UNICEF unites young leaders from eight North Caucasus regions for peace and tolerance congress
NALCHIK, Russian Federation - November 17, 2008
To move the peace and tolerance programme to a new level and celebrate the International Day for Tolerance UNICEF organized the first of its kind Congress of young peace builders. The Congress took place on November 14-16 in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. About 150 volunteers and children from 8 regions of the North Caucasus that participate in the UNICEF’s peace and tolerance program came to the Congress.
A survey carried out by UNICEF in the North Caucasus in 2005 revealed rather worrisome trends: approximately 60% of children/young people expressed strong negative stereotypes about other ethnic groups and more than 72% of children/ young people had little experience of interaction with representatives of other ethnic and religious groups.
UNICEF has been running peace and tolerance program in the North Caucasus since 2005. The program includes workshops for high school kids and summer camps where young people from across the region meet and learn about each other’s culture and traditions. Experienced trainers, psychologists and teachers are involved in peace and tolerance workshops. In three years more than 70,000 kids took part in the program.
UNICEF Representative in Russia Bertrand Bainvel stressed that “we need to work with young people to achieve a tolerant and peaceful society, social progress and economic development. By fulfilling young people's rights and making their voice heard today we lay the basis for the future.”
To continue working with alumni of workshops and summer camps a network of peace clubs is planned across the region. One such centre opened during the Congress in Nalchik. The peace clubs aim at developing children’s leadership skills and organizing various events and workshops inviting children from neighboring regions. Another centre opened in Vladikavkaz in May 2008. Congress activities also included peace and tolerance trainings carried out by volunteers who have quite a significant experience in this. Other volunteers organized a round table concerned with what young people can do to bring peace to this troubled region.
In a declaration developed as a result of the round table volunteers try to draw the attention of adults to the fact that children and young people are the ones most affected by ongoing violence and interethnic strife in the region. Children can’t visit their friends in other republics or fully participate in their communities’ life. The declaration concludes: “We, the children of the North Caucasus, are determined to do everything possible to achieve peace and stability for our region”.
In 1996, the General Assembly invited Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November, with activities directed towards both educational establishments and the wider public. The Congress of young peace builders was supported by the ministry of education and youth affairs committee of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria and local NGO Institute for youth problems.
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