UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes Jonava’s membership of the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Programme. Jonava is not only the first Lithuanian but also the first Baltic city to join the network. The CoE Intercultural Cities network provides expertise and support to cities to exchange experiences on how to better manage diversity and adopt inclusive migrant and refugee integration policies. This membership will be a valuable resource that Jonava can draw upon in developing a comprehensive intercultural strategy to manage diversity positively and realize advantages and benefits for all.
Successful integration is very dependent on the efforts that are organized at the local level; where people live, work, study, or go to school and in the communities where people meet and make friends – have a social life. Inclusion and cohesive societies at the local level are key drivers for social and economic development, innovations and fostering welcoming communities. It allows people with diverse backgrounds to fully explore their potential and contribute to the community and society they live in. This is essential for the city to thrive and to ensure that noone is left behind.
“Jonava is already a home for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries. We thank Jonava for welcoming them and for its commitment to further strengthening its inclusion efforts. This will benefit the entire community, and I hope it will inspire other cities from Lithuania and our region to join and learn from this network of expertise,” says UNHCR Representative for the Nordic and Baltic Countries Henrik M. Nordentoft.
In 1750, Augustus III, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and King of Poland, issued the privilege „to establish Jonava town with markets and shopping places and provide residence there to free people of different religions, Christians, Tatars, Jews…”. Today, 270 years later, Jonava, the ninth largest city in Lithuania, joins the Intercultural Cities network and commits to work on intercultural cohesion. UNHCR congratulates the Mayor of Jonava Mindaugas Sinkevicius, the City Council, and the community of Jonava on this progressive step rooted in history that sends a clear signal about its intentions for the future – as a welcoming, understanding, and inclusive community, which will not leave anyone behind.
UNHCR welcomes efforts of Lithuania to further strengthen the involvement of municipalities and communities in implementation of integration policy and the provision of integration support at the local level. As part of these efforts, UNHCR advocates for other Lithuanian cities to also join the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Programme.