YMCA global meetings #2 – strengthening governance, updating the Constitution

Date: 01 November 2021

Two Governance meetings on 29 and 30 October 2021 – the 82nd World YMCA Executive Committee Meeting and the first ever Extraordinary YMCA World Council – reviewed the work of a busy year to date, heard encouraging financial reports, and then voted in favour of significant changes to the World YMCA Constitution and the size and composition of its Executive Committee.

A constant theme of the meetings – from World YMCA President Patricia Pelton’s opening remarks, through a series of comments made as the constitutional amendments were presented and voted upon – was not only the Movement’s service to young people, but also the primacy of hearing and responding to young people’s voices in the work and the governance of the World YMCA and the entire global Movement.

Another strong theme was unity: several speakers quoted the YMCA’s founding scripture of St John’s Gospel, chapter 17 verse 21 (‘…. that all may be one’), and it was in the spirit of that verse that the Movement agreed to debate the way it frames its Christian faith, identity and principles in a 21st Century setting, to be conducted after World Council 2022.

The Executive Committee Meeting held online on 29 October 2021 brought together all committee members and provided a shared platform for all standing committees to inform members on the work and performance of the World Alliance in the preceding year.

Patricia Pelton began with an announcement. “World YMCA is so fortunate to have Carlos Sanvee as our Secretary General, and today I can confirm that his second term will run from January 2022 to the end of August 2026. Carlos will also stay on as a special advisor to the incoming Secretary General, until the end of October 2026.”

Over the three hours that followed, Standing Committee Chairpersons presented their respective committees’ activities implemented over the last six months, and their planning for the year to come.

Mathilde Thue (Norway) presented the Strategy Committee report, highlighting progess in the YMCA Vision 2030 consultation process.  “This is a great step for the Movement, and it’s so fantastic to see involvement from so many different parties. I was honored to be a part of several of these information webinars.”

Chris Lewis (Australia) presented the Investment Committee report, explaining recommendations made to change World YMCA’s investment focus given the current economic climate.

Ronald Yam (Hong Kong) presented the Finance Committee report, showing some 2 million CHF operating income in 2021 to date and 1.7 million expenditure, leaving a small surplus. After a detailed presentation of the 2021 year-to-date financial statements, the Committee approved the Finance Committee Report and the 2022 Operating Budget as presented.
Alan Morton (Australia) presented the Movement Relevance Committee report and Duncan Ingram (UK) presented the Governance Committee report, and ensuing debate focused on deepening a shared understanding of the Committee’s responsibilities to drive a united YMCA.



The Extraordinary World Council Meeting held online on 30 October 2021 brought together some 220 people – of whom 160 were official voting delegates – to make decisions on a series of proposed constitutional changes.

13 constitutional amendments were proposed and 12 were unanimously approved: the motion not approved concerned external members of the Executive Committee. Having voted for the principle that up to two external members of the Executive Committee be elected to the Committee should they offer relevant expertise and espouse the principles of the organization, the Meeting then voted against those two external members having voting rights.

Motions approved included:

  • Replacing the term ‘Young Men’ with the term ‘Young People’ in the English version of the Paris Basis
  • Newly recognising key documents: “The Paris Basis has been reaffirmed and contextualised in the subsequent statements known as the Kampala Principles adopted in 1973 and Challenge 21 adopted in 1998. Each member YMCA is therefore called to focus on the challenges, prioritised according to its own context.”
  • Reducing the size of the Executive Committee from the current 33 to between 21 and 23 members. ‘Beside the 3 Officers and 4 Area Presidents, 11 members will be elected; (4 areas will have 2 members each, USA, Canada and Middle East will have 1 member each). A minimum of 4 youth and a maximum of 7 members from one gender will be maintained. … The Immediate Past President, the Y’s Men International Liaison and the Secretary General continue to be members with no voting rights. The Area Presidents’ will continue uninterrupted, aligned with the tenure of the World YMCA and continue their tenure of four years at the World Alliance until the next World Council Meeting’.
  • Changing the rules governing use of the John R Mott Investment Fund, ensuring the protection of the value of the fund, as well as allowing flexibility in releasing interest payments to support the work of the World YMCA.


A number of the closing remarks pointed to the value that the changes will provide in unleashing the full creative potential of a 120-country YMCA Movement, and in turn unleashing the creative potential of over 1 billion young people worldwide.

“Making even the smallest changes to a constitution is not for the faint of heart”, said Patricia Pelton. “But a modern organization this. I thank you all so much for your support, your patience and your understanding. I look forward to seeing you again at the 20th YMCA World Council in Aarhus, Denmark and online, in July 2022.”