21.06.2017 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

UNESCO Initiates Cultural Projects for IDPs and Returnees

Participatory Theatre Training Sessions for the IDPs and Returnees in Herat © UNESCO | Kaveh Ayreek

20 June 2017 | UNESCO Office in Afghanistan—UNESCO has initiated cultural projects for IDP (Internally Displaced Person) and returnee settlements in Herat, Afghanistan. This initiative contributes to the social integration of the Afghan IDPs and returnees by building their social cohesion through common cultural linkages and the promotion of human rights. Pilot activities with participatory theatre for IDPs and returnees and their host communities have started in the Maslakh (Behzad) and Police Station settlements.

As a country with security challenges and a fragile economy, Afghanistan faces the additional challenge to absorb the influx of returnees and IDPs. The majority of the returnees and those IDPs who have been internally displaced, often find it difficult to integrate socially and culturally. Lack of means to communicate and interact with host communities lessen their capacity to adapt to their new and unfamiliar surroundings.

 Out of the four dimensions used by UNHCR to assess integration—legal, political, economic and social—the promotion of social integration among returnees and IDPs has been a challenge to tackle. To overcome this long-accumulated handicap, and to assist host communities in embracing returnees and IDPs, UNESCO has initiated a project called, “The Right to Culture for Returnees and IDPs,” within the framework of its National Programme for Culture and Creative Economy (NPCE). The project focuses on the social and cultural integration of returnees and IDPs, and will foster the common identity of Afghans, through cultural expression and information exchange.

 With the financial support of the Korean Government, the pilot activities of participatory theater for Herat IDPs and returnees has been started by training youth to re-tell their or their family’s stories. A theater coach and artists from the host community selected young IDPs from different ethnic and provincial backgrounds to work together on the subject of “life.” The theatre piece will be played for audiences in the settlements and in the host community as well. It is envisioned that this process will help bridge the IDPs and host community – with both focusing on the common heritage and rich culture of Afghans.

 Additionally, as a part of this social cohesion project, small grants will be given to Afghan artists and cultural associations in the host regions to support joint cultural initiatives for local communities, IDPs and returnees. UNESCO has mapped artists and art associations in Herat and Nangarhar provinces, and plans to do the same for other provinces receiving returnees and IDPs. The artists will be supported and monitored by UNESCO to develop and bring cultural events and activities to both the displaced and the host communities. Although the projects are small in nature, the various activities are specifically targeted to promote social integration and social cohesion through the promotion of pride in being Afghan and in the commonality of Afghan history and culture.

 UNESCO will be advocating for unity and harmony through the diversity of cultural expressions through this project. The activities that are planned will foster exchange and understanding amongst returnees, IDPs and host communities, while giving voice to the returnees and IDPs which, in itself, is an essential index for social integration. The pilot activities for Nangarhar province will start in July.

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