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International Youth Day – Safe spaces for youth…

This year’s theme for International Youth Day is “Safe Spaces for Youth”.   It’s a timely reminder to us all in the education and youth sectors worldwide that we have a responsibility to work in partnership with young people to ensure that they can develop and thrive in environments that are free from discrimination, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation has zero tolerance for harassment or exploitation against Award participants, their communities, Award operators, our partner organisations, staff, or volunteers.   Organisations like ourselves must expect to be held to the highest possible standards of safeguarding.

The Foundation licenses Award Operators worldwide.   In 2017, more than 1.3 million young people participated in the Award, working in their communities with millions of children, young people and vulnerable adults.  Keeping Award participants, and those they work with, safe from harm is a priority for us all.   Abuse and violence exist in all countries and all sectors.   When things go wrong, we expect to be judged on two things: the measures the Award and its Operators have in place to prevent abuse or misconduct from occurring; and the actions they take to reduce the risk of the incident being repeated.

Hundreds of thousands of adults, defined for the sake of the Award as someone aged over the age of 16,  are engaged in Award related activities that bring them into contact, regularly or from time to time, with children, young people and vulnerable adults.  These “Adults in the Award” include paid staff, Award Leaders, Adventurous Journey Supervisors, Award Assessors (or equivalent titles) and volunteers in a range of different roles.

We are committed to:

  • Ensuring the interests and well-being of children, young people and vulnerable adults are taken into account, in all our considerations and activities, wherever in the world those may be.
  • Respecting the rights, wishes and feelings of the children, young people and vulnerable adults with whom we, our licensees and associated organisations work.
  • Taking all reasonable practicable steps to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and to promote their health, wellbeing and human rights.
  • Promoting the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults and their protection within a position of trust.

We expect Award Operators and individual units to undertake due diligence when selecting organisations and individuals with whom to partner on Award activity.

It is the responsibility of each Adult in the Award to ensure that:

  • Their behaviour is appropriate at all times.
  • They observe the rules established by the Award and by their own organisation for the safety and security of children, young people and vulnerable adults.
  • They follow the procedures of their organisation following suspicion, disclosure or allegation of any abuse, including those regarding the reporting of any suspicion, disclosure or allegation.
  • They recognise the position of trust in which they have been placed.
  • In every respect, the relationships they form with the children, young people and vulnerable adults under their care are appropriate.

To give positive guidance, in addition to insisting on appropriate vetting to national standards and compliance with national guidelines for the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults, the Foundation has published a Code of Conduct with regard to safeguarding that describes what it expects of individuals and the organisations to which they belong.

But, not only do we have a responsibility to ensure that the young people with whom we work are safe, we also need to work with those same young people to foster their commitment to keeping others safe.  Every week, more than 1.3 million Award participants provide voluntary service in their communities, often working with children and vulnerable adults.

Through this activity, they are contributing to creating ‘Safe Spaces’ for their communities, because creating safe spaces is not just about changing the physical environment, but also changing our daily interactions with one another.

I believe that the Award helps young people equip themselves for life, by developing the skills, attitudes and behaviours they need to be successful citizens.   Young people tell us that their Award experiences have strengthened their resilience, empathy and compassion.   They tell us that they have developed positive habits of volunteering that they will continue with throughout their lives.

So, I applaud this year’s theme.   It is essential that we all work to create “Safe Spaces for Youth”.   And I am proud and delighted that, through the Award, youth are creating safe spaces for themselves and their communities.   For youth.  By youth.  For everyone.



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