Mercy Corps is a leading global humanitarian organization whose mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Working in more than 40 countries around the world, Mercy Corps engages key stakeholders for lasting change, working with private, public, and civil society actors with a focus on ensuring accountability, facilitating inclusive participation and fostering the development of mechanisms for peaceful change.

Today half of the 1.4 billion people living in countries affected by crises and fragility are under the age of 20. Many of these young people are among the first to step up to help their communities rebuild. However, too often, their unique needs are not specifically addressed in humanitarian responses, and their energy, leadership, knowledge and creativity is not tapped into to maximize the efforts’ impact. Young women are particularly at risk. In fact, during humanitarian crises, being young and female is one of the greatest risk factors for violence and death.

This Capstone Workshop worked directly with Mercy Corps Youth, Gender and Girls (Y2G) Team within the Technical Support Unit as well as country and project staff in Nepal.  The Y2G team has been the point of contact for engagement with the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action that is developing the Guidelines for Programming for and with Young People.  The Compact is an unprecedented and collective commitment of key actors to ensure that the priorities, needs and rights of young women and young men, girls and boys affected by disaster, conflict, forced displacement and other humanitarian crises, are addressed, and that they are informed, consulted, and meaningfully engaged throughout all stages of humanitarian action. The signatories to the compact commit to not only specifically fund, research and address youth’s needs in crisis settings, but also, to ensure they are part of designing and leading those responses.  

As with other global recommendations, the Guidelines are only so helpful until they are practically translated into the specific context of the humanitarian setting at hand. Mercy Corps is one of the first to implement the Guidelines in the field and has chosen Nepal as its test case for their application. Nepal’s geography and climate make it vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, landslides, fires, droughts, avalanches, and earthquakes. The Nepali government’s National Youth Strategy 2015 and the Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Plan of Action 2018-2030 are indicative of a movement in legislation towards formally incorporating young people in disaster policies. However, there is still very little formal youth representation within the government.

The Capstone team began their work by completing a thorough literature review over the winter break and developed the methodology and workplan at the outset of the project.  Next, the team completed a comprehensive landscape analysis of youth organizations and humanitarian actors in operation in Nepal to understand what is already in place and where opportunities for collaboration could be developed. During the spring break, the team traveled to Nepal to conduct over twenty key informant interviews and held several focus groups with young people connected to the youth led organizations, Restless Development and Generation Amazing.  The team also facilitated a day-long workshop with key humanitarian and youth organizations to understand the specific needs of this demographic in times of crisis and also to identify the unique ways in which young people could be deployed in a humanitarian response to provide lifesaving assistance to their communities.  Upon return, the team developed a report, presentation and brief documentary of their findings and recommendations.