Moroccan civil society and youth policy specialist Karima Rhanem took part as a panelist in the first ever United Nations backed Global Forum on Youth Policies. The forum which was held in Baku, Azerbaijan between 27 to 30, brought together over 700 participants from over 165 countries.
Youth Ministers, experts, advocates, civil society, 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 reinvigorate commitment to a global youth policy framework.
Karima Rhanem participated in a panel with UNDP under the theme “Governing youth policy frameworks – strategies for youth and stakeholders’ participation.
Rhanem highlighted cases in the Arab region where the process of youth policy creation was most inclusive and the specific characteristics of participation strategies that made them successful. She also highlighted challenges and issues of practical implementation of policies.
She argued that “the main reasons leading civil movements in the Arab world to dissolute is there focus on toppling figures rather than presenting alternatives to change the system of governance.”
Many of these movements, according to Rhanem, were characterized by division, lack of vision and leadership, often refusing to dialogue with authorities and choosing the street protests and boycotts as their main option. 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 to way 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 the Kingdom has undertaken as a quick response to the uprising, by low international attention, and by the movements self ability to gain grassroots support.
Rhanem also provided examples on how can youth protest, demonstration and riots 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.
She gave an overview of Morocco’s reforms following the Arab uprising and how civil society and youth were able to move from street protests into a real force of proposition influencing the country policies, passing from the constitutional reforms to the participation in the formulation of legislation related to youth, civil society and citizen 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 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 who submitted over 200 Memorandums, out of which 55 demanded the creation of consultative councils, including youth ones.
Prior to the pre-mature 2011 legislative elections, a coalition was formed composed of representatives of youth wings of political parties & civil society organizations who led a political communications and advocacy campaign putting pressure on state & political parties to establish a quota for youth representation in the 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 taken 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
As 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 organizations, CSOs, Diaspora groups and stakeholders in Morocco’s 16 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 work of the Dialogue aimed to produce 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; law on legislative motions and law on petitions, law on public consultations and a ‘Participatory Democracy Charter’ that constitutes a road map to implement participative democracy as stipulated in the 2011 constitution.
Another parallel dialogue was conducted by civil society coalitions who were not pleased with the government dialogue and 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 to youth dialogue, Rhanem mentioned that “the ministry of youth and Sports has 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 has been finalized in 2014. The ministry formed a committee to develop a youth law and the law on the Consultative Council of Youth and Community Work.”
Rhanem concluded that “there are a number of initiatives in the law of 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.”
It is worth to mention that Karima Rhanem was also among the most active African delegates to the forum who have engaged in intensive dialogue and mapping and analysis of youth policies in 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 announced openly 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 implementing youth policies on the continent.
Quoting the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Mr Ahmad Alhendawi who received the African delegates who initiated the network, he said “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 in Azerbaijan 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 agreed to by participants and co-conveners (UNDP, UNESCO, Council of Europe and the team of youthpolicy.org), highlights the principles to guide formulation, implementation and evaluation of youth policy in the 21 century. It calls for greater youth involvement in youth policy monitoring and evaluation.
According to the United Nations, as of October 2014, 127 countries have an adopted national youth policy, up from 99 in 2013. This leap symbolizes that governments are increasingly aware of the increasing power that young people have to impact change.