Establishing the required infrastructure for peacebuilding and social cohesion is crucial to supporting the Gambia’s fragile political climate following over 2 decades of autocratic rule by the former regime coupled with the complexities of rolling out a series of simultaneous, sensitive reforms since January 2017, and vulnerability to the emerging proliferation of conflicts in the region, the after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine.

Structural issues such as the lack of a national peace infrastructure, the increasing prevalence of hate speech, and heightened horizontal inequalities between rural and urban communities that have been underlined by the results of the 9 April 2022 legislative elections are several other factors affecting social cohesion in The Gambia.

It is in this light that the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launch a new project dubbed ‘Strengthening the National Infrastructure for Peace to Promote Social Cohesion’ with funding from the UN Secretary General`s Peacebuilding Fund on Wednesday 29 March 2023 at the UN house in Bakau.

Speaking at the launch, the UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, Ms. Saraphine Wakana, highlighted the focus of the project in attaining its overall objective. She said “this project will use the sporting and creative talents in The Gambia, as well as enhance economic opportunities, to build social cohesion by reaching out to and supporting communities that may feel marginalized by this process. This helps to ensure that no one is left behind in The Gambia’s transition to democracy, peaceful cohabitation, and respect for human rights.”

The Gambia is still navigating a delicate transition from autocratic rule towards democratic governance, which is a complex, long-term process of creating the conditions necessary for sustainable peace and development.

In her remark, the UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Aissata De was quick to emphasize that “Addressing peace and security challenges requires a participatory, and all-inclusive transformative approach. An all-inclusive approach to establishing infrastructure for peace will help build trust and foster cooperation among diverse interest groups. The involvement of political actors, CSOs, women, and youth creates a sense of local ownership and shared responsibility, leading to greater buy-in and support for the initiative being developed” she said.

Delivering the launch statement, the deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Interior Mr. Ismaila Danso elaborated on the significance of concerted peace efforts. He stated that “peace is a fragile commodity that can easily break. We have seen this happen in countries such as Guinea, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Therefore, nourishing peace to prevent a relapse into conflict is always a shared responsibility of everyone”.

Mr. Baboucarr Sallah, Technical Advisor and Operations Officer, highlighted that ITC`s work will focus on implementing outcome 2 of the project with a particular focus on strengthening national associations in the creative industry and sports, the use of sports to mitigate conflicts using the Kick For Trade Model, providing skills training and entrepreneurship support to youth and women in affected communities, MSME development, value addition and establishing market linkages for businesses within West Coast Region and Foni, in particular. Overall, this project aims to facilitate strengthening social cohesion, early warning, and conflict prevention in The Gambia to contribute to the overall programme objective of the United Nations Peace Building Fund Programme.

The I4P project has 3 outcome areas thus: 1. Strengthened national peace architecture in line with key TRRC recommendations, 2. Increased capacity to foster social and economic participation in targeted communities and 3. Strengthened capacities of media, CSOs and women, youth, political and religious leaders to address hate speech for improved social cohesion and conflict prevention will be implemented mainly by UNDP, ITC, and UNESCO respectively.

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