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For most of the last 20 years of my tenure as CEO of Peace Child International, the organisation was best known for its World Youth Congresses(WYCs). Born out of the UN’s closure of the Agenda 21 / Local Agenda 21 process, it set new standards for the empowerment of young people to organise their own events, and massively promoted youth agency in the delivery of the UN’s global goals.

However, much as we tried to prevent it, the organisation of the WYCs did suck the oxygen out of the other areas of the organisation’s work. They were so hard, and so time-consuming to organise, PCI’s other work fell by the wayside. This was particularly true of the Peace Child musicals unless – as in Canada with the Kids on Strike Musical, and in Turkiye with Peace Child – Alpha Omega – they were woven into the WYC programme. It was also often difficult to organise PCI\s own agenda when each Congress was being paid for, and hosted by, a powerful government which had its own agenda – often different in a myriad of details from PCI’s. However, in spite of these tensions, each Congress was a wonderful way for PCI to consult on the priorities of its youth members and wider youth constituency. Building on their priority concerns, the WYCs became our way to plan our long-term activities. That was their unique value – and why, if there was ever a way to mobilise the resources to do a regular series of biennial meetings, we would probably do so in a heartbeat. The Flickr Compendium of 400+ photographs of the different congresses + the Videos made by some of the delegates – show the kind of enthusiasm and excitement they generated.

Below I outline the major features and outcomes of each Congress as I remember them. Inevitably, it is a personal recollection, probably too focussed on the behind-the-scenes problems and tensions than the front-of-house successes and inspiration. Hopefully, these will be useful to anyone tempted to organise other major international events. Others – particularly the young delegates – will remember each Congress as a life-changing event, their memories uncoloured by the problems I encountered. That’s as it should be for their experience – as shown in many of the videos these stories are linked to – are the only ones that really matter.

David R Woollcombe, November 2018