TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN
AT INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION, GENEVA, 16 JULY 2001
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Ladies and gentlemen, let me thank all of you for coming this afternoon. Juan [Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO)], thank you for the introduction and let me also thank you for hosting this network here at the ILO. In addition to our friends from the media, let me also welcome and thank the representatives of youth organizations and members of the High-Level Panel of the Youth Employment Network who are here with us this afternoon.
Let me give you a word of background. Last year, together with the heads of the World Bank and the International Labour Organization, I convened a High-Level Policy Network on Youth Employment -- drawing on the most creative leaders in private industry, civil society and economic policy. The aim was to explore imaginative approaches in creating opportunities for youth.
The Network was one of the key initiatives in my Millennium Report, which was prepared for the Millennium Summit and intended to help shape the agenda for the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
Why focus on youth employment? The facts and figures should speak for themselves. Youth make up more than 40 per cent of the world's total unemployed. There are an estimated 66 million unemployed young people in the world today -- an increase of nearly 10 million since 1965.
Of course, under-employment is also another growing concern. The majority of new jobs are low paid and insecure. Increasingly, young people are turning to the informal sector for their livelihood, with little or no job protection, benefits, or prospects for the future.
Being unemployed early in life takes a heavy and enduring toll on the individual. It can damage prospects for employment later in life, leading to a circle of despair, poverty and social instability. And thereby, it leads to a destructive circle for all society.
We cannot afford to let this vicious circle continue any longer. Youth is our most valuable asset -- they are the leaders of the future, they are the future.
That is why I am thrilled that we have been able to assemble such a group of creative and innovative people in our High-Level Panel. They are working on proposals that cover the full range of the challenge of youth employment: from sound macroeconomic policies to opportunities for young women, including education for girls as well as boys -- but I would want to stress education for girls. Some of you may recall that last year we had a special conference in Dakar, “Educate Girls Now”, and that initiative is still very much in force -- from the need of public-private partnerships to the need to harness the potential of information technology; and the need to create enabling environments for young people working in the informal economy, to encouraging young entrepreneurs -- both women and men -- and helping them gain access to capital. And I think most of you have also read about Hernando de Soto’s work, “The Other Path”, and his determination to help the poor in the informal sector, give them access to capital and enable them to use assets and collateral.
These recommendations, once finalized, will be presented to the Member States of the United Nations. But this initiative will go far beyond governments. The Network will form a growing web of partnerships to generate jobs and opportunities for youth. This afternoon at our meeting, we decided that the panel will be a standing group to keep advising me and the partners -- that is, Juan Somavia and Jim Wolfensohn -- on the way ahead. They would also serve as advocates for youth employment and get governments to take this issue very seriously. So I started with three partners and now we are 15. I will take your questions.
MARIE OKABE, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL: We will start with questions on the Youth Employment Initiative. Only when we exhaust those questions will we expand it to other subjects.
QUESTION: On behalf of the press that is more or less scattered here in this audience, Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, our hearty congratulations on your re-election for another term. I will actually ask a more general question if I may be allowed to do that and leave the questions on the Youth Forum –- on which I am not a great expert and which is all fairly new as you outlined.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: May I make a suggestion to you? I think Marie had a very good suggestion. Why don’t we focus on the Youth Employment Initiative and when we move on to the more general questions, we will come back to you and give you the first question.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, my question is addressed to you and also to Mr. Somavia. In your very glossy brochure, you have some startling data on youth unemployment, but there seems to be no data on China, the world’s most populous country and, according to ILO officials, they have no data on China for the last 10 years. So there is a big gap there.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Juan will take that question.
MR. SOMAVIA: I think that you are right. It’s a gap that we believe that in the context of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed with China, we will be able to deepen the knowledge of that situation there.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question. What are your rough estimates? What do you think are the number of unemployed in China? We have heard from the United States government officials a figure of 100 million -- is that a conservative estimate?
MR. SOMAVIA: Let me tell you the situation as we have been able to appraise it. Because of the move to the market, there is obviously a strong change from State enterprises to market-based industries. The first move towards reducing employment in State enterprises resulted in 20 million laid-off workers, and these moves are going to continue into the future. I think it would be hazardous to give you an off-the-cuff idea, but that is a very concrete figure -- it is a figure with which the Government of China is working. Out of those, around 14 million have been able to find another job, 6 million have not. If that process continues, it is clear that there is going to be an unemployment issue and a social security and social protection issue present there.
QUESTION: My question is, what youth organizations are collaborating with the Youth Employment Network? And if one is not part of an organization, how can one be involved in the decision-making process and implementation of action plans?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me make a comment on that and then pass it on to Juan. Let me stress that this is not an initiative that is going to be limited to international organizations. It is an initiative that should embrace governments. We cannot do this without governments, without civil society, without the private sector, and, indeed, foundations. So at the national level, we would expect governments to come up with strategies for youth employment. And in building up that strategy, I would expect them to consult the youth, women’s groups, civil society, others, and employers, of course, and then come up with a strategy for ensuring that the youth are looked after and that there will be decent jobs for them as they move from universities, or for those who are not given skills to be able to cope with their daily lives. But I think that Juan may want to mention those who are participating here today.
MR. SOMAVIA: Yes, we thought that it was important, together with the Youth Employment Network, to consult with a group of heads of youth organizations. So we had that consultation in the course of Friday and Saturday, out of which there was a meeting this morning between the youth group and the Youth Employment Network. They are definitely going to be part of the process in which we are involved. So the linkage with youth organizations is there from the beginning.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, will your new Network and growing web give attention to troubled spots in the world like Palestine, where you have growing and alarming signals of unemployment and growing poverty, and the youth are very affected in that region of the world?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: It is a global effort and it will include all countries, including areas in conflict. Obviously, the areas in conflict have special difficulties and we have to tackle them specifically and take specific measures to help them. But that is a different topic. So yes, it will cover them.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, I know that Africa is one of your main priorities, and we can understand why. I am not going to come back on all of the recent proposals that you made for the promotion and for the improvement of the economy in that continent. But please could you tell us about some important guidelines which have been discussed or decided here during this meeting, or which you are hoping to get from this meeting, which could lead African youngsters towards reinforcing the African private sector -- the weak African private sector unfortunately -- to take over from those who did not succeed in the past and to help promoting what the African Union has called the African Initiative.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: The group had been sitting for much longer than when I joined them this morning, but let me say that one of the issues that had been discussed is education of the young, mentoring by more experienced people of young people, encouraging governments and employers to consider youth employment seriously, and taking in young people whenever they can. In fact, somebody said if we can encourage each company to at least take in one young person and train him, it multiplies incredibly.
But there was a very interesting suggestion -- is Hernando here, no he is not -- there was a very interesting suggestion talking about the informal sector, and the fact that in the third world the informal sector is often larger than the formal sector, and that those who operate in that sector often cannot get access to capital, they often are not encouraged to become entrepreneurs because they do not have documents and they do not know where to start, and that one of the areas where governments can enhance their economic growth is by taking a very close look at this informal sector and encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs, in addition, of course, to finding ways and means of creating jobs for them.
We were also conscious in our meeting that the youth represent a tremendous force -- not only are they the future, but even now, in political terms, youth power is quite a force. We pay lots of attention to grey power because the old are organized, and I think we are going to be seeing a situation where the young and the youth will also begin to organize themselves and demand attention from their governments and policy makers.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, from the ideas you have shared with us, I have the feeling that you are referring to a very rich sort of youth that already have access to education and can dream about going to university. My question is what sort of strategy are you looking to address the needs of indigenous youth?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me say that we did not focus on privileged youth. In fact, our concern is not privileged youth, it is the millions of young people who often are denied access to education, who are half-educated and underemployed. In fact, we focused on the youth, as Mrs. Ruth Cardoso said, as a creative force and also as a victim. And in today’s world, there are many young people who are victims -- who are in great despair and live in a state of desperation and believe that help is not coming from anywhere. And, of course, you have the privileged, as you referred to, but the privileged in this situation are not necessarily in the majority. Of course, they have problems, but it is the other half which is of great concern to all of us.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, my question is about resources. Are you going to be looking somewhere new for resources for your innovative solutions? And the second question is about how this Network links up with ILO’s full employment initiative. Thank you.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: We are not going to be looking elsewhere for extra resources. We are asking governments and policy-makers to give attention to this issue, to give it higher priority in their own budgets, and to work in partnership with the private sector, with non-governmental organizations, with foundations and partners, to really push this issue forward. I think if the will is there, and with the right determination and right policy decisions, we should be able to help the youth much more than we are doing now. We may need to work across international borders. But I think the first responsibility is for the leaders of the countries around the world, taking this issue seriously and looking for partners to work with them.
Ms. Okabe: Because of the Secretary-General's tight schedule, we will now be broadening the subjects. So we go back to you, Robert Kroon.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, we are only a few days away from the
G-8 Summit in Genoa. I have a two-pronged question, first of all, what is your message to the G-8 leaders? Do you think that the captains on the ship are fully aware of the economic crisis that is threatening the world and what should be done about it? And the second aspect is the spectre of violence. Already the troops of protest are converging on Genoa. There has been a letter bomb explosion today apparently, fortunately without any fatalities. Will the next summit meeting have to be held on a battleship instead of a cruise ship?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me start with the last question. I think the last question is something that the G-8 will have to decide. I have enough problems deciding where United Nations conferences should take place, and I look forward to their decision on that one.
On the issues before the G-8, I think that the question of poverty obviously is an important one, and the whole issue of globalization and its negative impact. By that, I mean inequalities between States and within States. And I think it is important that we recognize that while globalization can be a positive force and has been a positive force and is not a new phenomenon, we need to take into consideration the inequities and the concerns of the poor and the marginalized. This is something I hope the G-8 will be very conscious about.
The other issue I hope will be on the agenda is a question of our fight against HIV/AIDS. It is a scourge that is really of frightening proportions and it is not a problem limited to Africa. Africa, of course, is the hardest hit. But it is a global problem. It is serious in Asia, in eastern Europe, in the Caribbean, even in the United States: the statistics this year indicate that the infection rate has risen dramatically. So we cannot let our guards down and I hope everyone will join the fight. The Global AIDS and Health Fund is going well. I would hope that at the end of the meeting in Genoa we would have received pledges of over a billion dollars. But let us not forget that the target is an additional 7 to 10 billion dollars a year. And this is not a Fund limited to governments alone, it is open to private companies, to foundations, to individuals, and I think if we all pool our efforts we can make the target. I think everyone has embraced the five main objectives of the call to action -- to prevention, to ensuring that all those who are at risk have a means of protecting themselves, particularly young women who are now becoming victims, and I hope the scientific development of micro-(inaudible) would also help them take charge and give them the power and the means to protect themselves. We would also want to end or reduce considerably the cruellest of all transmissions, from mother to child. We would want to be able to do something for the orphans. There are 13 million of them in the world today, and the numbers are growing. We would want to be able to care for those who are affected by the disease. And, of course, we want to encourage scientific research for vaccines and for cure. This would also entail improving the health care systems in the countries affected. But we need not wait for five-star hospitals to begin treating them. We can use our communities, we can be creative. Brazil has shown that. Uganda has demonstrated it and so has Senegal. So let us move on with the fight.
QUESTION: Mr. Annan, you talked before about the book by Mr. Hernando de Soto who is a very famous Peruvian economist. He wrote a book about the mysterious capital. But if you read the book, you can see that Margaret Thatcher and Mr. Framer are the apologists for this book. Mr. de Soto also is a very famous and neo-liberal economist. We know the situation in Latin America has broken a lot of small companies and enterprises. My question is, do you recommend that these policies be followed?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Before I answer that question, let me give you another item that should be on the G-8 agenda -- climate change. It is very important and it must be on there. I think I have spoken quite clearly on that topic and I need not labour it again today. On your question, let me say that even in the United States when you look at the small enterprises, small to middle enterprises, even in some of the well entrenched economies, are creating the largest number of jobs. And so if one can have a situation where some of these small entrepreneurs, formal or informal, are creating jobs, I think we should encourage them. And when we talk of the role of the informal sector and the contribution it can make to the national economy, it is because it is the most dynamic half of the economy.
When you look at the statistics, you look at some of these countries, you take transport, sometimes the informal sector creates more transport opportunities for the poor than the government. Housing -- sometimes they do more than the government. You cannot ignore such a dynamic sector in the economy. So, in that respect, Hernando is absolutely right, that we need to rethink how we capture economic growth and development.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, would you have something to say on the India-Pakistan talks that are just about to conclude today? Is there anything new that you have in terms of how these talks should move? The second question, Mr. Secretary-General, in the morning you gave a call for development and a round of trade negotiations. If you remember in the month of May, you gave the same call in Brussels which was rejected by all the least developed countries (LDCs). The LDCs said that we cannot make a double payment, which we have already made. And today again you gave this call. There is general apprehension in the minds of many developing countries in the World Trade Organization today. Why are you jumping yourself into this at a time when they are all opposed to a new round?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: The first question about India and Pakistan. Let me say that I am very pleased that the meeting has taken place. You would recall that I was in the region in March this year, both in Islamabad and Delhi, and I had discussions with the leaders -- in Delhi not only with Prime Minister Vajpayee but also with all the opposition leaders, encouraging them to have bilateral talks. So I am delighted that the talks are taking place. I think that is the only way to resolve the differences between these two great nations and if we are able to do it, it would mean a really great day, not only for the two countries but for the entire region. I have not seen any readout of the discussions, so I would prefer not to jump the gun, but I am really delighted that the discussions have taken place. I hope it will be successful and constructive and that it is the beginning of a sustained effort to resolve this long-standing conflict, and I wish the two leaders and the peoples of India and Pakistan every success.
On your second question, obviously as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I do not make policy for governments, but I can make suggestions, I can have ideas. And in my judgement, the developing world should embrace another round. You put it in terms of they will be paying twice. They argue that the concessions that they gained at the Uruguay Round have not been implemented and,
therefore, some of them say they would want to discuss the implementation issues before they move on to the next round. But that is precisely one more reason to go to the next round. These implementation issues can be discussed at that round. If you do not have the next round to discuss implementation issues, where are you going to discuss them?
We should not also assume that each time the third world or the developing world get into negotiations, we are so dumb that we are always going to come up the worse off. We should go to these meetings well prepared, determined to defend our interests, and we can band together to make a difference. In fact, I have asked the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and some of the United Nations agencies to help them to prepare for these meetings. If they do not go to the next round and they maintain at the last round, they do not get the resources or the benefits that they were promised. What next? Do we sit and fold our arms -- that they did not implement the Uruguay Round and, therefore, we do not want another round? What concrete suggestions would those who oppose this round make? I think it is in their interests to go and defend themselves and to push, I said it has to be a truly development round, a round that opens up world markets for the third world, a round that tries to eliminate the subsidies that the rich pay their farmers and all their industries that makes it difficult for the poor to compete. That is the only forum we can go and argue this, not by sitting it out. Thank you very much.
* *** *