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Morocco Lecture Series: A Tale of Two Historic and Inspiring Destinations

By Randall Abate, Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy

Professor Abate at  Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh
Professor Abate at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh

My visit to Cadi Ayyad University’s campuses in Marrakesh and Safi, Morocco, from May 23-29 was divided in content and location. I spent the first two days in bustling Marrakesh, where I delivered lectures on climate change governance and litigation. The next two days were spent in the quaint and historic seaside town of Safi, where I delivered lectures on climate change and ocean governance.

On May 24-25, I delivered two lectures in Marrakesh to master’s and Ph.D. students across many disciplines. The first lecture addressed lessons from COP 26 and current global climate governance challenges and the second lecture addressed standing obstacles in global climate litigation.

The students were so engaged and impressive. Their English speaking skills were outstanding and they asked probing questions on all aspects of the issues. Their enthusiasm was infectious and it reminded why I have been delivering these lectures around the world for the past decade.

Small group photo taken after lecture in Marrakesh in Morocco
Small group photo after lecture on standing in global climate litigation in Marrakesh.

This cross-cultural exchange of ideas isn’t replicable in my teaching and lecturing in the U.S. In these lectures, I feel like I’m part professor and part cultural ambassador to impart and absorb cultural realities than underlie global environmental issues. One’s understanding of these issues is significantly enhanced in a cross-cultural context.

The three-hour drive between Marrakesh and Safi on Wednesday was long and uneventful, and it added to my post-flight fatigue and the challenge of the busy first two days in Marrakesh. But the drive provided rich rewards upon arriving in Safi, with its quaint, historic, and welcoming charm of a small, seaside city.

Coastal view of Safi in Morocco
The quaint and historic coastal city of Safi in Morocco

On May 26-27, I delivered two lectures in Safi to a large gathering of undergraduate students, professors and administrators (including the dean). The first lecture was on my Climate Change and the Voiceless book and the second was on the U.S. position on party status to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both lectures were part of a major two-day ocean science conference event, which has been hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Safi for the past several years.

Abate stands in front of lecture hall in Safi during the two-day Ocean Science Forum
Professor Abate in front of lecture hall in Safi during the two-day Ocean Science Forum

I also had the pleasure of judging a moot court exercise on the maritime boundary dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, which featured several animated undergraduate students playing their advocacy roles very effectively. About half of the undergraduates were proficient in English and those who weren’t were eager to communicate with the assistance of translation from my host, Professor Samira Idllalene. Professor Idllalene delivered an online presentation in a session of the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding-UCI Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series last year.

Professor Idlallene did a remarkable job organizing this significant conference event and all of the lectures in my week-long visit to both cities. She also arranged for me to meet with representatives of an NGO on marine archaeology in Safi on May 26. This NGO is interested in partnering with Monmouth on faculty/student exchange and research opportunities on marine archaeology. The NGO has invited me to participate in a coastal governance conference in Safi in the fall.

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The 12th century Koutoubia mosque in downtown Marrakesh.
The iconic 12th century Koutoubia mosque in downtown Marrakesh.
Professor Abate poses with 2 master's students who traveled four hours from Casablanca to hear his May 24 lecture in Marrakesh.
Professor Abate poses with two master’s students who traveled four hours away from Casablanca to hear his May 24 lecture in Marrakesh.