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Russia: Investing in Young People as Peacemakers

April 17, 2012

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The project addressed the social dimensions of fragility, violence, and conflict in five republics of the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation: Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. It aimed to build trust and social cohesion and promote inter-faith, inter-ethnic, and inter-generational dialogue. It also demonstrated the positive impact of investing in young people at the individual and community level, even in the most fractured societies. The project reached over 36,000 direct beneficiaries, of whom 59% were women and girls, as well as over 121,000 indirect beneficiaries.

Challenge

For many years, high levels of insecurity and violence have been a daily concern for residents of the North Caucasus region, which is also home to some of Russia’s highest levels of poverty, unemployment, and ethnic and religious diversity, as well as the country’s youngest population. The legacy of conflict permeates all facets of social, economic, and political life; it has also translated into a sense of exclusion, alienation, and hopelessness among many young people, fomenting further isolation and insecurity. The World Bank report Youth in the Northern Caucasus: From Risk to Opportunity (2006) found that young people in the North Caucasus face greater disadvantages than their counterparts in the rest of Russia, which are magnified by the large size of the youth population in this region.


" “I became tolerant. How do I understand tolerance? It’s all good, respect and friendship. I met with children from other regions, they are all different, each has its own customs. But we also have a lot of commonalities. Now we will be friends and keep in touch by email. "

Zarema, from Ingushetia


Approach

The belief that opportunities existed to effectively engage young people in the development and security of the region—shared by both the government and the World Bank—was the starting point for the North Caucasus Youth Empowerment and Security Project, launched in 2008 and completed in April 2011. The project used an integrated, multi-dimensional approach and focused on four key interventions to promote youth development and socioeconomic inclusion: (i) two youth centers in disadvantaged areas offering support services, including computer and language classes, life skills and healthy lifestyles education, and cultural and sports activities; (ii) a trans-Caucasus peace and tolerance program supporting a wide range of peace and tolerance-building activities for youth and youth opinion-shapers, including peace camps, youth leadership trainings, a cross-republic peace magazine, cross-republic photo, art and writing contests on peacebuilding themes, and a new peace and tolerance curriculum for elementary schools; (iii) a youth fund providing small grants to youth entrepreneurs and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and (iv) youth ministries and committees, strengthened through training on strategic planning, project management and youth engagement, and cross-regional shared learning and exchange.


" Great expectations are placed on this generation for the establishment of peaceful and neighborly relations in the North Caucasus. "

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov

President of the Republic of Ingushetia

Results

The project reached more than 36,000 direct beneficiaries—including youth, parents, educators and youth authorities—and over 121,000 indirect beneficiaries.

Key project achievements in the five republics include:

  • The establishment of two youth centers: in Nesterovskaya in Ingushetia in 2009 and in Dugulubgey village in Baksanski district (which has the highest density of youth in the country) of Kabardino-Balkaria in 2010, serving over 3,700 young people. Ninety-five percent of the centers’ users were “highly” or “extremely” satisfied with the quality of services provided.
  • A network of 20 peace centers, housed in schools, universities, and youth NGOs, were established, offering young people space to develop conflict prevention and tolerance skills and learn more about other cultures, religions, and traditions. The project’s various peace and tolerance activities reached 2,500 young people.
  • Since 2009, 20,000 copies of a quarterly cross-republic peace magazine “Peacemaker” were produced and distributed among youth, teachers, and parents to expose young people to peace and tolerance-building activities, strategies and opportunities.
  • A new peace and tolerance curriculum was developed in 2009 and rolled out in 120 pilot schools in 2010 and 2011.
  • A competitive small grants program launched in 2010 supported 25 young entrepreneurs in fields as diverse as rabbit farming, flower growing, and neon sign-making, and 16 youth NGOs for activities aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable youth in the region.
  • Launching an inter-republic project steering committee in 2009, which for the first time provided youth officials with a framework and institutional basis for the exchange of ideas and experiences and promoted opportunities for communication and collaboration around youth issues—a forum the participants planned to continue after the close of the project.


" Best of all I appreciate the fact that staff of the center care about youth leisure. It is so rare in our republic. "

Malika, 26-year-old language class participant at the Nesterovskaya Youth Center


Bank Contribution

This project was based on the World Bank study: Youth in the North Caucasus: From Risk to Empowerment, undertaken in 2005–06 at the request of the Russian government. Given the study’s findings on the many challenges facing young people in the North Caucasus region, the World Bank’s Post-Conflict Fund, supported by a variety of donor agencies, provided a grant of US$2.1 million for the implementation of this project.  

Partners

The project was implemented by UNICEF North Caucasus and included partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders relevant to youth development in the region, including young people, parents and families, teachers and educators, schools and universities, religious and community leaders, NGOs, journalists and other civil society organizations, local authorities and republic government officials from a wide range of ministries and agencies (such as youth, education, labor, security), development partners such as the International Labour Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, private businesses and employers. These partnerships created momentum for increased engagement and discussion of the challenges and opportunities for young people in the North Caucasus.

Moving Forward

This project supported numerous activities that continue to be implemented by local- and republic-level authorities, civil society organizations, communities, and young people themselves, including the youth and peace centers. Its ongoing impact is assured through the network of young people and opinion-shapers committed to youth empowerment whom it trained and supported: youth center volunteers who organize learning, sports, and culture activities; peace-camp graduates who commit to being peace leaders in their communities; and hundreds of young people and adults who have participated in leadership, healthy lifestyles or journalism trainings, conflict-resolution sessions, and inter-faith or inter-ethnic dialogues, and who will continue to employ these skills to benefit their communities long after the close of the project.

Beneficiaries

In the words of the project’s clients and stakeholders:

“I became tolerant. How do I understand tolerance? It’s all good, respect and friendship. I met with children from other regions, they are all different, each has its own customs. But we also have a lot of commonalities. Now we will be friends and keep in touch by email.”
- Zarema, from Ingushetia, participated in a peace camp in Dagestan in July 2009

“Great expectations are placed on this generation for the establishment of peaceful and neighborly relations in the North Caucasus.”
- Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, President of the Republic of Ingushetia, November 2010 (on the occasion of a Youth Peace Camp in Ingushetia)

“It is a boiling point for youth in our region {...} our task is to help the youth to identify their future. We must catch the moment, not to lose it.” 
- Boris Pashtov, the Minister of Information and Youth, Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (North Caucasus Youth Steering Committee member and participant in the project-organized study tour for North Caucasus youth officials to Syria)

“Best of all I appreciate the fact that staff of the center care about youth leisure. It is so rare in our republic.”
- Malika, 26-year-old language class participant at the Nesterovskaya Youth Center

“Left to themselves young people have greater odds of being exposed to the negative influences of different criminal groups of radical movements. I am convinced that new good friends and new opportunities acquired through ‘Planet’ [Nesterovskaya Youth Center] will help many children and adolescents make the right choices and decisions for their growth and development.”
- Lema Ismailova, Minister of Education, Republic of Ingushetia, November 2009.

36,000
direct beneficiaries were reached by the project, including young people, community members and government youth authorities
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