WHRF by Aline Carruet

Marrakesh at the heart of the 2nd World Human Rights Forum (27 – 30 November 2014)

Marrakesh, the red city, was proud to serve as the world Human Rights capital during four days, welcoming around 7000 participants from 94 countries.[1] Organized under the patronage of his Majesty the King Mohammed VI, the 2nd edition of the World Human Rights Forum brought together local, regional and international NGOs, UN agencies, governments, national human rights institutions, political leaders, international organisations, global human rights and development stakeholders, trade unions and corporations.

Since the 1993 Vienna Conference, human rights values have undergone a continuing universalization trend and new issues have arisen constituting main challenges to the world’s conscience. It is within this renewed context and globalized world that the Marrakech Forum took place from 27 till 30 November after the first edition held in Brazil in 2013, and created a universal space for dialogue and discussion. Driss El Yazami, President of the National Council of Human Rights outlines the choice of Morocco to organize such an event as “ a clear sign of the recognition of the vitality of the national institutions and civil society organisations working in the field of human rights in Morocco”. [2]

The Forum was organized around two key events: the inaugural conference during which prominent international personalities expressed their views on human rights issues in the world and the closing ceremony which drew the main conclusions and recommendations after four intensive days of debate. The venue of more than 70 international prominent personalities known for their strong engagement in this particular field reinforced the credibility and richness of such an event.

A significant moment of the opening ceremony was the royal message of King Mohammed VI addressed to all participants of the Forum. As outlined in his message, three main challenges were at the core of the discussions throughout these four days:

The first challenge concerns the questions of equality and parity, elaborated in the 2011 Moroccan Constitution as main objectives. [3] With a strong emphasis on women’s rights, the King has announced the implementation of institutional parity in Morocco. Moreover, the Parliament in Rabat has recently elaborated a law against violence against women. A law on domestic work, especially concerning young girls, is currently being assessed. Despite the efforts made, a lot still needs to be done to improve women’s rights.

The second challenge tackles the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The aims of the international community to reduce poverty by half, to ensure primary education to all and to promote equality of sexes and empowerment of women by 2015 were at the centre of the thematic events in the Forum. New Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been adopted as a follow-up to the MDGs, a process that Morocco supports by aiming to integrate human rights at the heart of these new goals.

A third crucial issue concerns international migrants and asylum seekers. In a growing number of countries, the rejection of migrants is an acute reality. Morocco adopted a new migration policy in January 2014 that aims to regulate all persons fulfilling the required criteria. Furthermore, as announced by King Mohammed VI “we invite the international community to take more active negotiations in order to achieve an international and regional migration governance in the wake of the High level Dialogue, initiated by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan”.[4]

The forum was not only an opportunity to recall the main issues at stake worldwide but also to underline the progress made especially by Morocco in the promotion of human rights. With the ratification of the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture, Morocco has once again demonstrated and confirmed its full engagement for the promotion of human rights and consolidating the rule of law.

The King also foresees Morocco’s ratification of the third Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Alongside the opening ceremony, the Forum hosted around 100 activities. More than 50 thematic events were held, under which women’s rights, children’s rights, situation of migrants, rights of people with disabilities, abolition of the death penalty, liberty of expression among many others were at the heart of the debates. Besides these thematic events, one could assist to various self-directed workshops, internal activities, special events, training workshops and cultural programmes. [5]

The closing ceremony, held on Sunday November 30, was seen as one of the strong moments of the event. In fact, it was marked by deep and meaningful messages delivered by prominent personalities on the one hand, and protestors letting their emotions and voices be heard on the other hand. Moments of silence were also given to the various people who have recently suffered and lost their lives.

For instance, Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, emphasized the repression and threats suffered by defenders in various countries worldwide, and urged Morocco to act as a role model in its region for the protection of human rights. In this same perspective, Verena Taylor, as representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, evoked the strong cooperation links between Morocco and the Council. Another strong moment was the intervention of the spouse of Chokri Belaïd, a Tunisian activist assassinated in February 2013. The whole room was filled with emotions as she took the stage. Other inspiring statements were notably the ones of Navanethem Pillay, former High Commissioner for Human Rights; Kishore Singh, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; Michel Tubiana, President of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and many more.

The Marrakesh World Human Rights Forum, which brought together 7000 participants, can be regarded as a historic and successful international event, recalling the main issues at stake, in particular the ones outlined earlier on, but also the progress made in the field of human rights. Morocco, being at the heart of this World Forum, has seen its promotion mechanisms for human rights reinforced more precisely by organizing such an international event. It has illustrated itself as an open country that is further developed than the other countries in the region.

Some of the keys moments of the forum:

At the closing ceremony, main recommendations and conclusions were issued in anticipation of upcoming events such as the Paris 2015 Climate Conference, the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and Beijing +20 regarding women’s rights and gender equality. Other recommendations have been taken in fields such as the rights of persons with disabilities, business and human rights, children’s rights, the death penalty, access to justice and transitional justice. These are progressively being put online on the official website of the Forum. [6]

Human rights are never acquired and will always face a never-ending struggle: this is a main message one can recall from this forum.

As expressed by the King of Morocco “the discussions and debates as well as our daily work in favour of human rights, of all rights, for everyone and everywhere, are a fundamental contribution to the emergence of a safer world for humanity as a whole, fairer for the weakest, and the most vulnerable among us, and more fraternal for all”.[7]

Let us meet again next year in Argentina for the 3rd edition of the World Human Rights Forum to continue this combat and further implement the given recommendations.



[1] Le MATIN.MA, “Le Maroc confirme son engagement pour la promotion des droits humains”, 2014.

[2] Le Matin, “Une reconnaissance des réalisations du Royaume en matière des droits humains”, 2014.

[3] Agence Marocaine de Presse, “Message royal adressé aux participants au 2eme Forum Mondial des droits de l’Homme”, 2014.

[4] Agence Marocaine de Presse, “Message royal adressé aux participants au 2eme Forum Mondial des droits de l’Homme”, 2014.

[5] Official Program World Human Rights Forum, 2014

[6] See website for further information: http://fmdh2014.org

[7] Agence Marocaine de Presse, “Message royal adressé aux participants au 2eme Forum Mondial des droits de l’Homme”, 2014.

About Aline Carruet

Aline has obtained a bachelor degree in Political Science at the University of Saint-Louis in Brussels, Belgium. She is currently enrolled in the two-year Vienna master programme in Human Rights. Within the framework of her internship at the 'National Council of Human Rights' in Morocco, Aline has worked in the Organising Committee of the second World Human Rights Forum in Marrakesh, which she actively attended.

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