IOM South Africa to build communities of diversity and peace

05 October 2012, Sweetcrude/African Press Organization (APO), GENEVA, Switzerland  — IOM, with funding from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), will this month launch a project aimed at building and strengthening communities of diversity and peace in South Africa’s Western Cape Province.

The 9-month project will be implemented through the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training and Advocacy (ARESTA), a local NGO based in Cape Town with a proven track record of implementing projects aimed at integrating migrants into host communities.

The new project builds upon the successful implementation of the 2011 pilot project: “Building and Strengthening Communities of Diversity and Peace” aimed at increasing community cohesion in areas affected by violence, paralyzing chronic tensions, or the extreme marginalization of certain sub-groups. The project aims to empower community members to mediate and resolve social conflict when it arises.

For many foreign nationals, return to their countries of origin is not a viable option. This project will create awareness around migrant issues, increase tolerance and reduce tension and negative perceptions about migrants through the provision of educational workshops, information campaigns, sports and cultural events.

Tension exists between locals and foreign nationals in many communities including the Western Cape, as witnessed by the recent and growing intolerance and violence against foreign shop owners in some parts of the province.

These outbreaks of violence and the underlying tensions between host communities and migrants have highlighted the need for peace-building and conflict transformation.

IOM works closely with the Government of South Africa and civil society organizations to improve management of irregular migration in order to mitigate migrants’ vulnerabilities and improve their acceptance by host communities.

The 2009 IOM Study “Towards Tolerance, Law, and Dignity: Addressing Violence against Foreign Nationals in South Africa” conducted after the May 2008 attacks notes a need to promote positive reforms to build inclusive local governance structures promoting leadership models and leaders committed to tolerance and the rule of law.

Interventions should not only be limited to appeals for tolerance, but should also promote a human rights culture among the people of South Africa, drawing attention to the country’s laws, the rights of different groups and mechanisms for countering discrimination.

“Migration is an essential part of our life. Whether I migrated from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape to look for work, or from Zimbabwe to South Africa in search of a better life, or if I fled violence and persecution in Somalia to seek asylum in South Africa, we are all – or have at some point been – migrants. Ubuntu has no borders; the values of love and kindness are part of the African culture. It has always been in our nature to welcome our visitors,” says Dr Erick Ventura, IOM Acting Chief of Mission in South Africa.

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