arrow-circle arrow-down-basicarrow-down arrow-left-small arrow-left arrow-right-small arrow-right arrow-up arrow closefacebooklinkedinsearch twittervideo-icon

City Spotlight: Rabat, Morocco

Rabat, known as the “City of Light” proudly holds the title of the first “African Capital of Culture 2022” symbolising its importance in honouring the cultural wealth and artistic expressions of the African continent. Situated along Morocco’s captivating Atlantic coastline, this lively city harmoniously blends a rich historical heritage with modernity and a vibrant cultural scene. Under the dynamic leadership of its first female Mayor, Rabat has demonstrated a dedication to fostering strong connections and building an inclusive and resilient city. Rabat became a member of the Strong Cities Network in May 2023 and will serve as a Co-Chair of the Strong Cities’ International Steering Committee alongside the Municipality of The Hague. 

What is the local government concerned about?

According to the High Commission for Planning (HCP), which manages the country’s economic, demographic and social statistics, the Rabat-Salé-Kenitra region has the third highest unemployment rate in Morocco. The city additionally faces challenges with gender inequality and gender-based violence, with nearly 60% of women in the wider region victims of some form of violence. 

How is the local government responding?

The City of Rabat has led numerous initiatives to address these socioeconomic challenges. For example, it launched socio-sport centres to provide its youth – especially those in the more disadvantaged parts of the city – with access to sports facilities. The project aims to steer young people away from crime and radicalisation by providing them with opportunities for socialisation (e.g., to build healthy peer networks) and skills development in a safe environment. The centres also provide employment opportunities for the wider community. Importantly, this initiative was developed in the context of a broader, long-running effort by the national government to improve the living conditions of disadvantaged and otherwise marginalized communities across the country. Launched in 2005, the National Human Development Initiative (NDHI) seeks to address “critical gaps in Morocco’s development trajectory”, including high poverty rates and social exclusion. The Initiative has and continues to rely heavily on sub-national actors for its implementation. For example, created regional, provincial and local committees comprised of elected officials, city administrators and civil society representatives, which are empowered to propose “human development” initiatives based on the needs of their communities. The NDHI is a good example of how national-local cooperation (NLC) can support local action against the socioeconomic conditions that extremist and other mal-intended actors exploit, with the City of Rabat being able to launch its poverty reduction and youth engagement initiatives in part as a result of it being empowered and mandated to do so by the national government’s NHDI. 

Our city aims to be proactive in addressing violent extremism and hate … through promoting sustainable development.”

Asmaa Rhlalou, Mayor of Rabat, Morocco

Further, in the context of its participation in UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces global flagship programme, the City of Rabat has partnered with local organisations to address gender inequality and increase the safety of public spaces for women. For example, the city has partnered with a local feminist organisation, Jossour Forum des Femmes Marocaines (Joussour Forum for Moroccan Women), as well as architects, other grassroots organisations and community-based volunteers in a multi-actor effort to build a more gender inclusive Rabat. As part of this project, the city and Jossour Forum arranged and took part in capacity-building workshops on “gender responsive urban planning”, and organised “hackathons” for architecture and engineering students in the city, thus including youth in its approach to building more inclusive and safe public spaces. Through these partnerships, it has also launched targeted communications campaigns to address the intersecting nature of sexual harassment and other forms of violence, including that motivated by extremism and hate. This initiative ultimately offers a model for participatory governance and local government-led multi-actor collaboration, where the city convenes diverse community-based actors, leveraging their comparative advantages and different types of expertise (e.g., gender, urban planning) to create a safer and more secure Rabat for all its citizens. 

What’s next?

The City of Rabat will continue to prioritise partnerships, collaboration and cooperation amongst different stakeholders to achieve its development goals and the implementation of its various human rights-based and violence prevention initiatives. City officials emphasise the need for incentivising institutional partners, international organisations, and development agencies in collaborating with local actors, as well as relevant ministerial sectors and regional institutions, while also advocating for a role for the private sector. 

Is your city a Strong City?

Strong Cities membership is open to local authorities at the city, municipal or other subnational level. Membership is free of charge.