The late King Hassan II of Morocco was one of the Hawaii Congress’s biggest supporters and the lieutenant he put in charge of the Congress, Driss Guerraoui, eagerly sought the chance to host the next Congress in his Kingdom. Sadly, Hassan died before the Hawaii Congress happened, but his son – Mohammed VI – was equally enthusiastic and the 2nd World Youth Congress was organised with his Royal Patronage at the Bouznika Summer Camp, with opening and closing ceremonies at the Casablanca Congress Centre.
It produced the Casablanca Declaration – outlining ways that young people could assist the UN achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It also boasted an amazing talent show featuring a massively energetic suite of dances performed by the Palestinian delegation + the first national Action Projects – which took the Congress delegates out to far flung destinations around the Kingdom exposing them to the realities of Moroccan life.
The Congress was scarred by ugly wrangles between African delegates and OECD delegates arguing over inclusive language for LGBT kids: even Driss was surprised by the virulence of the African youth’s opposition to any indication in the language of the Casablanca declaration that it was OK to be gay.
The other horrendous incident was when some Moroccan and Palestinian delegates beat up the Peace Child Israel delegation which Driss, amid much fanfare about the tolerance of his country, had insisted we invite. I told him immediately to expel the delegates responsible – but he refused as he said it would result in the walk-out of the Arab delegations. “Fine!” I said: “If they want to be known as supporters of mindless violence, they have no place in a Peace Child Congress.” In a wickedly deceitful long speech, Driss blamed Peace Child International for inviting the Israelis – and young Moroccans objected to Israeli delegates being allowed to vote on the final declaration.
And then the King did not turn up for the Closing Ceremony as he’d promised to. It was a brutal experience of the venality of youth from some countries which made us very wary of getting too closely involved with autocratic regimes like that of the Kingdom of Morocco. Other irritations included the setting up of a Speakers Corner – where delegates were supposed to be allowed to speak openly – but never did.
But overall, it was a good learning experience for all the delegates – and the staff of Peace Child. As one American delegate commented: “It would have been so easy and fun to go to a Congress like this in Idaho – but I have learned so much about the nature of the planet we live on by being here…”