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Youth work in focus. Germany’s EU Council Presidency has ambitious plans

Youth work is beneficial for young people and for society at large - of this, Germany’s Federal Government is convinced. After all, youth work offers children and young people an opportunity to develop the skills they need for social, cultural and political participation. Youth work offers young people innumerable educational opportunities from which they can benefit in their spare time, too, such as sports or cultural activities, civic education or environmental projects, international youth exchanges or volunteering with a youth organisation. Youth work enables young people to pursue their interests, needs and dreams, turn their ideas into reality and develop their talents. In this sense, youth work also promotes social participation. It makes a valuable contribution towards promoting social inclusion, developing a European identity, and creating a tolerant, diverse and vibrant democratic polity.

Boosting youth work

Germany’s EU Council Presidency, which begins on 1 July 2020, has a number of priority areas. One of these is youth, for whose implementation the main responsibility lies with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. To this end, the Ministry can fall back on some highly relevant and recent documents by the Council of the European Union: the Council conclusions on reinforcing youth work to ensure cohesive societies of 2015, the Council conclusions on smart youth work of 2017 and, most recently, a set of conclusions on education and training of youth workers from November 2019. Above all, however, the German EU Council Presidency considers this priority area a contribution towards the implementation of the current European Union Youth Strategy 2019-2027. The EU Youth Strategy calls upon the Member States and the European Commission to 'develop and implement a European Youth Work Agenda for quality, innovation and recognition of youth work' that will boost youth work across Europe. The Agenda is to serve as a strategic framework for the continued development and strengthening of youth work in both practical and political terms. To this end, under the German EU Council Presidency, the Council of Youth Ministers is scheduled to adopt a Council resolution on a European Youth Work Agenda in November 2020.

Preparing the Youth Work Agenda

Preparations for the European Youth Work Agenda already began some time ago. In 2010 and 2015, first under Belgium’s EU Council Presidency, then under the Belgian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, two final declarations were signed. These were the outcome documents of two European Youth Work Conventions that took place in Ghent in 2010 and in Brussels in 2015. The Conventions were attended by delegations from all Member States, full-time and volunteer experts working in child and youth services, and policymakers and researchers. Both final declarations highlighted the relevance of youth work and the recognition thereof, called for more resources to be dedicated to youth work and non-formal education, and encouraged a debate around quality and professionalisation.

Third European Youth Work Convention and Bonn Process

Endeavouring to take this process further, Germany is organising a third European Youth Work Convention that will take place from 7 to 10 December in Bonn - the starting point of the Bonn Process. Up to 600 youth work and youth policy representatives and youth (work) researchers from all across Europe as well as representatives of the National Agencies for Erasmus+ YOUTH IN ACTION and the European Solidarity Corps will meet in Bonn to debate the next steps in the process. Delegations from 50 European countries have been invited. They will discuss key issues involving youth work in Europe, highlight the benefits of youth work, exchange good practices, current youth policy developments and new research insights, and encourage network-building. Participants will adopt an outcome document detailing the priority themes and measures for implementation, along with development strategies for the local, regional, national and European levels.

The Convention will serve as a starting point and platform for the practitioners, policymakers and researchers who form the European Youth Work community of practice for engaging in what is known as the Bonn Process. Under it, the European Youth Work Agenda is to evolve into a co-ordinated, joint approach for various youth work stakeholders, be they youth workers, trainers and coaches, or representatives of ministries and authorities, the research community, the European institutions and National Agencies, and of course young people themselves. The process will be supported by, amongst others, the EU programmes, the Council of Europe’s European Youth Foundation and naturally also the activities of the governments of European countries.

In other words, Germany’s EU Council Presidency has ambitious plans. What is more, these activities are expected to have quite an impact, given that Germany will simultaneously be chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which adopted its own 2030 Youth Strategy as recently as January 2020. One of our next articles will focus on the Council of Europe’s activities concerning youth work. In any case, over the next few months we can look forward to some exciting and dynamic new developments in this field.

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