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Commonwealth conference spotlights youth work as accelerator of development

9 March 2016

Youth work is a “catalyst” for youth development and is “anchored in the belief that young people are a force for peace, democracy and equality”, South Africa’s Deputy Minister with responsibility for youth affairs has said, opening the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work, in Pretoria.

“Youth work cannot take place without effective youth workers. Youth development cannot be taken seriously if youth work is also not taken seriously,” stated Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

The three-day conference brings together youth work practitioners, academics and policy-makers from the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth to explore the theme, ‘Engaging Young People in Nation Building: the Youth Worker’s Role.’

The event is hosted by the Government of the Republic of South Africa in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, University of South Africa and the National Youth Development Agency. It follows the first Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work which was hosted by South Africa in 2013.

Addressing delegates, Deodat Maharaj, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, said: “Youth workers are instrumental to advancing national development. The Commonwealth has long recognised and valued their efforts and we have been advocating for the recognition of their work as a profession. The results to date are good with formal diploma and degree programmes already developed and being used. However, there is much more to be done."

Those attending will explore the recognition of youth work as a profession, the education, training and certification of youth workers, the various ways that the profession can contribute to national development, and the formation of professional bodies. Special attention will also be placed on policies and investment needed to nurture the sector.

Commenting on the opportunity for youth work practitioners to coalesce around policies and action, Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “It is exciting to be exploring the formation of a Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Worker Associations, and a Commonwealth Youth Work Qualifications Consortium.  Both initiatives are moving ahead strongly after early commitments by delegates representing youth worker associations and a number of universities.”

On plans to establish an institute focused on youth development and training, Mandla Makhanya, UNISA Vice Chancellor and Principal said: “This conference aims to get our youth excited about education and to prioritise a brighter future for themselves. As a university, we commit ourselves to facilitating their success.”

Also present at the conference, Jamaica’s Miguel ‘Steppa’ Williams, who is Commonwealth Caribbean Youth Worker of the Year 2015, stated: “Youth work builds trust in communities where there is none. Youth work helps to redeem those considered unredeemable by society. As youth workers, we must mobilise to fulfil our potential and help our youth who are struggling,” he said. 

Find out more about the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work 2016.