Youth centres, sports facility handed over to communities

22 Feb 2011

Ermera – On a rainy February afternoon, more than one thousand people from twelve different villages (sucos) from Ermera and Bobonaro gathered in Atara, to celebrate with opening of two youth centres and a sports facility.

UNDP’s Strengthening Early Recovery for Comprehensive and Sustainable Reintegration of IDPs (SERC) project, which is implemented jointly with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS), handed these three infrastructures over to the communities during the opening of the sports facility in Atara.

Secretary of State for Social Assistance and Natural Disasters, Jacinto Rigoberto Gomes de Deus said the  facilities will pave the road to peace and development.

“Through the use of this sports facility, the people of Atara and Lasaun will hopefully promote equality, unity and friendship among the people living in this area,” he said.

The conflict in Atara dates back to 1975 and relates to land and border disputes between Atara and Lasaun.

In 2006, conflict escalated between martial arts groups in the area, resulted in villages being attacked and houses being damaged.

The UNDP/MSS Dialogue teams worked extensively in the area facilitating dialogue and mediation during 2009 and 2010.

The process ended in the celebration of a nahe biti bo'ot (roll out the big mat), a traditional ceremony for conflict resolution. Building on this community accord, the SERC project then worked with the communities to identify and implement small infrastructure projects which would benefit all residents.

The project aims to address the lack of social cohesion in communities that have experienced conflict by providing basic community infrastructure.

In the case of Atara, more than 2,000 people from villages which were previously in conflict will share the same sports facility, which includes basketball, volleyball and futsal facilities.

The two youth centres are expected to benefit around 3,000 people including residents from Atsabe.

“All these projects were chosen by the communities themselves, and the SERC team has tried to make sure that everyone in these communities benefited and was involved in the process,” said Paul Tyndale-Biscoe, UNDP SERC Project Manager.

This was done through community meetings, discussions and by providing employment opportunities where possible in the construction.”

The Secretary of State for Youth and Sports, Mr. Miguel Manetelo, the MSS Director-General, Mr Eugenio Soares, local leaders and members of the Government also attended the opening ceremony in Atara.

UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, AusAID and the United Nations Peace Building Fund currently fund the SERC project.