Main actors: The Development Community
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Some countries’ overseas development aid (ODA) agencies are very active in the youth field, providing funding, capacity building, and other forms of support through a variety of instruments and mechanisms. In addition, many have young people as a specific beneficiary group. Each agency defines the age range of young people it works with according to its own criteria, often referring to international sources for legitimation (e.g., the UN definition). In some cases, a regional approach has been taken. A good example of this is Southeastern Europe, whose young people were considered a key target group for post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation work by the wider ODA community. Many of the youth programs targeting Southeastern Europe work toward both national and regional objectives, using regional activities to complement those for specific countries. Both governmental development agencies and international nongovernmental development aid organizations increasingly work with young people in a dual perspective: young people are both the beneficiaries and key actors of development.
The following table presents some of the countries whose development agencies have important youth-related programming—whether centralized or regionalized.
It should be noted that in addition to centralized and larger scale programs of an educational or technical assistance nature implemented by governmental development aid agencies, small grants are often also available from the embassies and cultural institutes of key countries for small-scale youth initiatives locally. A good example of this approach was the MATRA program of the Netherlands that was active in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in response to that region’s transition to democracy. It provided multiyear small-scale funding for youth and other local civic initiatives. Later the program expanded its operation into Southeastern Europe.
More information on operational programmes and funding schemes for youth related activity is available in the Mapping of Donors Active in the International Youth Sector.
In the field of development, some characteristics and traditions dominate the way in which nongovernmental organizations have and continue to engage with youth. These include:
- a strong and usually dominating focus on children;
- origins in the principles of Christian charity as a result of long traditions of missionary work;
- a strong tradition in humanitarian action;
- and work with the voluntary commitment of young people from more developed regions.
Many of these NGOs developed strong practices of internal evaluation and have begun to engage in processes of strategic realignment toward an understanding of the purpose and relevance of youth policy development and more comprehensive and holistic ideas about childhood and youth development. Nevertheless, there tends to be a strong focus on younger youth—adolescents and young people up to about age 25. Often these NGOs are far ahead of their governmental and even intergovernmental counterparts in adopting innovative approaches and mainstreaming good practices. In specific country or regional contexts there have been interesting examples of cooperation and partnership among relevant development NGOs as well as among coalitions of NGOs and governmental and intergovernmental partners (the region of Southeastern Europe stands out as an example). Nevertheless, issues of the compatibility of specific objectives and mandates continue to be problematic for the success of such partnerships and have, in many cases, resulted in lack of cooperation, duplication of programming, and competition among NGOs themselves and between NGOs and intergovernmental organizations.
The following table includes some of the best-known, internationally organized and internationally active nongovernmental development aid organizations with programs that have young people as beneficiaries or as actors of development in the countries and regions where they are active.