DURHAM, N.C. – During a panel held Thursday with a group of young Moroccan leaders, panelists discussed the future of youth engagement in Moroccan government and civil society and the difference between American and Moroccan education systems.

Aatimad Zahidi, member of the Moroccan Parliament, said that the integration of theory and practice common in U.S. universities should be embraced in Morocco to drive youth involvement in social change.

“We need not only academic training, but also training that will help us integrate into society, manage public affairs, and become better nonpartisan decision makers,” she said.

The panel discussion, hosted by the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), involved 17 Moroccan leaders who are visiting the Triangle to learn more about the role of youth in policymaking. This group included legislators, youth council members, local government officials and representatives of youth-oriented NGOs.

Mehdi Mezouari, legislator and president of the National Institute for Youth and Democracy, expressed hope for greater youth engagement and government responsiveness after the Arab Spring. Morocco’s transition, unlike that of other North African states, was a peaceful process that led to major political reforms and a new constitution.

“Morocco is like an open construction site,” Mezouari said. “We cannot foretell the result of this process, but we know we are on the right path.”

Second-year fellows in the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs at the Sanford School of Public Policy also participated in the discussion, sharing their perspectives on the structure of policymaking in the United States and their experience at Sanford. The panelists included:

  • Hrachya Topalyan, MIDP
  • Pankhuri Dutt, MIDP
  • Daniel Heller, MPP
  • Sonia Sekhar, MPP
  • Mark Muenchau, MPP
  • Michael Landes, MPP

They were joined by Danice Brown, MPP fellow and former Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, and Dania Toth, who received her bachelor’s degree from Sanford in 2012 with a specialization in Public Policy and Arabic. Toth, who joined the conversation via Skype, has been working for Amideast with the Tunisian Youth Programs since her graduation.

The Moroccan leaders were brought to the U.S. by RTI International for a 10-day visit. Prior to the panel, the leaders visited the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Raleigh and Durham City Councils, Wake Tech Community College and the Saint Monica Teen Center.

The idea for the panel evolved from the “Duke-RTI Professors and Practitioners in Conversation” series, which is jointly sponsored by RTI International and a number of international centers at Duke, including DCID. The series, which focuses on engaging youth in social change, offers RTI staff and Duke faculty, staff and students the opportunity to share ideas and projects, hear new perspectives, and connect classroom training with real-world problems and applications.

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