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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BENGHAZI — Moving from commitments to actions towards sustainable development goals requires inclusive partnerships across societal sectors That is why the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Libya is working hand in hand with national and local authorities, civil society, the private sector as well as international and national NGOs to respond to the conflict induced challenges and address needs to achieve recovery, peace and inclusive development in the country.
UNDP Resident Representative Gerardo Noto visited local actors in Benghazi to strengthen partnerships and follow through on progress and plans towards a peaceful and inclusive Libya. UNDP has been working in Benghazi since 2016 to contribute to their more than 800,000 residents have access to basic services including healthcare, education, water and sanitation, as well as rebuilding iconic public buildings in the Old City.
Noto started his visit by a meeting with the Mayor of Benghazi Al-Saqr Imran Bujwari who stated that he is grateful for the work being carried out by UNDP in Benghazi and for all the efforts made by UN organizations to support various municipalities across the country.
He follows with meetings with the mayors of several municipalities — including Ajdabya, Derna, Ajkhrah, Tazboro, Jalu, Tukra and Marada — to discuss the progress of the projects UNDP is implementing in their respective municipalities and their impact on the community. During the meetings, Noto was also able to discuss the needs and challenges facing the municipalities to set solution-oriented plans and the way forward.
During the visit, UNDP through the “Resilience4Libya” project, handed over two ambulance to the municipality’s health services department and another ambulance to the Benghazi Rehabilitation Center for People with Disabilities. The handovers are part of the project’s COVID-19 response supported by the European Union (EU) to help local authorities provide people with improved access to essential services as well as mitigate the challenges inflicted by the pandemic.
Health for Children
UNDP, as part of the Stabilization Facility of Libya (SFL) works together with the Government to improve people’s lives through inclusive municipal planning and practical improvements in basic services including healthcare.
In Benghazi, SFL with support from 13 international partners and the Government of Libya, renovated the intensive care unit and the new-born ward located in Benghazi Children’s Hospital.
Noto visited the institution where he was briefed about the services that are now available to the community and the 400 young patients who today have access to better medical services daily.
A focus on education
One of UNDP Libya’s focuses has been education - a powerful and proven vehicle to move towards sustainable development in the country. The University of Benghazi is one of the oldest and largest public universities in Libya, and one which has been damaged by the conflict.
Noto visited the campus and met with the Dean of the Benghazi University, Dr. Ezz El-Din Al-Dorsi and deans of various faculties to discuss the university’s important role in supporting the peace process in Libya, which can only happen if the students of today are equipped with the right education and tools.
UNDP through the “Resilience4Libya” project rehabilitated several facilities that belong to the university including the animal house building, the Rugby field, two changing rooms and several sports courts, which include two tennis courts, two volleyball courts and one basketball court serving 6,000 students.
Encouraging sports as a means for peacebuilding
As part of UNDP’s goals to advancing inclusive development and sustaining peace and social cohesion we contribute to conditions for youth in Libya, UNDP built the first Rugby field in Libya, located on the premises of the Benghazi University.
The field which has a total area of 10,000 square meters is providing a safe space for young people to come together and play sports. This field is also home of the National Rugby Team integrated by young players from different parts of Libya as a strong symbol of unity and peace.
Noto visited the field, met with the rugby players and joined with UN colleagues a game to celebrate how powerful sports is in building cohesion between people of different backgrounds. The field is able to reach youth and raise awareness about the importance of peace and community solidarity, and to promote social cohesion and prevention of violence.
Innovation at the heart of progress in Libya
Investing in today’s youth also involves promoting their ideas for a better future made possible with the advancement of technology. UNDP’s Youth Leadership Program (YLP) aims to build a generation of young leaders, innovators, and change-makers in the Arab region, acting as drivers for social change.
In the program’s sixth edition, UNDP launched a competition for innovative solutions for peace and development where the best six ideas were awarded with grants of $10,000 each, to help the winning participants turn their ideas into impactful projects.
One of the awardees was Mohamed Zain El-Abdeen, who has established a mobile application providing medical consultations service to diabetic patients in Benghazi. Through the application, patients can submit their questions and concerns and receive advice from medical professionals.
When needed, project staff will make home visits and provide one-on-one support. The application utilizes technology in maintaining patients records and sending regular visit reminders which is an invaluable service for persons with diabetes, especially during the pandemic where the elderly are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and when possible, they are not advised to make regular visits to local clinics where a risk of infection is high.
During his meeting with Noto, El-Abedeen updated Noto on the progress of his project where he explained how the community is utilizing the application saying, “I’m happy I was awarded through this program which is serving the community in Benghazi. I encourage all young people to apply to such programs because it helps support small projects and creates opportunities within the community”.
UNDP has also been encouraging entrepreneurship and working to improve job creation in Libya through the partnership with Tatweer Research and support from the European Union (EU). Through this partnership, UNDP’s Resilience4Libya project is developing programs, which encourage youth to develop business ideas, improve skills and create jobs within their communities.
Through the initiative, around 3,500 young Libyans are now equipped with entrepreneurial and innovative tool to develop their own businesses and 85 start-ups received coaching, resources and mentorship. Noto, visited the Tatweer Research headquarters in Benghazi to meet with young Libyan entrepreneurs and hear about their start-up journeys.
Expressing the interests and values of the members of the community
Promoting social cohesion means the inclusion of all members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to live in peace and prosper. As part of his visit to Benghazi, Noto also met with social activists, non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society organizations for persons with disabilities to hear about the obstacles facing them.
The discussion that involved many bright minded individuals looking for a improve their country also proposed ideas that will help them rise above the challenges and progress, emphasizing UNDP’s important role in supporting them and the stability and prosperity in Benghazi and the whole country.
Cultural activities resume in Benghazi
Al-Kikhia Cultural House was one of the buildings severely damaged during the conflict. Before armed clashed devastated it, Al-Kikhia Cultural House was the main office for the Historical City Authority in Benghazi and was used as a cultural center to host activities.
As part of its efforts to promote culture as a tool to enhance stabilization in Libya, UNDP’s SFL renovated Al Kikhia Cultural House which today resumes activities to promote cultural life for the community as well as acts as a hub for writers, artists and intellectuals to meet.
During Noto’s visit to the cultural house, Najia Aasttum, head of the childhood education department at the ministry of education, said, “By restoring this building, you have also promoted children’s education and their early interest in cultural affairs, antiquities and the ancient history of the city. We are happy that new, young faces are joining the art scene in this city. The house was severely damaged, and we’re happy to see it come back into our lives.”
UNDP also rehabilitated Benghazi Public Library, which used to play a key role in reducing inequalities since it gave the opportunity to have access to knowledge to everyone in Benghazi and contributed to the spread of information about the history of the country.
The building was damaged during the conflict. Now over 4,000 visitors per week will have access to the library and the bookshop. This infrastructure is the first one to be rehabilitated in the central square of the old city.
To bring back life to the heart of the old Benghazi city, UNDP's "Resilience4Libya" reconstructed the Benghazi Corniche stretching along the Mediterranean Sea.
The construction covered a 9,000 square meter area and included the addition of the “#Benghazi” art installation to vivify the new landmark. The renovation aims to bring back life to one of the most popular parts of the city and provide an enhanced public space for locals and visitors to enjoy.
A beacon of hope in Libya
Through continuous partnerships to improve provision of basic services, improve livelihoods opportunities and open dialogue with all actors in Libya, sustaining peace, rebuilding social cohesion and advance inclusive sustainable development is possible. — SG
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