The International Labor Organization launches a Global Initiative on Decent Jobs
NEW YORK, 3 February 2016 – Unemployment. But also poverty, climate change, inequality. On February 1
to 2, the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum took place at the UN
Headquarters in New York. Hundreds of youth leaders met with President of the 54-member body Oh Joon
and other UN officials to discuss how their generation can promote and advocate the sustainable
development goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda approved by Member States last year. On the first day of the
Forum, an initiative promoted by the Organization was launched, aiming at fostering the creation of new
The youth engagement in the promotion of the so-called SDGs so that more and more people become
aware of the 17 goals “is a prerequisite to ensure that nobody is left behind”, said ECOSOC President Oh
“We should aim high and we have the potential to reach ambitious goals”, urged the diplomat,
admitting that some of the crucial issues addressed in the 2030-Agenda particularly affect young people:
“The challenges the youth is facing are real” and one of these is “especially daunting”: “the prevailing
employment crisis young people face all across the globe”, he explained.
The topic was at the heart of the platform that brought together in the ECOSOC Chamber over hundreds of
youth leaders from across the world for the fifth, annual Forum of this kind.
“Youth unemployment continues to be on the rise. Young people all over the world face a world where
inequalities are high, where destinies too often depend on gender, race, social status or religion,” said Oh
on the opening day of the event.
Such crisis consists not only in “unprecedented levels” of lacking opportunities, but also sporadic, poor
quality and/or low paying jobs.
The Forum provided an occasion for the launching of a “Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth”. Guy
Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), described it as a “unique
partnership with governments, the UN system, businesses, academic institutions, youth organizations and
other groups to scale-up action to create new opportunities and avenues for quality employment in the
global economy and assist young people in developing the skills needed to compete in today’s job market”.
“Today, two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working jobs that
don’t pay enough to escape poverty”, which means 169 million young people, highlighted Ryders. The
figure worsen if low-income countries are taken into consideration: there, 9 out of 10 young workers have
unsecure and low paid job.
The UN’s Chief Executives Board for Coordination, the longest-standing and highest level coordination
forum in the history of the Organization, comprising the leadership of 29 UN entities, have endorsed this
initiative as a key priority.
The International Labour Organization explains online that “in consultation with governments, the initiative
will coordinate employment and economic policies for job growth and social inclusion and protect labour
rights to ensure that young people receive equal treatment”.
“The Initiative will make full use of the expertise of participating UN entities and other partners by focusing
on ‘green jobs’ for youth, quality apprenticeships, digital skills and the building of ‘tech-hubs’, support
young people in the rural economy, facilitate transition from the informal to the formal economy and
promote youth entrepreneurship”.
During the two-day event at ECOSOC, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Administrator of the
United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark took the fl2oor and UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on
Youth Ahmad Alhendawi – who insisted on employment as a recipe that is imperative for development, as
well as peace and security” – also took the floor.
“Young people around the world were crucial in shaping the 2030 Agenda. You helped build a
transformative, integrated and interrelated agenda. I call it a ‘21st century Declaration of
Interdependence’. Now comes the real test: making it happen, making it a reality. Our work begins with
you now, with us together at the start of the first year of implementation”, said Eliasson urging the
interlocutors to become “agents of change”.
Jobs, livelihoods, entrepreneurship, quality education, skills, health services, gender equality, the
empowerment of girls and women, the importance of societies, “inclusive of all of us in all our diversity”
are some of the topics touched upon by Clark, who announced the launch in March of a “new Global
Project on Youth Employment for Development and Peace”. Such strategy will be aiming to
“scale up our
support for youth entrepreneurship and employment, civic engagement, and political participation – giving
special attention to young women and to youth from marginalized groups”.