Government and UN Launch Programme on Enhancing Inter-Ethnic Dialogue

The Secretariat for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement together with three UN Agencies – UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO, launched the comprehensive programme entitled “Enhancing Inter-Ethnic Community Dialogue and Collaboration”.

This US$ 4 million programme is funded by the MDG Achievement Fund, established with the generous support of the Government of Spain. It will be implemented by the Secretariat for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Local Self-Government and ZELS with the support of the three UN agencies. During the next three years, activities will focus on three ethnically mixed municipalities - Kicevo, Kumanovo and Struga. Throughout the programme civil society, academia, teachers, community leaders, artists and journalists will be engaged. All partners will be actively involved in working towards the programme’s goal – to enhance community dialogue and collaboration to foster a coherent and functional society, based on peace and trust, which values and promotes its diversity.

The programme is positive and proactive in its approach. It aims to strengthen national and local level capacities to promote and maintain a multi-cultural civic identity. Some examples of what the programme will do are:  establish an institutional pool of experts for community mediation and problem solving, help schools foster inter-cultural values, work with parent-teacher bodies, award grants for local initiatives and support a major interfaith conference in May 2010.

As Mr. Abdilaqim Ademi, Deputy Prime Minister in charge for the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, pointed out: “This is a country where civilizations intersect. With its geographic position it represents a connecting bridge between the east and the west. And not only that, many different cultures have traditionally developed in our country side by side, and this process continues today. We perceive this reality as a civilization and human richness.”

The UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Deirdre Boyd pointed out that this Joint Programme seeks to support the Government to progress an important national development priority – that of enhancing inter-ethnic dialogue and collaboration. “Building upon the advances the country has achieved in that regard, the programme will seek to support the longer-term role of education, and work with local government structures, civil society and the media to facilitate constructive civic dialogue and collaboration,” said Ms. Boyd.
Both the UN Resident Coordinator and the Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the role of the media as important contributors to public debate and opinion.  They encouraged the media to be responsible and positive drivers of change, towards building inter-ethnic community dialogue, trust and respect.

On this occasion, Ms. María Ángeles García de Lara, representing the Spanish Government, expressed support for this important initiative. “Spain has a clear commitment to fostering cross-cultural relations with the aim of developing, supporting and highlighting projects that promote understanding and reconciliation among cultures globally. Today, I would like to congratulate the Ministries, UN Agencies and all the organizations and individuals in this country for this joint initiative. I am convinced that, with such remarkable partners, the implementation of the programme will be extremely successful,” said Ms. María Ángeles García de Lara, Acting Head of Mission, Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain.

The MDG Achievement Fund is an international cooperation mechanism whose aim is to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) worldwide. Established in December 2006 with a generous contribution of € 528 million ($US 710 million) from the Spanish Government to the United Nations system, the MDG-F supports national governments, local authorities and citizen organizations in their efforts to tackle poverty and inequality with 128 active programmes in 50 countries around the world.