementation of capacity building trainings, and engaging with international experts in the field, in addition to conducting several raising awareness sessions on the international advocacy mechanisms, the network was able to alleviate the impact of those weaknesses.
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This approach combines reporting on the larger issue of discrimination in Morocco with the pursuit of a more narrow focus on the specific question of naming rights in the Amazigh language. This example can be adapted in many different contexts. By combining education on a widespread human rights problem with a concentrated effort to address specific laws or other barriers that can be addressed immediately, organizations can establish credibility based on intermediate successes while working towards a broader respect for human rights.