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

In a conference room at his offices in northern India, the Dalai Lama sat among young civil society leaders trying to build peace in their homelands scarred by violent conflicts. These days, a questio...

Type: In the Field

Youth; Religion

Boko Haram Drives Nigerian Activist to … Generation Change

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

By: Fred Strasser

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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Thursday, July 29, 2021

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

On Monday, President Joe Biden received Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the Oval Office to strengthen bilateral relations and discuss matters of mutual interest, key among them being the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. Despite widespread thinking that Iraq and the Middle East do not rank high in the mix of the Biden administration’s priorities, there have been clear signals that Iraq remains important enough to the United States and that Kadhimi and his government are partners that the United States can work with and should support. While most of the media attention focused on the announcement of the change in U.S. force posture in Iraq, the key takeaway from this week’s meeting is that the United States and Iraq seek to maintain their strategic partnership — and build on it.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Fragility & Resilience

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Mere days after the United States failed to meet the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline stipulated in its 2019 deal with the Taliban, the militant group began launching major attacks on Afghan security forces and taking control of administrative districts. While disputed, some estimates suggest the Taliban now have control of half of the districts across the country. The violence has already wrought a heavy toll — and women and girls have borne the early brunt.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Violent Extremism

Five Key Considerations To Make the U.S. Global Fragility Strategy Work

Five Key Considerations To Make the U.S. Global Fragility Strategy Work

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

By: Corinne Graff; Tyler Beckelman

Even as the public debate over the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan continues, the State Department and USAID are quietly putting plans in place to test a new approach to con-flicts overseas. Drawing on the hard-earned lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two decades, this approach would have the United States rely far less on military power and far more on sustained — but much less costly — diplomacy and closely coordinated development investments. If fully implemented, consistent with the recently enacted Global Fragility Act, this new effort promises to help stabilize countries in their recovery from COVID-19 and the knock-on shocks to their economies. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

At 70, Refugee Convention Faces Many Challenges, Says Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield

At 70, Refugee Convention Faces Many Challenges, Says Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

By: Ashish Kumar Sen

Seventy years after its ratification, the Convention of Refugees remains an important pillar of the international system. Every day, conflict, hunger, economic deprivation and climate change are forcing people around the world to flee their homes in search of a better life. It is critical, therefore, that the international community uphold their obligations under the convention, while elevating efforts to address the root causes of migration, according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights; Global Policy

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