Spain's Fundación Secretariado Gitano and Romanian association SUS INIMA win the 2022 EESC Civil Society Prize for youth and Ukraine

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today awarded prizes to six civil society organisations for their outstanding projects, which are shining examples of civil society's commitment to creating a better future for Europe's young people and to easing the plight of Ukrainians suffering as a result of Russia's brutal invasion of their country.

Exceptionally, this year's prize went to two sets of winners, being awarded in two categories: empowering young people and European civil society for Ukraine.

The EUR 60 0000 prize was shared among six winning projects. The Spanish association Fundación Secretariado Gitano took home the first prize of EUR 14 000 in the category of youth. Their Learning by Doing project addresses the issue of unemployment among young Roma. The same amount was received by Romania's Asociația SUS INIMA, the first-prize winner for a project relating to Ukraine. The Romanian association is helping Ukrainian refugees to smoothly integrate into Romanian society.

The other four associations received EUR 8 000 each. Their final ranking is as follows:

At the award ceremony held in Brussels, EESC president Christa Schweng congratulated the six winners and thanked all candidates for their enriching applications: Your solidarity and your initiatives for Ukraine have made a difference to hundreds of thousands of people. Your initiatives to empower disadvantaged young people will have an impact on their lives. Your projects and your commitment to implementing them are a true example of active citizenship. In these difficult times, Europe needs these examples and your commitment more than ever!

Handing out the prizes, EESC Vice President for Communication, Cillian Lohan, said We are currently facing huge global challenges: climate change, peace, energy security, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, sustainable development and many more. We have to duly assess the impact of all our policies on young people and we also need to involve them at all stages of decision-making processes. It is high time we shifted from hearing and consulting young people to co-creation, co-design and co-production.


Learning by Doing, run by Spain's Fundación Secretariado Gitano, was voted the most outstanding project relating to youth.  It deals with unemployment among young Roma people aged 16 to 30. Through a public-private partnership, the programme combines theoretical and practical training with the aim of breaking down stereotypes and prejudices against the Roma population in the companies involved with the initiative and tackling wider social exclusion.

With its project Smooth integration of Ukrainian refugees into the Romanian social fabric - focus point Sibiu county, Romania's association SUS INIMA took the first prize in the category European civil society for Ukraine. This NGO has to date helped tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. In a shift from its usual work of offering support for cancer patients, SUS INIMA has developed a number of initiatives to help Ukrainians, ranging from school activities and finding a job to getting therapy and psychological support. This in turn has enabled Ukrainian families to integrate smoothly into Romanian society, as it has given them a sense of belonging and a safe haven – both physical and mental.

Accepting the prize on behalf of Fundación Secretariado Gitano, its representative Rafael Saavedra Rodriguez, said: It is a great pride for us to be able to share here with you what we are doing. Young Roma have unemployment rates which are three times higher than that amongst the general youth population. We tried to break this vicious circle via our project and by learning to work together. Our project could be used in other communities suffering from the same disadvantages as the Roma population and we would like to offer them our support.

He said the project already had good results, with over 50 percent of those who received training getting a job and 30 to 35 percent of those involved deciding to go back to formal schooling.

Lu Knobloch, spokesperson for SUS INIMA, said: Receiving a prize and recognition for our work from the EESC is not only one of the greatest tributes that our organisation can receive; it is also a great boost for increasing the aid we try to provide for vulnerable groups and increases the responsibility we have to consistently improve our social impact.



The second prize in the youth category went to the Portuguese association Movimento Transformers and their Superpower School volunteer programme, in which mentors give weekly classes to learners, mainly children and young people at risk of social exclusion. The programme enables young people to discover their talents – in areas such as cooking, martial arts, photography and creative writing – and develop skills that will empower them to become agents of change and give back what they have learned to positively transform their community.

Winner of the third prize, Associazione Agevolando from Italy, advocates for the rights and well-being of minors and young adults who have spent part or all of their childhood in foster or residential care and who need to become independent upon reaching the age of majority. Their Care Leavers Network Italia initiative is an informal nationwide network of young people aged 16 to 26 who have been in the care system. Its main goals are to encourage opportunities for exchange and learning.


The second prize was awarded to the Spanish Villavecchia Foundation (Spain). With its You are in a Safe Place emergency fund, it has provided care for young cancer patients and their parents. Seriously ill Ukrainian children were taken away from the horrors of war by international organisations and brought to safety to resume their treatment. One such safe place was Barcelona, where the foundation has been striving to offer these young Ukrainian patients and their families the best possible quality of life by making sure they get comprehensive care at all levels.

Third place went to the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), the country's biggest non-formal youth education organisation, which mobilised to help Ukrainians as soon as the war began. ZHP volunteers have maintained a presence at border crossings, guiding people to safety, providing information, collecting and transporting donations and organising border patrols experienced in first aid. It has focused in particular on Ukrainian children, collecting toys, supporting them psychologically and including them in scouting activities.


This year's Civil Society Prize attracted 106 candidates from 21 Member States: 60 for category 1 (Youth) and 46 for category 2 (Ukraine).

The EESC hopes that its prize will encourage civil society to keep showing solidarity with Ukrainian people and continue giving a voice and power to the generation that is the future of Europe.

The Civil Society Prize is awarded for 'excellence in civil society initiatives'. Each year, the prize covers a different aspect of the EESC's work. In 2021, it rewarded projects that were creatively tackling the climate crisis. In 2020, the EESC launched a one-off Civil Solidarity Prize dedicated to the fight against COVID-19. The theme in 2019 was gender equality and women's empowerment.

Further details about the Civil Society Prize 2022 are available here. You can watch the video detailing the winning projects here.