UNESCO fosters peace through the protection of world heritage sites

Action and volunteering camps are effective instruments to promote a culture of peace and intercultural friendships, tackling prejudices and racism. In the framework of the recently launched project “Prevention of violent extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia,” this year, three World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) action camps incorporated methodologies aimed at addressing one of today’s important challenges: the prevention of violent extremism.


Among the global challenges that currently affect young people, violent extremism is one of the most urgent and widespread. Radicalization, hatred and the rejection of democratic principles represent a threat that targets the new generations, especially those who live in regions affected by violence and armed conflicts. For this reason, it is compelling not only to counter-act extremism, but also to develop effective instruments to prevent it.


This can only be achieved through an intersectorial approach that fosters intercultural dialogue, one of the most powerful tools to prevent any form of extremism. This year’s WHV action camps, organized from 16 to 20 July in Morocco by the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO (WHC) and the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS), decided to combine the protection and promotion of local UNESCO heritage sites with the prevention of violent extremism in the core of its action.


From July 16-20, 2018, three WHV action camps (2 in Rabat and 1 in Meknes) hosted a group of 12 young participants from the Project’s target countries: Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. Together with local and international volunteers, the group engaged in hands-on and awareness raising activities in UNESCO heritage sites and took part in workshops on strategies to spread a culture of peace and solidarity.


"For the first time, I literally tested the immense conflicts of feelings, sadness, joy and fear but most important the big love for every person and things in Morocco!", explained Mousa, from Jordan.


These experiences enhance the knowledge of young people about their own and other cultures and strengthen a shared sense of belonging and ownership with regard to cultural heritage.


For the past ten years, 366 World Heritage Volunteers action camps were carried out by 122 youth organizations and institutions in 61 countries worldwide. This initiative offers young people the opportunity to take part in manual and awareness raising activities in a UNESCO world heritage site. This year, while preserving the sites of Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat and of Qara Prison in Meknes, young participants designed and distributed questionnaires to locals and tourists to promote local cultural heritage and peacebuilding. This year, the WHV Action Camps incorporated methodological components to address PVE. For example, sessions were aimed at understanding the concept of PVE and its causes, the analysis of structural, social, and psychological elements that might influence the decision to join violent groups. Case studies helped develop skills on project management and role-play exercises fostered mutual understanding. During their stay, participants have also developed their own website, a platform where they shared their unique experiences and lessons learnt:


The action camps were hosted by the Moroccan organisations Union National de Chantiers et du Voluntariat (UNCV), by Association Work Camps and Cultures (ACC), and by Association Chamss pour le Développement de la Famille et l’Enfant (Chamss).


The UNESCO-UNOCT project “Prevention of violent extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia”, co-funded by Canada, was created in the framework of the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, whose objectives are to promote cross-cultural understanding, to enhance learning of new skills and to support development initiatives.