5. Allocating Urban Youth Funds (UN-HABITAT)
Donor agencies can play a lead role in demonstrating young people’s capabilities in allocating resources, enhancing the capacity and interest of local and national governments to address youth issues.
Young people and adults share joint responsibility on the advisory board to The UN-HABITAT Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-led Development. Established in 2009, the fund will award between USD $5,000 and $25,000 to organisations led by young people, aged 15 to 32 years, over two years (from the end of 2009), targeting youth-led initiatives in slums and squatter settlements that are in urgent need of financial support. The initial funding has been provided by the Norwegian Government.
- While many organisations partner with youth on various initiatives, few provide direct seed funding to youth organisations. UN-HABITAT recognises young people as active participants in the creation of sustainable human settlements.
- Today’s youth are already conceiving, designing and implementing successful community initiatives in some of the most marginalised regions of the world.
The special fund will support youth-led initiatives within the following areas:
- Mobilising young people to help strengthen youth-related policy formulation;
- Building the capacities of governments, nongovernmental and civil society and private sector organisations to ensure a better response to the needs and issues of young people;
- Supporting the development of interest-based information and communication-oriented networks;
- Piloting and demonstration of new and innovative approaches to employment, good governance, adequate shelter and secure tenure;
- Sharing and exchange of information on best practices;
- Facilitating vocational training and credit mechanisms to promote entrepreneurship and employment for young women and men, in collaboration with the private sector and in co-operation with other UN bodies and stakeholders;
- Promoting gender mainstreaming in all activities of urban youth.
Youth as partners
Shared decisions with adults: elected young people form the advisory board, reviewing applications and allocating funds.
Youth as leaders
Some grant recipients are youth-initiated and directed projects.
- During the 21st session of the Governing Council at the UN, UN-HABITAT’s executive director was called upon to set up a special fund to support youth-led urban development initiatives. The operational guidelines, structures and application guidelines for the Opportunities Fund were set up through the following processes:
- Consultation with global youth networks, and collaboration with the UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board;
- A review of the Opportunities Fund during the 2009 Dialogue on Investing in Youth-Led Development. This brought together more than 60 grant makers, researchers, practitioners and youth to discuss how to best support the initiative.
- A first call for applications (youth networks and media) was launched in March 2009. By June 2009 1,116 applications had been received from youth-led organisations in 86 countries.
- Eligibility checks isolated 315 eligible projects. A majority of applications failed due to not being youth-led, operating in rural areas, or not being related to the objectives of the fund. Quality assessment was conducted and applications were scored on ten criteria. Many applications scored weakly on the quality of project design and sustainability.
- More than 30% of shortlisted projects were from developing countries. An effort was made to include a balance of applications from different sub- regions, different size of grants and different categories of projects.
- The Youth Advisory Board is overseeing the fund. It comprises 12 advisors, two per UN-HABITAT region, and will include one youth observer (representing young people with disabilities). In addition, there will be two observer members: one youth representative from informal settlements; and one external advisor, appointed by UN-HABITAT. Advisory board members are elected at the World Urban Youth Assembly to serve for a two-year period.
- The overwhelming response to the Youth Opportunities Fund (over 13,000 application form and information downloads) is a strong demonstration of the scale of need among youth in the developing world for the resources to realise their potential.
- Processing applications thoroughly is time consuming. In the period from 1 June to 1 September 2009 the secretariat of the fund spent a total of 330 workdays on different tasks related to processing the applications. Consultants, interns and volunteers were successfully recruited to support this.
- It is crucial to conduct periodic reviews of youth boards (and the initiatives they oversee): such as in May 2009 which was conducted by a delegation including the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and USAID.
- Particular costs to consider: travel to the field to support the projects; training and capacity building; running a help desk for application processes.
- There are capacity barriers for small youth-led organisations in completing the application process for funding, these include lack of staff education, lack of access to adequate technology and lack of infrastructure or accreditation.
- There were fewer applications received from regions where English is not commonly spoken. It is critical that all information related to such funds be translated into relevant language groups in order to facilitate access for all youth.
For further information contact:
Partners and Youth Section UN-HABITAT, Nairobi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org