UNODC in Kyrgyzstan: promotion of sports strengthens peace on Kyrgyz-Tajik border

On 20 September, 2017 Kulundu, a border village in southern Kyrgyzstan, had an opening ceremony of a new football. The sports facility was constructed as part of the implementation of a local crime prevention plan, which was developed by the local community in 2016 as a result of active participation of local authorities, police, the local crime prevention centre and civil society. UNODC is among sponsors of construction.

On this special day police officers, youth and other inhabitants from various local and neighboring Tajik villages participated in a football tournament.   

The construction of the football field was initiated by the Youth Centre of Kulundu. As a result of various outreach initiatives, the centre, in partnership with local authorities, managed to attract funding worth over 2 million KGS (approximately 30,000 USD). UNODC contributed 10,000 USD for construction of the field and provided balls, shirts and other sports items.

"Sports can play a key role in educating youth and keeping them away from crime and violence", noted Nurali Paziev, Head of the Youth Centre and a Member of the local Council in the municipality. "With these improved facilities, we hope to use sports to promote tolerance and respect and empower youth in our community", he added.   

Kulundu is a municipality in the southern Batken province of Kyrgyzstan on the border with Tajikistan. The people living in this remote, rural area - over 25,000 in total - mostly earn their living by engaging in agriculture and cross-border trade.  Labour migration to Russia and other countries is a common practice. And remittances are an important source of income for the community.

Life in Kulundu is affected by a range of challenges. Conflicts over access to drinking and irrigation water and grazing pastures for cattle are a problem. Inter-ethnic tension has at times occurred both between different ethnic groups within the community and across the border. Citizens of Kulundu also express concern about the risk of radicalization that could lead to violence among the population.

Within the framework of the local crime prevention plan, UNODC has also supported the construction of a new police station in the village (with a value of nearly 100,000 USD). Moreover, thanks to a small grant of 3,000 USD provided by UNODC to the Youth Centre, a range of dialogue platforms, information campaigns and sports events are foreseen to build trust and increase legal awareness in the community. "Since 2014 UNODC has been engaged in Kulundu and other communities around the country aiming to strengthen community policing and facilitate social partnership in promotion of crime prevention and public safety", said Koen Marquering, UNODC International Coordinator at the ceremony. "The opening of the new pitch here in Kulundu shows how community engagement in crime prevention can produce real benefits for the local population", he added.

UNODC will continue to promote community policing and crime prevention through its 2015-2019 Programme for Central Asia with funding provided by the US State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Currently, UNODC is also implementing a global youth crime prevention initiative, which foresees the roll out of a sports-based life skills training curriculum in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Under the slogan "Line Up Live Up", this curriculum builds on the power of sports as a tool for peace. The example of Kulundu village echoes the objectives of the initiative and shows how such programs enhance life skills and strengthen youth resilience against crime and drug use.