The World Alliance of YMCAs was founded in 1855 at its first World Conference, held in Paris. At that time, conference participants developed the YMCA’s first mission statement, the Paris Basis.
Since then, the YMCA’s mission statement has been interpreted to reflect contemporary realities, first in 1973 with the Kampala Principles, and most recently in 1998 with Challenge 21.
Challenge 21, adopted at the 14th World Council of YMCAs, Frechen, Germany, 1998 states that:
“Affirming the Paris Basis adopted in 1855 as the ongoing foundation statement of the mission of the YMCA, at the threshold of the third millennium we declare that the YMCA is a world-wide Christian, ecumenical, voluntary movement for women and men with special emphasis on and the genuine involvement of young people and that it seeks to share the Christian ideal of building a human community of justice with love, peace and reconciliation for the fullness of life for all creation.
Each member YMCA is therefore called to focus on certain challenges which will be prioritized according to its own context. These challenges, which are an evolution of the Kampala Principles, are:
• Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and striving for spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being of individuals and wholeness of communities.
• Empowering all, especially young people and women to take increased responsibilities and assume leadership at all levels and working towards an equitable society.
• Advocating for and promoting the rights of women and upholding the rights of children.
• Fostering dialogue and partnership between people of different faiths and ideologies and recognizing the cultural identities of people and promoting cultural renewal.
• Committing to work in solidarity with the poor, dispossessed, uprooted people and oppressed racial, religious and ethnic minorities.
• Seeking to be mediators and reconcilers in situations of conflict and working for meaningful participation and advancement of people for their own self-determination.
• Defending God’s creation against all that would destroy it and preserving and protecting the earth’s resources for coming generations. To face these challenges, the YMCA will develop patterns of co-operation at all levels that enable self-sustenance and self-determination.”