Peacebuilding project supported by Embassy of United States of America in Armenia
Start date:Sep,2013 End date:Sep,2014
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The project is important investment in regional peace process as it aims at empowering youth with necessary knowledge and practical experience to become active agents for peace, strengthen cooperation over shared values, and transform isolation and hatred into cooperation and sharing. To make voices of youth heard in the peace decision making the young men and women will present their views and concerns to their governments. This will also play important role in supporting youth in building their citizenship and responsibility for their country and peace in the region. The selected peace and reconciliation projects implemented in target communities of Armenia and Azerbaijan might be different in nature: but initiated by youth and implemented by the youth.
It is almost two decades that conflict over Nagorno Kharabach between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains unsolved, receiving different political definitions: “frozen”, “protracted” and still the one that awaits it’s just solution. These are two decades in the course of which new generation of people have been born and grown up in environment of insecurity, constant expectations of new war eruption, living in atmosphere of isolation and intense propaganda of divide and hatred. This new generation of citizens has no history and experience of good relationship, friendship and family ties and shared neighborhood interests and no experience of peace and peaceful coexistence. Situation goes from bad to worse when hatred propaganda and divide is used as central tool to feed political interests of leaders of the states and when youth becomes the central target of this propaganda. That propaganda specifically leaves without choice the youth living in rural isolated areas without access to alternative sources of information.
The sequence of events during last year in Azerbaijan related to young activists, unprecedented repressions against intellectuals that dare to speak on necessity of restoration of cooperation and trust, the draft law on criminalizing those in Azerbaijan who cooperate with Armenians had been aimed to destroy the bridges of cooperation that have been built through the years and intensify atmosphere of fear, animosity and deny for population of the countries the most important right – right to peace. As peace in not only absence of war, peace is important human right, right to development and the right to a safe, clean and peaceful environment that boost human prosperity and democracy and that the states are responsible for.
During these two decades irrespective of created obstacles and reprisals civil society actors have developed many innovative and creative approaches to continue cooperation and find effective solutions to overcome the difficulties and be more considerate and conscious of the partners in Azerbaijan. Absence of contacts between civil society actors is danger not only to peace and democracy in the region, but in the countries themselves.
Analysis of result and directions work that has been conducted by “Democracy Today” NGO and other NGOs working in the area speaks on necessity of greater involvement of youth, as active agents of change within the countries themselves, specifically from rural isolated areas and across the border, in peace transformative programs. The cooperation across the borders has proved to be effective transformative tool against isolation and war propaganda and requires wider inclusion, sustainability and continuous support. Provision of access to modern educational and communication tools that are important tools in peace building has been proved to be very instrumental in strengthening understanding and creating common ground over important values such as peace and stability in the region.
The last project developed and implemented jointly by “Democracy Today” NGO in Armenia in cooperation with NGO in Azerbaijan “The Association of Protection of Women's Rights after D. Aliyeva” on willingness of IDPs to return to the places of birth and tolerance of societies to accept them back, entitled “Is return right or obligation?”. The survey has been conducted by refugee and local youth from both countries among three generations of refugees and demonstrates the results that are striking. Even after two decades the survivors on both sides still have open wounds: the wounds of violence and fear are still alive on both sides and absence of confidence toward each other is still rampant. Though side by side with that with that many histories of good neighborhood and positive memories and willingness of cooperation has been brought up by respondents and massage of cooperation over shared values and peace have been passed to youth by older generation of respondents. For youth it was eye opening and opportunity to learn and understand that we share not only common borders, but much more important common values, visions and willingness to coexist in peace.
The project aims at:
- Greater inclusion of youth from regions of both countries in a cross border projects;
- Enhancing the gender balance and specific roles of men and women in peace building;
- Empower the youth to raise tolerance and openness in their local communities;
- Increase knowledge on the benefits of sustained coexistence and peace in the region through organization of special trainings conducted by trained youth for the community members and number of other creative activities in communities;
- Invest in better cooperation between youth from Armenia and Azerbaijan through joint innovative regional projects on the subjects chosen by youth including journalism, art, music, human rights.
- Sustaining results of the project and continuous communication through use of modern technologies and social media (blogs, website, Skype, Facebook etc);
- Increasing practical implementation of knowledge received through the project by providing two (one in each country) small grants to each group, chosen on competitive basis by board from NGOs active in the area;
- Raising involvement of youth in peace decisions through continuous collaboration with respective governments in countries.