The Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) supports youth-led organizations that foster peaceful and inclusive societies. Seed funding is given to projects, for and by young people that demonstrate innovative and effective approaches to intercultural or interfaith dialogue. UNAOC additionally offers capacity-building support to help youth-led organizations strengthen the implementation of their projects.
Established in 2008, YSF responded to calls for action made by young civil society leaders worldwide on the importance of establishing funding mechanisms for youth-led organizations. Today, YSF is more relevant than ever. As the global agenda increasingly speaks of youth’s participation and contribution to peace, development and security, it is critical to listen and respond with funding and partnership opportunities.
The funded projects are youth-led and youth-focused. The age definition used by UNAOC to characterize youth is an individual between the ages of 18 and 35. While the projects target mainly young people, they have an impact on entire communities, often involving religious or political leaders, policy-makers, educational institutions and media organizations.
Youth Solidarity Fund – 10th Edition
Lately, the world has been experiencing a surge of stigma and hostility. Incidents of discrimination and hate speech escalated globally, deepening the divides between communities even further.
The world today is home to the largest youth generation in history, a population that suffers disproportionately from the effects of violence, conflict, poverty and the pandemic. Despite the pandemic and many obstacles and challenges, young people continue to find ways to engage, support one another and demand and drive change. Some 1.8 billion young people that fall into this demographic present an enormous source of innovation and potential to drive a positive social change. A growing number of them are increasingly engaged in activities aiming to transform the world around them to make it more peaceful and inclusive. This has been recognized by the United Nations’ Youth, Peace and Security agenda, through the Security Council resolutions 2250 (2015), 2419 (2018) and 2535 (2020), which are focusing on youth as agents of change and key actors in powerful social movements.
In line with these recent achievements that recognize the important role of young people in fostering peace, the Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) seeks to invest in the agency and the capacity of young people to develop and implement their projects addressing the root causes of intolerance and discrimination and promoting inclusion and respect for diversity. YSF is the bridge between formal and informal structures, supporting young people to engage through on-the-ground avenues while providing space and opportunities to engage with decision-makers at the policy level.
YSF continues to support youth-led civil society organizations, with a particular focus on the role of young people in promoting peace and preventing violent extremism. YSF does so by providing the partnership, mentorship, and financial means to help young people implement activities that prevent violent conflict, promote peace and social inclusion. YSF functions as a small grant-making mechanism for youth to develop their own ideas on strengthening community resilience against violent extremism conducive to terrorism. UNAOC believes that young people are uniquely placed to counter and prevent violent extremism within their communities based on their valuable insights, influence, and credibility.
A critical part of YSF is a comprehensive capacity building and mentorship support provided to the grant recipients. Organizations that will be awarded with the seed funding for their projects will also take part in structured capacity development program, consisting of workshops and regular mentoring sessions. Through tailor-made mentorship, the workshops will offer know-how on diverse topics, including organizational development, sustainability and personal safety in the field. Additionally, the program also provides grant recipients an opportunity to network with their peers and build connections to the international community.
In April 2023, UNAOC opens a call for project proposals for the 10th edition of the Youth Solidarity Fund. YSF welcomes proposals that support young people as they take up the causes of cultural and religious pluralism, peace, and mutual respect. Proposals addressing the increased stigma and discrimination of young people and their communities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as proposals focusing on promoting respect for other religions and cultures, the right of human beings to practice their faith in safety and peace, and efforts to combat extremist ideologies and narratives are highly encouraged.
Since 2008, UNAOC has launched nine YSF editions and provided funding to youth-led organizations based in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. To date, a total of 73 projects in over 42 states have been funded, representing a total of $2.49 million in investments. In total, more than 1.7 million direct and indirect beneficiaries have been impacted over the past fifteen years.
The projects funded by YSF target young people from various backgrounds: students, marginalized youth, minorities, youth in rural or urban areas, youth in conflict or post-conflict situations, artists and activists. The youth-led organizations employ creative methodologies to break stereotypes, improve intercultural relations and promote a culture of peace, including:
- Educational activities, ranging from one-day awareness raising sessions to week-long trainings, peer-education activities, summer camps, as well as development of educational materials and tools and creation of networks of student leaders and youth clubs;
- Arts and sports as tools to address conflict in a non-violent way, to promote inter-community understanding and to raise-awareness about the dangers of sectarianism, extremism and radicalization;
- Media and social-media campaigns, video production for advocacy purposes and radio series to promote messages of tolerance and peace;
- Creative settings that facilitate intercultural dialogue, interfaith understanding, sharing of experiences and learning from each other in order to bring meaningful change to their society.