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November 2008 | Summits Online | Español

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Experts and OAS Member States dialogue on “Youth, Decent Work, and Human Prosperity in the Americas” in Preparation for Fifth Summit

On November 5, 2008, the OAS and the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Regional Office for the Americas organized the Eleventh OAS Policy Roundtable at the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C under the theme “Youth, Decent Work and Human Prosperity in the Americas” in preparation for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. Among the prominent participants were Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Labor and Small and Micro Enterprise, Rennie Dumas; Panama’s Minister of Labor and Labor Development, Edwin Salamín; and the ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Maninat.

This policy roundtable is part of a series of dialogues and lectures with the objective of fostering constructive, open dialogue in key policy areas relevant to the themes of the next Summit. Each Policy Roundtable is composed of panels of experts from regional and international institutions, OAS Member States, civil society, and academia, who present a variety of policy perspectives to support the negotiation process for the Fifth Summit. The panels, which are webcast live via the OAS website, are open to the general public, and attendees typically include government representatives, non-governmental organizations, academia, students, the press, and think-tanks. The results of each roundtable are consolidated into a policy brief that are subsequently circulated for the consideration of Member States and other Summit stakeholders as part of the Summit negotiation process.

The policy roundtable consisted of two panels: “Youth and Decent Work” and “Decent Work and Human Prosperity”. Armand Pereira, Director of the ILO Office in Washington, D.C., moderated the panel on “Youth and Decent Work,” with the panel on “Decent Work and Human Prosperity” moderated by David Morris, Director of the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat. Irene Klinger, Director of the OAS Department of International Relations moderated the final exchange of panelist with the audience.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza opened the dialogue by noting that, “The richness of the concept of decent work revolves precisely around the fact that it places a premium on the dignity of individuals,” and insisted that the young people of the Americas be afforded the opportunity for “stable and decent work not only because they need to earn a living but also because they need to develop their skills, earn social recognition, experience their own worth and reaffirm their self-esteem.” Ensuring decent work for our young people and for the citizenry at large “is one means of achieving human prosperity and economic growth to uphold our democracies,” said Insulza, who also shared ILO statistics revealing 16.6% unemployment among the youth in Latin America and the Caribbean. Besides, he added, “22 million young people do not study nor work, and 6 million of them are not looking for work.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister Dumas, meanwhile, called for the energies of the youth to be more meaningfully enlisted in building institutions that previous generations had failed to build in their time. “If we must have greater human prosperity, there must be greater human capacity,” declared Dumas. “And if there must be the evolution of the contributions required, then that capacity must be transferable to the building of the enterprises and the building of the organizations and the providing of the opportunity to our young people to build the institutions we have not been able to build previously.”

Charlotte Ponticelli, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs at the United States Department of Labor, cited three main challenges for youth employment in the Americas: the urgent need to remove children from exploitative labor environment and providing them access to education; addressing young people who have left the education system but have not joined the formal labor market; and ensuring education and training that are relevant to the needs of employers and economies of the region. Stressing the importance of education as “the foundation of decent work,” Ponticelli observed that “today more than ever education and the acquisition of skills and knowledge are the most important predictors of future success in the labor market.”

In closing remarks, the ILO’s Director, Mr. Maninat suggested that at the next Summit of the Americas—to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009—the heads of state and government should focus on how to provide the citizens of the Americas a minimum social ladder to uplift themselves. He said the Summit should demonstrate the requisite political will, and that young people should not be viewed as merely factors of production or entrepreneurs generating wealth but also as the foundation of the democratic process and “purveyors of the democratic commitment of the Americas.”

Ambassador Glenda Morean-Phillip, Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the OAS and Ambassador to the United States, noted how “decent work is a pivotal element of economic and social development.” She went on to stress that “the current global economic environment notwithstanding, failure to promote decent work for young people would undermine the economic, social, cultural and political benefits which can accrue to our countries.” Ambassador Morean-Phillip proposed a greater level of engagement with the youth in the hemispheric conversation so as to have more of their points of view.

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