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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Secretary-General: Youth employment critical to sustainable development

22 January 2019

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has stressed the need for a “systems approach” to tackle the pressing issue of youth unemployment, in accordance with the position agreed by leaders at 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

The Secretary-General was speaking at a dialogue at Wilton Park on turbocharging youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa yesterday. Her comments follow a recent World Bank report, which reveals that young people account for 60 per cent of the unemployed population in Africa.

The Commonwealth’s new systems approach to youth employment has three strands, aimed at giving them access to education, training and decent jobs.

The first strand focuses on youth employment, sustainable development and structural transformation. It requires a “radical rethinking” of how employment and entrepreneurship strategies are designed at the national level, in view of issues such as climate change, rural development and gender.   

Secretary-General Scotland said: “We must see young people not just as beneficiaries but as key actors, equal stakeholders and drivers in shaping the future economic landscape.”

She said this involves having a better interaction between the state, young people and the markets, harnessing the opportunity innovation offers and challenging the socio-economic root causes of unemployment.

The second strand emphasises a learning-by-doing approach, including studying failures, pooling of knowledge among key stakeholders and formulating evidence-based policies.

The Secretary-General stressed the importance of engaging youth struggling with unemployment, particularly those in remote areas who are often excluded from the policy discourse.

The final strand involves integrating the feedback of young people into policies that respond to their needs.

The Secretary-General also underscored the importance of bridging the widening digital gap between developed and the least developed countries. “Particular attention needs to be given to [bridging] this gap so that disparities do not lead to further marginalisation or diminution of opportunities to participate in the global economy,” she said.

Young leaders at the event welcomed the proposed approach, calling for more action on youth unemployment to lift the quality of life within their communities.