United Nations, Kingdom of Morocco Conclude High-Level Symposium Commemorating Fifth Anniversary of Fez Action Plan Adoption
FEZ, MOROCCO, 21 JULY (United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect) — The Kingdom of Morocco, represented by the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights and the Rabita of Ulemas, jointly with the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention of the Responsibility to Protect concluded a two-day high-level symposium in Fez, Kingdom of Morocco, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes, also called the Fez Plan of Action.
The United Nations was represented by several senior officials, namely the Secretary-General; President of the General Assembly; Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Under Secretary-General Alice Wairimu Nderitu; Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Ahmed Shaheed; and the former Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and United Nations Expert on Human Rights in the Sudan, Adama Dieng.
Participants from the Kingdom of Morocco included high Governmental representatives, specifically Minister of Justice, Abdellatif Ouahbi; Inter-Ministerial Delegate for Human Rights, Ahmed Chaouqui Benyoub; Secretary-General of the Rabita Mohammedia of Ulemas, Ahmed Abbadi; and Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations in New York, Omar Hilale.
The Symposium was also marked by the participation of Dr. Salim M. AlMalik, Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO); M. Cristóbal López Romero, Archbishop of Rabat; and prominent religious leaders and actors from different faiths and regions, as well as representatives of civil society and other relevant actors.
In a message delivered by his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Nderitu, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres commended the Fez Plan of Action “for its commitment to promote peace, understanding, mutual respect and the fundamental rights of all people — and for setting out the many ways in which religious leaders can help advance peace and stability. I call religious leaders and actors to widely implement it and to Member States and other relevant stakeholders to promptly support its implementation”.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Abudulla Shahid, stressed that interreligious dialogue is essential to foster peaceful and inclusive societies in which atrocity crimes are ethically unconceivable. The Fez Plan of Action provides a call for action for religious leaders and faith-based organization to atrocity prevention. He commended the contributions of the 232 religious leaders and actors from 77 countries that have shaped and influenced the outcomes of the Fez Plan of Action”.
The Minister of Justice, Abdellatif Ouahbi, highlighted that the Symposium constituted a very important occasion to highlight the key role played by the Fez Plan of Action in banning incitement to national, ethnic or religious hatred that may lead to discrimination, hostility or violence. The Minister also stressed that by the virtue of the historical and central role of the Commander of the Faithful institution, the Kingdom of Morocco has preserved its rich history of cohabitation, coexistence and interfaith harmony through ages. Mr. Ouahbi also underscored Morocco’s serious and unwavering engagement in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Additionally, the Interministerial Delegate for Human Rights, Ahmed Chaouqui Benyoub, highlighted that Morocco continues with determination and steadfastness to confront terrorism and violence thanks to its national proactive strategy that is based on vigilance, flexibility, and firm commitment to repel potential threats and risks. Mr. Benyoub also emphasized Morocco’s approach of including human rights and developmental dimensions in strengthening security governance, combating poverty, exclusion and social marginalization, and spreading the values of moderation and interreligious dialogue.
The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Under Secretary-General Alice Nderitu, emphasized progresses in implementation of the Fez Plan of Action across the five continents since it was launched by the Secretary-General in 2017. “The prevention of atrocity crimes is a multi-layered and multi-stakeholder’ endeavour. The Fez Plan of Action constitutes an excellent tool to engage religious leaders and actors in upholding human dignity and saving lives. I call religious leaders and actors to widely implement it and to Member States and other relevant stakeholders to promptly support its implementation”.
Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary General of the Rabita Mohammadia of Ulemas, stressed the need to adapt to the changes that are occurring rapidly in the world, and to be more vigilant in facing the ongoing profound transformations, stressing the rights of solidarity, which are based on truth and peace. He explained that the rights of solidarity cannot be claimed without taking into account duties, which can be guaranteed solely through faith, “which is one of the duties of combating hate speech and exclusion that leads to separation between members of the same family.” Mr. Abaddi added that the Fez Action Plan aims to mobilize the efforts of religious leaders to contribute to immunizing people and societies from violence and hatred.
For his part, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, affirmed the Kingdom's commitment to the universal values of peace, coexistence, and interreligious and intercultural dialogue. “This is not a product of yesterday, but rather a legacy that has long enjoyed the patronage of all Moroccan Kings,” he said. Mr. Hilale explained that Morocco has strengthened its cooperation with the United Nations and all its agencies for the effective implementation of the Fez Action Plan through many activities and initiatives, highlighting the importance of the Fez Action Plan, as a “pioneering document and a lively and responsive roadmap for the protection of the United Nations pillars of peace and security, respecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and stimulating sustainable development for all”.
At the meeting, all participants warned against the phenomenon of hatred and hate narratives that had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and trends of dis/misinformation, both offline and online. They highlighted that hate speech was particularly harmful in societies that had experienced or were at risk of violence that, if left unchallenged, could lead to genocide and other atrocity crimes. They stressed that addressing it required inclusive sustained engagement through global, national, and local initiatives, including with religious leaders and actors. The Fez Plan of Action provided a platform for engaging these actors, participants added.
Participants stressed that five years after the launch of the Fez Plan of Action, this document had been implemented by religious leaders and actors across five continents. They focused on multiple topics, including the role of religious leaders in promoting peaceful, inclusive and just societies, the need of strengthening support for the implementation of the Fez Action Plan at the international level, the importance of a gender approach in further implementing the Fez Action Plan, especially through enhancing the role of and empowering women and youth, and experiences and best practices. However, some challenges remained that needed to be addressed promptly, including limited structures and resources required for implementation and religious actors’ vulnerability in some contexts.
As way forward, participants at the high-level symposium called for greater efforts and resources to be allocated to support implementation, with special attention paid to supporting religious leaders and faith-based organizations and women and youth of faith. They also stressed that it was critical that Member States remained fully engaged and supportive of the Fez Plan of Action, in line with General Assembly resolutions A/RES/73/328 (2019) and A/75/309 (2021) on promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech.
Furthermore, they recommended a stronger collaboration with international and regional human rights mechanisms as well as United Nations field entities to foster implementation of the Fez Plan of Action. Participants also called to translating the Plan of Action widely, including local languages, and allowing accessibility to people with disability to increase its outreach and impact in local contexts, where it is needed the most. In addition, they urged for implementation efforts to be mapped out, monitored, and evaluated.