Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy

Events poster

A round table at Utah Valley University on March 10, 2010 titled Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy highlighted the unique partnership Utah shares with Morocco.

In coordination with the Office for Global Engagement, Center for National Security Studies, and the Utah International Mountain Forum, I had the pleasure of welcoming to Utah Valley University. Hon. Consul Dr. Keith W.Martin, retired Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, Lieutenant-Colonel Dustin Carroll, and a Department of Defense representative, native Moroccan Ms. Fatima Taki. Each person brought their unique perspective on the relationship between Morocco and Utah by highlighting the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program (SPP) and its effectiveness in advancing US interests in security, sustainable development, and promotion of democratic values globally. The event educated on the State Partnership Program, the objectives and outcomes of the program, and more closely analyzed the relationship Utah has built with Morocco, highlighting progress, developments, challenges, and benefits since the program’s inception.

Event audience at Utah Valley University

I opened the event by addressing the question on many students’ minds, why Utah and Morocco? To many it seems haphazard and random as to why there would be such strong relationships between a state in the Western US and a country in Africa. However, as was highlighted by the presentations, both Utah and Morocco have strong similarities and relevant practices, from which we can learn from one another to help set us up for a path to sustainable development in the 21st century. For one, Morocco, with the Atlas range traversing the country, and Utah, adjacent to the Wasatch Range, are both mountain communities with many similar climactic regions. Utah, like Morocco, has a burgeoning youth population, which according to the World Bank is a vital source of growth, innovation, and productivity. (Utah has the largest percentage of youth over the population 0-24 in the US, and Morocco has a 10% share of the entire youth in the MENA.) And like Utah, Morocco has a strong history of interfaith cooperation and peace. Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential.

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin speaks about Utah-Morocco Partnership

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin opened the event and spoke about the longstanding relationship between the US and Morocco. He emphasized how Morocco was the first country to recognize the independent United States of America. He also highlighted some of the cultural aspects that make Morocco unique. He shared with us his lifetime of experiences interacting with Moroccans and the potential opportunities that Utah students can take advantage of today, such as study abroad programs or service projects between Utah and Morocco.

Major General Burton (retired) during the panel presentation

Next Major General Burton (retired) spoke to us about the State Partnership Program (SPP), a Department of Defense initiative. He has years of experience implementing the program between the Utah National Guard (NG) and Morocco as head of the Utah NG. He emphasized how much the program is able to do with its minimal budget. The purpose of the program is create stronger relationships between our country and other nations—this builds trust and helps the US maintain security worldwide by having allies in hotspot regions.

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carrol speaks during the panel session

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carroll, who currently oversees the SPP for the Utah NG, highlighted some of the benefits Utah has seen as a result of the partnership. For example, this program has an exchange component where Utah NG youth family members can do an exchange, where they spend time in Morocco with a Moroccan family, and then the same family sends a Moroccan youth to Utah. This helps them learn about their similarities and build strong relationships. Additionally, the NG benefits from the joint operations and training that the program implements in Morocco.

Ms. Fatima Taki during the event

Ms. Fatima Taki was our last presenter. We were especially honored by her attendance because she is a native Moroccan and currently works in the National Guard department in Washington D.C. She gave unique insight on how Morocco has benefited from the SPP, such as increased security in the region with US support, upgrading in their own military through joint operations and training, in addition to the humanitarian efforts that have helped rural Moroccan communities.

After the presentations, there was a panel discussions and questions were fielded from the audience. The panel was started with a few questions addressing of the role of the SPP in pandemic preparedness, as well as a question pertaining to how the SPP has helped rural mountain communities, and women in particular, to sustainably develop their communities. Students questioned the specialists on issues of security in the Western Sahara and sought advice on how one could pursue a career in sustainable development in an African context.

Students – hosts of the event with panel presenters

What makes this event particularly unique was the student engaged learning model that Utah Valley University emphasizes. As a student I spearheaded this project because of my interest in Morocco and the greater Maghreb. In fact, Lt. Col. Carroll thought I was an employee and was shocked to learn that I was an undergraduate student. I organized a student committee to make all of the preparations and worked with our university departments to find sponsorship and resources to make this event a success. As a result, we were able to find event space, provide a luncheon and thank you gifts, and the Department of Defense generously covered the travel costs for our invited guests. Each student on the committee was directly involved in coordinating the event, from presenting bios, to filming, to advertising. It was a collaborated effort of engaged students that I was able to lead. 

 Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential. The close relationship between our great state and the Kingdom of Morocco will only stand to better prepare Utahns and Moroccans alike for the decades to come as our youth enter the work force and innovate for a better world.

            Jon Downs, UVU Student, Political Science, emphasis Global Politics and National Security Studies



Keith Martin Jefferson Burton

Dustin Carroll Fatima_Taki



Lieutenant-Colonel Dustin Carroll

Dr. Keith W.Martin

Ms. Fatima Taki



Sarah Michaelis-Contributing to the Partnership Between Utah and Morocco


Hazim Alshanbari-Distinguished Guests Present on Utah and Morocco’s Strong Partnership


Ethan Elzinga-Helping Build a Strong Relationship Between Utah and Morocco


Andrew Tschirki-The Significant Relationship Between Utah and Morocco