UNDP’s Youth Volunteers Supporting Peace and Recovery in Darfur (YoVoReD) project was launched in 2012, and draws on previous UNDP success in microenterprise development. At its core, the project aims to address critical gaps for some of the 7.5 million people in Darfur, predominantly youth, who have had limited access to education and developmental opportunities after decades of conflict.
Success stories like Adam and Insaf’s are just two from the 579 youth volunteers (42% female) selected by UNDP across Darfur’s five states to receive comprehensive business training, mentoring and a microgrant to kickstart small businesses. The project trains youth volunteers in microenterprise development, microfinance, ‘green business’, natural resource management and peace-building.
When volunteers complete their month-long training, they are equipped and deployed to return to their home community for a nine month ‘deployment’ to share the skills and knowledge gained, with their community members. To date, over 46,000 Darfurians have been trained by YoVoReD-supported youth in business skills and environmental management. Through YoVoReD, UNDP has successfully nurtured a cohort of dedicated youth who act as community recovery and development trainees, agents of change and peace ambassadors in conflict-affected communities.
Apart from imparting training to community members, they also assist in community mobilization, support the formation of savings groups and link them to sources of credit and administration of microgrants to associations. Through microgrants, the project helped establish 448 community microenterprises, working with the communities to identify and prioritize critical projects for implementation with funding from UNDP.
One of the crucial aims of the project is to restore peace and social cohesion in the communities hosting volunteers. The Youth Volunteers therefore play additional role of agents of change, role models and peace ambassadors. They form environmental and peace clubs in schools and organize peace events including sports for peace and community dialogue forums.
YoVoReD gives employability a further boost through social enterprise promotion. The SMYOB Start-ups use the design thinking approach to solicit ideas, develop prototypes and allow applicants to pitch their business plans to a judging panel which selects finalists based on set financial, social and environmental criteria. Like the two cases above, over 240 social enterprises have so far been supported involving individuals or groups of 2-5 people receiving grants ranging from 10,00 to 100,000 Sudanese pounds. Until its fourth phase, as of December 2019, over a half (50.5%) of YoVoReD’s youth volunteers were formally employed or have established their own businesses.
YoVoReD is managed and implemented by UNDP as part of its Early Recovery Flagship- The Darfur Livelihoods and Recovery Programme (DLRP) which aims at strengthening the resilience and self-reliance of conflict-affected communities and vulnerable populations (including IDPs, Returnees, Women and the Youth) by restoring livelihood opportunities and ensuring peaceful co-existence.
In its fourth phase, the YoVoRed has been made possible thanks to generous financial support from the Republic of Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Government of Japan and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV).