10.1 General context
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In 1966, the first club of Cyprus Youth Clubs Associations (Κυπριακός Οργανισμός Κέντρων Νεότητας) appeared.. This creates a cascading effect of new clubs being established one after the other, especially between the years 1975-1985. Over the years, the Cyprus Youth Clubs organization grew into a wide network of more than 85 clubs all over Cyprus.
In 1994, the Youth Board of Cyprus was established. The Youth Board of Cyprus is the competent government agency for Youth affairs. It offers a variety of youth work programmes and funding schemes for youth work. The Youth Board of Cyprus is also the top-level authority responsible for the coordination and monitoring of the National Youth Strategy 2017-2022.
In 1996, the Cyprus Youth Council (CYC) was founded as a volunteer, non – governmental, non – profit organization. The CYC aims at promoting dialogue and cooperation between youth in Cyprus and also connecting them with youth in Europe and globally. The CYC seeks to act as a platform of exchange and communication between all youth NGOs in Cyprus.
In the meantime, a lot of non-governmental organizations, either youth-led organisations or organisations targeting youth and dealing with youth matters- have been established. Yet, until 2007, there is no clear understanding of the definition of youth work. The document ‘Youth policy in Cyprus - Conclusions of the Council of Europe International Review’ prepared in 2007 mentions that “there appeared in Cyprus to be a rather limited theoretical understanding of the idea of ‘youth work’ and an empirical lack of space for its provision or development.”(p.42). It seems that the understanding of youth work is highly blended with non-formal learning and leisure activities for youth.
However, the above mentioned international review mentions that “the issues that are routinely addressed in ‘youth work’ practice are legion: sexuality, health, internationalism and multiculturalism, as well as debates around vocational pathways or opportunities for trips away from home. Many of these issues are already addressed within schools, at the Youth Information Centres or through school camping trips.”
In December 2016, the National Youth Council of Cyprus, organized the conference "Recognition of Youth Work(er)”. The Conference was funded by the Erasmus+ programme and aimed at empowering young people to discuss with policy makers about the recognition of the Youth Worker. They also analysed best practices implemented in other European countries making the institution of Youth Worker recognizable while understanding the significance of its role in the development of non-formal education skills. Following the seminar, in 2017 the Cyprus Youth Council released a policy paper for the recognition of youth worker (Έγγραφο πολιτικής για την αναγνώριση του Λειτουργού Νεολαίας). The same year, the Human Resource Development Authority of Cyprus (HRDA) launched a consultation process for developing standards of vocational qualifications of the youth worker. This process of consultation included the Youth Board of Cyprus and the Cyprus Youth Council.
Last, in April 2019, as part of the Council of Europe's support measures to its Member States on youth policy issues, the Youth Board of Cyprus hosted a team of experts from the Council of Europe. The experts, after making several consultations and meetings with stakeholders in the youth field, resulted in a number of recommendations towards the Youth Board for the holistic development and recognition of youth work in Cyprus.
At this moment, there is still no official national definition of Youth Work. The only available definition of youth work in Cyprus is the one introduced by the Cyprus Youth Council in the policy paper (Έγγραφο Πολιτικής) about the recognition of youth worker. According to this, “youth work is defined as volunteering or working with young people for their empowerment (and not only). This work can cultivate skills and abilities to young people through non-formal and informal learning". In addition to that, the same policy paper defines the youth worker as “the person who systematically empowers young people- on a professional or voluntary basis - using non-formal learning, in order to develop personally and socio-economically, taking into consideration their needs”.
Regarding the common understanding of youth work in Cyprus, as stated in the Final Report of the advisory mission delegation (pages 12-13), “there are numerous provisions of youth work by volunteers and youth leaders in Cyprus. Most of the volunteers, besides being driven by passion have gained the competences needed for youth work, through European programmes, NGOs and practice of working with young people. Similar to the Council of Europe’s International Youth Policy Review in 2007, the consolidated and common understanding of youth work within the youth sector is still lacking, and there is little knowledge of it outside the youth sector in Cyprus.”
One could say that the two definitions – of youth work and youth worker- described above conceptualize well enough how youth work is perceived in Cyprus. Therefore, the overall understanding of youth work embeds the following elements:
- Youth work uses educational activities, recreational activities, volunteering activities, social and political actions to empower young people;
- Youth work is based on non-formal and informal learning and voluntary participation;
- The main providers of youth work are youth organisations and youth clubs;
- Young people is the target of youth work, but emphasis is given for young people with fewer opportunities.
The main youth work providers operating in Cyprus are the youth clubs (Κέντρα Νεότητας) that are active at local level and several youth organisations which organize activities mainly at national and european level with the support of national and EU funding schemes.