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OAS Secretary General Makes a Call to Confront Inequality and Violence to Help Youth in the Region

  June 28, 2011

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, made a call today to confront “inequality and violence,” factors that in his judgment are “the two fundamental aspects we must face” together “to continue to generate economic and social development in the region.”

“When some claim in a somewhat premature way that the decade that begins now could be the decade of Latin America and the Caribbean,” Secretary General Insulza said, they base their judgment on the economic growth the region has experienced in recent years and on the progressive strengthening of democracy. Nevertheless, “they don’t look enough at the enormous obstacles that we still face.” On this, he held that “leaving aside the political obstacles we still face in our region, I think there are two fundamental aspects it is necessary that we confront if this is effectively to be our region’s decade, and those are inequality and violence, and the two predominantly affect our youth.”

The head of the OAS participated in the inauguration of the Youth Development and Crime Prevention Conference, co-organized by the hemispheric Organization with the United States Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the objective of studying the initiatives undertaken in this area by governments, civil society organizations and the private sector in the region. The event also included the participation of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, and the Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mark Feierstein.

Referring to the reality that must be faced by young people today in our region, Secretary General Insulza highlighted that people under 29 years of age in Latin America and the Caribbean represent some 57 percent of the population: “the greatest proportion of youth population in the world,” he recalled. He added that this can be an advantage “that can only become effective if we are capable of providing these young people options for employment, effective opportunities they can use to express their capabilities,” he asserted. “And in this special period of our history, investment in human capital development and in policies and programs aimed at youth is of fundamental importance,” he added.

Insulza added that, towards this goal, the OAS has developed a commitment with a youth development agenda, and recalled that the organization held its 2008 General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia, with “youth and democratic values” as its central theme, and that “since then a working group chaired by the Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, has been working on a strategy for the General Secretariat with the objective of making progress on youth development.” Furthermore, Secretary General Insulza referred to four initiatives undertaken by the Organization on this subject: the new hemispheric strategy on drugs, which emphasizes prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs; the project titled, “Armando Paz” (“Building Peace”), which jointly with USAID seeks to provide human and cultural development activities to youth, such as youth orchestras; its initiative on working to improve juvenile prisons or rehabilitation centers in countries of the region, “a problem that cannot wait,” in his words; and supporting public-private partnerships, such as the one it has with the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), which motivates youth to develop innovative activities and projects.

For his part, the USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Feierstein, asserted that his agency is “prioritizing the issue of security.” The work it develops is focused in three areas: to strengthen judicial systems to more fairly and effectively provide justice; to provide training and community policing to create bonds between communities and police; and to provide productive and plausible alternatives for vulnerable youth. “We need to reach at-risk youth before they turn to drugs and crime,” he said.

Arturo Valenzuela, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, asserted that “the need to ensure that this region’s young people have adequate social and economic opportunities” is “one of the most pressing issues in the Americas.” Furthermore, he described some of the programs the Government of the United States heads to support young people in making decisions that lead them towards futures of prosperity and peace, and he highlighted some of the independent initiatives undertaken by citizens in the region. “Youth crime in the Americas is a shared challenge for all of us,” he recalled. “And finding real and lasting solutions to this issue is a shared responsibility to all of us.”

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-743/11