Youth-led organizations working to improve urban living conditions in developing countries can now seek financing for their projects through a new UN-HABITAT fund provided by Norway. Launched on 25 March, the Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-led Development will award between US$5,000 and US$25,000 to organizations led by young people, aged 15-32 years.
“In this time of worldwide economic crisis, it is not only banks and automakers who deserve financial support. We also need to encourage youth who are often best placed to solve problems in their communities,” Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said. “The Opportunities Fund is designed to provide financial support of up to one million dollars per year, to youth-led initiatives aimed at sustainable urbanization. We must harness the energies of the young if we are to overcome the problems of urban poverty.”
Of the 1 billion slum dwellers in the world today, it is estimated that more than 70% are under the age of 30 most without the resources to improve their own living environment. This is a major oversight as there are many youth-led initiatives in slums and squatter settlements that are in urgent need of financial support, UN-HABITAT stresses.
The Fund, established with support from the Norwegian Government, provides for an initial grant US$ 2 million over two years with a possibility of renewal depending on gains made.
The idea is to help young people help uplift themselves and their communities by making them take on some of the responsibilities for improvement projects and learn how to work with adult experts.
Young people, especially girls and young women, are most vulnerable to social problems caused by unemployment and poverty and thus advance the Millennium Development Goals. With over 200 million youth around the world living in poverty, 130 million illiterate, 88 million unemployed and 10 million young people living with HIV/AIDS, there is a clear need to meaningfully engage and support them.
Innovative employment, governance, and secure shelter top the list of priorities for the Fund along with vocational training. It also promotes entrepreneurship, and places a special emphasis on ideas that meet women’s concerns and improve their welfare. The Fund will help governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations address and gain a better understanding of youth priorities and promote information sharing.
Currently in its pilot phase, the Fund will be managed by a committee of experts who will oversee grants of up to US$ 25,000 each. Applications forms and guidelines will be available shortly on the UN-HABITAT website. Further information is available online.
This article is also available in French.