Enhancing Inter-Ethnic Community Dialogue and Collaboration. Closure of the UN Joint Programme
An Expanded Meeting of the National Steering Committee overseeing the UN Joint Programme, “Enhancing Inter-Ethnic Community Dialogue and Collaboration”, was held to officially close the Programme on 20 November 2012 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
UNESCO was one of 3 UN agencies to participate in this Joint Programme, financed under the Spanish MDG Achievement Fund and implemented in cooperation with UNDP and UNICEF, to promote a multicultural civic identity within The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, establishing systems to link local and national mechanisms dealing with inter-ethnic relations and building conflict resolution expertise where none exists.
At the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Popovski, congratulated the UN agencies on the results of the successfully completed Joint Programme, which lasted for 3 years and centered on 3 multi-ethnic municipalities – Struga, Kumanovo and Kicevo – as well as working with central authorities. The Minister reaffirmed that inter-ethnic dialogue is a government priority and expressed interest that the results will be sustainable. He commended the national institutions for their efforts and dedicated work and expressed gratitude to the UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Spanish Government for their support.
The Spanish Ambassador, Metodija Belevski, added his congratulations to those of the Minister, noting that he was personally able to attend a meeting in Struga during the lifetime of the Joint Programme with young people from different ethnicities who were very much involved in the community-level activities of the Joint Programme; this impressed him.
The Joint Programme, launched in July 2009 and operationally closed in July 2012, focused on improving inter-cultural relations and building an inclusive civic national identity through awareness-raising programmes in schools, and by working with local leaders, civil society and the media to facilitate peaceful co-existence. It also worked with national and local bodies to ensure that decision-making around community priorities is an inclusive process that builds consensus among the country's many different communities. Key successes to which UNESCO Venice Office actively contributed include:
· The creation of 2 UNESCO Chairs to further higher education on topics relating to Intercultural Studies and Research (at the University of St Cyril and Methodius, UKIM) and Media, Dialogue and Mutual Understanding (at the School of Journalism and Public Relations, SJPR);
· The opening of the Center for Cultural Interaction and Dialogue (CCID) at the South East European University (SEEU);
· The creation of a first MA programme in Intercultural Studies in the country, accredited at UKIM;
· The translation of the World Heritage in Young Hands Kit and its adaption for national use and introduction in schools as an elective subject taught in inter-ethnic student teams;
· The support to the 2nd World Conference on Inter-Religious and Inter-Civilization Dialogue “Religion and Culture – Unbreakable Chain Among Nations”, organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Commission for Relations with Religious Communities and Religious Groups, in May 2010, which brought together 200 participants from 50 countries worldwide and 100 domestic participants, including representatives from all major faiths in the country;
· The organization of the “Shared Visions” national youth conferences in 2010, 2011 and 2012 where youth committed to promoting inter-religious tolerance;
· The strengthening of UNESCO Clubs programme in the country, growing from 3 to 12 clubs;
· The creation of a Res Public Rapid Response Media Mechanism called “Res Public” as a web forum/database to provide a unique space for media and citizens to interact and together shape the public discourse they would like to see in society;
· The production of a textbook for journalism studies, entitled “Media, Citizens and Intercultural Communication”, which equipped practitioners and students with skills of intercultural communication and inclusive reporting;
· The publication of the “Diversity Reporting” handbook for professionals with easy-to-use guidelines and recommendations on the ways in which the media can better reflect diversity in their newspapers and newsrooms;
· The strengthening of the role and capacity of the national association of journalists’ Council of Honor, which reviews and acts on violations of journalistic code, so that they are more accessible to the public and are better able to address violation complaints;
· The production of the “Ethical Journalism” handbook, where the professional ethics code was promoted and elaborated for practical use by the national association of journalists’ members and the Council of Honor.
The Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), Yolanda Valle-Neff, commented via video link that one of UNESCO’s main goals in the country, in line with its mandate, is to improve intercultural dialogue, which it will continue to do so in cooperation with other UN agencies and national institutions.
Although the Joint Programme has formally ended, the UN Resident Coordinator noted that activities are continuing, such as the broadcasting of the local TV reality show, “The key is under the Mat”, and the reality show, “Treasure Hunt”. Both shows present positive outlooks on the inter-ethnic relations among the youth in the country. The trailer for “The Key is Under the Mat” is available at the following link.
Related news (20.11.2012): Minister Poposki Takes Part in Meeting of National Steering Committee Overseeing UN Joint Programme on Enhancing Interethnic Community Dialogue and Collaboration in Macedonia