Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the British Youth Council


  I am writing to seek your assistance as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, to secure Foreign Office support to reinstate the British Youth Council's international work.

  As you are undoubtedly aware the British Youth Council is the representative voice of young people aged 16-25 in the UK. Run by and for young people it represents their views to decision makers and promotes the increased participation of young people in society.

  A significant area of BYC's work since its creation in 1948 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been representing the UK internationally on youth issues and building relations with other national youth councils in the spirit of co-operation and understanding. To undertake this huge and increasingly important area of work BYC received a small annual grant from the FCO.

  Unfortunately the previous Government withdrew our international funding in 1994, which decimated our ability to participate in international youth fora, exchanges, training and lobbying. This not only wiped out BYC's international expertise as the first youth led national youth council, but also severely damaged the UK's reputation internationally by preventing the UK from being represented at European, Commonwealth and United Nations Youth Assemblies.

  We are very keen to turn this situation around and are looking to the Foreign Office to reinstate funding for our international work. Our previous grant was £42,000 per year, and enabled us to achieve enormous results.

  I am aware of the enormous assistance you have given the British Youth Council in the past, and would be very grateful if you felt able to assist us in this matter. Perhaps you could advise on how we could best go about securing Foreign Office support?

  I would be delighted to meet you to discuss this matter if you would so wish.


  The British Youth Council is the representative forum for young people aged 16-25 in the United Kingdom. Run by and for young people it exists to represent their views to government and decision makers, and promote the increased participation of all young people in society.

  The BYC membership consists of young people from over 100 diverse national organisations including youth organisations, trade unions, political parties, together with environmental and religious groups, and some 400 local youth councils from across the UK. It is currently leading the development of new youth platforms in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Council of the Isles.

  The British Youth Council is the official UK representative on the European, Commonwealth, World and United Nations Youth Forums.


  The British Youth Council was founded by the Foreign Office in 1948 as the British National Committee of the World Assembly of Youth. It existed to promote global co-operation against communism in the wake of the second world war.

  The international role of the British Youth Council has developed massively over those 50 years, often in response to new priorities identified by the Foreign office. At all times it has continued to fulfil its hugely respected role as the UK's international ambassador for youth, and centre for expertise.

  On the international stage the British Youth Council has led the way in developing democracies and building co-operation throughout the world, and over several decades has built a first class reputation for the country as a whole.

  The major international aspects of BYC's work were:

    —  Represent the young people of the UK at the European Youth Forum, Commonwealth Youth Forum and United Nations Youth Forum.

    —  Send youth representatives to European, Commonwealth and United Nations Youth Ministers Meetings as part of UK Government delegations.

    —  Host international government visitors to the UK, and providing seminars on young people in the UK.

    —  Promote UK youth organisations internationally.

    —  Provide training and expertise to develop democracies in other countries.

    —  Provide the UK government and youth organisations with information and advice on European Union and European Commission developments.

    —  Lobby the European Union and European Commission on behalf of young people and youth organisations in the UK.

    —  Promote and co-ordinate the international activities of the British Youth Council member organisations.

    —  Develop training materials and events to promote British young people's international understanding.

  In spring 1994 in a cost-cutting measure the previous government withdrew their funding of £42,000 for the British Youth Council's international work. This virtually wiped out BYC's international capacity, and despite massive efforts to secure external sponsorship the British Youth Council is still without funding for international activity.

  As a direct consequence the UK is perceived very badly on the international stage. International youth fora work with powerful institutions such as the European Commission and United Nations, and bring together tomorrow's leaders to promote co-operation and understanding. Over the last five years the removal of government funding for BYC, and therefore the absence of UK representation has been widely noted and the country's reputation severely damaged.

  The British Youth Council is still very capable of achieving significant results on international issues when it is resourced to do so. Prior to 1994 BYC managed to make the small grant of £42,000 go a very long way. More recently during the UK presidency of the EU, BYC secured a contribution of £3,000 from the FCO, which they used to lever in additional European moneys to enable them to run a major Youth Presidency project.


  The British Youth Council are very keen to receive international funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to re-engage the work it carried out prior to 1994. In addition they believe there are significant new opportunities, including promoting pan-European co-operation and international development.

  They are requesting funding of £45,000 a year, in the first instance for three years. This will be for:

    —  Active participation in international youth fora.

    —  Building links and expertise with other European National Youth Councils.

    —  Partnership working with other not-for-profit bodies, to build and promote opportunities for young people in Europe.

    —  Developing international resources for UK youth organisations.

    —  Limited exchanges with other youth councils, particularly in the EU and Commonwealth.

    —  Meeting and briefing international dignitaries hosted by the Foreign Office.

March 1999

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