April 2015 - Panama
Latin America and the Caribbean is profoundly defined by contrasts and inequalities. The majority of the region’s countries have been going through a period of economic growth since the 1990s, but they are nevertheless experiencing great difficulties in achieving the social improvements, which should accompany economic performance.
The violence generated by gangs and the drug trade in urban centres, the displacement produced by armed conflict, especially in Colombia and its neighbouring countries, the forced displacement and disruption of lives due to natural disasters all create pockets of enduring crisis in certain parts of the region.
One of the tragic consequences of these fragile environments is growing intolerance and xenophobia, which disproportionately affects vulnerable displaced young people. In contexts where there are many refugees or persons in need of international protection, integration can be difficult and this creates tensions leading to verbal and physical violence and discrimination.
RET International has always favoured a holistic approach towards designing and developing programmes for young people caught up in crises and conflict. Fighting intolerance and xenophobia is certainly and important part of the equation. Therefore, on March 21 (The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) RET in Latin America launched an awareness raising campaign in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The aim of the campaign is to stimulate the reflexion on what unites us. Appropriately the campaign is called “Lo que nos une”. Its aim is to focus the attention of young people, teachers and parents on what connects us as human beings, to see beyond the stereotypes. Ultimately, the campaign aims to diminish the xenophobia and discrimination refugee youth have to face and offer them an opportunity to connect with their host communities.
Over 130 young people in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela were included in the concept development to make sure the messages of the campaign are on track. And sure enough it is the young people of the region who came up with the two central concepts ”What Unites Us” (Lo que nos une) and “Express the Positive” (Decir lo bueno).
As usual in RET projects, we consider that youth are not passive; we think that education is not about telling them what to do and think. Youth are positive actors of change within their societies. This campaign was therefore developed for youth with youth.
The campaign will unfold online through the website www.loquenosune.org and social media through Twitter @quenosune (#loquenosune y #decirlobueno) and on RET International’s Latin America and the Caribbean Facebook (theRETorgLAC). Events are also planned in the countries as the young people involved wanted to interact directly with their host communities. RET will also provide trainings on communication, prevention of discrimination and understanding the phenomenon of xenophobia. Finally, RET is creating alliances with universities and other interested organisations to spread the word further.
So, should you wish to join the campaign, do not hesitate to contact us at lac-com@theRET.org.