Children of the North Caucasus Want to Live in Peace
25 July 2006 Derbent, Dagestan - Some 130 children from four republics of the North Caucasus – Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Dagestan, participated in a 10 day event called Summer Camp “Plus”, organised by UNICEF in close cooperation with the republics’ Ministries of Education, Science and Youth Policy. The Ministry of Education, Science and Youth Policy of Dagetsan hosted the camp at “Golden Sands,” a well-equipped children’s resort centre located in Derbent, Dagestan, on the Caspian sea. The objective of the event was to improve intercultural communication between children of the North Caucasus and to train them on the basics of peace education and tolerance building.
Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Area Representative in the Russian Federation and Belarus, Dr. Rashed Mustafa, Head of Office, UNICEF, North Caucasus and Murad Shishkhanov, Education Project Officer, UNICEF, North Caucasus visited Dagestan to meet with the children and Government representatives.
“This a very important moment,” said in an address Carel de Rooy marking the end of the Camp. Top government officials from four North Caucasus republics, children and local media were in attendance and included Aleksey Gasanov, Minister of Education, Science and Youth Policy of Dagestan, Deputy Muslim Telyakavov, Abdulla Dadaev, Assistant to the Minister of Education and Science of Chechnya, Roza Ozdoeva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ingushetia, Boris Haymanov, a representative from the North Ossetia and others.
“Together, we are making a history. It is great pleasure to witness children from the Caucasus republics taking the lead in developing respect diversity in the North Caucasus,” Mr. de Rooy added.
One of the important outcomes of the Camp “Plus” was a declaration produced by the children in which they announced that July 25 (the last day Camp) would be a ‘Day of Children’s Peace.’ Also in the declaration by the children was a request to the decision-makers in the Russian Federation to include a peace education component in school lessons.
UNICEF, in its capacity as an inter-agency coordination focal point for the Education sector in the North Caucasus, and in partnership with federal and local authorities, educational institutions, schools and the civil society in the region, has undertaken a well-coordinated and comprehensive initiative to promote peace education and the culture of tolerance across four republics in the North Caucasus. Camp “Plus” was organised within the framework of the Peace Education and Tolerance Building Programme.
“By learning about each other, previously hostile groups discover other sides of their own problems and can observe their former opponents from a different perspective,” said Rashed Mustafa. “Thus, most of the deeply entrenched stereotypes are likely to be overcome, and then, a new and peaceful communication pattern is built. Such events greatly help to bring together people and facilitate a dialogue,” he added.
For the closure of the camp, the children prepared a concert in which participants from each republic demonstrated national dances, recited poems and sang national songs. Each child wore a mask to make the point that identity was not important because in the end, they all were one family dancing together, hand-in-hand in a cordial atmosphere of mutual understanding.
“Children like us want to live in peace,” said Zabi Gaitukieva, a 14-year-old participant from Ingushetia. “I would never have thought before coming to this camp that I would ever like Ossetians. But now I see that I was mistaken. Zarina, from North Ossetia, whom I met here, is my best friend now and nothing could ruin our friendship,” she added.