Media Center



May 31, 2007 - Hotel El Panama, Salon Centenario, Panamá

Ambassador Denis Antoine, Chair of the Board of the Young Americas Business Trust,
Members of the Board of the YABT,
YABT National Representatives,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of international, regional and national organizations,
Staff members of the YABT,
Representatives of the International Cooperation and Development Fund,
Representatives of the Global T.I.C.,
Representatives of NASHAV,
Young entrepreneurs,
Ladies and gentleme

It gives me much pleasure to be here at the conclusion of the first Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas and to witness the amazing talent and skills of those of you who are participating in this important event.

I congratulate each of you, young entrepreneurs on your talent, attitudes, ideas, innovative abilities and strong committment to your communities and nations. You demonstrate the essence of what it means to be socially responsible business citizens. Many now and in the future will benefit from your exemplary attitudes, your steadfast dedication and forward looking creativity.

Support for the work of YABT at the OAS

I have always believed and continue to believe that it is imperative for societies to invest in youth in a commited way. Throughout my career, whether in business or government, I have supported the advancement of programs for young people and therefore it is only natural in my current position as Assistant Secretary General of the OAS that I have closely followed and supported the work of the Young Americas Business Trust.

I have spoken at many YABT events in Washington and having interacted with these young people and observed their energy, focus and determination, I have always come away with a sense of hope for the future of the Americas. And there is no doubt in my mind that you not only represent the future, but you in effect are the future of our countries.

Indeed, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see and meet the young people who take part in and benefit from these initiatives and to hear about their accomplishments.

An Investment In Youth: An Investment for the Future

I am convinced that any society that wants to achieve peace and prosperity must focus on youth and invest in education.

Youth, in my view, is the most important development asset of any country and certainly in the Western Hemisphere where in many of our Member states, young people form the majority of the population. We cannot continue to loose large segments of our youth population who fall victim to the vicious cycle of inter-generational poverty, crime, and social alienation.

Just last week the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Central America pointed out the challenges faced by young people and the unemployed in the midst of wide income disparities and rising crime rates, especially gun crime.

In the Caribbean, a similar World Bank report has analysed the direct economic impact of crime and violence on the economy, particularly the tourism Industry, which is the principal engine of economic activity in the sub-region and perhaps the best prospect for creating future jobs, growing small businesses and broadening economic prosperity.

I therefore commend the YABT for working in a meaningful and concrete manner to provide alternatives, opportunities and hope to young people across the Americas. Indeed, by so doing, YABT has developed a role as an essential partner in the area of economic growth and development.

Young Entrepreneurs Essential to a Comprehensive Development Strategy

I believe that it is vitally important to focus now on the next generation of business leaders – today’s young entrepreneurs. Investment in entrepreneurship and education are fundamental for long-term development, as has been demonstrated in countries like Korea and Singapore. In that regard, policies to encourage and support young entrepreneurs must be an integral part of any development strategy.

It is therefore appropriate that the YABT Dialogue on Innovation and Collaboration, which will occur in this same room tomorrow morning, will have a twin focus on corporate social responsibility as well as innovation.

In this respect, permit me to reiterate the substantial commitment of the OAS General Secretariat to collaborate with the private sector and to support community and youth programs, by establishing public-private partnerships with concrete deliverables, that will enhance the life of especially young people in the rural areas.

I am therefore pleased to announce today a major new initiative between the OAS Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), the Canadian International Development Agency, and YABT, along with Forum Empresa, Canadian Business and Social Responsibility, and other international partners to work with small businesses and young entrepreneurs to establish sub-regional and sectoral linkages in areas such as tourism. The agreement to be signed tomorrow will initiate a three year program, starting in the Caribbean but with the intention of eventually expanding the program throughout the Hemisphere.

TIC Americas must be more than the competition and the awards. It must incorporate into its framework, follow-up opportunities for the winners and semifinalists by way of business opportunities, training, networking and mentorships as part of YABT’s network. Thus, I hope everyone will collaborate in tangible ways to continue TIC Americas in 2008, to be held at next year’s General Assembly.

I would like to propose moreover that we take a long-term view and develop a strategic approach to entrepreneurial development that goes beyond projects. This would create a broad, sustainable initiative involving the OAS, other international donors, private sector leaders and young entrepreneurs themselves. We ourselves need to be creative and forward-looking as we seek to invest more in innovation and entrepreneurship, and in order to meet the tremendous challenges of the twenty-first century.


Now I invite you to join with me in recognizing some of the most talented and entrepreneurial young people in the Americas. Every finalist is a winner for making it this far in a rigorous competition. Whether or not you receive one of the eight awards, every person and every team will have benefited from the process and from this experience.

This moment is the result of almost three years of preparation by YABT and a competition and selection process that began last October. I salute you all-organizers and participants- for a job well done.