Youth worker groups join forces to establish Commonwealth alliance

By Commonwealth Secretariat

Youth worker organisations from across the Commonwealth have joined forces to establish an international coalition to advocate for the interests of young people and spearhead efforts to professionalise the youth work sector.

The new Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Work Associations (CAYWA) will bring together national youth worker groups from Commonwealth countries, including the Jamaica Professional Youth Workers Association, the Zambia Youth Workers Association and New Zealand's Peak Body for Youth Workers.

A steering committee to develop the alliance was established on 9 March 2016 at the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work in Pretoria, South Africa, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the Government of the Republic of South Africa, the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the National Youth Development Agency.

The alliance will be made up of organisations dedicated to the professionalisation of youth work and creating and implementing standards for youth work. Over the next year, the steering committee will work with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other stakeholders to establish the alliance ahead of the next Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Uganda in 2017.

Tanya Merrick Powell, founder of the Jamaica Professional Youth Workers Association and Convenor of the steering committee, said: “The alliance is an opportunity to build capacity at the local level, and to share resources and expertise. We are eager to come together to have a collective voice in this journey of professionalisation. This will give us leverage to influence our governments to join us on this journey. It is an opportunity we need to maximise.”

Anya Satyanand, Executive Officer of Ara Taiohi, a New Zealand youth worker NGO which has also joined the alliance, stated: “Each professional association's journey is their own, but having an international conversation is about solidarity and learning and development. It's really exciting for us, because we're such a young organisation, so it's great to have the collective experience from all the other regions.”

Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “Today we have begun the work of carving out the vision, strategy and structure for a Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Work Associations, following a resoundingly positive response from stakeholders on the potential value of the concept. This builds on the Commonwealth's broader work to promote youth work as a profession, and its critical connection to youth development. The Commonwealth will always aim to be at the forefront of pursuing policies that result in young people's social, political and economic empowerment.”

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj stated: “Some 60% of the Commonwealth's two billion citizens are under 30. That is why youth work has such potential to be wholly transformative upon the life chances of young people and wider society. The professionalisation of youth work, and our other ongoing commitments to youth development and empowerment, will directly aid our member countries to achieve the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.”