Baku – Azerbaijan - Two Moroccan civil society and youth policy specialists, Karima Rhanem and Yassine Isbouia, recently took part as panelists at the first ever United Nations-backed Global Forum on Youth Policies. The forum, held in Baku, Azerbaijan from October 27 to 30, brought together over 700 participants from over 165 countries.
Baku – Azerbaijan – Two Moroccan civil society and youth policy specialists, Karima Rhanem and Yassine Isbouia, recently took part as panelists at the first ever United Nations-backed Global Forum on Youth Policies. The forum, held in Baku, Azerbaijan from October 27 to 30, brought together over 700 participants from over 165 countries.
Youth Ministers, experts, advocates, civil society members, and representatives of the United Nations, as well as other international and regional bodies, participated in panel events, bilateral discussions, and informal meetings on how to renew commitment to a global youth policy framework.
Any policy for youth Leisure?
Yassine Isbouia, general coordinator of the Mediterranean Forum of Youth, spoke in a panel with UNESCO about leisure policies for youth.
He said that “free time is an important factor for the development of youth and children’s personality and for their social integration.” He added that “leisure and free time need to be institutionalized by a public policy. Yassine stressed that “during free time, the young person is ready to accept, learn and acquire any given knowledge, skill, and attitude that is given to him or her under non-formal education.”
“It is unfortunate that leisure has no importance in the educational system of many Arab countries. Extra curricular activities at school are limited, if not absent, and this may lead kids to choose the street as an alternative,” added Isbouia, raising concerns of youth falling into the trap of extremist ideologies or other kind of dangers, such as drugs, alcohol abuse, violence, crime, and terrorism.
Today, “there is a need more than ever for a coordinated effort of all education stakeholders to mobilize resources and funds to meet the needs of children and young people and prepare them for life,” he concluded.
Strategies for youth and stakeholders’ participation
From her part, Karima Rhanem participated in a panel with the UNDP under the theme “Governing youth policy frameworks – strategies for youth and stakeholders’ participation.
To ensure greater stakeholder participation; Rhanem told a panel “there is a need to improve the legal enabling environment allowing for more inclusive, transparent and equal participation of citizens including civil society and young people in public policy development, implementation and evaluation.”
Rhanem highlighted cases in the Arab world of an inclusive process of youth policy creation and the specific characteristics of participation strategies that made them successful. She also highlighted challenges and issues of practical implementation of policies.
“It is highly important to find out alternative ways to turn youth street protest into a meaningful constructive dialogue with stakeholders and empower youth led organizations to be an influential force of proposition impacting policies,” she said
For that to happen, there should be a political will from the state institutions, and a civic engagement from civil society and watchdog organizations to take part in a coordinated cross sectoral dialogue. A monitoring and evaluation system also needs to be put in place to ensure recommendations and proposals presented in the dialogue are implemented and felt by the general grassroots to whom it was originally designed.
Rhanem argued that “the main reasons leading civil movements in the Arab world to dissolute is their focus on toppling figures rather than presenting alternatives to change the system of governance.”
Many of these movements, according to Rhanem, are characterized by division, a lack of vision and leadership, the tendency to refuse dialogue with authorities, and choosing the street protests and boycotts as their main recourse.
She added that “many demanded the fall of institutions without thinking about an alternative transition and the availability of real political new elites to run the country.”
“Some of their demands were way too ambitious, unrealistic, and could not take effect immediately. Change needs time, inclusive dialogue, and realistic proposals. This doesn’t mean that some measures could not have been taken immediately, but real change needs a vision to make an impact,” said Rhanem.
In some countries, like Morocco, civil movements have been weakened by a series of reforms that the Kingdom has undertaken as a quick response to uprisings. These reforms caused the movements to gain little international attention and lose its ability to gain grassroots support.
Rhanem also provided examples on how youth protests, demonstrations, and riots can be transformed into constructive participation of young people in political processes and what reactions from both governmental actors and young people themselves are needed for such a successful transformation.
From Street Protest to Constructive Dialogue
Karima Rhanem also gave an overview of Morocco’s reforms following the Arab Spring and how civil society and youth were able to move from street protests into a real force for change that could influence the country policies, helping to pass constitutional reforms and formulate legislation related to youth, civil society, and citizenship in general.
Unlike other countries in the region, Rhanem said that Morocco has witnessed both street activism led mainly by the February 20th Movement and an institutional revolution led by the youth wings of political parties and civil society organizations.
The consultations on constitutional reforms included for the first time vast consultations with civil society organizations, which submitted over 200 Memorandums to the government, out of which 55 demanded the creation of consultative councils, including councils focused on youth.
Prior to the premature 2011 legislative elections, a coalition was formed composed of representatives of the youth wings of political parties and civil society organizations who have led a political communications and advocacy campaign to put pressure on the state and political parties to establish a quota for youth representation in parliament.
“Although the quota system is debated, and viewed by many as a non democratic system. Youth and institutions considered it as the ultimate solution within the current context. After several meetings, held with heads of political parties and the ministries of youth and interior, the new election code, voted by the parliament, allowed for the creation of a national list for youth. This has guaranteed 30 seats for youth in the parliament,” Rhanem explained.
She mentioned other initiatives at the local level, through the creation of ad hoc or temporary committees following Article 14 of the Communal Charter, allowing for greater participation of youth and civil society in the management of local affairs.
“The draft law on petitions and legislative motions should also move citizens from the culture of complaining to a culture of alternative proposals,” emphasized Rhanem.
A new culture of public consultation & dialogue
In relation to effective stakeholder participation, Rhanem outlined that Morocco launched a year and half national dialogue with civil society, reaching out to more than 10,000 participants and hundreds of civil society organizations (CSOs), diaspora groups, and stakeholders in Morocco’s sixteen regions to discuss key constitutional questions to develop specific proposals for the Parliament and to shape public policies. To lead the dialogue, a committee was formed consisting of over 60 appointed representatives from government, CSOs, universities, human rights councils, constitutional bodies, MPs, and political actors.
The dialogue aimed to produce several key outputs, including new CSO-related organic laws and a review of the 1958 Decree on the right to establish associations, a diagnosis of civil society in Morocco considering CSO capacity and governance issues, the laws on legislative motions and petitions, the law on public consultations, and a ‘Participatory Democracy Charter’, which is a road map for the implementation participatory democracy, as stipulated in the 2011 constitution.
Another parallel dialogue was conducted by civil society coalitions who were not pleased with the government dialogue. They issued their own recommendations and proposals. “This only shows the level of dynamism and maturity of civil society, which instead of just protesting conducted its own dialogue and make proposals and recommendations, while advocating for its implementation,” she added.
As for youth dialogue, Rhanem mentioned that “the Ministry of Youth and Sports also launched in 2012 a consultation with around 35,000 youth across the Kingdom with a new vision to have an inclusive process in developing a strategy for youth, which was finalized in 2014. The Ministry formed a committee to develop a youth law and a law on the Consultative Council of Youth and Community Work.”
Rhanem concluded that “there are a number of initiatives in the law concerning political parties, election code, communal charter, and other normal or organic laws that encourage civic and political participation of young people. Yet, there is still a problem in the implementation of these policies and involving youth in key political decisions.”
Birth of African Network of Youth Policy Experts
It is worth mentioning that Karima Rhanem was also among the most active African delegates at the forum who engaged in an intensive dialogue and mapping and analysis of youth policies on the African continent, which was followed by a concrete document that led to the emergence of the African Network of Youth Policy Experts.
The platform, which was openly announced at the closing session of the Global Forum, is designed to enhance advocacy for youth policy implementation among African countries by persuading Africa’s UN Member States to renew their commitments regarding youth policies.
Quoting the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, who received the African delegates that initiated the network, “we have seen young Africans come together to establish a network for researchers on youth policies. We have seen countries pledging support and commitment and resources to support the global initiative on youth policies. I’ve seen people debating issues around youth policies.”
The forum concluded with the launch of an outcome document pledging to support countries that are in the process of developing and “elevating” national youth policy.
The Baku Commitment on Youth Policies, which was agreed to by participants and co-conveners (the UNDP, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the team of youthpolicy.org), highlights the principles to guide formulation, implementation, and evaluation of youth policy in the 21st century. It calls for greater youth involvement in youth policy monitoring and evaluation.
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