The main objectives of UNAOC’s programme activities are to facilitate the global conversation on the challenges and opportunities for living in a landscape of diversity in our age of global communication and exchanges; prevent intercultural tensions and crises; combat stereotypes, misperceptions, discrimination and xenophobia; and support innovative grassroots initiatives that contribute to intercultural dialogue and understanding, mutual respect and cooperation across divides.
Youth Solidarity Fund
The Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) provides seed funding to youth-led organizations that propose projects with innovative and effective approaches to intercultural and interfaith dialogue. The funded initiatives are youth-led and youth-focused but have an impact on entire communities. The Fund also links small scale and local work to larger movements for social and global change, to promote peacebuilding as well as to influence policymaking. In addition to the funding, UNAOC offers technical support and capacity- building to YSF recipient organizations and, when needed, assists with advocacy, financial management, media relations, networking, monitoring, evaluation, and sustainability.
The Fellowship Programme promotes intercultural and interfaith understanding by engaging young civil society leaders from Europe, North America (EUNA), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Organized around two-week exchange trips between EUNA and MENA countries, the Fellowship Programme sends participants from each geographic area to their counterparts’ region. The initiative aims at challenging perceptions and deconstructing stereotypes. Throughout their journey, UNAOC Fellows interact with a wide range of local stakeholders. Together, they explore opportunities for intercultural collaboration and exchange ideas and good practices on how to address current global challenges. Each year, UNAOC chooses a different theme for the Fellowship programme that reflects the priorities of the United Nations Secretary-General.
Young Peacebuilders is a peace education initiative that is designed to support young people in gaining skills that can enhance their positive role in issues of peace and security and in preventing violent conflict. It also brings visibility to actions initiated by young people towards peace and the promotion of diversity and dialogue. UNAOC intends to implement this programme in different regions of the world to grow and strengthen the global movement of young peacebuilders, with the goal of integrating them in governmental peace processes and policies.
Intercultural Innovation Award
The Intercultural Innovation Award (IIA) is a global venture in partnership with BMW Group. IIA recognizes and supports the most innovative grassroots projects encouraging intercultural dialogue and cooperation around the world. Recipients receive a monetary grant and one year of mentoring support from UNAOC and BMW Group to help their projects expand and replicate. This model of collaboration between the United Nations system and the private sector creates a stronger impact, as both partners provide their respective expertise to ensure the sustainable growth of each project.
Intercultural Leaders & Alumni Engagement
Recognizing the role of alumni in the implementation of its mandate and broader outreach, UNAOC created Intercultural Leaders in partnership with BMW Group, an exclusive skill and knowledge-sharing web platform, where over 600 alumni of UNAOC programmes and projects, professionals from partner organizations, and a group of mentors collaborate by exchanging knowledge, best practices, and expertise on addressing cross-cultural tensions. By providing this platform to facilitate networking and relationship building, UNAOC is able to assist its alumni in developing increased capacity to sustain their work. Promoting the values that underpin Intercultural Leaders also enhances UNAOC’s role as a convener, catalyst, and thought leader.
UNAOC’s #SpreadNoHate initiative aims at preventing and countering hate speech and the negative portrayal of migrants and refugees in traditional and new media. Since its launch in late 2015, the initiative has promoted constructive dialogue on hate speech among media professionals, academia, and relevant NGOs, and allowed them to share best practices in preventing and countering hate speech in the media. To date, UNAOC has organized five international #SpreadNoHate Symposia at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, as well as in Baku, Azerbaijan, in Brussels, Belgium, in partnership with the European Union, and Cairo, Egypt. The #SpreadNoHate initiative also consists of an ongoing social media campaign that has consistently topped Twitter trends and comprehensive reports with recommendations.
PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival
PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival is a joint initiative of UNAOC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Festival invites the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on pressing social issues, including migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia. By supporting the global distribution of youth-produced media, PLURAL+ recognizes youth as powerful agents of positive social change in a world often characterized by intolerance and cultural divisions. With increasing interest and participation each year since 2009, PLURAL+ has become a premier global platform for youth media distribution.
Initially designed with UNDP as a contest for digital games facilitating inter-cultural dialogue and violence prevention, PEACEapp developed into a series of hands-on workshops with young refugees focusing on the creation of video game apps for use on smart devices. PEACEapp creates a platform for mobile technologies to support creative forms of storytelling and digital narratives. The workshops and apps development also aim to connect young refugees to peers while building awareness about their situation and aspirations.
Engagement with Religious Leaders
In resolution 69/312, the General Assembly recognized the critical role of UNAOC in promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue within the United Nations system. UNAOC works actively with religious leaders and faith-based organizations in three key areas: advocacy, capacity building, and knowledge management. Since 2013, UNAOC has organized or co-organized numerous events involving religious leaders and faith-based organizations, creating a global platform to discuss the best ways to advance the use of interreligious dialogue. UNAOC is also an active member and participant in inter-agency bodies, most notably, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development (UNWPF).
While active on a number of cross-cutting issues, UNAOC works mainly in four priority areas to which it brings a multidisciplinary and multi-perspective approach: Youth, Education, Media, and Migration. The four pillars of UNAOC provide an essential organizing structure for the development and implementation of its various programmes and initiatives, which all play a critical role in reducing cross-cultural tensions and building bridges between communities globally.