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Youth and social cohesion in Ibero-America: a model in the making. Summary

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Corporate author:
  • NU. CEPAL. División de Desarrollo Social
UN symbol.: LC/G.2398 388 p. : gráfs., tabls. Editorial: ECLAC October 2008

Description

Ibero-America is living through promising times in terms of the relation between youth and development. The signs are well known, and this report provides an unprecedented compilation of evidence confirming them. The region's youth today have more years of education on average than adults, and the gap is even more favourable for youth in terms of access to new communication technologies, information and knowledge. The population dynamic indicates that the coming years will see a reduction in the proportion of young people in the overall population in most Ibero-American countries, and this will improve the supply-demand situation they face in education, health and employment. Young people move about more easily than children or older people, and this enables them to change their life paths in pursuit of new opportunities. Youth have fewer illnesses and are less likely to die during this phase of the life cycle. Cultural change and organizational models encounter young people with greater versatility and vitality to engage in and make the most of these new scenarios. Lastly, young people are abundant in new areas of bottom-up participation, given their ability to take advantage of new, emerging forms of association and distance communication. Nonetheless, as shown extensively in this report, Ibero-American youth are also experiencing their own dramas, some cyclical and others emerging. Despite higher education levels, young people face higher levels of unemployment and receive lower wages. Although they are less likely to fall sick, more young people die as a result of external causes, and youth homicide rates are very high in several countries. The high persistence of adolescent maternity raises questions as to the effective ownership of reproductive rights among young girls. Youth displays the highest rates of substance abuse and exposure to related risks. Skill development, access to opportunities and exposure to risks among young people are highly segmented by income levels, and also by geographic, racial and gender distribution. There are also problems in the field of migration, since many young migrants are vulnerable to deprivation of their rights, highly precarious jobs, and people trafficking. In the political domain, young people identify little with the representative system and State apparatus; new generations perceive that sectoral criteria, corporate rationales and entrenched bureaucracies make it harder for them to satisfy their demands rather than easier. Significant progress has been made in terms of public and political recognition. Over the last two decades, not only have all countries set up government institutions to formulate youth plans and programmes (national institutes and departments or ministries), mechanisms have also been put in place to increase knowledge and understanding of youth and to improve the effectiveness and targeting of public policies designed for them. The mechanisms frequently used to support and implement efforts in this area include legislation for youth, design and monitoring of plans and programmes, holding of national surveys, establishment of observatories and the creation of juvenile information centres and Internet portals. Moreover, 2008 has been declared Ibero-American Youth Year, and the topic of that year's Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Governments is youth and development. A growing number of countries have ratified the Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth, the main Ibero-American instrument protecting and promoting the rights of almost 110 million people in the 15-24 years age group, distributed among the 22 countries of Ibero-America. This Convention recognizes youth as a subject of law and as a protagonist of the economic and social development challenges facing Ibero-American countries. Although public policies on youth have made headway over the last few years, progress is still needed in developing comprehensive approaches that cut across sectoral perspectives based on the nature of "youth actor", which combines dimensions of risks, capacities, opportunities, systems of belonging and forms of participation. Hence, these are the specific dimensions that comprise the content of this report. The greatest challenge for the States is, therefore, to develop youth policies and suitable institutional and operational mechanisms to meet the challenge of this need for comprehensiveness. Against this backdrop, notable progress has been made by the decision of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government to implement an Ibero-American Plan for Youth Cooperation and Integration. To this end, the key needs of young people in the region have been identified, and better dialogue with the main stakeholders of youth policies has been established, making it possible to jointly formulate strategic recommendations to strengthen the public agenda in this field. This agenda needs support from the international community through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, together with initiatives to raise awareness of the key role of youth policies in social cohesion. The challenges are clearly not few. Young people must be both subjects and effective beneficiaries of development, i.e. they need to construct life projects and collective dreams within societies that include them in their opportunities and protect them in risks. The new generations are the clay for recreating a "common us". This is the motivation that inspires the report jointly presented here by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the General Ibero-American Secretariat (SEGIB) and the Ibero-American Youth Organization (OIJ), supported by the Spanish International Cooperation Agency for Development (AECID). The invitation is on the table.""

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