· Quarterly coordination meeting 25th July
Quarterly virtual meeting held with focal points from the regional bureaus to share updates since the last meeting (13th April), including upcoming events and new knowledge products. In partnership with the Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action Consortium (JISRA) and the Bahai International Community, UNDP organised a high-level side event during the UNGA 78, "Innovative Intra- and Inter-faith Peacebuilding: Pursuing Freedom of Religion or Belief for the realization of the SDG 2030 Agenda and beyond" on 20th September
· International Day of Peace 21st September
The web story 'Living with each other peacefully is our common duty' was published in celebration of the International Day of Peace. The article focuses on UNDP’s work with community leaders, government, religious leaders, and CSOs in Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. A set of accompanying social media content was also designed, including a carousel which can be used across various social media platform.
Regional - RBA/RBAS
- Regional PVE Community of Practice (CoP): Virtual Session on ‘Evidence-based research, advocacy, cross-regional response’ - 23rd August.
The session focused on evidence-based research, advocacy, cross-regional response and examples of sub-regional (Atlantic Corridor Project) and country level (Peacebuilding approach to address violent extremism in Somalia). The recording is available here.
- Policy Dialogue: Options for Stabilization and Prevention in African Regions Affected by Violent Extremism, Tokyo – 24th August.
UNDP, together with the JICA Research Institute for Peace and Development, supported by the Sophia Institute for Human Security (SIHS), convened a policy dialogue on ‘Options for Stabilization and Prevention in African Regions Affected by Violent Extremism’, leveraging on the findings of the new emerging evidence-based studies – UNDP PVE Report Series. The event provided a space for policy dialogue between the Japanese policymakers and practitioners and national/regional stakeholders on the emerging findings from the reports and unpack their strategic policy and programmatic implications for the international community, and more specifically for Japanese interventions through stabilization initiatives in regions like Liptako Gourma and Lake Chad. It highlighted Japan’s role as a steadfast ally in tackling the intricate challenge of violent extremism. The recording is available here.
- Policy Dialogue: Policy Dialogue on Violent Extremism in Africa, The Hague, - 31st August
UNDP, together with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized a policy dialogue on the UNDP PVE report series.The event brought more than 30 participants, including officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and other ministries, NGO community, and some researchers, and it provided a space for exchange of insights on the reports with an audience of policy makers, researchers and practitioners.
- Signing of Atlantic corridor project (funds from Germany, Denmark and Australia)
In collaboration with the UNDP Country offices (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo) the Atlantic Corridor Project was launched in July 2023. The project is driven by an evidence-based and phased approach, which will inform the design and tailoring of specific country-packages in the (5) target countries. The project is structured around three outputs: 1) National PVE coordination and capacities strengthened in target countries to develop, coordinate and effectively implement PVE interventions at the national, subregional and local levels; (2) At-risk communities in target locations respond to radicalization factors leading to violent extremism and their resilience is strengthened to prevent radicalization at hyper-local levels; (3) National PVE strategies and programming are informed by regional research and analysis on violent extremism.
- (Brussels) EU-UN Leaders’ Dialogue on Counter-Terrorism 12th July
The deputy director of the UNDP Representation Office in Brussels, Georges van Montfort, represented UNDP at the EU-UN Leaders’ Dialogue which aimed to discuss thematic alignment between EU and UN Agencies regarding the threat and response to terrorist activities. The need to strengthen prevention efforts and collaborate more effectively to overcome silos was underlined. Globally, EU CT Coordinator, Ilkka Salmi, highlighted the increasing risk from extremism and terrorist activities in the digital space as well as a new form of so-called anti-establishment extremism, fueled by disinformation that operates within and beyond the EU.
Bangladesh: On 20th August, the Government of Bangladesh approved the second phase of UNDP’s Partnerships for a more Tolerant, Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB), with financial support from Norway. In this new phase, PTIB is strategically placed with the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) of the ICT Ministry and will contribute to the Government's objectives for a digital, innovative, and smart Bangladesh, building on achievements and lessons learned in preventing violent extremism from the first phase (2017-2023).
Cameroon: On 3rd July, the Human Rights Observatory (HRO) from the far north of Cameroon participated th 4th forum of the Governors of Lake Chad, members of the Prevention of Violent Extremism platform in the Far North region of Cameroon. The HRO presented peacebuilding tools used such as the local interreligious peace committees; the Youth Leadership Program; and the cooperation platform between defense and security forces and CSOs; to address the threat of violent extremism and human rights in the region. Further information of the event can be found here.
The UNDP Office in Cote d’Ivoire developed a clip illustrating progress made in 2023 as part of the PVE project, “Support to youth and women engagement for crisis prevention social stability, and peace consolidation in Northern Côte d'Ivoire”, co-financed by UNDP and Germany.
In Mali, 566 religious’ leaders, including 355 men and 211 women, were trained on the guide to preaching that was developed under the PROSMED Programme in support to the stabilization of Mali, and 50 teachers of madrasas and Christian schools, including 7 women, were trained on a specific module on the prevention of Violent Extremism to be taught in their schools. Moreover, 91 religious actors including 15 women participated in 8 workshops organized to discuss the issue of violent extremism, terrorism, and radicalization and to formulate messages against radical speech to be disseminated on social networks and community radios.
A Peacebuilding Approach to Address Violent Extremism in Somalia: Inception Workshop held in Mogadishu, 6 to 13 July 2023.
Tapping on the significant influence of the Ulema (the religious scholars) in Somalia society, UNDP organized a workshop aimed at exploring roles and ways through which the Ulema can contribute to peacebuilding efforts: insider mediation, tolerance and peace dialogue. The workshop was attended by over 50 scholars representing all regions and states of Somalia.
Tajikistan: The UNDP Tajikistan conducted a 2nd exchange workshop for over 80 members of Advisory Groups on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE AGs), which placed a strong emphasis on facilitating robust knowledge and experience sharing among eight PVE AGs.
Tajikistan: In a joint effort, UNDP Tajikistan and the Fight Extremism (Counter Extremism Project) organized a 5-day training program on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) from July 31 to August 4th. This training was designed for over 30 professionals, including psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitation professionals who are actively engaged in assisting individuals returning from conflict areas to Tajikistan.
Special Feature 1: Forgiveness and reconciliation – the road to community peace after loss
Sayed Jawad a Shi’ite Muslim religious leader from Tal Afar, Ninewa Governorate, Iraq who lost his son during a community clash. (Photo credit: Sayed Jawad/UNDP Iraq).
Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq - "I remember the day so clearly," Sayed Jawad shared, his voice steady but laden with memories.
In their neighbourhood, a fierce clash had unfolded between the police and a group of insurgents. It was chaos. Amidst the turmoil, Ala’a, his son, hearing his cousin's desperate cries, rushed outside to help. That moment marked the end. Ala'a was struck by a bullet and despite his family’s best efforts to rush him to a hospital in Baghdad, it was too late. He passed away at the tender age of 21.
"Ala'a was the dearest of my sons," Sayed shared, his voice tinged with profound sadness. "He was handsome, a dedicated student who had a passion for media," he added, his pride mingling with grief.
"As he lay dying, he asked me not to seek revenge for his murder," Sayed continued, a deep sense of pride emanating despite the sorrow that filled his heart.
Forgiveness over retribution
In honour of Ala'a's remarkable request, Sayed chose forgiveness over retribution, extending his forgiveness even to those involved in the tumultuous clashes on that fateful day.
"The success of the Iraqi people, whether Sunni, Shi'ite, Yazidi, or any other group, hinges on forgiveness and the rejection of collective punishment," Sayed affirmed with unwavering conviction. "In the end, there is no difference among us. We are all formed from the same clay and water. Revenge serves no purpose," he said with a resolute tone.
Since 2004, Sayed Jawad, a Shi’ite Muslim religious leader from Tal Afar, Ninewa Governorate, has been working to fight sectarian tensions between groups in his community with the aim of bringing people together in the name of peace. He is a member of the Tal Afar Local Peace Committee, where he plays an important role in managing local conflicts and encouraging communal reconciliation in Ninewa.
“Peace and coexistence are among the priorities of our religion and the foundations of our human morals. With peace, development is achieved and the country flourishes, and with conflict, rights are taken away and human dignity is violated,” Sayed concluded.
Sayed Jawar (right) with other religious leaders from his community – Ghdeer Ahmed Noori (left) and Ivram Benjamin, a priest is in the centre. (Photo credit: UNDP Iraq).
Restoring the social fabric and unity in communities
Sayed Jawad's story is just one among the many shared during the peace and social cohesion workshops coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.
Through these capacity-building workshops, UNDP aims to promote moderate religious discourse and social cohesion in communities through their religious leaders. The workshops bring together religious leaders from diverse sects and faiths and serve as a powerful platform for discussing ways to advance reconciliation, promote coexistence, and combat violent extremism.
Through its Integrated Social Cohesion Programme and in partnership with the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, UNDP has hosted nine such workshops since 2020 reaching approximately 620 religious leaders in all the five liberated governorates of Anbar, Ninewa, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Kirkuk. These are from various religious groups including Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kakai, Yazidis and Baha’i. Each of these religious leaders has congregations in the thousands, so the impact of messages delivered is both powerful and far-reaching. These meetings have become platforms for religious leaders who have formed committees to work together to spread peace and cohesion messages with their varied congregations.
UNDP hopes to keep working with these leaders and utilise their spheres of influence to better promote sustainable peace, community cohesion and co-existence as well as prevent violent extremism.
Special Feature 2: International Day of Peace, Tanzania: Injecting Values of Humanity and Religious Resilience in Zanzibar
Since 2014, Center for Youth Dialogue (CYD) has contributed towards peace promotion and particularly from year 2015 CYD has taken the initiatives to enhance he Global Sustainable Development Goal number 16 (Ensuring Peaceful and Prosperous Societies for Sustainable Development.) With this regard, pertaining CYD contribution in peace, security, social cohesion, and development; hereby are the quotes and testimonies of potential figures that engaged in CYD projects including UNDP demonstrating their stories of change and how significant does these related interventions transform the positive adoptions to peace promotion behaviors in their surrounding communities.
“Amani Visiwani Project is relevant in Tumbatu community context. We believes the transformations that have made from living with revenge, and hostility where there was even little and sometimes no collaborations at all levels among society members due to variation of political ideologues, but with some of these interventions and integration of Tumbatu communities in peace awareness initiatives, we are now witnessing positive changes and the people are harmoniously living together, collaborating, and share the common values towards individual and social developments despites of being possessing the differed perspectives.”- District Administrative Secretary of Tumbatu Sub-District from Northern Unguja Region.
Tumbatu Island is geographically Isolated Isle from North Unguja Region. For a long its inhabitants have been conservative in adopting new ways of life, collaborating with external communities and even believing that can people living together and have a common share to social development despite of possessing differed political ideologies. Due to strong believes and need to preserve culture, several times investors showed the interest to construct hotels there for example, but normal community members denied those offers by condemning that it will results into diluting the cultural values without knowing that they will also receive some employments and get economic relief.
CYD believes that the involvement of key decision makers from government especially from peripheral societies in peace awareness initiatives, is a steppingstone to acquire necessary skills to unify and convince the people they lead to come together, collaborate out of their differences and growing together as a single community with common dare and share in promoting individual and social development.
Apart from being priest, Rev. Stanley Lichinga is also a Permanent Chairperson of Zanzibar Anglican church. He says that, the church that he leads, ‘Anglican Church’ is an Association Member of four main churches that resembles the all other churches’ issues to different platforms and with that union, they have the direct access among themselves (intra-churches relationships, for example, Anglican to Catholic, Catholic to Lutheran and Union of Pentecost Churches), as well as having direct access to Government, Office of Mufti and Muslims Committees where at several times they have already seat together to discuss tangible issues that needed an urgent call for discussion, mutual understanding and common awareness/resolution.
Rev. Stanley while having a short talk to CYD team, added by explaining that at past was very difficult to identify who is Christian and who is Muslim in Zanzibar community. There was little religious freedom to Christian for example, it was seen a sin for Christian Women to walk on streets while their heads are uncovered, Christian men had to force themselves sometimes wearing ‘Kanzu’ to look similar to Muslims so that to have a social acceptance. But through a pass of time, we observe the changes and people started enjoying the religious freedom, communities are becoming together despite of their religious differences, and one of the perceived contributions to these changes are including interfaith dialogues and awareness creations that have been conducted.
“The aim is not to turn all Muslims becoming Christians, or all Christians to become Muslims, rather with the presence of these interfaith dialogues, we have shaped and continues to shape our mindset transformations, injecting the values for humanity and religious resiliencies; something that is very crucial in supporting the cohesive and peaceful Zanzibar community.”- Mentioned Rev. Stanley.
Rev. Stanley also cemented his thought that the Government has also been playing the great role in supporting interfaith interactions and enhancing religious resilience for peaceful societies.
“All Government functions for example national ceremonies starts by inviting Religious Leaders from Muslims and Christians to Pray. These actions often send messages to our local communities that they must also live together despite of their religious differences.”- Said Rev. Stanley.
Ms. Leila Khamis Islah, the Coordinator of Women and Children Affairs in Shehia of Mambosasa, Zanzibar is an indirect beneficiary of PVE related interventions performed by CYD and UNDP in previous years. Here she shares her little experience on how the interfaith related dialogues have brought the positive impacts in cementing mutual understanding, collaborations and sense of harmony among the people of different religions in Zanzibar, particularly women and children.
“Children follow how their elders act. Our Children were from horrible transformations on mocking themselves regarding distinctive religious denominations that they were belonging, but with come of times we witness those scenarios are coming into an end!”- Ms. Leila Khamis Islah, the Coordinator of Women and Children Affairs in Shehia of Mambosasa, Zanzibar.