Hosted by YMCA Spain, YMCA Europe´s General Assembly gathered more than 130 delegates from 31 countries in Madrid.
From May 5th to the 8th under the title “The possible dream – making dreams possible”, the European YMCA movement was inspired by the writer Miguel de Cervantes and his main character Don Quixote of La Mancha, as an example of idealism in his search for utopia. This year Spain, Europe and the world celebrate 400 years of the death of Cervantes.
The delegates received a warm welcome to Spain through Vice -President Jose Maria de Las Casas on behalf of President Jose Antonio Corrales, Secretary General Pedro Fueyo, Board members, staff and volunteers of the Spanish movement.
General Director of the Spanish National Institute of Youth (INJUVE) Ruben Urosa and the Director of Youth and Sports of the Madrid Regional Government Pablo Salazar shared their best wishes to all participants, expressing the strong co-operation of these public institutions with the YMCA in Spain.
One of the highlights of the General Assembly was the adoption of YMCA Europe´s 2016-2020 Strategy. The consultation process to elaborate our plan for the next four years had started in Tallinn (Estonia) in May 2015 during the previous General Assembly.
Since then, all our National YMCAs and working platforms had the chance of providing inputs and proposals for the upcoming years in the frame of Europe´s actual social reality.
The Strategy focuses on four socially relevant priorities:
- Youth Empowerment,
- Peace & Justice,
- Asylum Seekers & Migrants and
- Youth Empowerment.
In order to respond to these issues, YMCA Europe will focus on three objectives : Creating Spaces, Movement Strengthening and Representation & Advocacy. Annual Operational Plans with specific objectives, actions and indicators will be designed, presented and implemented by YMCA Europe´s Staff Team.
A new Executive Committee was elected, including our new President Mike Will from Scotland. Mike shared some of the priorities for the next years with a focus on Youth Empowerment, Movement Strengthening and an effective response to the challenges in today´s Europe.
The rest of the elected Executive Committee members are : Stepan Cerny, Czech Republic (Vice – president), Beate Turck, Germany (Treasurer), Diana Zarembiene, Lithuania (Recording Secretary) and the assessors: Edgar Mifsud (Malta), Marta Huretska (Ukraine), Lydia Gondasova (Slovakia), Martin Houghton-Brown (England) and Dan Carpov (Romania).
A special recognition was given to our former President Ed Eggink and the Executive Committee members that served with him over the past four years with deep appreciation for their commitment and excellent work during the past strategic period.
YMCA Europe´s Secretary General Juan Simoes Iglesias reported about the past year, providing also an overview about the developments during the period 2011-2016 with fact and figures on the different fields of work.
The title of Juan´s report was “What really matters” and he included a vision for the future and our priorities in the frame of our new Strategy. One of this focuses is the YMCA response to the so called refugees crisis and in that respect, Jim Thomson from Scotland inspired all participants with his keynote speech about the history of the YMCA in working with refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and internally displaced persons. Based on his deep experience at YMCA´s local and global levels, Jim highlighted the key role of the YMCA as a leading organization in this field during decades.
The General Assembly also included sessions about Constitutional changes, workshops on the different strategic priorities with concrete outcomes that will be used to elaborate our annual Operational Plans, devotions and daily messages in the format of “thoughts of the day” led by the Christian Orientation Group, interest groups on finances, representation in Brussels, Y´s Men and YMCA Europe´s programme groups.
A crucial group during the General Assembly was YES (Youth Empowerment Space). 27 young people took place at the YES Seminar held also in Madrid from May 2nd to the 5th and then joined the General Assembly.
Close to 40% of the delegates to the General Assembly were under 30 years of age which highlights the importance of Youth Empowerment in Action on our main annual European governance platform. We are thankful to all our National YMCAs for helping providing this experience to their young people. Youth Empowerment is a cross cutting element in our new Strategy aligned with the vision and priorities of the YMCA in the global level.
“GRACIAS” for an effective and inspiring General Assembly and we look forward to meeting again next year in Scotland !!