In an effort to enhance South-South cooperation, Morocco, a rising star in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to cooperate in the areas of sustainable water-resource development and management.
“This partnership will foster exchanges and cooperation in water-resource development and management through the sharing of available technical expertise and lessons learned by both parties. Some of the common interests of both parties range from energy to agriculture and food security to water quality,” the MRC said in a press release.
The MoU, the first of its kind, was signed by Moroccan Ambassador to Thailand Abdelilah El Housni and MRC chief executive officer Pham Tuan Phan in the Laotian capital Vientiane on June 29.
Ambassador El Housni is a well-respected Moroccan diplomat based in Bangkok and is also the dean of African diplomats in Thailand.
Both Morocco and the MRC have a common interest in the areas of water-resource development and management.
“The collaboration aims to ultimately promote and enhance public safety and community welfare by fostering research; promote, encourage, and advance safer, more economical, efficient, and environmentally sound system for water-resource development and management,” the MRC said.
With this agreement, surprisingly, Morocco has become the first Arab or African partner of the MRC. Myanmar and China are the MRC’s existing dialogue partners.
The MRC, an inter-governmental organization, was established in 1995 by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos with the aim of jointly managing the shared water resources and the sustainable development of the mighty Mekong River.
Many people may be wondering why a country from North Africa is interested in Southeast Asia.
Thanks to the great vision of Moroccan King Mohammed VI of making his country a major influence on the comity of nations, Morocco has been recently diversifying its cooperation with all regions and at all levels to attain sustainable, active and solidarity-based development.
In a major foreign policy shift, Morocco re-joined the African Union (AU) earlier this year to foster close partnerships with African countries. Morocco left the AU in 1984 over the issue of Western Sahara after the AU opened its doors to a rebel government led by the Polisario Front under the name of the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).
It was the long-time wish of King Mohammed VI to return to the AU.
“Africa is my home, and I am coming back home,” Morocco’s popular king said while addressing African leaders at the time of readmission.
Morocco also received the green light recently to join the Western African regional group the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), even though Morocco is situated in North Africa.
Morocco is not focusing only on Africa or the Middle East, it is increasingly looking toward the East, especially Southeast Asia.
“Morocco is keen to pursue closer relations with ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” Morocco’s Ambassador to Indonesia and ASEAN Ouadia Benabdellah said while submitting his letter of credentials to ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh in Jakarta last month.
Last year, Morocco signed ASEAN’s important Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) agreement. Morocco and Egypt are the only two countries from Africa to have signed the TAC.
With a GDP of US$105 billion and a population of 35 million, Morocco is the most attractive countries in the MENA region for foreign investors.
“It’s a gateway to both Europe and Africa. We welcome investors from all over the world,” Ambassador Benabdellah said recently.
Thanks to its geographical proximity, Morocco signed an advanced status agreement with the European Union in 2008 and a Free Trade Agreement with the United States in 2006.