San Martin Palace, ceremonial venue of the Foreign Ministry of Argentina, opened its doors 10 years ago to hundreds of young people from all over the Americas, gathered in the first edition of the Young Americas Forum, thus, inaugurating the first opportunity to make their contributions to the central themes of the IV Summit of the Americas: "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance”.
It was the first youth meeting of this magnitude that the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) led as part of the commitment with the Organization of American States (OAS) to involve youth in the Summit of the Americas process.
On August 12th, 2005 the Declaration of Buenos Aires was adopted by consensus, responding and presenting an action plan focused on decent work for youth. This would represent the beginning of a path that would have greater challenges in the years ahead. While it began as a part of the process of the Summit of the Americas, the Forum became a permanent reference channel in other areas of youth citizen participation in the inter-American system.
Two years later, the Permanent Council of the OAS led the development of the Youth Symposium of the Americas, working closely with the YABT to achieve this. For the first time in recent decades, the OAS gave a space to youth to present in the plenary the conclusions of the symposium. "We reiterate the call for increased investment in youth as a strategic effort in the future of the Hemisphere," expressed leaders of the OAS.
The call seemed have results in the short term, a year later, the 38th General Assembly of the OAS, held in Medellin, Colombia, which had the theme "Youth and Democratic Values" seemed to be promising for youth of the Americas. Gradually, were consolidated more conventional mechanisms for young people in the member states of the OAS. Until the present date, the General Assembly of the OAS provides spaces to receive contributions from youth.
Additionally, in 2009 the V Summit of the Americas held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, recognized youth as stakeholders in the Summit of the Americas. The Declarations adopted at the Young Americas Forum no longer had to wait three months to be elevated to the Summit. Since then, the II Forum allowed this to happen immediately and it was the young people who were responsible to present and defend the declaration in front of representatives and heads of governments of the Americas. At that time, Secretary of State of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton, praised the level of youth participation. It was the end of a decade full of historic remarks for youth.
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, would host the VI Summit of the Americas in April 2012, and therefore the III Young Americas Forum. Henceforth in this Forum, through the Program Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas (TIC Americas), is incorporated an Implementation Component, which added to the Participation Component consolidates a broader platform for youth participation in the Summits.
Then, 2012 ended with the first OAS Youth Conference "Youth in Action: For Democracy and Entrepreneurship" held in Washington, DC, an initiative led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS. The Conference held a second and third edition in 2013 and 2014, respectively, generating high-level discussions and monitoring youth mandates deposited in the OAS. In this regard, during the 38th General Assembly of the OAS held in Medellin, Colombia, in 2008, members of the states instructed the OAS General Secretariat to "[i] incorporate the perspective of young people in the programs and activities of the OAS, particularly those that focus on the promotion of democratic principles and values ".
By April 2015, Panama City, Panama, received the IV Young Americas Forum as the first official activity of the VII Summit of the Americas, at a time when the country celebrated the eve of the completion of the expansion project of the Panama Canal. About 400 young people assisted in a hemispheric open call; they held extensive and in-depth discussions focused on the theme of the VII Summit of the Americas: "Prosperity with Equity: The challenge of cooperation in the Americas", and main sub-themes derived from it.
The Hemispheric Forum also reflected the results of previous consultations made through 39 dialogues and virtual consultations, among other activities, generated the involvement of about 3,500 young people in less than a year. The IV Forum highlighted the presence of the Secretary General of the OAS and the elected Secretary General, being the first time this happened and reaffirming the commitment and vision of the organization towards youth at the time when young people are making the productive and social transformation of the Americas.
After the VII Summit, remembered for the historic meeting between the leaders of Cuba and the United States of America, Raul Castro and Barack Obama respectively, the Young Americas Forum gained a new dynamism and focus to keep facilitating youth to contribute on priority issues of the development Agenda of the Americas.
So far, we have seen important milestones in a long road promoting youth participation in the Americas. Four hemispheric forums, over 10,000 thousand young people involved, many consultations, presence in Ministerial Meetings, and countless dialogues, this is what the Young Americas Forum has given us since the adoption of the Declaration of Buenos Aires.
We make a special recognition to everyone and each of the young people who have been part of the evolution during the 10 year process in one of the flagship projects of YABT. On this day, we remember the testimonies and examples of youth overcoming across the Americas.
In addition, we must recognize the organizations that gave their votes of confidence to support the initiative, such as the OAS, the World Bank, governments and local partners in the host countries of the Forums. Also, the people full of energy and dedication who have been staff, interns, volunteers and ambassadors of YABT from the very first day of the Young Americas Forum.
By Edgar Maestre
Edited by, Lorena Julio
About Young Americas Forum: www.yabt.net/foro