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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Pakistan’s Shifting Political and Economic Winds

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

By:Uzair Younus

There was an air of optimism in May 2021, when Pakistan’s finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, told Bloomberg that his government would spend almost $6 billion to create jobs and stimulate growth. The aim, he argued, was to achieve a GDP growth rate of over 5 percent. Fast forward to October and the tone has significantly changed, with the finance minister informing an audience in Washington that growth had to be moderated to prevent macroeconomic risks from materializing, meaning that Pakistan cannot afford to grow too fast. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Keith Mines on Secretary Blinken’s Trip to Colombia

Keith Mines on Secretary Blinken’s Trip to Colombia

Thursday, October 21, 2021

By:Keith Mines

As Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Colombia, USIP’s Keith Mines notes there is still work to be done in implementing and expanding the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC insurgency, saying that “consolidating the peace in a place like Colombia was almost as hard as fighting the war itself.”

Type: Podcast

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Iraq’s Election Raises More Questions Than Answers

Iraq’s Election Raises More Questions Than Answers

Thursday, October 21, 2021

By:Dr. Elie Abouaoun

Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric whose Mahdi Army followers battled U.S. forces during the years of the occupation, made big gains in Iraq’s parliamentary election on October 10. His victory could pose problems for the United States and Iran. But despite the Sadrist List’s electoral success, it is not a given that al-Sadr will be the next man to lead Iraq, or even be the only kingmaker. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun examines the outcome of the election, the electoral process and the implications for Iraq’s future.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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 Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Friday, October 15, 2021

By:Jasmine Dehghan ;Sandrine Nama

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un tel changement est une tâche extrêmement complexe et une ville du Burkina Faso a élaboré un plan de réformes locales avec un processus pour gérer cette complexité.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue;Democracy & Governance

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By:Jasmine Dehghan;Sandrine Nama

This year’s escalation of violent turmoil in Africa’s Sahel—widened jihadist attacks, military coups or attempts in four nations, and continued high civilian casualties—underscores that years of work to reinforce military and police forces have failed to reduce instability. To undercut extremism and violence, countries must improve governance, and recent analyses underscore the particular need to build people’s confidence that their governments can provide justice and fair resolutions of popular grievances. Such change is an immensely complex task—and one town in Burkina Faso has shaped a plan for local reforms with a process to manage that complexity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue;Democracy & Governance

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