• Friday, June 15, 2012 Geneva

    The Jefferson Institute brought together six youth activists from around the world to discuss the youth unemployment crises at the International Labor Conference and Youth Employment Dialogue in Geneva.

    This year's ILO Conference in Geneva, held from May 30 to June 14, offered some of the strongest signals yet that young people may be the world’s most disadvantaged demographic group in terms of entering the labor market and acquiring jobs – and to a greater extent, quality jobs. The struggles for youth in finding work has become a leading challenge to stimulating growth needed to get the world economy back on track.

    Youth unemployment worldwide remains stuck at a stubbornly high 12% since the onset of the economic crisis. Despite this, few governments acknowledge this challenge or fail to place it amongst their top priorities. Policy recommendations are rarely proposed, and almost never implemented. In Spain, in Europe’s other troubled economies and throughout the developing world, the youth unemployment crisis is deepening their recessions and leading to a brain drain as the educated and talented leave for better opportunities elsewhere.

    The Jefferson Institute coordinated the participation of six youth activists from around the world at the closing stages of this conference and facilitated their participation at the labor working group and US State Department meeting on the Youth Unemployment Crisis. The activists were first brought together on the Jefferson Institute’s online collaboration platform to share their diverse experiences, exchange best practices, and coordinate their recommendations to the ILO Youth Program and State Department staff, led by the Special Representative on International Labor Affairs,Barbara Shailor. On-site, they contributed with their insight on topics ranging from child labor in Hanoi, to environmental entrepreneurship in Nepal, to transitional democracy and youth activism amidst national elections in Egypt. Along with engaging in the conference, the activists participated in a training course by the Jefferson Institute that built on their media and publicity skills, and improved their story-telling techniques to reach wider audiences.

    The activists met with Guy Ryder, the Director General of the International Labor Organization, and with other high level officials, who offered insight on the inner workings of the ILO and other UN bodies. And, in a particularly powerful sign of the impact of their visit, the young activists encountered their home-country delegates at the ILO. The delegates, many of whom know the young leaders from their domestic activism, saw those same young faces on an important international stage, raising the issue’s profile.

    The conference spurred a thoughtful policy debate, punctuated by a widely-lauded speech by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, on how to retain, promote, and create jobs for the youth.