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Press Release


  May 28, 2008

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, inaugurated the Youth Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Medellin, Colombia, today, stating that “the most effective way to spread the values of democracy among the young is by proving their participation is useful and productive.” The opening ceremony was held at the EAFIT University within the framework of the 38th OAS General Assembly.

The event, organized by the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), with the support of the University of Antioquia, Colombia’s National Service of Learning (SENA, for its acronym in Spanish) and the city of Medellin, was the first of a series of activities scheduled to take place prior to the Thirty Eighth Regular Session of the General Assembly, which central theme is “Youth and Democratic Values.”

“I believe that the most effective way to spread the values of democracy among the young is by proving their participation is useful and productive, because democracy is not only a sum of institutions or a system of government, but also the possibility to be useful to others through our own initiative and our own effort,” Insulza said.

“It is often said that our region is a region of young people—and this is true,” he added, explaining that more than 65 per cent of Latin America’s population, estimated in 350 million people, is under 35 years old, and approximately 150 million, is between 15 and 24 years old. “What is not said so often—and unfortunately is also true—is that these young people constitute the sector at most risk within our population and are the ones who suffer most directly the limitations and problems that affect us.”

Insulza indicated that in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 11 million young people live below the poverty line, on less than 1 dollar per day, emphasizing that the unemployment rate among the young amounts to 16 per cent, three times more than the rate for adults. He said that more than 30 millions out of the 48 millions young people that are employed have jobs in the informal sector and in very poor conditions.

“Young people are the ones who suffer most directly the effects of crime and violence. Those in the lower social classes, especially men, are the main protagonists of gang activities,” stressed Insulza.

The Secretary General highlighted the activities carried out by the OAS to achieve equal opportunities among young people, and through them, a better understanding of the democratic system. “The OAS has obligations in this area, which we have been fulfilling. In particular, we are proud of the program Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), and the initiatives it has put in practice in the last period.”

In this context, Insulza underlined that YABT offers business labs, training programs, projects of financial education and internships—tools that allow young people to develop business skills and, ultimately, to generate employment and contribute to economic growth and development. “The program has already trained around 20,000 people under 35 years of age in almost all countries of the hemisphere, many of whom have successfully started their own enterprises,” he said.

Lastly, Insulza mentioned that one of the main activities promoted by YABT is the program Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas, known as TIC Americas, whose second edition will be inaugurated this afternoon. “This is an international competition with the goal of learning about and recognizing business plans. This year thirty teams from thirteen countries, selected from among eight hundred plus applicants, will be present in Medellin in the final phase of the competition”, he said.

YABT is a private sector initiative affiliated with the General Secretariat of the OAS. Its goal is to reduce poverty and unemployment in the hemisphere through the training of young entrepreneurs to generate businesses.

For his part, Medellin Mayor, Alonso Salazar Jaramillo, pointed out that “entrepreneurship is key within the State of Colombia, the city of Medellin and the region’s private sector.” He also referred to the main projects carried out by the local government to promote entrepreneurship in Medellin, mainly in the areas of applied research, digitalization and connectivity.

Also at hand during the opening ceremony were the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Ambassador Camilo Ospina, the Rector of the EAFIT University, Juan Luis Mejía, and the National Director of SENA, Darío Montoya.

Reference: E-199/08