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RABAT, Morocco - Participants in Rabat Forum, that ended today adopted the UNFPA regional strategy on prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Arab states region for 2014-2017. They also recommended the strategy to serve as a roadmap for the fight against all forms of GBV and to be efficiently implemented across the region.

This regional forum was held in the Moroccan capital on 28-29 November 2013, with the participation of a number of ministers, parliamentarians and representatives of United Nations agencies, donor countries, governmental and non-governmental institutions. Representatives of the civil society organizations included academia, youth, women associations and media professionals.

Addressing the closing ceremony, Ms. Bassima Hakkaoui, the Moroccan Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development described violence against women as an uncivilized and inhumane behavior that prevents the uplifting of the nations around us. She also expressed her hope that the draft law to combat violence against women in Morocco would be adopted by the Government and the Parliament of Morocco.

The Minister commended the cooperation between the Moroccan institutions and UNFPA Morocco: "People in UNFPA are among those who work on this matter in the most earnest manner. There has been cooperation between UNFPA and the sector that I am part of," she said, pledging to pursue this partnership to address women and girls' issue.

Reflecting on the outcome of the event, the Regional Director of UNFPA ASRO, Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Ahad praised the Forum's achievements of its primary objectives: "I believe the Forum has achieved its objectives that aimed at launching the regional strategy to combat GBV, fostering partnership between UNFPA and all stakeholders and active institutions, and exchanging expertise and good practices."

"In light of the active participation, the rich debate and the critical recommendations that you insisted on, there is no doubt in my mind that we have reached our goals thanks to each and every one of you. Now we can say that the implementation of the strategy stands a good and real chance," Mr. Abdel-Ahad added, noting that the political will is essential to turning the strategy into policies, laws, programmes and allocating the necessary funds for their implementation.

Highlights of Rabat Forum recommendations

The event resulted in a number of recommendations enclosed in the Rabat Declaration that called for tangible and urgent steps, including the adoption of laws and legislations that help combat GBV violence in countries lacking them, as well as amending laws and developing necessary mechanism and institutions.

Participants also underlined the leading role of the civil society organization and recommended the need for boosting networking, building coalitions, coordination, and complementarity between diverse governmental and non-governmental entities responsible for developing and implementing GBV programmes and activities.
They stressed that men, youth and adolescents have a unique role to play in the development and implementation of strategies and national programmes aimed at GBV fight in the region. Participants also called for lifting the restrictions that constrain the efforts of the associations working in the field, wherever such practices may exist.

In an interactive panel discussion on the role of the media in this regard, Rabat Forum shed light on the strategic role the media should play in joining the GBV fight in Arab states. The media session was moderated by Mr. Mahmoud Maarouf, one of the founding members of the London-based pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily and its Bureau Chief in Morocco.

The panel members included Mr. Abdel-Ahad; Dr. Nadia Lamhaidi, professor and researcher in journalism and communication at the University of Rabat; Mohamed Al-Khamery, Editor-in-Chief of the Yemeni daily Elaf and TV anchor at Al-Majd satellite TV; and the radio journalist Nezha Mghari, Director of Moroccan women journalists network and TV producer.

The Forum participants stressed the need to train male and female professionals working in traditional and new media and to build their capacity in a way that would help them acquire comprehensive knowledge about GBV. This would in turn help them address these issues without falling into sensational journalism that treats the matter as a news story and deals with it in a superficial and occasional manner. It would also allow them to raise awareness about all aspects of the problem, including its consequences and ways of addressing it.
Rabat Forum also recommended to build on ongoing discussions with Arab media professionals in view of establishing media networks both at the regional and the country level to advocate for population and development issues, including GBV.

On several occasions, participants expressed their deep concern over the increase in GBV in the region. Evidence published by World Health Organization in 2013 shows that one in three women in the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner. The corresponding statistic for the Arab region is 37 percent, which makes it the region with the second highest prevalence in the world following closely after Southeast Asia (37.7 percent).

For more information about the Rabat Forum please contact:
Aicha Elbasri, Regional Communication Adviser, UNFPA ASRO: