In the press
Désiré, Qu'est-ce que la Paix? - English Summary
09 June 1998
Bonn, Germany: What is Peace?" - a question raised by many young people in Burundi who have lived for years in the midst of armed conflict and inter-ethnic strife. Helping them find an answer is the objective and challenge of the UNDP/Japan-funded project "Peace education for out-of-school youth", which aims at bringing together Burundi youth of different ethnic origin (an estimated 1 million) through a wide variety of socio-educational and income-generating activities.
Four UNVs - one international youth specialist, Désiré Rakotovao, and three national UNVs - are helping these young people move away from idleness, mutual hate or even criminal activities by encouraging their participation and initiative in projects of common interest. "Our approach", explains Desire, "is based on the principle that peace must be actively lived." To achieve this, youth take part in sporting and cultural events, in the rehabilitation of communal buildings damaged during the war and in technical and professional training programs in various occupational sectors (sewing, furniture making, cooking, handicrafts, car mechanics, etc.).
A task by no means easy, says Désiré as "the notions of tolerance and mutual trust had to be developed slowly". But the results speak for the project’s success: 21,000 youth were reached during the first year (triple the number initially estimated), 50,000 youth all together have benefited from the program and 130 have secured employment. A number of the latter, who grouped themselves in 18 co-operative associations, were trained in basic business management and will receive funding and counselling to further develop their activities. They created the "Association for the Pro-motion of Unemployed Youth" to facilitate networking their experiences.
The "mixed-team" approach has proved to be the key to success, bringing together the local knowledge of the National UNVs and the broad expertise of Désiré in the socio-educational field. The project concluded on the first National Youth Meeting, and Désiré, after serving 7 years as UNV in Comoros and Burundi, is returning home to Madagascar. But he leaves knowing that his colleagues - in particular the three NUNVs - will continue to diffuse the peace message in Burundi.
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