|© UNICEF Morocco/2011/Mouchrif|
|Young people and Moroccan leaders discussed fundamental issues linked to youth development and inclusion at the first Youth National Meeting, held in Bouznika.|
‘The State of the World’s Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,’ UNICEF’s flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents’ fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination.
By Aniss Maghri and Lena Otter
BOUZNIKA, Morocco, 25 May 2011 – Young Moroccans gathered this week in the coastal city of Bouznika to play an active role in drafting a national youth strategy.
The three-day Youth National Meeting – the first of its kind – brought together more than 845 young people who wanted to make their voices heard. The participants were a mix of children with and without access to education, some with homes and others without. They were also from different parts of the country, from the Atlas Mountains to the desert south.
Debates and discussions
Also in attendance was Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who declared the meeting a turning point, “the first time since the independence of Morocco in 1956,” that such an event had been held.
Day-long debates took place between youths and other delegates – which included members of the Government, private sector and other political parties – as they agreed to a common vision for an Integrated National Youth Strategy for the young people of Morocco in all its diversity.
The impetus for the National Meeting stemmed from the UNICEF-supported creation of Regional Youth Forums in 16 Moroccan regions last year, in which 4,000 young people began to quantify the expectations and aspirations of their peers.
There were intense moments during the debates which were marked by frank, courageous and open discussions on both sides. For the youths, it was a good opportunity to learn the process of participative democracy.
“We have been elected by our peers to represent them in the round-tables. We want to live up to this trust. This is an opportunity to have our voice directly heard by the Government concerning various subjects,” said one young elected girl.
|© UNICEF Morocco/2011/Mouchrif|
|Marilena Viviani, UNICEF Deputy Regional Representative for Middle East and North Africa, spoke about child rights at the first Youth National Meeting in Bouznika, Morocco.|
Drafting and reviewing proposals
During the second day, six round-tables were organized, centred on issues like education, health, youth employment, protection and socio-economic support, culture and identity, citizenship, and political participation.
Ministers of several Departments – including Economy and Finance, National Education, Training and Employment, Commerce and Industry, Tourism, Health, and Employment – were questioned by the young people, with whom they discussed their answers. Together the ministers and young people developed proposals which will be reviewed collectively for a better investment in youth.
“Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa Region prove the importance to invest more in the young generation, especially adolescents and young people which represent 20 per cent of the overall population,” said Marilena Viviani, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa Region, in her message to the meeting participants.
“By working with this new generation so that it enjoys its rights, we lay the foundations for peaceful, tolerant and fair societies, in which every generation can blossom.”
The last day of the meeting saw the signing of intra-ministerial agreements, which aim to guarantee a better social protection for adolescents and young people, and promote their well-being.
New approach to youth
Minister of Youth and Sports Moncef Belkhayat said that Morocco’s youth need an Integrated National Strategy in order to pave their future. "It will offer a strategic framework for intervention where roles, responsibilities, duties and rights of everyone – including young people – will be clarified," he said.
“This new approach will help create linkages between the different stakeholders’ interventions, encourage synergies and reinforce the complementarity of actions by building on comparative advantages of each,” said Younes El Jaouhari, Youth, Childhood and Women’s Affairs Director for the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
A meeting is now scheduled for May 2012, when the National Strategy and time-bound Action Plans will be approved. In the meantime, young people and other stakeholders will keep working together on the recommendations, and continue providing an example to other countries on youth engagement.
“Morocco, through this process, provides a unique model for the whole Middle East and North Africa region,” said Ms. Viviani. “The success of this experience, particularly concerning the implementation phase, will provide a textbook example that we intend to support and share in other countries.”
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