UNICEF and the European Union recently launched a peacebuilding programme for 20,500 adolescents and youth from the Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities to strengthen social cohesion in Cox’s Bazar. This programme is a concrete example of the EU Foreign Policy in action when responding to crises through its Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), using the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). The first centres or social hubs for the peacebuilding programme were inaugurated in Jamtoli and Shamlapur in October 2019, three more social hubs have since opened.
Today, I’m very happy. This social hub is for us. We will be able to share our thoughts here, which we couldn’t before. - Ayesha, 15 years old.
UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh Tomoo Hozumi said investing in adolescents and young people was one of the smartest things they could do. ‘They’re the future leaders of their communities. This project helps to empower young people with knowledge and skills in innovative ways – through building skills for adaptability, peacebuilding skills, sports, recreation and adolescent focused programmes. Empowered young people support the development of an increasingly tolerant and inclusive society,’ said Mr. Hozumi.
Representatives from the EU Delegation to Bangladesh and the FPI Regional Team for Asia & Pacific (based at the EU Delegation to Thailand in Bangkok) visited the social hubs. The spirit of the youth was contagious and EU officials joined in!
|Representatives from the FPI Regional Team for Asia & Pacific based in Bangkok, during a visit to the IcSP social hubs.
'This timely and innovative project appears to be making a real difference in the lives of these bright young adolescents. Bringing communities together through sport and education is an incredibly effective way to build strong foundations for peace and harmonious relations,' said Hilde Hardeman, Head of Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI). Over 12,000 parents, community and religious leaders from the Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities will be reached through dialogue and awareness raising activities to discuss social issues affecting their children and communities and find solutions. Since the latest chapter in the Rohingya crisis unfolded in August 2017, the EU has provided over 25.6 million euros to UNICEF to support Rohingya refugees and host communities. ‘The European Union is a key partner for UNICEF and we look forward to continuing this collaboration to support adolescents and young people from the Rohingya and host communities,’ said Mr. Hozumi.
I never had any Rohingya friends. But now I have one. I share my problems with her and she shares hers with me. When I think of everything she has been through, I only wish she had the same opportunities as I have. - Samira, 17 years-old
The social hubs are part of a 3.3 million euros EU-funded programme to engage the next generation of adolescents as agents of change in their communities. The social hubs are spaces where young people can socialise, share skills and learn about peacebuilding and conflict resolution. ‘We’re bridging gaps between communities and laying strong foundations for harmonious relations and social cohesion,’ said EU ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink.