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City Spotlight: City of Agadir, Kingdom of Morocco

Agadir – which means “impregnable fortress” in Amazigh – is considered an important hub for the Amazigh culture in southern Morocco. Inhabited by more than 420,000 people, Agadir has been known for its resilience after a devastating earthquake in 1960 resulted in the death of 15,000 individuals and destroyed most of the city. These days, Agadir is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco. This can be attributed not only to the re-construction of the city and its natural surroundings, but also to its role as a melting pot of many local cultures and identities. The City Government is currently led by Mr. Aziz Akhannouch, an Amazighi who is both the Mayor of the City and the Prime Minister of Morocco.

Agadir joined Strong Cities as a member in early 2024. It participated in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Hub’s roundtable on “Moroccan Cities’ Efforts in Preventing and Responding to Hate, Extremism and Polarisation” in November 2023 in Tangier, as well as the regional workshop in early 2024.

What is the local government concerned about?

The City faces several socioeconomic, cultural and infrastructural challenges that threaten social cohesion and foster feelings of insecurity. For example, rapid urbanisation has left neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city marginalised. These communities suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure and service provision. Moreover, with urban and economic development prioritised for the city centre, the social inequalities between those in the centre versus periphery of the city have been exacerbated.

Agadir is additionally concerned about how a lack of economic opportunities is leading to feelings of marginalisation and exclusion among its young residents. This increases their vulnerability to extremist narratives and recruitment or other harmful behaviour.

Another challenge Agadir is facing relates to the preservation and safeguarding of the Amazigh culture. Preserving Amazigh identity necessitates more than just acknowledgment; it requires active support from the community and authorities, ensuring that this vibrant culture continues to thrive amidst the pressures of globalisation.

How is the local government responding?

Participatory Action Planning

In 2022, the City conducted a needs assessment that led to the development of a comprehensive Communal Action Plan. The assessment was consultative and participatory in nature to ensure that it is informed by the needs and priorities of the citizens, especially marginalised communities. Over 1,000 residents and 140 community-based organisations participated in thematic consultations including sessions focusing on youth, sport, culture, art and Amazigh language. The Plan highlights priority initiatives and programmes for the City, with two overarching priorities – making Agadir 1) attractive for investment and 2) sustainable and ‘smart’. This involves, for example, building and reconstructing different types of cultural and sports centres for youth, women and the wider community, ensuring access to essential services such as water, garbage collection, health, education and others across all neighbourhoods in the City, improving local infrastructure, as well as facilitating access to income-generating activities.

Community-Based Partnerships and Programmes

Agadir’s priority for 2024 revolves around enhancing participation of marginalised communities through partnering with community-based organisations representing youth, women, ethnic and cultural minorities. In 2023 and 2024, Agadir provided $500,000 worth of grants to local civil society to work on issues affecting the marginalised communities ranging from addressing the impact of migration on social cohesion, violence against women, youth engagement, child protection and the support to elderly and disabled people. This collaboration between the City and local civil society and community-based groups is expected to continue and Agadir has made available further $11.5 million to this partnership to achieve the following results:

To achieve these objectives, in addition to engaging in strategic partnerships with community-based organisations, the City is planning to build and rehabilitate educational, cultural and social centres in the most marginalised areas of the city.

National – Local Cooperation

Furthermore, in partnership with the national government, Agadir is working on promoting its role as a cultural and artistic hub in the country for Amazigh culture. With a budget of 8.7 million USD, the City is working on strengthening the Amazigh identity of the city and enhancing a network of cultural facilities that contribute to local development and tourism. This includes supporting initiatives that promote tolerance, coexistence and dialogue among the different cultures and traditions, as well as international and local cultural festivals.

Community Engagement

To promote citizen participation and engagement as a mechanism to strengthen social cohesion, the City is supporting innovative grassroots initiatives that help reach the Sustainable Development Goals. This is achieved through the formation of consultative committees such as the Committee for Equality, Equal Opportunities and Gender Approach (IEECAG) as well as neighbourhood committees. These bodies provide the City with information on residents’ needs and priorities, and put forward idea for programmes and initiatives that the City should implement. For example, IEECAG has already developed a number of policy ideas and programmes for the City on topics such as improving cultural and sport infrastructures, enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities and empowering political and civic participation of young people.

What’s next?

Agadir is in the process of planning to evaluate its Communal Action Plan, after three years of implementation. The City will organise town hall meetings and other consultations to gather feedback from citizens and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the implemented programmes are responding to the needs and priorities of the residents and will incorporate the feedback into the next iteration of the action plan.

In order to address inequalities among its different neighbourhoods, Agadir plans to build cultural centres, educational institutions, sport facilities, libraries and other communal spaces in marginalised parts of the City. Ensuring that all residents, regardless of their background or location, have equal opportunities to prosper, is crucial for strengthening social cohesion and serves as the foundation for a more inclusive society. Therefore, the City’s focus this year is on enhancing these services in collaboration with various local and national stakeholders such as civil society organisations and government ministries and agencies.

Further, Agadir has requested technical support from Strong Cities to develop and implement a local strategy for strengthening social cohesion, focused specifically on the marginalised neighbourhoods.

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