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Germany traditionally engages in youth policy cooperation with other countries in a number of fields, notably youth work. One of the main aims of European cooperation in this area is to make use of other countries’ experiences and to exchange ideas in order to shape national youth policy and practice. In addition, bilateral exchanges of young people and experts are encouraged.
Responsibility for European cooperation in the youth field lies with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ). When it comes to youth work specifically, the implementing organisations are IJAB - International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (Fachstelle für Internationale Jugendarbeit der Bundesrepublik Deutschland e.V.) and JUGEND für Europa, Germany’s National Agency for the ERASMUS+ Youth in Action programme and the European Solidarity Corps.
In 2015 IJAB established a youth policy network known as International Youth Policy Dialogue to exchange views with current and former cooperation partners on (international) youth policy developments in the various countries.
Germany has signed a number of bilateral agreements with European countries on youth policy cooperation, on the basis of which various organisations implement the tasks mentioned in the agreements:
- Franco-German Youth Office (Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk) (since 1963)
- German-Polish Youth Office (Deutsch-Polnisches Jugendwerk) (since 1991)
- Coordination centre for German-Czech youth exchanges (Koordinationszentrum Deutsch-Tschechischer Jugendaustausch) – Tandem (since 1997)
- UK-German Connection (since 2005)
- German-Russian youth exchange foundation (Stiftung Deutsch-Russischer Jugendaustausch) (since 2006)
- German-Turkish "youth bridge" (Deutsch-Türkische Jugendbrücke) (since 2013)
- German-Greek Youth Office (Deutsch-Griechisches Jugendwerk) (since 2020).
Germany also cooperates on youth policy with the Council of Europe, for instance in the European Knowledge Centre for Youth (EKCYP). Germany’s representative in this correspondents’ network is IJAB.
There are also many instances of European cooperation at regional and local level. A large number of municipalities maintain twinning arrangements with other European cities, many of which incorporate youth exchange activities.
Many border communities maintain bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects and regional partnerships with a youth policy component, for instance youth exchanges and youth participation activities.
Cooperation with other states within international organisations is an important part of German policymaking, and the youth policy field is no exception. Besides cooperation within, e.g., the United Nations, bilateral agreements play an important role here.
Responsibility for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Germany ratified in 1992, lies with the Federal Youth Ministry (BMFSFJ). In 2015, an independent monitoring body (Monitoring-Stelle) was set up at the German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte) to monitor Germany’s implementation of the UN Convention. The monitoring body submits a monitoring report of its own to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in addition to the state parties’ report submitted by the German federal government.
Since 2005 Germany has delegated two Youth Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. They represent the voice of young people by liaising with the German delegation as “experts on youth matters”.
Germany’s federal government has signed a number of bilateral treaties and agreements that include cooperation in the field of youth policy and youth exchanges. Many youth exchange schemes are part of broader cultural agreements that Germany has concluded with a large number of countries around the world. Examples of youth and expert exchange schemes include:
In 2006 China and Deutschland signed an agreement between Germany's Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) and the All-Chinese Youth Association of the People’s Republic of China on cooperation in the field of child and youth services. The 2016 Sino-German year for school and youth exchanges (Deutsch-Chinesische Jahr für Schüler- und Jugendaustausch) took place on this basis.
Germany and Japan signed a cultural agreement in 1957 that still serves as the basis of youth policy cooperation today. Under the agreement, the two countries implement regular exchange programmes for experts to promote an exchange of experiences on relevant child and youth services issues. In 2019 and 2020 IJAB organised an expert exchange programme on the challenges of new media for young people (Das mediale Umfeld junger Menschen: Herausforderungen und Lösungsansätze). The exchanges for youth work experts and volunteer youth leaders are coordinated by the Japanese-German Center (Japanisch-Deutsches Zentrum) in Berlin.
Since the commencement of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel in 1965, the two countries have also organised official exchanges for young people and experts. These have been coordinated since 2001 by ConAct, the Coordination Center for German-Israeli Youth Exchange (Koordinierungszentrum Deutsch-Israelischer Jugendaustausch). A German-Israeli youth office (Deutsch-Israelisches Jugendwerk) is to be established soon.
In addition to existing international youth exchange schemes, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) offers separate activities under its foreign cultural relations and educational policy (Auswärtige Kultur- und Bildungspolitik), e.g., in cooperation with the Pedagogical Exchange Service (Pädagogischer Austauschdienst). The Federal Foreign Office also supports youth and expert exchanges by promoting cooperation with civil society organisations in Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine), Russia, and the countries involved in the Transformation Partnership with the Arab world (notably Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq).
Germany has signed an agreement on youth and youth mobility with Canada. Agreements and joint declarations on work and travel programmes are also in place with Argentina, Australia, Brazil (not yet in force), Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay.
The German National Committee for International Youth Work (Deutsches Nationalkomitee für internationale Jugendarbeit, DNK), a working party of the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring, DBJR), German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend, dsj) and the council of political youth organisations (Ring Politische Jugend, RPJ) represents German youth organisations at the international level. DNK has coordinated the international activities of these three organisations since 1963. DNK is also responsible for representing the interests of young people vis-à-vis its youth organisations at the international level.
See also Youth Wiki > Chapter 9 Youth and the World > Intercontinental youth work and development cooperation.