Civil Peace Service/Special Initiative on Displacement: Improving relationships between host communities and refugees

Project description

Title: Civil Peace Service/Special Initiative on Displacement: Psychosocial support for refugees, improvement of the relationship between local population and refugees, peace education measures
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Rwanda
Overall term: 2014 to 2021

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Context

The repeated atrocities committed by rebels against the population in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the crisis surrounding the 2015 elections in Burundi have caused thousands of people to flee their country and seek refuge in Rwanda. Most of the refugees live in the six refugee camps run by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, and almost 60 per cent of them are under 18.

The large number of refugees is having a major impact on social development in Rwanda, particularly by increasing conflicts over land and resources (such as firewood). Violent confrontations often occur between young people inside and outside the camps. 

Although basic needs such as food, primary health care and access to (school) education are being met, psychological care is inadequate. The refugees are also severely limited in their rights and entitlements. Post-traumatic stress disorders make those affected less able to cope and impair their quality of life. They are often viewed with mistrust by locals. Displaced women and girls are a particularly vulnerable group and are frequently subject to sexual violence.

Many young male refugees feel frustrated at the lack of job opportunities. It is not uncommon for them to respond to this frustration with acts of aggression.

Objective

Young refugees from the camps and youths from nearby villages are able to dismantle preconceptions they have of one another through constructive dialogue. Through peace education, violence prevention and psychosocial support, cohesion and a culture of peace between the refugees and the host communities are created. Psychosocial support boosts the mental health and resilience of women and girls who have suffered traumatic violence.

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Approach

The project is part of the special initiative ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees’ launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It supports refugees and host communities in equal measure.

In cooperation with its partners UNHCR, Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (VJN), Ejo Youth Echo (EYE), Community-Based Sociotherapy (CBS), Eglise Evangélique des Amis au Rwanda (EEAR) and the Legal Aid Forum, the Civil Peace Service (CPS) supports violence prevention in and around the Kigeme, Mahama and Mugombwa refugee camps.

Joint discussions help participants to see the other side’s problems and fears clearly and open up new possible courses of action. Teams offer young people psychosocial support and trauma work, especially for women and girls.
Using creative methods and a closely intertwined approach such as conflict-sensitive media production, cineduc (educational cinema), forum theatre and sport, young people practise dealing with conflict constructively. In addition, a dialogue develops and mutual understanding is established.

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Results

Constructive dialogue between the camp inhabitants and people from the host communities is fostered by initiatives such as the ‘peace dialogue’ format, the establishment of the cross-camp magazine Nyiramubande, interactive theatre, educational cinema, sport, lecture exchanges and cultural activities.

Initiatives that are mutually supportive and friendly visits from people from the refugee camps and the host communities are organised.

Women, men, girls and boys are supported by psychosocial advisors who are trained in trauma work, active listening, psychosocial support and education and in clinical supervision.

The camp magazine Nyiramubande is published regularly in all six of Rwanda’s refugee camps. In addition, journalists who write conflict-sensitive reports for the magazine have been trained in the camps.

A radio programme established by the project partners aims to enable local and refugee youths to understand one another’s views and behavioural differences.

A monthly dialogue also takes place between the police, the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and young people susceptible to taking drugs. These meetings build trust, improve cooperation and help deal with drug abuse in the camp.

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