Documents and Videos of the October 12th, 1999 Meeting of the 


Hall of the Americas, Organization of American States

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The Development of Micro, Small, and Medium Size Enterprises

Presentation by Roy Thomasson, Principal Specialist, Unit for
Social Development and Education, OAS

Mr. Chairman, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests

It is a pleasure to speak to you this afternoon on behalf of the OAS Unit for Social Development and Education, relating the Unit’s activities in follow-up to the Second Summit of the Americas held last year.

The Unit for Social Development and Education – and the OAS Young Americas Business Trust that I will report on later - integrates several major priorities and themes from the Summit: education, social development and combating poverty, civil society and the private sector, and micro and small enterprises.

The Unit’s work is organized along three major corresponding thematic areas: education, social development and poverty, and employment and labor. In each of these areas, the Unit aids the Summit follow-up process:

First, the Unit works at the political and policy level – providing technical support to the meetings of Ministers in each area, education, social development, and labor and to related high-level meetings convened by the OAS.

Second, a major goal is the exchange of experience and expertise among the countries, accomplished through internships, seminars, and regional networks.

Third, the Unit acts as a catalyst for development by working with the Member States to design pilot projects, mobilize external resources, and collaborate with other institutions in both the public and private sectors.

Fifty-seven percent of the population of the Hemisphere is under age 30. At the request of the Member States, particularly those in the Caribbean, the OAS began working to address the need to create more employment opportunities for young people more than fifteen years ago. This was due in large part to the realization that more young people were leaving school each year and entering the labor market than there were jobs being created in the formal wage sector.

As a result, instead of the traditional job training programs, an analysis of the labor market showed the need to generate self-employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young people. The OAS then began a program of technical cooperation that has grown to encompass a variety of approaches and high level of priority from the Caribbean Member States.

In order to build on and broaden this experience and to mobilize additional support, in past two years the Unit for Social Development and Education test marketed a concept that would create a US-based non-profit corporation, under the aegis of the OAS.

I am pleased to report today on the progress the Unit has made over the past two years since the Summit in the development of a new initiative with the private sector, addressing several issues identified as high priority at the Second Summit of the Americas.

The aims of the Young Americas Business Trust are to promote entrepreneurial development of young people in the Americas and the Caribbean, drawing on the private sector for technical and financial partnerships and establishing closer working relationships with other non-governmental organizations working in the field of micro, small, and medium size enterprises.

All these activities follow and support the Summit process as well as decisions taken by the OAS Member States over the past several years. These include the amendments to the OAS Charter making the alleviation of poverty one of the central objectives of the Organization, the several high level meetings, most particularly the High level meeting on Poverty that gave special priority to the challenges of youth poverty and employment in the Hemisphere. It further reinforces the recent decision by the Permanent Council to structure the General Secretariat of the OAS and to give the OAS a more dynamic vision for the 21st Century.

As a major activity in follow-up to the Summit process, the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), now a specialized private sector initiative within the OAS framework, is developing a variety of creative approaches and partnerships with the private sector, both non-governmental organizations and companies doing business in the region. The Board of Directors is chaired by former US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Jeanette W. Hyde, a respected North Carolina civic leader and entrepreneur in her own right.

The YABT priorities focus on three primary areas:

  1. Creating political and regulatory environments that are conducive to business growth by highlighting the importance of young entrepreneurs as a public policy priority.
  2. Increasing the level of training and follow-up resources available to young entrepreneurs.
  3. Using new technologies such as the Internet to distribute "how to" information and curricula through international business and technical cooperation networks.

From discussions with both governmental and private sector leaders over the past two years, the following programs have been developed as the central thrust of activities for the Young Americas Business Trust:

  1. Strategic Assistance to Member States in identifying and expanding successful programs for young entrepreneurs by targeting resources where they can be most effective. OAS experience over the past decade has taught the value of an integrated approach to youth enterprise training and development.
  2. Our approach, thus, is more strategic than project oriented, meaning that we aim to identify existing resources, find gaps, and link programs together in a more systematic process. The methodology includes a range of training and programming that involve personal development skills, technical and business training, and access to resources, namely, technology and finance.

  3. An Internet site, an "Internetwork" for young entrepreneurs and for organizations that work with them. A first step in this process is the development of a Directory of Resources for Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Businesses in the Americas and the Caribbean, comprising over 500 organizations in training, marketing, and finance.
  4. This is geared to helping business startups gain access to information and other resources that will help their business succeed and to linking organizations into a technical and information network to share experiences and expertise in the field.

  5. Business Leaders Summits, a series of high-level dialogues and "mini-summits" with key business leaders covering both the theme of youth entrepreneurial development and corporate social responsibility. The first of these meetings will be in New York on October 14, 1999.
  6. Business Partnerships, collaboration with countries doing business in the region to mobilize support for young entrepreneur programs at the national level. The enables companies to directly support initiatives in countries where they have operations and for national organizations to benefit from contributed materials, staff support, and financial assistance. In this context, the YABT contributes as a catalyst to bring these donors and programs together in support of national development objectives. A key element of this program also involves recognition awards to businesses that make special or creative contributions to furthering young entrepreneur development.
  7. Young Entrepreneur Technology Centers, draws on the OAS experience in developing small business resource centers and extends this practical approach by integrating technology into training and networking. This incorporates OAS technical cooperation projects such as business labs in the secondary schools, community resource centers, and leads to youth business trusts that provide financing for small loans.
  8. El Mil Milenario – 1,000 for the Millennium, to be launched at the 2000 OAS General Assembly, the program will identify and recognize 1,000 of the Hemisphere’s top young entrepreneurs under age 35. Selection criteria will give priority to the number of jobs created and each country will receive a pro-rated number of winners in order to balance the program across all the OAS Member States. Near the end of 2000, an exciting networking conference of the winners will be staged and the program will conclude with a recognition ceremony in conjunction with the Third Summit of the Americas.

In summary, the Young Americas Business Trust represents an exciting, challenging initiative that comes from priorities established by the Second Summit of the Americas, addressing important goals in education, social development, civil society, and microenterprise. It also tackles one of the greatest challenges of the future of the region, to generate employment for young people so they become constructive, productive citizens. This is important for both economic growth but also social stability.

Certainly, the OAS cannot do this alone; its resources are limited and it must work in tandem with, others drawing on the contributions of each. A coordinated approach is the only way we will be able to make an impact on the central challenges that face our countries, the elimination of poverty and creation of employment. We must also, however, find a special niche where the OAS role can be significant and be a catalyst for progress.

The YABT accomplishes this by bringing together both public and private sector leaders and focusing attention on young entrepreneurs. This convening role of the OAS is important and is a unique function that the Organization can carry out, following the Summit process but also broadening it to involve a number of other actors in civil society.

In this regard, we look forward to increasing our collaboration with program and resource partners to accomplish these purposes. We invite the cooperation of interested organizations and businesses that can contribute to the goals of the Summit through working with the OAS in the development of the Young Americas Business Trust. The Unit for Social Development and Education is especially proud of the progress that we have made over the past year and is excited about the prospects for the future, especially the benefits that young entrepreneurs will bring to their communities, countries, and the Hemisphere.

Thank you for inviting us to be a part of this conference.

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