REPORT OF THE EUROPEAN NETWORK OF YOUTH CENTRES TO THE JOINT COUNCIL ON YOUTH – 12 MARCH 2008
The Network welcomes the opportunity to attend the Joint Council on Youth as a guest. We are grateful for the ongoing support of the Council in our work.
The Network was established in Strasbourg in 2003, with the original agreement signed by ten member countries. We had a slow start. It takes time for groups to form and, in the case of the Network, we struggled with a lack of financial resource and with the unclear relationship between the Network and the Council. Nevertheless, we began to meet and to strengthen, and, as a consequence, increased our level of activity. Our Centres share specific characteristics. We share the Council of Europe’s values of human rights and pluralistic democracy. We seek solutions to such problems as xenophobia and racism. We encourage the development of Europe’s diverse cultural identities. A good example of this is in relation to the All Different All Equal Campaign. In 2006 we ran a seminar on the campaign in Strasbourg. Colleagues from Northern Ireland, who are experienced in the reconciliation process, worked with us to think about equality and diversity in our different countries. Our commitment to the campaign increased, as a consequence. Some members of the Network attended the study visit in Luxembourg and benefited from attending the final celebratory event and by experiencing the process of the Living Library. The UK became involved in the campaign and, interestingly, ran a number of events at the international celebration of Scouting.
We are still working on our approach to membership of the Network. We want to be inclusive and also to ensure that members stay close to our values and principles. Arrangements for non-formal education and youth work are different in different countries. We must be respectful of these differences. We also are very sensitive to our capacity, including our financial capacity. We are a Network of volunteers. We include single NGOs, for example the Youth Centre of Corinth which works with 900 young people. Networks of centres are also in membership. The Network of Youth Centres in the Republic of Armenia, for example, works with 700 young people. We also involve development bodies, for example, my own organisation, The National Youth Agency in England. We are a rich mix. Currently we have 17 members across 10 countries. We work with over 4,000,000 young people. We welcome more members and will be strengthened by their involvement.
Our activity falls into three groups. The first group focuses on the organisation of The Network. The Bureau coordinates the work of The Network. A priority in 2008 is the successful election of new officials. We are also concentrating our attempts to develop a financial resource for administration, coordination of our activity and to support the development of content for the website. It is very hard for an international network to thrive when it depends so much on voluntary work.
The Network coordinates a range of shared activities. We are grateful to the Council for their support for the annual seminars. We have explored All Different All Equal and the dissemination of the Youthwork Portfolio. In 2008 we intend to focus on the accreditation of learning in the non-formal sector in an intercultural context. We have developed an EVS programme. We transfer knowledge through job shadowing, study visits, mapping of experience and seek to build the website as a means of storing knowledge. We are exploring a process through which we can develop a shared approach to standards in our centres.
Individual members also organise activities within the umbrella of The Network. This includes training for intercultural learning in Slovakia, a study visit to Greece, an increase in the number of youth exchanges and a training seminar in Finland.
As a Network we have much to give. We are experts in our work in our countries. We have broad networks within the countries and across the membership. We can access a range of facilities. In Prague, for example, we can secure 140 beds at a cost of between €10 and €12. The Finnish Network of Youth Centres supports 1,400 beds. We have a commitment to a better future for young people, and their communities and countries. We are multipliers for the benefit of the young. We would like to build on these strengths.
We look forward to building an agreement with the Directorate of Youth. This should focus on training, shared use of toolkits and an improved understanding of the priorities and decision making of the Council. We can achieve this through involvement in your meetings like today, a renewed agreement, joint events and improved access to information.
Together we can add value to the priorities of the Council and of The Network and its members, and ultimately to young people themselves.
Thank you again for inviting me to be a guest at the Joint Council and for listening to my presentation.
Director of Policy & Research
The National Youth Agency