WAY – for youth empowerment and participation in decision making

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with WAY, the World Assembly of Youth in Malaysia. Our youth is the future of our world, and the future of all our different cultures, communities, and societies. This is the reason why WAY supports youth empowerment and youth participation in decision making. 


How was WAY founded and with what aims?
The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) is the International coordinating body of national youth councils and youth organisations. Founded in 1949, an initiative was undertaken to establish a youth organisation to promote global cooperation ad understating among the young people of the world. Recognising the need for a universal youth organisation, youth leaders from national councils of all member countries of the United Nations where invited to attend an international conference in London. In August 1948, the international conference held at West Minster Hall in London, established the World Assembly of Youth.
The draft charter, have been prepared in February 1949, in Ash Bridge, England, was ratified at the first official meeting of WAY. The meeting, organised by the Belgian Youth Council, was attended by more than 100 young people from 37 countries. The WAY charter was ratified by 29 of the national youth councils present, and WAY began its work on behalf of world youth community.
WAY was founded so as to bring young people from different societies, communities and countries together so that they can share ideas, thoughts and actions on how to improve cooperation on a global level and among the youth. As an international NGO, WAY have the following aims:
·           Increase inter-ethnic respect and to foster inter-cultural and international understanding and cooperation;
·           Facilitate the collection of information about the methods, techniques and activities of youth;
·           Disseminate information about the methods, techniques and activities of youth organisations;
·           Promote the interchange of ideas between youth of all countries;
·           Assist in the development of youth activities and to promote, by mutual aid, the extension of the work of voluntary youth organisations;
·           Cooperate in the development of national youth councils of voluntary organisations
·           Establish and maintain relations with the international organisation, both voluntary and governmental;
·           Support and encourage the national movements of non-self governing counties in their struggle for national liberation;
·           Promote tolerance, understating, solidarity and cooperation among young men and women irrespective of race, sex, language, religion or political orientation;
·           Encourage the full participation of young men and women in the development process of their countries;
·           Improve the equality between young men and women;
·           Promote the democratic participation of young people both in their own organisation and in the life of society as a whole.


What are the main obstacles to youth empowerment?

Strategies for youth empowerment must always be considered in the context of the overall community and society in which programmes operate and where youth live. Social barriers to youth involvement are a reality for many young people. The main obstacles to youth empowerment are balancing peer participation, employment creation, and empowerment and participation.
Striking a balance between developing youth empowerment and project control is difficult to achieve. Young people should feel they have a level of ownership in programmes. However, there still may be the need for adult involvement (e.g. considering young people’s opinions before making decisions, or allowing peer supporters choose the areas they wish to work in). It is determining the level of participation that can create challenges.
Youth who graduate from various tertiary institutions are ready to enter the job market every year. However, due to the slow economic growth, corruption, nepotism and demand for experience by potential employers, a lot of them remain unemployed.
One of the greatest challenges in youth empowerment and participation, is how to ensure that young people are passionate about causing transformation in their communities. Youth empowerment and participation is the quintessential force for causing such transformation. Young people need a youth branded platform from where they can speak powerfully, take appropriate action, and inspire belief that will have a catalytic impact all over their country through youth-led development initiatives.

In what ways do you promote women’s empowerment?
We believe a woman is a change-agent. She can feed her family. Build her business. Raise her kids. Employ her neighbours. She can inspire sustainable transformation and create a new story for herself, her children and her entire community. To educate a girl, you empower a nation, hence, a woman is powerful and full of often-untapped potential. A woman can change the world, but first, she needs to be given the opportunity.
At WAY, we promote women’s empowerment in several ways which are through workshops, dialogues, and seminars. We encourage all stakeholders to adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all young women, at all levels. Furthermore, we enhance the use of enabling technologies, in particular ICT, to empower young women and encourage all members to undertake reforms in order to give young women equal rights to economic resources, as well as to ownership and control over the other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources.


What are the actions that you implement in order to promote youth participation in decision making?

Youth participation leads to better decisions and outcomes, WAY has established an epitome of an international society that works for the advancement of humankind through empowerment of those that are bearing the future: the youth. Through the passage of time, we have promoted inter-ethnic respect and fostered inter-cultural and international understanding and cooperation among youth.
Giving young people a voice is our priority. As the way forward in doing so and delivering our activities, WAY has developed the strategic plan that acts as a roadmap for our activities. The Millennium Plan of Action or MPAC is developed every four years during the General Assembly.
WAY has facilitated the collection, compilation and dissemination of information pertaining to the needs of the world’s young people, and has provided a platform for the interchange of these ideas and or actions. Perhaps most importantly, it has spearheaded the formation of national youth councils and creation of national youth policies in several countries, and thus provided young people in those nations with a unified voice.


Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?

As an international NGO, WAY, with 140 member countries, sees the need to work with local authorities and institutions. The organisation will not be operating without the collaboration of local authorities especially the Ministry of Youth and National Youth Council, which we share the same goals for youth development and also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During events we collaborate with different institution depending on the topic that we tackle on that particular event. Different departments from the governments are highly important, like tourism, police, immigration, youth department, protocol, etc. The immigration help facilitating delegates’ entry, they provide information on countries’ visa and entry requirements, customs and police departments do help in making sure that delegates observe the rules and protocol to enter the country. Education institution urges the students to volunteer and learn the aspect of team work on international level.


We also collaborate with local authorities when it comes to the implementation of the declarations, and or the outcomes documents (recommendations produced by the youth for the youth) derived from our events. The relevant authorities assist in the application of those policies in their relevant departments, hence creation of new guidelines and laws pertaining to the issue that we tackle in each event. We do cooperate with several United Nations Agencies, CSOs, NGOs, academia, and media as well.