UNESCO has launched an art campaign in Cambodia to counter xenophobia, stigmatisation and disinformation triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign was officially announced on November 16 with youths, journalists and officials taking part in drawing with chalk on a blackboard to demonstrate their joint efforts against discrimination and fear of people with Covid-19.

In a press release, UNESCO said participants used chalk to draw pictures, short words and symbols with a larger meaning.

“The words have been selected to represent both the challenge and positive actions and behaviour inspired by the Open Your Heart campaign theme. The underlying idea behind the dandelion, for example, is the fragility of life and the spread of the virus through the air,” it said.

UNESCO information and communications programme officer Vorn Makara told The Post on November 16 the organisation had began a pilot campaign for two months before the official launch, noting that members of the public and various institutions had volunteered in this effort to promote intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance.

Makara said the goal of the campaign is to promote mutual understanding and prevent discrimination and fear of foreigners. It is also to prevent the spread of Covid-19 disinformation.

UNESCO hopes simple and easy words, including logos, will make it easier for communities to understand and participate in the campaign, Makara said.

“The nature of the chalk is easily eroded and we hope the negative impact on society caused by Covid-19 will disappear by the end of the rainy season,” she said.

The UNESCO campaign is taking place in collaboration with Brown Coffee, office space rental firm Raintree Cambodia, Farm to Table restaurant and Dutch&Bean Coffee in lending space for featuring the artwork on their walls.

Brown Coffee, for example, has featured the artwork at its locations in Toul Kork district and on street 57 in Boeung Keng Kang I commune, Phnom Penh.

Brown managing director Liv Chhoung said the company has always supported the community spirit and the community is where everyone feels they belong, regardless of race, colour, religion or sexuality.

“It is more important than ever to keep the community spirit and fight against Covid-19 together, not against any individual within our community. Therefore, we support the Open Your Heart campaign to spread the love in our community,” Chhoung said.

Through UNESCO’s campaign, 626,728 Cambodian social media users have signed up to learn how to access truthful and timely information online and consume and share media content critically.

These initiatives are part of UNESCO’s ongoing work to strengthen freedom of expression in Cambodia.