Summits of the Americas Newsletter

February 2008 | Summits Online | Español

BACK TO NEWSLETTER: Youth and the Inter-American agenda | Ministerials: Agriculture - Labor - Education

OAS Youth Symposium:
A First Step Towards the Increased Participation of Youth in the Americas

The first OAS Youth Symposium, entitled “Empowering the Future Leaders of the Americas”, took place September 19 and 20, 2007, at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. This event in the context of the Permanent Council under the Chairmanship of the Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, and coordinated by the Young Americas Business Trust and the Office of the Assistant Secretary General. The participants, composed of more than 250 young adults aged between 17 and 35, were nationals of 36 different countries of the Hemisphere and the rest of the world.

The first day of the symposium brought together numerous distinguished speakers that addressed the young audience, including José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, Eduardo Stein, Vice President of Guatemala, the Honorable Vincent Williams, Minister of State, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of Antigua and Barbuda, Ambassador Denis Antoine of Grenada, and Ambassador Lovell of Antigua and Barbuda. In his remarks, Secretary General Insulza affirmed that the quality of education needed to be improved in Latin America and he expressed some concern regarding the fact that 1 in 4 young adult between the age of 18 and 24 was neither working nor studying, emphasizing that this event was about the future of the Hemisphere, not its present.

The second plenary session allowed some organizations that are part of the Inter American Working Group on Youth Development — the World Bank, the Pan American Health Organization, the Inter-American Development Bank, the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat, the International Labour Organization, and the Americas Quarterly — to briefly present their views on new youth initiatives in the Americas. The director of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat, Ambassador Carmen Marina Gutierrez, reminded that of all the Summit mandates — over 800 — only 54 addressed youth issues. The ambassador presented youth as a cross-cutting issue that should be considered by the member states as a possible topic for the 5th Summit of the Americas. Ambassador Gutierrez also called upon the young attendants to find ways to access the various political forums to make their voices heard loud and clear.

Participants separated into working groups to discuss the topics relevant to youth: Responsible Citizenship and Participation in Democratic Governance; Employment, Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Young People; Opportunities and Programs for Youth Development; Underserved Young people and Youth at Risk; and Education and Information Technologies. The core objective of the working groups was to lay down recommendations to be presented at the Permanent Council meeting to be held the following day. Staff members of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat actively participated to raise awareness about the next Summit and disseminated information about the mechanisms the OAS uses to engage civil society and young people in the Summits process, which ultimately might help participants raise the profile of youth issues within the Summits process.

The convening of the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council on the second day of the Symposium gave the opportunity for the 5 working groups to present the recommendations of their respective groups to representatives of OAS Member States. The recommendations emanating from the working groups included: developing education programs in conjunction with ministries of education to reinforce democratic values and its benefit to youth; synchronizing the education curricula to meet the needs of the job market by promoting technical and vocational training; improving networking and partnerships with youth organizations; establishing an observatory in the OAS to supervise and research programs for undeserved young people and youth at risk; fostering the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the 21st century through the applied use of ICT; and the creation of a youth department within the OAS to enhance the coordination of all the youth programs of the institution.

Country representatives at the Permanent Council session recognized the laudable efforts of the young participants and expressed their intentions to report these recommendations to their respective governments. Acting as Chair, Deborah-Mae Lovell outlined a six-point program that included the convening of a youth ministerial to examine the question of youth empowerment, which would involve the active participation of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat.

For more information on the symposium, please visit the Young Americas Business Trust website. It is also possible to watch the videos of the OAS Youth Symposium and the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council.

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