The power of youth networks and global communities for the hemisphere

By: Jackeline M. Guerra B., Fellow 2023, YABT

The following article expresses my perspectives on the importance of the power of youth networks and global communities for the hemisphere. The heart of this issue  lies in the impact of youth  on participation, decision-making and the design of solutions. 

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) affirms that prioritizing investment in youth, especially in adolescent women, emerges as one of the wisest decisions a nation can make. In the case of the region, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the youth population reaches 160 million. In this scenario, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) emphasizes that the region’s young people are growing up in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the changes that are influencing their development and the way they interact .

Investing in youth goes beyond having a seat at the table, it is about including young people in the design and implementation of solutions. From July 17-20, I attended the Women Deliver 2023 Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, a multi-sectoral space designed to undertake solutions based on information and data on development. As a young Latin American woman, it was  rewarding to be part of a space that included regional visions aimed at achieving common goals for the development of our societies.

One of the success stories to be highlighted is Zuriel Oduwole, a young woman who began her path as an agent of change at a very young age and during her career has focused her work on defending the education of girls on the African continent, as well as other causes related to integral development and the environment. Her leadership has impacted more than 20 countries. Also, we came across the story of Yasmina Benslimane, founder of Politics4Her, a movement focused on fostering the inclusive participation of young women and girls in politics. At the Americas level, I must make special mention of the remarkable participation in these forums where youth in the region are increasingly consolidating themselves as agents of change. These cases of leadership lead us to the message of Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who during the Women Deliver 2023 conference highlighted in her speeches the importance of paying greater attention to the effects of the pandemic on education, especially in countries where families must choose between household needs and paying for education. Malala calls “gender apartheid” some of the difficulties facing youth in this century because of the gaps girls and women face. However, she is still confident that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution”. Youth, especially girls and young women, are fundamental to building a resilient society in the face of change.

In terms of inclusion, human rights and gender equity, we live in crucial times to unify efforts and advance these common goals. They mark an important priority in the hemispheric agenda and are linked to the pillars of the OAS. Along these same lines, the theme of the 53rd OAS General Assembly held last June was “Strengthening a Culture of Democratic Accountability with the Promotion, Protection and Equality of Human Rights in the Americas”. There, I had the opportunity to contribute to formulating and presenting the cross-sectoral advances where the youth of the continent are playing a significant role. 

Regarding the global communities, young people have developed the capacity to formulate solutions that transcend borders and even continents. This sensibility translates into innovation, a word that has marked my  work as an intern  in the Young Americas Business Trust.

Global youth action has an active impact on the defense of human rights, the empowerment of communities and vulnerable groups, the mitigation of climate change and, above all, the fight against misinformation. Youth networks allow ideas to be connected and converted into action. An example of this is the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC), with whom I had the opportunity to work in collaboration to strengthen the integration of Caribbean youth in participatory spaces in the region. This is a forum that integrates the youth voices of the Caribbean into one, with the purpose of advancing the development agenda of Caribbean youth.

At this point, I must highlight the call of regional leaders such as the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who on the occasion of the 53rd OAS General Assembly emphasized the inclusion of youth, breaking paradigms and generating dialogue.

My journey in the YABT Youth Forum of the Americas Program has served as a basis for me to understand participatory mechanisms and its importance for the democratization of decisions that influence societies, mainly in vulnerable groups. In this context, education is a powerful tool capable of shaping more just and inclusive societies.

Decision-makers, international organizations and the private sector are potential allies with whom we can  partner with  to transfer  practical resources, experiences and opportunities that will enable youth to achieve common goals.

In summary, I must emphasize that the accumulation of experiences and knowledge that I have developed are a reference of the capacity that  each young person in the region has to inform, idealize and execute. The traditional struggles and new challenges find in the global communities the power to assert the responsibility to promote and defend hemispheric and global development.