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Regional Youth Funding in Europe

There are two main institutional actors working in support of young people and providing financial support for the European youth sector. These are the Council of Europe and the European Union. Other institutions, such as the OSCE and UNDP have smaller, usually operational, programs of support, but only exceptionally engage in grant-making.



The CoE wants to encourage young people to get actively involved in strengthening civil society in Europe; to defend the values of human rights, cultural diversity, and social cohesion; and to promote and develop youth policies. Its work in the field of youth involves all members of the European Cultural Convention, 48 countries in 2009. That year the CoE had approximately 2,238 staff members in five operational centers: Strasbourg (headquarters), Brussels, Budapest, Graz, and Lisbon. The CoE’s operational programs for youth are implemented by the Directorate of Youth and Sport. The CoE’s grant-making in the field of youth is organized through its mai funding mechanism called the European Youth Foundation. The following are departments or functional units of the CoE with some form of responsibility for youth:

Directorate of Youth and Sport (DYS)


The DYS supports the development of youth associations, networks, and initiatives, and promotes international cooperation in the youth field. It operates on a system of co-management that involves representatives from the International Non-Governmental Youth Organizations cooperating with government officials to work out the priorities for the youth sector. The DYS organizes the Conferences of European Ministers responsible for youth. The DYS’s priorities are human rights education and intercultural dialogue, youth participation and democratic citizenship, social cohesion and inclusion of young people, and youth policy development. These priorities are pursued through various activities, including training courses, study sessions, intercultural language courses, seminars, expert meetings and research, publications, and advice on youth policy development.


Budget for 2010 is available at:


Program and Budget for 2011 is available here.

The program and activities can also be accessed through a search engine:


European Youth Centers (EYCs), Budapest and Strasbourg

Budapest: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/eycb/default_EN.asp and
Strasbourg: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/EYC/Strasbourg_en.asp

The EYCs in Strasbourg and Budapest are permanent structures for the implementation of the CoE’s youth policy. They are international training and meeting centers with residential facilities, hosting most of the youth sector’s activities. They provide a flexible and modern working environment for international activities, with meeting rooms equipped for simultaneous translation, information centers, and audio-visual and computer facilities. The EYC Strasbourg was founded in 1972 with financial support from the Norwegian government. It hosts the European Youth Foundation. The EYC Budapest was set up and inaugurated in 1995 as the CoE’s first permanent service in a Central and East European country. Its premises were placed at the disposal of the CoE by the Republic of Hungary. The EYCs run an annual program of up to 50 activities in close cooperation with nongovernmental youth organizations. The program of activities is co-decided upon in a system of decision making called co-management, which involves equal numbers of youth organizations and governments. The co-management system also decides on the thematic priorities, which the program addresses through its centralized activities. Both EYCs earn part of their operational income from so-called self-financed activities. These are activities that pay for the use of the facilities, but must be organized by institutions or organizations that subscribe through their activities to the broad mission of the CoE and to its values. The proportion of self-financing is extensive—up to one-third of income.

The European Youth Foundation (EYF)


The EYF is a fund established in 1972 by the CoE to provide financial support for European youth activities. It has an annual budget of approximately €3 million, made up of contributions provided by the member states of the Council of Europe. The financial information of the budget of the EYF for 2010 can be consulted at this website: http://www.coe.int/aboutcoe/index.asp?page=budget

Since 1972, more than 300,000 young people, ages 15 to 30, mostly from CoE member states, have benefited directly from EYF-supported activities. The EYF provides financial support for:

  • activities undertaken by nongovernmental youth organizations or networks, or other nongovernmental structures involved in areas of youth work such as educational, social, cultural, and humanitarian activities of a European character;
  • activities aiming at strengthening peace and cooperation in Europe;
  • activities designed to promote closer cooperation and better understanding among young people in Europe, particularly by developing the exchange of information;
  • activities intended to stimulate mutual aid in Europe and in the developing countries for cultural, educational, and social purposes;
  • studies, research, and documentation on youth matters;
  • administrative grants to international youth organizations. This financial support allows international nongovernmental youth organizations to maintain a permanent secretariat.

Grant-Making in the different categories of funding available is broken down as follows: Grants for youth meetings, Administrative grants to youth organizations, Other grants, Miscellaneous and unforeseen expenditures, Grants financed by voluntary contributions from governments.

North–South Center for Global Interdependence


The North–South Center, supported by the Portuguese government, was opened in 1989 after a five-year process to raise the profile of North–South interdependence issues inside and outside the CoE. In relation to youth, its goal is to provide training and capacity building for young people and youth organizations as well as to facilitate policy action on youth in development policies, thus reinforcing the role of youth as a fundamental force in the field of North–South interdependence. The center runs a variety of activities to further this objective, including: the University on Youth and Development, the Global Youth Training Course, the Africa–Europe Youth Summit, the Africa–Europe Training Course for Youth Organizations, and participation in the Euro–Med Youth Covenant. The center is also active in the development and enhancement of strategies and capacity building for global education, targeting institutions and practitioners in the field of global education in the formal and non-formal sectors.

The Solidarity Fund for Youth Mobility (SFYM)


The CoE and the International Union of Railways (UIC) joined forces in 1994 to set up SFYM, which supports the mobility of disadvantaged young people. For every InterRail Card sold, €1 is donated by the UIC to fund projects involving Europe’s least advantaged young people. The fund provides financial support to cover the rail travel costs of young people from underprivileged backgrounds or economically underdeveloped areas so that they can take part in international educational activities. To qualify for assistance, projects must involve at least two countries and a minimum of ten people.

MODUS OPERANDI: Applications to both the European Youth Foundation and the SFYM are managed centrally from the offices of the EYF at the European Youth Center in Strasbourg. For the EYF, there are two deadlines per year for activities taking place in the first and second halves of the following year. For the Solidarity Fund, applications can be made on a rolling basis, either before or after the activity has taken place. Applications can be made and tracked online. EYF staff provides, to the extent possible, consultancy and advice to applicants and, for the purposes of monitoring and evaluation, project visits are occasionally conducted.

Operational Programs for Youth: In addition, the CoE has several important operational programs supporting young people, youth organizations, and the development of the youth sector, focusing on non-formal education and training, and working through youth organizations and multipliers (voluntary youth leaders, youth workers, etc.) to reach a large number of young people. These programs are organized centrally, using in-house educational staff and the institution’s own residential centers, called European Youth Centers.



The EU’s youth policies aim to meet young people’s changing expectations while encouraging them to contribute to society. The EU framework for youth policy is now composed of three main courses of action: encouraging young people’s active citizenship, promoting social and occupational integration of young people, and including a youth dimension in other policies. In addition, the EU also contributes to the development of youth mobility and the recognition of their non-formal learning experiences. Beyond its operational program, the EU has a single integrated grant-making program for funding youth activity, inside the EU, across the wider Europe and further afield: the Youth in Action (YiA) program.

The Youth in Action Program (YiA)


YiA is the EU program for young people ages 15 to 28 (in some cases 13 to 30). It was adopted in 2006 by the European Parliament and the Council under Decision No. 1719/2006/EC. YiA aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, solidarity, and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them in shaping the EU’s future. It promotes mobility within and beyond EU borders and non-formal learning and intercultural dialogue. It also encourages the inclusion of all young people, regardless of their educational, social, and cultural background; and aims to respond to the evolution and needs of young people in Europe. A list of thematic areas covered by YiA can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/youth/sharing-experience/experience1291_en.htm.

The YiA program has four permanent priorities and additional annual priorities, the inclusion of which is key to securing funding from the organization:

  • European Citizenship: A key goal of the program is to raise awareness in young people that they are citizens of Europe, as well as citizens of their own countries. The aim is to get youth actively involved in shaping the future of the EU. Projects must show a strong European dimension if they are to receive program backing.
  • Participation of Young People: YiA promotes and supports young people’s involvement in democratic life, spurring them on to be active citizens who care about their communities and understand the value of representative democracy.
  • Cultural Diversity: Respect for people’s cultural origins is at the heart of the YiA program, as is the desire to fight against racism and xenophobia—forces that undermine European values and people’s solidarity.
  • Inclusion: The focus is on ensuring that young people with fewer opportunities get access to the YiA program, as well as on encouraging projects that focus on inclusion.

In addition to these permanent priorities, each year the focus is also placed on specific annual priorities.

The program is structured around five actions:

  • Action 1—Youth for Europe: encourages young people’s active citizenship, participation, and creativity through youth exchanges, youth initiatives, and youth democracy projects. Pilot projects on thematic networking can also be supported as a means to better structure projects of a similar nature, to pool experiences in a specific thematic field, and to increase the visibility of project results.
  • Action 2—European Voluntary Service: helps young people to develop their sense of solidarity by participating, either individually or in groups, in nonprofit, unpaid voluntary activities abroad.
  • Action 3—Youth in the World: promotes partnerships and exchanges among young people and youth organizations across the world. Some restrictions apply to this action, in that youth organizations and youth groups in YiA program countries have to initiate projects and partnerships. Youth organizations and groups based in non-program countries cannot initiate projects nor partner with others independently of YiA program country organizations.
  • Action 4—Youth Support Systems: includes various measures to support youth workers and youth organizations and to improve the quality of their activities. Under this action, the EU provides financial support to NGOs active at the European level in the field of youth and to the European Youth Forum. European Youth NGOs based in one of the program countries with members in at least eight program countries may receive support to cover part of their operating costs. This is an important aspect of financing the international youth sector, as many international nongovernment youth organizations with global reach choose to have their operational base in Europe (or rather in a YiA program country) because of the availability of operating grants for maintaining a secretariat.
  • Action 5—Support for European Cooperation in the Youth Field: supports youth policy cooperation at the European level, in particular by facilitating dialogue between young people and policymakers. This action is only partially comprised of grant-making. It provides co-funding grants can be provided for setting up meetings between young people and those responsible for youth policy. The other areas of work within this action are operational, and provide resources for the Open Method of Coordination (a mechanism for consultative decision making on policy) and for cooperation with other international organizations active in the youth field in Europe and beyond (notably the Council of Europe, through the partnership agreement between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth).

To review examples of projects funded by YiA, go to http://ec.europa.eu/youth/sharing-experience/all_experiences_en.htm.

Youth in Action in Figures

Duration: 2007 to 2013

Budget: 885 million Euro for seven years

Geographic reach: EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, the EU neighbors (Eastern Europe and Caucasus, the Mediterranean region, Southeastern Europe), and other partner countries in the world.

Age range: 13 to 30

MODUS OPERANDI: Most YiA grant-making is decentralized through national agencies. These are executive bodies responsible for the implementation of the program in the YiA program countries. The national agencies form a competence network that provides support to the youth organizations and groups that use the program. National agencies are allocated budgets from the overall budget of the YiA program. They can in certain circumstances raise additional funds for their own projects, usually from relevant ministries in the country where they operate. In addition, the SALTO network (Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities within the European YOUTH program) provides additional competence development support to the national agencies and the youth organizations using YiA. YiA also launches special calls for proposals—often in the area of support measures (Action 4) and in the area of youth policy development (Action 5). These are usually managed centrally and applications are therefore received and assessed by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

National Agencies: http://ec.europa.eu/youth/youth/contacts_en.htm?cs_mid=152

SALTO: http://www.salto-youth.net/about/

Executive Agency: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/youth/index_en.php