Monday 10 July
Delegates were welcomed to the conference by National Youth Agency (NYA) Young Assessors Lewis and Harrison.
Kim Allen, Chairperson, Commonwealth Youth Council thanked all the organisers for hosting and putting together the event, before commending all of the youth workers across the Commonwealth working hard to support young people, and highlighting the need to share the responsibility of addressing the issues affecting young people across all governments, organisations and workers.
Leigh Middleton, Chief Executive, NYA, thanked partners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for their involvement in organising the conference.
Leigh said: “Youth work is a really special privileged profession – young people voluntarily work with you. If you have a highly skilled youth worker, they will make a massive difference to young people.”
He went on to acknowledge the contribution of Olena, who leads the youth work in the Ukraine whilst acknowledging the many other conflicts taking place across the world and the role of youth workers in supporting the young people in these countries.
Stuart Andrews, Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society, and Minister for Equalities, UK mentioned the significance of the conference being held in the same year that King Charles was crowned and the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth’s Year of Youth programme.
He talked about the shared values of inclusivity, collaboration and progress across the Commonwealth and a recognition that investing in our youth is vital. He celebrated youth work as a catalyst for change, driving economic growth, social cohesion and sustainable development across the Commonwealth.
He called on delegates to embrace the Power of youth work and fostering environments where young people can thrive, their voices and are heard and their contributions valued.
Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development, Commonwealth Secretariat described the unprecedented challenges young people are facing since the pandemic , including violence against women and girls and the importance of youth workers to be in place, trained and able to influence national policy.
He emphasised the importance of the standards and ethics of youth workers and invited delegates to rise to the challenge over the next 50 years.
He also paid tribute to Dr Henry Charles, Chair of the Commonwealth Year of the Youth Advisory Committee who sadly passed just prior to the conference. He spoke of Dr Henry’s work as a Youth and Policy Development Expert and his “faith in a better tomorrow for our young people”.
Miriam Teuma, Chief Executive, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ spoke of the ability of Youth Work to deliver support and security for young people, particularly during the current global political and social challenges.
The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth spoke about youth work as a vocation which equips young people with skills, knowledge and values.
She went on the describe youth work as the cornerstone of a thriving Commonwealth and future that is more peaceful and sustainable.
Honourable Nyirabashitsi Sarah Mateke, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Government of Uganda and Co-Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Task Force reinforced the value of youth work in providing young people with the necessary tools they need to succeed in life and to promote civic engagement and leadership.
She spoke about its role in improving social cohesion and economic development in the developing countries and in particular the success of the innovation hubs in Uganda as result of the youth policy and funding which has enabled young people to set up their own business.
Olena Podobed-Frankivska, Executive Director, Nuya, Ukraine gave an emotive description of the youth work which has sustained the hope of young people during the ongoing crisis.
Honourable Abdallah Utumatwishima, Minister of Youth, Government of Rwanda, Commonwealth Chair-in-Office and Co-Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Task Force highlighted the need for coordinated efforts between the private, public and civil society organisations to design intentional strategies for young people.
Professor Momodou Sallah described his work as a scholar activist and the disruptive nature of this work.
He descried global youth work as being founded in the principal of informal education and social justice and the importance of youth work challenging oppression.
Through his ‘pedagogy of disruption’ he explained that youth work is more than ‘diversionary activity’ – the work it does is intentional, but he advised that sometimes youth workers are complicit in reinforcing inequalities.