Ulrich Ballhausen of Hannover University and Chairman of the Association of German Educational Organisations (Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten e.V.), and Daniel Poli, Head of Division at IJAB, delivered a detailed and insightful keynote speech about the political aspects of international youth exchange. Most activities do not take place in a vacuum, but independently of whether they intend to or not, they are always in some political relation to the context in which they are held. The political framework is provided by formal legal codification such as youth policy guidelines and funding stipulations, bilateral agreements, and international and European treaties. But a political correlation is also created by the high potential for political conflict resulting from the diverse range of participants or specific political issues and questions raised during particular activities and undertakings. The plurality of actors within international youth work supports civil society structures and, at social policy level, creates new impulses for youth policy development and youth work by information exchange and peer learning. This presentation was complemented by the brochure "Politische Dimension der Internationalen Jugendarbeit" (The Political Dimension of International Youth Work), newly issued as part of the IJAB "Innovations Forum Global Youth" series of publications, which was written and produced by cooperation with numerous actors and experts from the fields of political education, science, and international youth work (click here for pdf).
During the lively discussion that followed, the consensus was that international youth work is able to make political learning processes come alive for young people and so provide important stimuli towards political socialisation, promoting shared social responsibility that will strengthen democracy, freedom, and social justice. Research into the effects of international youth work on young people's personality development has been relatively extensive, but there is a lack of studies at socio-political level, and regarding young people's political socialisation. The members present agreed that this debate was of great importance, particularly because of the huge political challenges that, due to worldwide political crises, even affect civil society. IJAB Chairman Lothar Harles agreed to continue the discussion in 2015 and to include representatives of foreign cultural and educational policy.
Discussion about current issues
In addition to the key issue, the Board and head office gave an account of their work during the past six months, which was defined by providing youth policy guidance and cooperation in connection with setting up the planned German-Greek Youth Office. This particular issue took up much time in the discussion. Thomas Thomer, Sub-Department Head at the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) provided the assembly with an update on the current status of the project and confirmed the immense mutual interest. He stressed that the experience gained by setting up the German-Polish Youth Office could, to some extent, be used as a blueprint. The German-Greek Youth Office is expected to be launched in 2016. Members expressed an expectation that the decision-making bodies to be formed would be pluralistically constituted and that due consideration would also be given to civil society representatives.
Other discussion points touched on aspects of cooperation with China in the field of youth policy as well as the support of civil society contacts with Ukraine, the importance of which was unanimously stressed. The members' assembly also endorsed the focus of work proposed by IJAB for the years 2015 to 2017.