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Redefining Arab identities in Morocco

'The Voice of Youth in Redefining Arab Identities' was heard in Morocco and around the Middle East and North Africa region as the Young Arab Voices project launched its second year with a public debate in Rabat on September 10.

The topic was chosen to reflect the project's essence, which is the empowerment of young voices in the context of the Arab Spring that saw many Arab countries undergo dramatic socio-political transformations, starting the processes to create open and democratic societies in the region. Six young people from Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan were able to exchange their views and debate as equals with the experts in attendance, which were:

  • Magda Zaki, Director / Minister Plenipotentiary of the Department of the Dialogue among Civilizations of the League of Arab States
  • Mohamed Ouzzine, Minister of Youth and Sports

  • Eneko Landaburu, Head of the Mission of the European Commission to Morocco

  • André Azoulay, the President of the Anna Lindh Foundation and advisor to the King of Morocco

  • Martin Rose, the Director of the British Council in Morocco

  • Rachid Belmokhtar, the renowned expert and President of the National Observatory of Human Development

The debaters were trained by IDEA in a Training of Trainers that took place in July. IDEA's Najwan Berekdar delivered a refresher training on the day before the public debate for the participants. IDEA London is supporting the project by preparing training manuals and project materials, as well as providing trainer support.

The youth participating in the debate questioned the officials about their claim that they are delivering policy in response to the youth's demand. One of the main points raised was the belief that the older generation hijacked the Arab Spring process which was initiated and led by the region's youth. In the second part of the discussion, the debate focused on the identity in what is known as the “Arab Nation” that also includes social, religious, ethnic, racial and national minorities. The youth advocated for a more inclusive approach on the issue of identity, which in return will support the overall sense of belonging, unity and justice in Arab societies, while the older participants of the debate focused more on the importance of having a strong Arab identity in the centre, that however respects other identities.

The event was covered in French, Arabic and English by France 24, the international news and current affairs broadcaster, and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, the Arabic-speaking member of Radio France Internationale. France 24 also moderated the public debate between the young debaters and local experts.

Having engaged "over 35000 young people" in 2011, the Young Arab Voices project aims to "allow 6000 Moroccans to freely exchange their views on topics they choose themselves", as Anna Lindh Foundation's Sarah Zaaimi told Agence France-Presse. The project has also engaged youth in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, while for this year it is expanding to Morocco, Libya, and Algeria.

The Young Arab Voices project was launched in 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring and aims to provide opportunities, tools, and capacity building for the involvement of youth in running and managing effective debates for the purpose of enriching the pluralistic democratic dialogue existing in the Arab world. The project is an initiative of the British Council and the Anna Lindh Foundation.

Press Coverage

The event received extensive international coverage. Here are some selected links:

 

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