In the spirit of the Commonwealth Year of Youth 2023, the University of Reading hosted the 4th Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work, a gathering that underscored the pivotal role of youth work in forging a sustainable and peaceful future.
2023 was not only being celebrated as the Commonwealth Year of Youth, but it marks the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
The conference, entitled: The Power of Youth Work: Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future, attracted over 250 delegates in person, who were joined by more than 1,000 virtual attendees from across the 56 member states of the Commonwealth.
The conference was hosted by the UK’s National Youth Agency (NYA) in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, opened the conference by underscoring the power and potential of youth workers. The Secretary-General said:
“We all know that the energy, creativity, and passion of our young people are catalysts for positive change. And we all feel that, with dedication and hard work, we can enable young people to fulfil their potential and shape a better future.
“As youth workers, you are fundamental to this. Yours is not simply a profession; it is a calling – a vocation driven by a deep sense of purpose.”
At the opening ceremony, Leigh Middleton, Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Agency, underscored that the work of helping young people achieve their full potential is challenging but necessary.
The Youth, often referred to as the leaders of tomorrow, are indeed the vanguard of change. In the Commonwealth, where more than 60% of the population is under 30, the potential for positive transformation is immense. The 4th Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work recognized this potential and aimed to harness it effectively.
One of the core themes of the conference was the role of youth work in building sustainable communities. Sustainable development is not just an environmental concern; it encompasses economic and social aspects as well. Youth work plays a vital role in educating and empowering young people to engage in sustainable practices and advocate for environmentally conscious policies.
Peace is a cornerstone of prosperity and development. The conference emphasized that youth work can be a powerful tool in promoting peaceful coexistence. By engaging young people in dialogue, conflict resolution, and community-building activities, youth workers can contribute to the prevention of violence and the establishment of peaceful societies.
Youth are known for their innovative thinking and fresh perspectives. In the Commonwealth Year of Youth 2023, it became evident that harnessing this innovation is crucial for sustainable development. The conference showcased numerous success stories where youth-led initiatives had a significant impact on their communities, addressing issues ranging from climate change to social justice.
Empowering youth with education and skills is a key component of youth work. During the conference, experts discussed the importance of providing quality education and vocational training to ensure that young people are equipped with the tools they need to contribute to sustainable development and peace.
The Commonwealth embodies diversity, with its member nations spanning continents, cultures, and traditions. The conference highlighted the importance of global solidarity and cooperation among youth workers. By sharing best practices and collaborating on projects, youth workers can amplify their impact and address common challenges effectively.
While youth work offers immense potential, it is not without its challenges. Funding constraints, political instability, and the digital divide were some of the challenges discussed. However, these challenges were seen as opportunities for innovation and collaboration. Creative solutions, such as digital platforms for virtual youth engagement, were explored.
The conference also stressed the significance of advocating for youth-friendly policies at the national and international levels. Youth work is not just a grassroots effort; it requires support from governments and international organizations to create an enabling environment for young people to thrive.
The 4th Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work held at the University of Reading during the Commonwealth Year of Youth 2023 was a resounding success. It reaffirmed the critical role of youth work in forging a sustainable and peaceful future. By empowering youth with education, skills, and opportunities, and by promoting global solidarity and policy advocacy, youth workers can contribute significantly to the betterment of Commonwealth nations and the world at large.
In this era of unprecedented challenges, youth work stands as a beacon of hope, reminding us that the energy, creativity, and determination of young people can indeed shape a brighter and more sustainable future for all.