Monday, July 7, 2008

Soldiers Never More in Durban, South Africa!

Representatives of the IBISS program Soldiers Never More along side theirs partner organizations Schools Without Borders and The Remix Project were invited to attend the UN-Habitats International Youth Crime Prevention & Cities Summit, in Duran South Africa. The summit gathered representatives from innovative youth projects from around the world for a four-day program the included presentations, discussions panels, community visits, and lots and lots of networking.

We gave two separate presentations. The first was given by Farinha when he was asked at the last minute to sit in on an experts panel discussing the practicality of a positive dialogue between police in youth as a form of crime prevention. Farinha embraced possibly one of the more controversial opinions at the table as each speaker made their points in font of an audience of around 500 hundred spectators. After presenting the grassroots prevention and intervention methods Soldiers Never More implements, he then argued that at least in Rio an honest dialogue between police and youth would never truly be possible until the government addressed the issue of police brutality and corruption inside the favelas.

Sandro and Andrew presented the next day during a break away section dedicated to discussing how arts and culture can be used as a method of combating urban violence. Sandro spoke about his prevention work that he administers at Espa├žo IBISS Terra Encantada, and Andrew then talked about the Media Art Training Center that Schools Without Borders and the Remix Project are helping implement together with IBISS. It was concluded that although arts and culture are great tools to help involve youth in creative programs, in order to successfully combat urban violence these programs need to be linked with professional income generating opportunities. That has always been the main intention of the Media Arts Center that is being developing to enrich the work already being done by the Soldiers Never More Program.

The trip went really well, and we were all very well received. Probably the most beneficial aspect of the experience was the networking done during the conference. Without a doubt, many of the youth that were present would never have gotten the opportunity to travel and meet each other outside of these circumstances. We made contacts with hip hop programs from Colombia and South Africa, media arts programs from Kenya and Holland, social health programs from Mexico and Nigeria, as well as policy makers from many different areas of the United Nations. It was also a great learning experience to present under such formal conditions, and to have our work recognized on such an international level.

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