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U.N. Alliance of Civilizations Stands by its Support for Youth-Led Projects

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 18 2014 (IPS) - In 2008 the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) established the Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) in a way to support young people through an international grants-making programme.
Seven years later, YSF continues its work by providing seed funding to youth led organizations that focus on fostering dialogue on cross cultural issues and bridging gaps between communities both locally and globally.

“We have funded over 40 projects across the globe and built strong relationships with these 40 youth organizations. We have provided them with training, networking opportunities and connections to media.” Isabelle Legare, Youth Manager for UNAOC told IPS.

By backing youth lead initiatives, YSF gives young people a seat at the table because they encourage them to speak their minds and address policy makers who will ultimately make decision that affect their future.

An interactive and grassroots inspired programme, YSF allows participants to create and submit projects that benefit 18 – 30 year olds with a “train the trainer” type of approach.
With the 40 projects that have been funded since its inception in 2008, the YSF has given out between 20,000 to 30,000 dollars to each project in hopes of promoting inclusion.
“The UNAOC supports projects that reach out to, and connect marginalized youth from different cultural and religious backgrounds as this helps foster broader and transformative engagement from all types of youth.” Legare said.

According to the fund, the cycle of support goes beyond financial backing and into perception. Young people may not always be the first individuals who come to mind when addressing world issues, but as far as YSF is concerned, they are key to peace building.

“The YSF changes the narrative regarding the link between youth and peace building. Too often, youth are portrayed as instigators of conflict or victims of conflict.” says Legare, adding that “the individual youth and the youth organizations involved in the YSF demonstrate that this generation is active in preventing conflicts, fostering reconciliation, building trust and understanding between communities.”

With the current demonstrations in Venezuela and tensions in the Ukraine, youth are believed to be the first to respond and the first to voice their opinions, allowing them easily become incubators for change.

Funding projects that support capacity building, strengthen cultural understanding and mobilize discussions to bring about peace are important concepts for the YSF. A partnership with the UNAOC that is epitomized in the success of their programme.

Legare offers this insight: “This approach is a full recognition of the fact that young people are trailblazers when it comes to advancing the mission of the UNAOC.”

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