All major international agencies and private foundations have long established specific schemes to support youth initiatives in the civil society.
Since 1981, the United Nations provide grants of seed money to organisations working with youth through the Youth Fund. More recently, in 2011, UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon highlighted the importance of investing in the youth because young generations are “the initiators of driving change” (Department of Public Information-NGO, March 2011). As a result, he facilitated the creation of new opportunities for young people willing to get involved in civil society. For instance, since 2009, youth representatives participate in the annual DPI/NGO Conference and young people are proactively asked to collaborate with the United Nations to draft policy guidelines capable of improving their position in the social, political, and economic life of communities worldwide.
In order to gain valuable information about the vision for youth in the United Nations, it is important to constantly monitor the activities of the Youth Social Policy and Development Division and the guidelines published by the World Programme of Action for Youth. Here you will find documents, reports, and discussions concerning ways in which the UN set areas of priority for action in relation to youth empowerment. This information should be gathered and engaged with in order to draft any proposals involving youth participation or addressing the problems facing young people.
The Youth Social Policy and Development Division (DSPD) is the branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, whose aim is to strengthen international cooperation for social development specifically addressing the youth. The division monitors national and global socio-economic trends, singles out pressing issues, and promotes norms to develop policies, programmes and implement sound action plans. The two aims of the Division are to promote the rights and aspirations of young people and to enhance youth participation in decision-making as a way to promote peace and development. In 1995, The Division elaborated the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), which provides guidelines for the national and international support of youth sectors. The guidelines could be downloaded from their website.
It is important to read and understand these guidelines in order to assess whether your project fits into the main priority areas of the UN, and to start understanding how to structure a potential proposal to be submitted to one of the UN agencies.
If your organisation is looking for funding, you should familiarise with the main schemes promoted by the UN, such as:
- The UN-Habitat Youth Fund, which promotes poverty reduction and urban sustainability. It provides grants of up to $25,000 for projects in youth-led development. Applications shall be written by young people who are based in cities or towns in developing countries. More information and calls for proposals are advertised by UN-Habitat here.
- The Youth Solidarity Fund is sponsored by the UN Alliance of Civilizations and supports youth-led initiatives that build relationships between people of different ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds. The Fund, in partnership with the BMW Group, offers an annual award for the most innovative grassroots projects that encourage intercultural exchange around the world. Relevant information can be found here.
- UNESCO administers 2 funds: the International Fund for Cultural Diversity and the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture. These are not specifically for Youth, but call for proposals emphasising the need to involve youth in the design and development of projects. Proposals are accepted on an annual basis. Due to the large number of proposals submitted, it can take up to 6 months to receive the results of an application. As such, you should plan in advance to submit a proposal. Projects can last up to 12 months and they could be developed by a single organisation or in collaboration with others. These are large grants, which are administered by experienced NGOs with a verifiable history of successfully implemented projects. More information can be found here.
- The European Union established the Youth in Action project, which targets young people aged between 13 and 30, resident in one of the Programme or Partner countries. The Youth Action Project serves as an umbrella for a variety of grants and awards often targeting very specific problems or geographical areas. The applicants could be working in an established NGO, in an informal group, or in a profit-making organisation. Youth from almost all countries in the world are eligible to participate, although specific calls might restrict the geographical target of the grants. More information can be found here.