Press Release: WHO-BACKED GLOBAL YOUTH MOBILIZATION INVESTED IN AND EMPOWERED YOUNG PEOPLE TO DELIVER HELP TO MILLIONS ACROSS THE WORLD

  • Over 3.6m have benefitted from projects in over 125 countries delivered through a radical new initiative led by the world’s six largest youth organizations and supported by the World Health Organization and United Nations Foundation.
  • Global Youth Mobilization is now seeking $15m (£11.3m) to continue the scheme over the next 3 years, with young people deciding which schemes will be funded.
  • Global Youth Mobilization has been backed by UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA, European Commission, Salesforce, FIFA and Heads of State and Governments from around the world.

A global movement that funds youth-led community projects across the world is aiming to expand its efforts. Led and implemented by young people across the world, Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) has been operational since December 2020 and already invested in schemes in 125 countries, with young people tackling issues such as the mental health of young people fleeing the war in Ukraine to child victims of sexual abuse in Zambia. Now they are seeking a further $15m over the next three years to expand the initiative.

Hundreds of millions of young people had to put their lives on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 90 per cent of young people reported increased mental anxiety during the pandemic; more than one billion students in almost every country were impacted by school closures; 80 per cent of young women said they were worried about their future; and one in six young people worldwide lost their jobs during the pandemic.[1]

The first phase of GYM gave financial support and guidance to 654 projects led by over 73,000 young people in over 125 countries across the world. Supported by the World Health Organization, COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the United Nations Foundation, the GYM invested much needed funds in youth-led initiatives and national Big Six organizations to support the pandemic response and recovery efforts.[2]

GYM by-passed traditional funding and support streams to invest directly in young people and community grassroots organizations anywhere in the world. A world first at this scale and level of ambition, young people and community organizations were able to apply for funding via one centralised platform, available in multiple languages. These local solutions were judged and decided on by young people, for young people.

After the first phase of the campaign, the youth-led GYM programme found the young people were making major improvements to the way community schemes were delivered because they designed solutions that met important local needs, avoided “top-down” solutions and allowed those working on them to also benefit from the experience of managing the schemes instead of simply being told what to do.

The projects sought to tackle a global crisis in education that has worsened since the pandemic, rising unemployment, a mental health crisis, and increased domestic and gender-based violence, in particular for young women and girls, and for under-represented and marginalized communities.

The GYM was backed by $5m of funding, with micro-grants being made available to young people around the world in four tiers, from $500 through to $5,000 and an ‘accelerator’ program that scaled and replicated the most promising solutions:

Now the Big 6 are looking to expand and build on these successes. They are seeking funding and further support enabling people to mobilise, lead and implement solutions to issues in their local communities through to the world’s biggest challenges. All aspects of the initiative will continue to be youth-led – from the governance to the decision-making of where funding is allocated, and the overall design of the initiative.

Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General, World YMCA and GYM Board Member, commented:

We have seen that young people must be involved at the highest level of decision making and trusted to develop solutions. By enabling and trusting them to deliver projects on the ground, young people have made a real difference to their local communities, as well as creating a collaborative network that can make an impact in the future as they learn from each other.

“Global Youth Mobilization has shown it can be a model for grassroot community action across the world and has clear potential to continue making a significant contribution to the development of young people.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said:

“WHO is proud to support the Global Youth Mobilization to engage, empower and equip young people as a driving force in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This unique initiative demonstrates the catalytic potential of a youth-led model for leadership, decision-making and localized solutions. WHO remains committed to continuing to work with the Global Youth Mobilization and we encourage other partners to join the next phase of the initiative and invest in the health and well-being of future generations.”

GYM Youth Board Representative Tharindra Arumapperuma commented:

“Being involved with GYM enabled me to actively contribute to help other young people across the world. At the time of the Pandemic, when most of us felt lost and hopeless with the uncertainty, GYM created a stage for us young people to connect and have a remarkable impact to help create resilient communities.

“We worked together to decide which schemes to fund, how to collaborate and unify people across the world, valuing regional perspectives and intergenerational collaboration with the CEOs of the organisations supporting GYM. Our priorities were topics such as the need to tackle education disruption and to help create safer communities.

“Witnessing the innovation, resilience, entrepreneurial mindset and unified strength of us young people, has created a sense of urgency within me to continuously advocate for youth development to create a sustainable impact through GYM 2.0.”

Examples of GYM schemes

Poland: The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association implemented a project to build psychological support for young people, directly helping almost 1,500 people. The programme focussed on training young girls, boys, women and men to gain increased confidence in openness and awareness by highlight the importance and benefits of mental health for their communities when working in the field.

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, the project adjusted its focus and actions to provide support to volunteers engaged in relief efforts. Scouting for Balance created and provided a toolkit entitled, “How to Talk with Children About the War”, to help volunteers converse with young people on the impact and strain of the war. The project also provided mental health support to volunteers assisting refugees living in Poland.

Zambia: One in three women across the world experience physical or sexual violence and GYM supported over 100 projects to tackle this issue. In Zambia a project established by Barbara Siaghikole sought to reduce rising cases of child pregnancy.

Ending Girl Child Pregnancy formed girls-only clubs in schools, colleges and religious centres to provide girls with safe spaces, particularly at the height of the pandemic, to continue with their education and join leadership and life skills training which led to 10 girls becoming ambassadors to champion their community in the fight against child pregnancy. The project also established 10 community support group centres for girls and vulnerable young women to access information on sexual and reproductive health, early marriages, pregnancies, STIs and other empowerment services at no charge.

Project lead Barbara Siaghikole said: “Through the information and advocacy we had done in the community on ending child pregnancy, the community members have changed their mindset and perceptions.”

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For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Global Youth Mobilization – GYMGD@mhpgroup.com

About the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM)

A full report of the first two-years of Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) can be found here.

GYM is a movement of young people taking action to improve their lives now and in a post-COVID-19 world. There are an estimated 1.2 billion young people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic response measures. Disruptions to education, employment, services and social support have changed the future of an entire generation.

Supported by the world’s largest global youth organisations, World Health Organization, and United Nations Foundation, Global Youth Mobilization aims to address the negative impact of the pandemic on young people and support them to build back better. 

For the first time ever at this scale, an alliance of the Big 6 Youth Organizations are coming together around a Global Youth Mobilization to shine a spotlight on young people whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic.

Formed in 1996, the Big 6 Youth Organizations are an alliance of leading international youth-serving organizations. The Big 6 comprises the five largest youth movements in the world: World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and a leading programme for youth development, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (The Award).

Social Handles

Further resources and information


[1]Young People Championing Post-Pandemic Futures: Policy Recommendations from the Big 6 Youth Organizations https://globalyouthmobilization.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Final-Young-People-Championing-Post-Pandemic-Futures.pdf

[2] Final impact report. Unstoppable Together: celebrating 2 years of youth-led global action https://globalyouthmobilization.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/GYM-Final-Report-2023.pdf

Latest news

The European Commission and the world’s largest youth organizations, the “Big Six”, announced a partnership today to launch the EU Youth Empowerment Fund, to be implemented through the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM). It marks the first anniversary of the Youth Action Plan for EU External Action, the EU’s policy framework for a strategic partnership with young people to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.
The European Commission and the world’s largest youth organizations, the “Big Six”, announced a partnership today to launch the EU Youth Empowerment Fund, to be implemented through the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM). It marks the first anniversary of the Youth Action Plan for EU External Action, the EU’s policy framework for a strategic partnership with young people to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.
A global movement that funds youth-led community projects across the world is aiming to expand its efforts. Led and implemented by young people across the world, Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) has been operational since December 2020 and already invested in schemes in 125 countries, with young people tackling issues such as the mental health of young people fleeing the war in Ukraine to child victims of sexual abuse in Zambia. Now they are seeking a further $15m over the next three years to expand the initiative.