“ ‘Under duress’ is an understatement”: the World YMCA Executive Committee looks back on its 4-year tenure

The 83rd meeting of the World YMCA Executive Committee, held on 25-26 March 2022, looked back over four tumultuous years for the world and the YMCA Movement.

“To say that we have been under duress these last four years is an understatement,” said World YMCA President Patricia Pelton. “But the duty of care provided by our Movement to all the communities out there never stops- its shape is changing with the times, and with the needs of young people worldwide. We have stepped up. It’s been an honour to serve.”

Regional updates, and war in Ukraine

The Committee heard reports from Africa, from Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe.

“War, the rise of radicalization, and the global pandemic are just some of the challenges we have faced on our continent”, said Dr. Adrien Coly, President of the African Alliance of YMCAs which coordinates the work of 18 national movements and their 215 local branches. He described staff and budget squeezes, but also a rise in volunteering and in empowering young people to offer their own solutions. He charted a path towards coming out of crisis in 2022 and aligning with YMCA Vision 2030 and the pan-African Agenda 2063.

 

Digital equity, sustainability, and recovery in a post-pandemic world were the key strategies put forward by Felipe Jurado, President of the Latin America and Caribbean Alliance of YMCAs coordinating 24 countries and their 400 local YMCA branches. He too outlined challenges and opportunities: ‘lo che soñamos’, ‘we dream’. “We must ensure synergies that inspire us towards greater social impact! Our mission is to empower young people in equitable communities and have a better assessment of our safety nets for the vulnerable ones”

 

 

Emma Osmundsen, President of YMCA Europe, presented the YMCA-wide response to the crisis in Ukraine which began on 24 February. With over Euro 500,000 raised, an estimated 15,000 people have been helped in Ukraine as – incredibly – 17 YMCAs continued their work, and 40,000 people have been helped by YMCA at the Ukrainian borders.

“Please help us with the three Ps of Prayer, Publicity and Programmes”, she said. “With ‘Programmes’, please let us know how we can align our work with your Programmes”. She confirmed that YMCA Europe is still orchestrating emergency response, while planning longer-term capacity support to Ukraine and to neighbouring countries, including the YMCAs of Russia and Belarus.

She shared moving testimony of the breadth and depth of the YMCA response, thanked all those from across the global YMCA Movement who have supported, and pledged our collective determination to rise to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge.

Green light for Vision 2030, and Committee reports

A highlight of the meeting was the approval by the Committee of Vision 2030, ‘our road map for the next 10 years’, to be presented for adoption at World Council:.

The moment concluded a two-year consultation which has drawn comments from over 60 YMCA National Movements, as the global Movement seeks to align national strategy under one overall Movement-wide Vision and Mission, and four shared areas of activity: Community Wellbeing; Meaningful Work; Sustainable Planet; Just World.

“This is a historic moment”, said Patricia Pelton. “Thank you so much to all who have been so closely involved in this complex, painstaking and vital work.”

The Executive Committee’s Investment, Movement Relevance, Governance, and Election Committees also reported. The Committee also received a clean and unqualified 2021 Audited Board Report.

A proposal was endorsed to launch a Movement-wide ‘safe space’ conversation on Exploring Christian identity, expression and narrative in the 21st Century global YMCA Movement – towards a unifying position’. World YMCA will select a Steering Committee to pilot the process, including a series of Movement-wide conversations.

 

Looking back over 4 years

The Committee broke into groups to assess its own journey since its election at YMCA World Council in Chiang Mai in July 2018, through live meetings in Geneva (twice) and Montreal before moving online from March 2020.

All reflected on a combination of speed, solidarity and action: speed in response to dramatic events, not least Covid; solidarity Movement-wide (with the Committee pushing for the creation of the YMCA Covid Solidarity Fund which safeguarded some 380 jobs), and bold action in areas like reconfiguring strategy to reflect Covid, launching a series of Youth Led Solutions Summits, and driving forward the Vision 2030 strategy process.

World YMCA President Patricia Pelton reported on her own activities since October, and welcomed her first trip to World YMCA headquarters since its inauguration in January 20121.

 

“To say that we have been under duress these last four years is an understatement,’ said World YMCA President Patricia Pelton. ‘But the duty of care provided by our Movement to all the communities out there never stops- its shape is changing with the times, and needs of young people worldwide. We have stepped up. It’s been an honour to serve”.

World YMCA Secretary-General Carlos Sanvee looked at the fundamental shifts in YMCA work brought about by the twin crisis of Covid and Ukraine.  Of the many lessons learned in the face of Covid, high among them was the imperative for YMCA the world over to pivot to meet new needs, he said. Of the many lessons being learned in the ‘Zeitwende’, the turning point for humanity which we are witnessing in Ukraine, he pointed to the need to look at all crisis first and foremost through our young people’s eyes, and to the challenge to act on our Vision 2030 commitment to creating ‘A Just World’.

“There’s Ukraine; there’s Myanmar, there’s Syria and Yemen. There are many conflicts the world over … there are the evils of inequity, injustice and oppression. Ukraine is reminding us that our voices and our actions have to call out all pain, all suffering, all injustice, all tyranny, all falsehood – everywhere.”

The current Executive Committee will meet for the last time at World Council 22, on 3 July. Its successor will be elected on 5 July, and will meet for the first time on 9 July.