The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today held a special meeting to receive recommendations from the 2012 Conference "Youth in Action for Democracy and Entrepreneurship," which took place yesterday at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.
During the meeting, the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, the Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, the Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Mexico, Joel Hernandez, and representatives from Member States heard the recommendations and highlighted the key role that young people should play in decision making, particularly in the framework of the hemispheric organization.
The session was opened by the Chair of the Council, who explained that since its creation in 1948 the OAS "has worked toward the wide dissemination of the benefits of governance in the Americas," and in that sense it has achieved significant progress. At the same time, Ambassador Hernandez recalled that there are still challenges to be faced in working toward that goal, among them a figure he cited from a study done by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), that approximately 45 percent of the people under the age of 18 in the region live in poverty and are the ones most affected by a lack of access to basic services like education, healthcare, a safe environment and other essential requirements.
"Adolescents and young people comprise about 18 percent of the total population of Latin America and the Caribbean, the largest percentage of any region of the world, therefore it is essential that they be considered as key players in the design and implementation of programs to overcome the various challenges faced by democracies in our hemisphere," explained Ambassador Hernández.
OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said that "events like the one held yesterday constitute the refinement of a youth strategy through the promotion of activities that we are already developing within the organization," and stressed the need to strengthen regional efforts in what he considers the four major themes of youth: education, employment, crime and political participation. In that sense, he stressed the importance of providing youth with "effective opportunities to express their capabilities through investment in the development of human capital and policies and programs targeting this segment of the population."
"It is essential that young people have a type of education that responds to the scientific, technological and cultural progress of the world, and to have also effective opportunities for productive employment," he said. Likewise, he mentioned the relationship between employment and social development and the need to "expand the coverage and quality of education, develop concrete measures and initiatives that create more jobs and create real opportunities for youth participation."
These objectives, recognized Secretary General Insulza, “are not an easy task,” because the estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO) present a complex picture: "Worldwide there are 200 million unemployed people, of which a third, about 75 million, are under the age of 25, and young workers are also three times more likely to be unemployed than adults."
In terms of political participation, the OAS leader said that young people "should be a transforming force in the defense of their rights, of their freedom, democracy and equality, which are the values that our governments are fighting for," and referred to the "enthusiastic and active" engagement of the young people who have participated in political and social movements globally, "which is proof of their ability and desire to be actors and drivers of change."
The recommendations of the Conference were presented by Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, who described them as "realistic, concrete and implementable" and said the content would "allow Member States as well as our own organization to promote more opportunities for youth in the Americas."
As for the Conference, Ambassador Ramdin said that the tone and attitude of the meeting was marked by a "constructive engagement focusing on the opportunities and responsibilities, with a perspective of not only hope and optimism in the future, but also one representing a realistic view of the options available." "In making the dreams of the youth of the Americas a reality, we must recognize them as a force, as a strategic segment in society that cannot and should not be neglected," said the OAS representative who also recognized the support for the organization of the conference provided by the Office of Education and Culture, the Model OAS General Assembly, the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) and the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT).
The Assistant Secretary General, who chairs the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Youth within the General Secretariat, said that the organization’s work on youth are based on the 2008 General Assembly in Medellin, when Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the young population and delivered a mandate to the organization to "incorporate the youth perspective into its programs and activities, in particular activities that focus on the promotion of democratic principles and values." Since then, continued Ambassador Ramdin, the OAS has worked on a youth strategy that "seeks to make it a crosscutting issue that needs to be taken into account when deciding, executing and evaluating the impact of programs" conducted by the OAS.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports, Information Technology and Telecommunications and Post of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Glen Phillip, stressed to the Council the role and contribution of the youth in the formation of more equitable societies, and explained the initiatives that the government of his country has taken to improve in this area. As a show of its commitment to youth-related initiatives, Minister Phillip said his country “stands ready and committed to its pledge to empower its entire young population and to partner with other intergovernmental stakeholders to build stronger relationships that provide opportunities for youth development and empowerment."
The Council's agenda also included the presentation of testimonials by young beneficiaries of OAS Programs and Activities. Ana Moraga, winner of the award "Champions for Change 2012," given by the White House, the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spoke about her experience with the
OAS Internship Program with the Inter-American Commission of Women; Ana Cristina Benavente, Project Leader of the Project “Joe the Rabbit and the Family of the Future” talked about her work and learning experience gained through the "Armando Paz" program; Jesus Herrera, of the initiative Conciencia Hídrica (Eco Challenge, sponsored by the Young Americas Business Trust), and Valeria Castillo, President Elect of the Model OAS General Assembly (MOAS) presented her view of how the program helps college students to become future leaders.
The session concluded with interventions by Member Countries, who praised the initiative and the recommendations and reiterated their own governments’ commitment to promoting the issues that affect young people in the hemisphere. Representatives from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Canada, El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico, Bolivia, Panama, and Chile took part on this point.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event will be available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.