On November 8, 2014, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in conjunction with the National Council for Human Rights in Morocco, inaugurates the proceedings of the first international forum for the human rights movement in the Arab world in Casablanca, Morocco. The forum seeks to discuss issues of democratization in the context of the Arab Spring and priorities for reform and change. The forum, which will be convened from November 8 to 10, is organized with support from the Swedish Agency for International Development (SIDA).
A group of human rights defenders, academics, writers, civil society leaders, politicians, and media figures will take part in the forum proceedings. In total, participants include more than 70 people from ten Arab countries (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Bahrain) and three European countries (France, Germany, and Belgium), as well as the US.
The conference will begin with a word from Bahey eldin Hassan, the director of the CIHRS, and Idris al-Yazmi, the chair of the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has sent a speech to the conference, to be delivered in his absence by Hani Majali, the head of the Asia, Pacific, and Middle East and North Africa bureau of the OHCHR.
The forum conference comes as Arab societies are undergoing radical transformations in their political and social structures and seeing shifts in the map of regional alliances in response to the uprisings of the Arab Spring and the rise of terrorist groups.
Nascent democratic transitions, set in motion by the Arab Spring, have seen various setbacks, which have been seized upon by new regimes to launch a battle against democratic forces. Looming dangers threaten the human rights movement, which in some Arab countries is facing attempts to quash it altogether using unfair laws, a judiciary that lacks independence, and a security apparatus that has viciously resisted all attempts to reform it and is possessed by a desire for revenge.
In this context, the forum will discuss the following issues: the future and role of political Islamist groups in power in the Arab region in light of their political experiences during the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco; the challenges facing the reform of civilian-military relations and their democratization; international and regional attitudes to the Arab Spring; and the rise of terrorist groups and religious extremism once more in the region. Finally, the forum seeks to conduct a nuanced discussion of opportunities and possibilities for change and democratization in the region and reevaluate the central role of youth in political and social change. The forum will also examine the role that the human rights movement in the Arab world should play at this stage to promote human rights and push for democratization while also confronting the challenges facing it.
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