The U.S. Institute of Peace and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have joined to strengthen the abilities of youth leaders to build peace in the world’s most violent regions. In October 2019, USIP and the Dalai Lama hosted a fourth annual dialogue with youth peacebuilders drawn from countries across the globe. Many of these countries face the world’s deadliest wars, as well as campaigns by extremist groups to incite youth to violence. These leaders are among their countries’ most effective peacebuilders. The dialogue with the Dalai Lama helped them to build the personal resilience they need to work against the tensions or violence in their homelands.

We are now accepting applications for the 2020 exchange with the Dalai Lama. Find details and apply here.

The Problem

The world’s most violent conflicts are being fought within its most youthful populations. In the five countries that suffered nearly 80 percent of recent deaths from violent extremism (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria), half of all people are younger than 22. It is the youth of such countries that ISIS, al-Shabab and other extremist groups recruit for violence via the internet, social media and religious messengers. Breaking this pattern requires leadership from within the younger generations being targeted—a principle increasingly recognized by the international community, including the United Nations Security Council in 2015. These youth peacebuilders often face powerful forces driving conflicts in their countries toward violence, and they even may face threats of suppression or violence.

The Project

Few world leaders can understand these youth peacebuilders’ experiences as fully as His Holiness, who at age 15 was thrust into the leadership of his people as they faced the traumas of war. Like some of the participants, he fled his country as a refugee and has lived for years in exile.

In Dharamsala, the youth leaders shared their experiences and ideas on improving their communities’ abilities to manage conflict nonviolently, notably by drawing on human values of compassion and their communities’ own resources. They held dialogues with the Dalai Lama on ways to build inner strength for their work. They also conducted exchanges with local youth and were trained in prejudice reduction, leadership, and conflict management.

In 2016, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson called the dialogue in Dharamsala "a singular event." It expands the effectiveness of the participants as they work to transform conflicts at home into peaceful change. It provides a platform for greater international advocacy of youth priorities in peace and security. It expands the global impact of youth peace leaders and of USIP’s community of Generation Change Fellows.

USIP Youth Exchange with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Youth Peace Leaders

Participants in this program, in their 20s and early 30s, are young peacebuilders. Many have faced war or been uprooted by it. Some have lost friends or family to bloodshed; others have lived in exile as refugees. Out of a commitment to ending or averting violence in their countries, these leaders have founded or guided projects that build bridges across social divides—whether between tribes, religious groups or genders. Their work includes mediating conflicts and training others to do so; helping refugee communities; and documenting human rights violations and war crimes.​​​​

Listen to a one-hour radio special about the program recorded on location in Dharamsala, India, produced by America Abroad/PRI: "Outer strife, inner peace: Lessons from the Dalai Lama."

Meet some of the participants

Darine Abdulkarim in Dharamsala, India, in 2017.

The Dalai Lama’s Lessons on How to Build Peace

Darine Abdulkarim is Generation Change fellow and a medical doctor from Sudan who works on the physical and psychological rehabilitation of internally displaced women and their reintegration into society.

SIP Youth Leaders Exchange with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

My Generation Will Bring Peace to the World

South Sudan’s Aluel Atem created a women’s development organization, Crown the Woman-South Sudan, and helps other civil society organizations advocating for women and children’s rights.

Mahmood Khalil and His Holiness the Dalai Lama

A Young Refugee Reflects on Meeting the Dalai Lama

Mahmoud Khalil, a refugee living in Lebanon, is a Syrian-Palestinian-Algerian student majoring in computer science and working with an international education-focused NGO called Jusoor. He was a key member of a team of young people that founded an innovative education program for out-of-school Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.

A photo of His Holiness Dalai Lama accepting a gift from Lourd

Letter from Erbil: The Dalai Lama's Message for Iraq

Lourd Hanna, an Iraqi health sciences graduate, co-founded a youth-led organization that works to heal divisions among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities. Lourd, a member of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic minority, lives in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Related Publications

The Dalai Lama Mentors USIP Youth Leaders

The Dalai Lama Mentors USIP Youth Leaders

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

By:

Each year, the U.S. Institute of Peace gathers 28 youth leaders from countries confronting violent conflict to meet with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, where he encourages them in their efforts to build peace in their homelands. This annual dialogue is a partnership between USIP and the Dalai Lama, a global voice for peace and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The project aims to strengthen the abilities of young people working to build peace in the world’s most violent regions.

Type: Fact Sheet

Youth; Religion

The Dalai Lama: 'Sometimes I cry.'

The Dalai Lama: 'Sometimes I cry.'

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

By: USIP Staff

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Type: In the Field

Youth; Religion

Boko Haram Drives Nigerian Activist to … Generation Change

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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The road to leadership for Imrana, a Nigerian activist, began on a bus in the country’s north, when Boko Haram militants came aboard and picked out passengers to haul into the bush. That was when the 23-year-old resolved he had to do something about his country’s bloodshed. Today, an organization he founded seeks to curb the violence that often surrounds Nigerian elections.

Type: In the Field

Education & Training; Nonviolent Action; Youth

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The Pope's Visit to Iraq and the Future of the Country’s Christians

The Pope's Visit to Iraq and the Future of the Country’s Christians

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq this week happens in a context of despair felt across Iraq’s ethnic, provincial and sectarian spectrum. Christians in Iraq, victims of decades of oppression, look at this visit as a symbol of hope. They also hope it will help address some of their lingering fears. The pope’s priorities for Iraq’s Christians should be formulated in specific terms. While Christians in Iraq remain hemmed in on how to deal with the past, but optimistic about their future, most feel overwhelmed by the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. As in many other cases, some of the expectations from the visit are indeed too high to meet.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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In India, Women Propel World’s Largest Protest Movement

In India, Women Propel World’s Largest Protest Movement

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

By: Farida Nabourema

Hundreds of thousands of farmers have been protesting new farm laws on the outskirts of the Indian capital city of New Delhi since September 2020. The prominent presence of women in what is perhaps the world’s largest ongoing protest movement, and certainly the biggest domestic challenge facing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, has put a spotlight on the important role women play in agriculture in this South Asian nation; it also marks a milestone in women’s struggle for equality, and their leadership of nonviolent movements.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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Mobilization, Negotiation, and Transition in Burkina Faso

Mobilization, Negotiation, and Transition in Burkina Faso

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

By: Eloïse Bertrand

In October 2014, a massive popular uprising unseated Burkina Faso’s long-time president, Blaise Compaoré, and drove a civilian-led transition that culminated in free and fair elections in November 2015. This report shows the importance of the national culture of dialogue and consensus and the benefit of a vast, resilient network across negotiating groups. Although violence in the country has since increased, lessons from Burkina Faso’s transition can inform the dynamics of popular mobilization, negotiations, and prospects for long-term peace and democracy in other settings.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

South Sudan: From 10 States to 32 States and Back Again

South Sudan: From 10 States to 32 States and Back Again

Monday, March 1, 2021

By: Matthew Pritchard; Aly Verjee

Last year, South Sudan reintroduced 10 subnational states in South Sudan, in place of the 32 states controversially created in 2017. Far from being an obscure matter of administrative organization, the initial, dramatic redivision of territory in the midst of protracted violence and large-scale displacement had a significant impact on representation, as well as social, economic, and political relations throughout the country. In 2018-19, researchers commissioned by USIP sought to better understand the decision-making process behind the creation of the 32 states in South Sudan. Researchers Matthew Pritchard and Aly Verjee discuss their findings in light of current developments.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Breaking the Stalemate: Biden Can Use the U.S.-Taliban Deal to Bring Peace

Breaking the Stalemate: Biden Can Use the U.S.-Taliban Deal to Bring Peace

Thursday, February 25, 2021

By: Scott Worden

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Afghanistan remains unfortunately far away from peace. The historic agreement paved the way for a full U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the start of intra-Afghan talks on a political settlement of the conflict. As the May 1 withdrawal deadline nears, the Biden administration is undertaking a rapid Afghanistan policy review to determine its overall strategy toward the slow-moving intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar. A key reason for the lack of movement in talks is that both sides are anxiously waiting to see what Biden decides. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

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