Stephanie Bindzus

Half a century of international exchange

On 22 June 2017, IJAB took over Bonn’s old Town Hall to stage a festive reception and a lively panel debate. The theme was “courage to embrace diversity”, all in celebration of IJAB’s 50th anniversary. Also in attendance: Mayor Reinhard Limbach and Deputy Director-General Thomas Thomer from the Federal Youth Ministry.

IJAB Director Marie-Luise Dreber and Chairman Lothar Harles cut the (ice-cream) birthday cake.
IJAB Director Marie-Luise Dreber and Chairman Lothar Harles cut the (ice-cream) birthday cake. BildImage: Fotostudio Heupel

“IJAB advises young people on going abroad, offers international exchange programmes for experts and promotes youth policy cooperation in Europe and the world, on behalf of the Federal Youth Ministry and in cooperation with its members. So, for half a century, IJAB has been building bridges between Bonn and the rest of the world,” said Mayor Limbach. “In a time when nationalism is on the rise, inspiring bridge-builders like IJAB are more important than ever.”

Deputy Director-General Thomer also honoured IJAB’s contribution to international youth policy cooperation. “International youth exchanges should become an opportunity for all young people, not just for a select few. IJAB was and remains a strong advocate for modern international youth work and a valuable point of contact for public-sector and independent organisations,” he said.

IJAB Chairman Lothar Harles explained how IJAB came into being as Germany’s specialist organisation for international youth work and youth policy. “After World War 2, reconciliation and understanding were the main motivations for IJAB’s establishment. But curiosity, a sense of adventure and an interest in unfamiliar cultures also played a role,” he recalled.

Five decades later, this philosophy is still alive and well inside the organisation, which became clear during the subsequent panel discussion on youth policy. On the panel were Thomas Thomer, Marie-Luise Dreber, the social affairs commissioner of the city of Bonn Carolin Krause, Annette Mütter from IKAB, “Europeer” Luca Daniel and Susanne Salz from the UN’s SDG campaign, who discussed youth policy at the local level. Rising migration, a divided society and extremist tendencies are leaving their mark on local communities, too. The panellists discussed how international youth work can help to manage these challenges. “International youth work at the local level is particularly effective because it gives young people a platform to develop their own ideas about how they want to live in a globalised world and help shape the society of the future. International exchanges are a great way to develop a tolerant and open attitude. And it’s not just the young people who benefit from this – it’s also the local communities and society at large,” summarised Marie-Luise Dreber.

Prior to the celebrations, around 70 participants had travelled to Bonn to attend a conference organised by the JiVE project and discuss how international youth work can strengthen local communities.



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