UNODC promotes sport as tool for peace on Kyrgyz-Tajik border

Situated in the southern Batken province of Kyrgyzstan, the municipality of Kulundu sits on the border with Tajikistan in Central Asia. Home to around 25,000 people, the residents in this remote, rural area mostly earn their living by engaging in agriculture and cross-border trade. With limited employment opportunities, however, young people often migrate to Russia and other countries to find work. Life in Kulundu is also affected by a range of other challenges: conflicts over access to drinking and irrigation water and grazing pastures for cattle are a problem; inter-ethnic tension has at times occurred; and citizens of Kulundu have expressed concern at the risk of radicalization that could lead to violence among the population.

Within this context, UNODC is working to use sport as a vehicle to promote valuable life skills among youth. Under the Doha Declaration Global Programme, the organization is engaging youth who are at risk of violence, drugs and crime, with Kyrgyzstan one of the pilot countries where awareness raising sports initiatives will be conducted in partnership with the Government, sports organizations and civil society to promote civic values. UNODC is also delivering much-needed infrastructure to host activities in the area. Kick starting this, the opening of a new football field in Kulundu was recently supported as part of the 2015-2019 Programme for Central Asia. The construction of the football field was initiated by the Youth Centre of Kulundu, with UNODC contributing to the construction of the pitch and providing footballs, shirts and other sports items for the youth.

Nurali Paziev, Head of the Youth Centre and a Member of the local Council in the municipality, spoke to UNODC on the important role of sports in promoting peace: "Sports can play a key role in educating youth and keeping them away from crime and violence. With these improved facilities, we hope to use sports to promote tolerance and respect and empower youth in our community".

On the day of the opening, a football tournament was held involving police officers and youth from various local villages, including from neighbouring Tajikistan. Speaking at this, UNODC's International Coordinator in the region, Koen Marquering, commented: "UNODC has been engaged in Kulundu and other communities around the country to strengthen community policing and facilitate social partnerships to promote crime prevention. The opening of the new pitch here shows how youth engagement in crime prevention can produce real benefits for local communities".

The new football field was constructed as part of the implementation of a local crime prevention plan, which was developed by the local community in 2016 based on active participation of local authorities, police and civil society, including youth. The crime prevention plan led to new investment from the local budget and by external donors. Crime prevention remains on the agenda of the local authorities with an updated local crime prevention plan adopted this year. Thanks to a small grant provided by UNODC to the Youth Centre a range of dialogue platforms, information campaigns and sports events are foreseen to build trust and increased legal awareness in the community. Alongside awareness raising activities, UNODC also plans to start piloting the sports-based life skills training curriculum - Line Up Live Up - that is currently being tested in Brazil and South Africa.

Source: United Nations office on Drugs and Crime