Guidance for Funders on Relief to Morocco and Libya

Friday, September 15, 2023 - 11:27 am
Brian Kastner

Posted on September 18, 2023. The Council is maintaining pages to assist funders for Morocco and Libya, which will be updated more frequently. 

In early September 2023, devastating disasters struck both Morocco and Libya:  

  • Morocco was hit by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake September 8 near Marrakech. The death toll is more than 2,500 with more than 300,000 people displaced. This is the worst earthquake to hit the country since 1960. 
  • Libya was hit by Storm Daniel between September 9-10, causing massive flooding and the collapse of dams, destroying much of the city of Derna. Estimates put the death toll at more than 11,000 and even more missing. This is likely one of the deadliest storms to hit North Africa on record. 

For funders seeking to provide relief funds to these two countries, the situation is complex. The Council typically recommends that funders work with local partners wherever possible, relying on their expertise, local relationships, and long-term presence post-disaster.  

However, given the current enabling environment for civil society in both countries, opportunities for direct grantmaking following these disasters are limited.  


The Operating Environment for Civil Society in Morocco 

Moroccan authorities continue to face criticism for the handling of relief efforts due to the earthquake, having not responded to offers of aid from multiple countries and the U.N. The Atlantic Council offered their analysis behind this decision. 

While there are efforts underway to improve the operating environment for NGOs in Morocco, many still face challenges, such as obtaining legal registration, intensive oversight, or blacklisting. According to ICNL, a new framework is in development to expand access and rights for NGOs but will not be implemented until 2026, noting:

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.

Takeaway: Some estimates point to Morocco having roughly 250 local NGOs, but it’s unclear how many may be involved in relief efforts, given the location of the earthquake. There are also some U.S.-based organizations with ties to the country working on relief such as High Atlas Foundation.  

Our guidance to funders would be: 

  1. Support locally led organizations where possible, or organizations with deep ties to communities within Morocco. 
  2. Support efforts, albeit limited, by other countries’ NGOs who have been invited by the Moroccan government to support relief efforts 
  3. Support U.N. efforts or those of the many International NGOs who are currently raising funds. 


The Operating Environment for Civil Society in Libya 

The main issue facing funders is that the NGO sector in Libya is essentially nonexistent. Years of severe crackdowns on NGOs since the Gaddafi regime have resulted in an operating environment that is extremely hostile to local NGOs. In March 2023, the Government of National Unity sought to revoke the licenses of all NGOs created since 2011. While the effort was lessened slightly, there remains little guidance to both local and international NGOs on how to secure and maintain a license to operate. The last analysis of the Libyan NGO sector, conducted in 2015, noted only 22 organizations registered. 

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control does maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities in Libya and as always, funders should ensure compliance with U.S. sanctions if looking to fund non-US partners. 

Libya is also currently split between two governments because of civil war from 2014-2020: a U.N.-recognized government called the Government of National Unity is based in the capital, Tripoli, while the government based in Benghazi, called the House of Representatives, is backed by a powerful military leader. Regional neighbors have also divided support between both governments. International aid is likely going through the Tripoli government, which must then coordinate with its rival who controls the impacted areas, including the city of Derna. Any funding by U.S. grantmakers will be included in these resources, as INGOs and U.N. efforts likely will be coordinated by the Tripoli government. 

Takeaway: While chaos after a disaster like Libya has faced often occurs, the challenges of coordinating relief between two rival governments poses a unique challenge and barrier. Alongside significant legal and operational challenges facing NGOs, our guidance would be for funders to: 

  1. Support INGOs, many of which have active appeals for Libya and will likely follow the U.N.’s guidance and lead regarding coordinating relief. 
  2. Support NGOs based in neighboring countries that are responding, such as those in Egypt or Türkiye. 

Organizations Supporting Libyan Relief: Recommended by the Arab Foundations Forum:

  1. Tanmia360 
  2. Goodwill Caravan
  3. International Medical Corps
  4. LibAid
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