Yesterday, 15 July 2015, at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a side event “Investing in Youth & Ensuring Decent Jobs to Harness the Demographic Dividend” took place to mark the first-ever World Youth Skills Day.
Convened by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, and co-organized in partnership with ILO, and UNESCO, the event brought together high-level speakers and youth activists to highlight the importance of investing in the skills development of today’s largest generation of youth by financing youth policies and programs and ensuring they have access to decent jobs.
A resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December of 2014, designated 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. The first-ever World Youth Skills Day offered an important opportunity to underscore the global imperative of providing young people with skills development for life and work as a mean to achieve better socio-economic outcomes.
The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, kicked of the event by reminding the audience that “young people are an asset, and that while a large youth population can be perceived a challenge by some, we should challenge them back to take young people as an opportunity”. He further reinforced that this would be particularly important for Africa, the most youthful continent and where youth population will continue to grow.
UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Mr Getachew Engida, as well as the ILO Regional Director for Africa, Mr. Aeneas Chuma, provided opening remarks on the crucial nexus between education, skills development and employment, followed by remarks by Ms. Arancha Gonzalez of the International Trade Center.
An interactive panel followed which included highlights by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Kenya, H.E. Mr. Krishnamoorthy, who spoke on the importance his country attaches to youth skills development in order to ensure socio-economic development and a stable society. Ms. Antonia Wulff, who works with Education International and is engaged in UN processes through the Major Group for Children and Youth reflected on the fact that skills building goes beyond ensuring employability but also empowers young people to engage and participate in civic life. Deputy Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, Dr. Aisa Kacyira shared insightful remarks on the need for the education sector innovate and to adapt to the 21st century.
With regards to Africa, Mr. Nicolas Ouma of the Youth Division of the African Union informed participants of the support the African Union is offering to its members as many countries struggle to bring the African Youth Charter from ratification to actual implementation. The need for investing in the youth bulge in the current populations structures of African countries in order to harness the potential of the demographic dividend, was further underscored by Dr. Akinyele Dairo, Senior Adviser with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The panel moreover brought the voices of and focused on the particular challenges faced by youth with disabilities in terms of accessing skills development opportunities. Ms. Mekdes, a deaf 18-year old student and Let-Girls-Lead Youth Delegate, shared some of her personal struggles in getting the needed support to reach their full potential. Mr. Melaku Tekle from the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development, who lives with a disability himself, highlighted the progress that has been made in Ethiopia with the support of his organization in coordination with various sectors in linking disabled youth to skills building and employment opportunities.
Following the inspiring interventions by the panelist as short Q and A provided for further interaction of other participants attending the event. In closing, the attendants were reminded that -while in Addis- to continue to bring the call for increased investments in youth development into the plenary and formal segments of the Financing for Development conference’s deliberations as they continue to unfold.