The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is this year exceptionally rewarding two sets of winners. Its Civil Society Prize will go both to projects trying to create a better future for young people, and to schemes lending support to Ukrainians affected by Russia's brutal invasion of their country
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has revealed the names of the six front-runners for its Civil Society Prize 2022, which will be awarded in two categories: empowering young people, and helping Ukrainian war victims. The selected projects were submitted by non-profit organisations from Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
The finalists were chosen from 106 applications from 21 Member States: 60 for category 1 (Youth) and 46 for category 2 (Ukraine).
The award ceremony will be held during the EESC plenary session in Brussels on 15 December, when the final ranking will be revealed. The total prize money of EUR 60 000 will be shared among the six nominees, three in each category. The winner of the first prize in each category will receive EUR 14 000. The winners of the second and third prizes will each get EUR 8 000.
The EESC has received nominations from a wide range of creative and dedicated projects, showcasing the huge enthusiasm and motivation of civil society to create better opportunities for Europe's youth and to ease the suffering of Ukrainian civilians hit by the war, making their life more bearable.
The three winning projects in category 1 (Youth) are (in alphabetical order):
- Associazione Agevolando (Italy)
This association 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, upon reaching the age of majority, need to become independent. Their Care Leavers Network Italia initiative is an informal nationwide network of young people aged 16 to 26 with experience of the care system. Its main goals are to encourage opportunities for exchange and learning.
- Fundación Secretariado Gitano (Spain)
This foundation's Learning by Doing project addresses the issue of 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.
- Movimento Transformers (Portugal)
A Superpower School is a volunteer programme in which mentors give weekly classes to apprentices, 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.
The three winning projects in category 2 (Ukraine) are (in alphabetical order):
- Asociația SUS INIMA (Romania)
The NGO SUS INIMA has so far helped more than 21 000 Ukrainian refugees. Pivoting 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 place – both physically and mentally.
- Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP) (Poland)
Poland's biggest non-formal youth education organisation, Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego (Polish Scouting and Guiding Association), mobilised to help Ukrainians as soon as the war began. ZHP volunteers have been present at border crossings, guiding people to safety, providing information, collecting and transporting donations and organising
border patrolsexperienced in first aid. It has focused in particular on Ukrainian children, collecting toys, supporting them psychologically and including them into scouting activities.
- Villavecchia Foundation (Spain)
The You are in a Safe Place emergency fund, run by the Villavecchia Foundation, provides 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.
Commenting on the prize, the EESC Vice-President for Communication, Cillian Lohan, said:
This year's EESC Civil Society Prize is a dual award. With it, we celebrate both the civil society response to the war in Ukraine, and the remarkable efforts being made to create a better future for and with young people in Europe. The applications we received highlight outstanding work being carried out in such areas as education, climate, entrepreneurship, social integration and humanitarian aid.
The EESC launched the prize in June. In the European Year of Youth, the first category of the EESC prize is dedicated to young people, with the intention of flagging up the contribution they can make to shaping Europe's future when given the right opportunities. Following the unprecedented outpouring from European civil society of solidarity and compassion for the plight of the Ukrainian population, who have paid, and are still paying, the highest price for Russia's aggression, the second category of the prize rewards projects aiming to help civilians suffering as a result of the war.
The prize, now in its 13th edition, rewards non-profit projects carried out by individuals, civil society organisations and companies. A different theme is chosen each year, covering an important area of the EESC's work. The prize money and the recognition they receive should help the winners to scale up their projects and provide further help in the community.
In 2021, the prize rewarded climate projects promoting a just transition. In 2020, the EESC replaced its Civil Society Prize with a one-off Civil Solidarity Prize dedicated to the fight against COVID-19. Other topics in the past included gender equality and women's empowerment, European identities and cultural heritage, and migration.