Forging peace through tolerance and solidarity

Nov 16, 2016

On International Tolerance Day, the UN Development Programme brings together girls, boys, women and men from all ages, conditions and backgrounds in Kramatorsk, Donetsk, to promote tolerance, solidarity and non-violence in times of conflict, and to highlight the human rights challenges facing minorities, vulnerable groups and disabled people in their daily life.

Kramatorsk, 16 November 2016 – On International Day for Tolerance, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine, in partnership with the Donetsk Oblast State Administration, held the festival  “Donetsk Region for Tolerance”, to raise public awareness of the need for greater respect of diversity, and tolerance towards the rich variety of cultures populating the Donetsk region.

Over 700 participants, including children, young people, adults, women, minorities and people with disabilities, have enjoyed dancing and singing performances from Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Poland and other countries, including diverse ethnicities. Cuisine tasting, as well as a Chinese tea ceremony, also featured in the festival’s programme, along with short movie projections on tolerance.

Indeed, over two years on, the conflict in east Ukraine has affected 3.7 million people, forcing families out of their homes and putting the communities hosting them under huge pressure. Public services and the employment market, which were often unstable before the conflict, are not equipped to absorb this massive influx of people. This has generated tensions, threatened livelihoods, social cohesion and security, which disproportionally affect minorities and vulnerable groups.

The recent discrimination barometer methodology developed by the Ombudsman Office shows that 14% of Ukrainian have experienced discrimination during a job interview on the grounds of disability (22%), gender (10.5%), residence (6.5%) and age (2.6%), while ethnicity accounts for 30% of the most commonly perceived basis for discrimination.  Media coverage also demonstrates the negative impact of the conflict on tolerance and perception of minorities.

“Stabilizing livelihoods and increasing economic opportunities for people and their communities to resume normal life is a core focus of our work. An equally important priority is to support respect for diversity and build a cultural of tolerance and respect for each other through dialogue and mutual understanding. This is essential for breaking stereotypes, misunderstanding and mistrust. We hope to help people build bridges and respect for each other within and across communities that have been affected by the conflict. The best indicator of a healthy society is not based on how the privileged are treated, but how the weakest are,” explained Kunal Dhar, UNDP Recovery and Stabilization Advisor.

The festival also gave representatives of various minority groups, people with disabilities, students and children a great opportunity to interact, cooperate and communicate in an informal setting, while children workshops were organized to encourage friendship and tolerance with other children from different cultures and ethnicities.

“Promoting mutual understanding and trust within and between nations accelerates the development of societies and countries,” concluded Kunal Dhar. “Diversity is a strength, and provides great value for building a society that demonstrates tolerance for all people, regardless of their origin, political believes, gender, religion, or other differences. Peace should be forged through tolerance and solidarity.”

The UNDP initiative for strengthening social cohesion, reconciliation and tolerance is implemented with the financial support of the governments of Sweden and Switzerland.

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