A History of Representing the Youth Across the World

Since the year 2000 we celebrate the International Youth Day on the 12th of august, aimed at drawing attention to issues faced by youth across the globe. On the occasion of the 2021 International Youth Day, KADOC searched the IYCW-archives to highlight some ways in which IYCW has drawn attention to youth.

The IYCW is not only an organization of youth, but also an organization for youth. Since its conception, it has not strived for improvements in the life conditions of young workers but also for representation of young workers and youth in general. The archives show that the International Youth Day was preceded by several festivals, gatherings and federations which brought youth to the attention of the world. In many of these, the International Secretariat played an important part even before it had developed into the IYCW.


Not long after the Second World War, the YCW was involved in the creation of the International Federation of Catholic Youth. The YCW was present during first meetings in 1948 and the 1st General Assembly in Rome in 1951. An annotated draft version also reveals that the YCW helped draft the official statues of the newly founded IFCY. The federation was mainly aimed at promoting a sense of fraternity amongst catholic youth organizations. Having all affiliated organizations share their methods amongst each other would surely improve their effectivity. A little earlier, in 1949, YCW-members had been present at the founding meeting of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) which took place in Westminster Hall, London in 1949.

Another body in which the IYCW played a part was the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY). Established in 1945, the WFDY has a strong anti-imperialist orientation and tried to bring the youth from capitalist and socialist countries together. In 1978, the WFDY held the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Cuba. The organization of this festival rested was entrusted to the IYCW, which could throw into gear the Cuban YCW.


In 1989 Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, was the venue for the 13th World Festival. A letter from the archives gives us an impression of the difficulties when preparing such a festival. In 1988 IYCW president Felix Ollivares had only just returned to Brussels from a visit to Asia and was due to leave again for East-Berlin in two days. There he would attend a preparatory meeting for the World Festival to be held in Pyongyang. The East-German embassy in Brussels however could not fetch a visa in time. If this problem was not solved quickly, the IYCW-president would not be able to cross into East-Berlin. In an attempt to solve this problem that could come straight from a Hollywood-movie, the International Secretariat asked the East-German authorities if they could bring a valid visa to Checkpoint Charlie and hand it over to Ollivares when he crossed the border. Little did they know that only a year later there would be no more border in Berlin…


Stay tuned for our following article in which we peak over the wall and look at the YCW in East-Germany.

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