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Youth work: crucial for empowering young people

20 November 2018

It was a true expression of the rich diversity and colour of the Commonwealth when youth workers from 27 countries met in Malta to mark Youth Work Week 2018. The summit aimed to set out a vision to empower young people and build positive communities. It included two main events, the third Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work and the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Taskforce.

The Conference brought the Commonwealth and European community together for the first time. They agreed on key strategies to professionalise youth work practice. These include upscaling standards of practice, developing indicators to measure impact and devising responses to topical youth issues.

Brain Belton, from UK’s YMCA George Williams College, described the conference as “highly successful”. He said it gave a new perspective on professionalism and professionalization and highlighted how “we can work to expand understanding, knowledge and expertise [of youth work] both with and without degree qualification”.

He continued, “we have become conscious that the vast bulk of youth workers will neither need nor want the same (support). This provides us with an excitingly extended horizon in terms of growing and enhancing practice globally.”

Delegates pledged to accelerate efforts that are responsive to the needs of youth work practitioners and empower young people. Discussions also focused on sharing good practice and strategies from the field, and gathering resources to meet the aspirations of young people.

Manak Matiyani, Executive Director of the Youth Parliament Foundation India, spoke about the benefits of the conference, stressing the importance of certain qualities in the profession such as empathy and sensitivity to young people’s needs.

The event was preceded by the second meeting of the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Taskforce, where ministers and senior officials endorsed a suite of initiatives to help member countries overcome issues that greatly impact young people’s lives such as unemployment, inequality and their lack of participation in national development.

Uganda’s Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, who chaired the taskforce, described the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work as the foremost youth work forum for sharing knowledge and good practices on youth work.

The taskforce reviewed the Commonwealth Youth Council’s (CYC) two-year strategic plan and welcomed forthcoming initiatives such as the youth work higher education consortium and an executive strategic leadership course.

Going forward, CYC will work closely with national youth councils, while the leadership course will train government officials to adopt a comprehensive strategic and policy-oriented view of youth development.

Minister Florence said, “The majority of the people in the Commonwealth are young people which means there should be someone particularly attending to their cause.

“We are gathered in Malta to reflect on our challenges, achievements, and the way forward. We are standardising and creating an alliance of youth workers in the world so that we can share, compare and contrast where we go wrong and where we get it right.”

The contributions of ministers, academics and youth workers will feed into the agenda for the next meeting which will take place during youth work week in two years’ time.

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