New solidarity initiative will provide volunteering opportunities across Europe

Mariam, 5, receives physiotherapy by a staff from Handicap International in Lebanon's Bekaa valley. The European Solidarity Corps is a new European Union initiative which creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects involving working with refugees, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Photo by: Peter Biro / EU / ECHO / CC BY-ND

The recently launched European Solidarity Corps could offer valuable life and work experience for young people interested in a career in global development. The initiative, launched by the European Commission, will bring together participants from different backgrounds to contribute to projects across the EU member states.

Partnering with NGOs, local organizations and civil actors, the ESC plans to roll out projects addressing a wide range of challenges — from disaster preparedness to social issues.

“This can be a positive experience for young people, it can help them in a future career,” European Commission Spokesperson for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management Carlos Martin shared with Devex, emphasizing the diversity of opportunities available. “It has a very wide scope — it could be civil protection, risk prevention, education, health. There are many fields.”

While the initiative is not specifically focused on global development or humanitarian aid, some projects will involve working with refugees, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. This type of hands-on experience could be particularly valuable for anyone interested in global development, working with socially excluded groups and improving equality around the world.

“Having experience working with refugees, people with disabilities, immigrants, people with social exclusion issues, this can provide practical knowledge,” said Martin, adding that it could be an enriching experience for those interested in civil protection, development or humanitarian work.

At the launch of the ESC initiative, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that he wanted to see 100,000 young Europeans involved in the project by 2020. The response so far has reportedly been very positive and it is hoped that projects will be up and running by June 2017. Although specific projects and partners have yet to be announced, participants can currently express an interest to work on a range of areas, including environmental issues, health and well-being, creativity and culture, and the reception and integration of refugees.

The initiative is open to European citizens or legal residents ages 18-30 and aims to engage a wide range of profiles, from recent graduates to experienced professionals. While the primary aim of the ESC is to promote solidarity, the initiative is also intended to give young people a chance to contribute to society while developing skills that could help them find work, said Martin.

Funded largely by the EU, an allowance is to be provided to volunteers during their placements, which can last between 2-12 months, and some occupational paid positions will be available. Participants can express areas of particular interest, experience and knowledge, allowing them to build upon existing skills while contributing to a cause they are passionate about. Outlining his vision for the ESC, President Juncker had cited the current refugee crisis in Europe and the recent damage done by the earthquake in Italy as examples of situations where young people could make a difference.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the European Solidarity Corps can find out more and sign up through the EU youth website. 

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About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.