Rugby players on the rugby field before their game during the inauguration event. Photo © UNDP 2020

Benghazi, 21/September/2020 – On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have inaugurated the first Rugby field in Libya, located on the premises of the Benghazi University.

As part of the “Strengthening Local Capacities for Resilience and Recovery” project funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, UNDP constructed the field, which has a total area of 10,000 square meters, in partnership with the Benghazi University, the Benghazi Municipality and in collaboration with NGO “Rugby 2018.”

The initiative was born out of the need for young people in Libya to be able to play and practice sports in a safe environment, as most sport clubs that exist are located within areas of military clashes.

The Mayor of Benghazi, Mr. Sagar Bou Jouari; UNDP Libya Resident Representative; Mr. Gerardo Noto; and the Head of Operations at the EU Delegation to Libya, Ms. Sandra Goffin, opened the ceremony together with representatives from the Rugby Arab Federation, African Rugby League, and the Libyan Rugby National Federation.

Mayor of Benghazi, Mr. Sagar said: “The city of Benghazi could not triumph over terrorism until it turned to reconstruction and development projects; both infrastructure and human development. The projects of Benghazi city were speeding against time to bring life back to its normalcy. They include our partnership with UNDP and Benghazi University to realize this Rugby Field project, in order to encourage sportsmanship as well as to contribute to youth rehabilitation from the effects of war program. On my behalf and behalf of the city of Benghazi, I would like to extend my appreciation for everyone who contributed to constructing this city.”

“I am proud to participate today on international Peace Day to inaugurate the first Rugby field in Libya, as youth is at the center of all what UNDP does in this country. Engaging young people today is key to advance sustaining peace and inclusive development in Libya. Sport, in this case rugby, is a compelling tool to promote peace and I hope this field will bring young people together across boundaries and contribute to reconciliation and social cohesion,” highlighted Mr. Noto.

On her part, Ms. Sandra Goffin, added: “Sport can support nation-building by creating a sense of national pride and unity. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the EU’s commitment to supporting peace and reconciliation, protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development for all in Libya.”

Inspirational speeches were given by representatives of the Atlas Foundation who shared their experiences on how rugby can bring peace and prevent conflict within communities around the world. These included International Rugby Champions, Mr. Les Cusworth (England) and Mr. Shane Byrne (Ireland), the Right Honourable Lord Addington, Atlas Foundation Trustee, Ambassador Carlos Sersale and Mrs. Sally Pettipher CEO. The Atlas Foundation is a Not for Profit founded by Rugby Champions to improve the lives of the poorest in the world through rugby.

The new Rugby Stadium, hosted by the Benghazi University, will thus aims to provide a safe space for young people to come together and play sports as well as join artistic events. It to harness the power of sport to reach youth to raise awareness about the importance of peace and community solidarity, and to promote social cohesion and prevention of violent extremism.

For more information, or media interviews please contact: media.ly@undp.org

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