|© UNICEF video|
|Young people hold candles while taking part in the first-ever Congress of Young Peace Builders in Nalchik, Russian Federation.|
NALCHIK, Russian Federation, 12 December 2008 – Last month, on the International Day for Tolerance, roughly 150 volunteers and children from eight regions of the North Caucasus gathered in Nalchik for the first Congress of Young Peace Builders.
The congress was organized by UNICEF to bring together those who participate in UNICEF’s peace and tolerance programme.
UNICEF has been running the peace and tolerance programme in the North Caucasus since 2005, when a survey given to young people there revealed that approximately 60 per cent of them expressed strong negative stereotypes about other ethnic groups and more than 72 per cent had little interaction with representatives of other ethnic and religious groups.
Developing children’s leadership skills
The programme holds workshops for high school students and summer camps where young people from across the region meet and learn about each other’s cultures and traditions. Experienced trainers, psychologists and teachers are involved in peace and tolerance workshops. In three years, more than 70,000 kids have taken part in the programme.
“We need to work with young people to achieve a tolerant and peaceful society, social progress and economic development," said UNICEF Russia Representative Bertrand Bainvel. "By fulfilling young people's rights and making their voice heard today we lay the basis for the future.”
To expand the programme to include the alumni of the workshops and summer camps, a network of 'peace clubs' are being formed across the region. One such club opened during the congress in Nalchik. The clubs will continue to develop children’s leadership skills by organizing various events and workshops.
A step closer to peace
Congress activities also included peace and tolerance trainings carried out by experienced volunteers. Other volunteers organized a round table focused on the steps young people can take to bring peace to the region.
In a declaration developed as a result of the round table, volunteers hope to alert adults to the fact that children and young people are most affected by the ongoing violence and interethnic strife in the region. The declaration concludes: “We, the children of the North Caucasus, are determined to do everything possible to achieve peace and stability for our region.”
Talking about the success of the congress, one of the participants, Ruslan, age 16, said, “We became friends with kids from neighbouring republics and we came one little step closer to restoring peace in North Caucasus.”