Media Center

Press Release


  May 30, 2008

Organization of American States’ (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza today urged business and private sector leaders to engage the hemisphere’s youth and their projects as “sources of ideas, innovation and inventions.”

Insulza issued the call as the second day of the Fifth Private Sector Forum got underway, ahead of the 38th regular session of the OAS General Assembly that opens in Medellin, Colombia, on Sunday. The General Assembly, the organization’s highest decision-making body that brings together the foreign ministers of the 34 Member States, is being convened this year under the central theme of “Youth and Democratic Values.”

Fernando Araújo, Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who will chair the General Assembly, and Ernesto Gutiérrez, President of the Private Sector of the Americas, also addressed today’s session of the Private Sector Forum.

Telling the Forum participants that one in four of the youth of Latin America and the Caribbean is not in school nor working, the Secretary General warned that “these youngsters, unemployed or holding unsteady jobs, and unconcerned about democracy and its values because they see it as having nothing for their future, sometimes end up on the margins of society and then become the main perpetrators—but also the main victims—of crime and violence.”

Secretary General Insulza stressed that this situation calls for a private sector with a different attitude towards innovation and enterprise. “These young people need to be trained and afforded the necessary skills and flexibility so they can adapt to a marketplace that is in a state of flux,” said Insulza.

To address the situation of disaffected youth and to prevent things from dramatically worsening, Insulza called for hundreds of thousands of new jobs to be created over the next few years. Against that background, he underscored the important role that governments must also play in paving the way for stability and security in order to spur private initiative. As well, Insulza argued, governments must establish the regulatory framework—“something that is simpler, faster and less costly”—to facilitate new business start-ups.

The OAS Secretary General also pointed to a series of challenges facing the nations of the Americas, including poverty, steep food price increases, inequity and crime. Insulza argued that “these are all issues that can be dealt with through democratically-supported public policies addressing not only rights and opinion but also the participation of the entire citizenry.”

Public-private alliances are therefore vital, as is corporate social responsibility, Insulza noted. He added that the scourge of inequity in Latin America and the Caribbean cannot be tackled “without private sector understanding and cooperation around public policies that are just, relevant and aimed at addressing the problem.” Among success stories of this collaboration, the Secretary General cited the Alcatraz Project developed by a Venezuelan businessman as well as the Talent and Innovation Competition (TIC) created by the OAS-affiliated Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), both projects featured in Medellin as part of the pre-General Assembly showcase.

Foreign Minister Araújo, meanwhile, highlighted “substantial progress” he said the Colombian state has made in achieving sustained levels of growth over the last six years. And, reiterating the positive impact of public-private alliances, Araújo said Colombia views the role of such joint efforts “not only as desirable but indeed as a cornerstone of the policy of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez’ government.”

The Colombian Foreign Minister underscored as well the importance of public policy that is based on confidence—a confidence he described as based on the assurance of democracy; on investment based on corporate social responsibility; and on social development based on fundamental freedoms.”

OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin also attended the Private Sector Forum, where participants are discussing a range of issues, among them such topics as: Forging a public-private alliance for governance in the Americas; Youth and leadership in promoting governance and competitiveness; Global corporate social responsibility in the 21st century; Economic development and democracy; and The challenge of governance.

Reference: E-202/08