Discussion on economic opportunities for Caribbean youth comes to Washington

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill on Friday, on the topic “Developing Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The event had bipartisan co-sponsorship from Representative Joe Baca (D-CA), Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI).

During the panel, the MIF’s general manager, Nancy Lee, presented “Give Youth a Chance: An Agenda for Action,” a newly published report that evaluates the MIF’s work to date in support of the region’s youth and outlines its strategy moving forward. This report was launched on September 12 during the 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference in Washington, DC.

Over the past 18 years, the MIF has carried out more than 120 youth training projects region-wide, benefiting over 235,000 young people, most of them from low-income communities. The report outlines the most important lessons learned from this project portfolio, including the key elements of effective employment and entrepreneurship training projects; the most effective ways of teaching and reinforcing essential life skills like communication and reliability; and how to scale up training models through government and corporate partnerships.

The report also sets out the MIF’s priorities for its future work with youth, notably New Employment Opportunities (NEO), a public-private initiative announced at the 2012 Summit of the Americas, which will provide high-impact job training and placement services to at least one million youth in Latin America and the Caribbean in the next ten years. The new strategy also calls for more rigorous evaluation of the impact of MIF projects, and increased information sharing with other institutions about results and best practices.

“There is no other issue on which the interests of government and the private sector are more aligned than addressing youth unemployment and creating economic opportunities for young people,’’ said Lee.

“The MIF holds a unique and privileged position as an institution that can help bring these two sectors together to work on this shared challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the release of our new strategy, we, at the MIF, are re-committing ourselves to developing innovative and effective models that will help the next generation of our region’s youth reach their potential, and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.”

The panel also showed the human “face” of the projects that the MIF finances in the Americas by including personal testimonials from youth beneficiaries from Brazil and Mexico, and from a project coordinator working with a MIF employment program, A Ganar, in Juarez, Mexico.

The IDB’s US executive director, Gustavo Arnavat, delivered introductory remarks at the event. “As the largest provider of technical assistance for private sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean, the MIF is a key player in the IDB Group’s efforts to build and support the region’s micro and small enterprises,’’ said Arnavat.

“The MIF’s work in promoting youth employment and entrepreneurship is a key part of building the ecosystem of small businesses in the region. The United States government is a strong and active supporter of private sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the MIF’s strongest advocate, having helped establish the Fund in 1993. The United States appreciates the direct impact the MIF has on strengthening the region’s private sector, particularly with regard to micro and small enterprises.”


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