Russian Federation

UNICEF Regional Director sees North Caucasus rebuilding for sustainability

UNICEF Image: Maria Calivis
© UNICEF video
UNICEF’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Maria Calivis, during a visit to Russia’s North Caucasus republics.

By Andrei Muchnik

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia, Russian Federation, 29 May 2008 – UNICEF’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Maria Calivis, recently visited UNICEF projects in Russia’s North Caucasus region.

During talks with the heads of three republics – Taymuraz Mamsurov of North Ossetia, Ramzan Kadyrov of the Chechen Republic and Mukhu Aliev of Dagestan – Ms. Calivis noted the marked change in UNICEF’s programmes over the past nine years.

Since 1999, the organization has helped implement $55 million worth of projects in the North Caucasus in partnership with local governments, as well as international and local non-governmental organizations. Now, UNICEF’s focus has shifted from humanitarian assistance to support that is oriented more towards development and sustainability.

The right to education
Long-term sustainability is secured by transferring project operations to local entities. In Beslan, North Ossetia, for example, where deep scars were left after the school siege in 2004, UNICEF established and supports the Binonta rehabilitation centre. The facility, where children can play and relieve stress together with their family members, will soon be run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in North Ossetia.

In Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, Ms. Calivis visited an inclusive education project where disabled and otherwise challenged children learn alongside their peers – a new model for most of the former Soviet Union.

“My job throughout the world in each and every country is, with UNICEF, to ensure that all children, whatever their background, whatever their physical condition, have the same right for a good education,” said Ms. Calivis.

UNICEF Image: school opening
© UNICEF Russia/2008/Muchnik
Students celebrate the opening of a new inclusive class at School #18 in Grozny, the Chechen Republic
Building peace and tolerance
Later, the Regional Director helped open a brand-new Peace Club, an offspring of the peace and tolerance camps that UNICEF has been organizing throughout this region troubled by ethnic conflict and intolerance.

The club was the idea of graduates from those camps – children from various republics who wanted to continue the friendships they developed over the summer. Communication between different republics in the region is limited, so the young people came up with the idea of establishing clubs where they could meet and talk. A network of such clubs is planned across the region.

In Makhachkala, Dagestan, Ms. Calivis attended a performance by a ‘peace theatre’ group, established with UNICEF’s assistance in 2005 in the Chechen Republic and now touring the North Caucasus republics. Declaring herself “speechless with the talent,” Ms. Calivis reminded the audience that “the theme is tolerance, so all of us need to ensure that that continues, starting from me.”

‘Investments for change’
UNICEF is still addressing humanitarian needs where they are most acute in the North Caucasus.

A maternity hospital in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, for instance, recently acquired new equipment purchased by the European Union and UNICEF. Ms. Calivis visited the hospital and lauded the fast pace with which the city of Grozny has been rebuilding after years of war.

“The same energy that goes into infrastructure and beautifying the city should go into multiplying good projects to build human capital,” she said. “These are not just projects, these are investments for change.”

 

 

Video

17 May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem highlights the visit of UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis to Russia’s North Caucasus republics.
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