Background

The Chair introduced the item by recalling that, in 2012, youth was identified as one of the five generational imperatives of the Secretary-General’s five-year action agenda. At the retreat of its first regular session of 2012, CEB discussed the topic of youth and sustainable development and exchanged views on the various dimensions of programmatic issues affecting youth.  The Board underscored the importance of greater UN system coordination in support of youth development.

Discussion

The Chair further recalled that in follow-up, the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, led by UN-DESA and UN-Habitat, developed a System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP).  The Youth-SWAP, guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth, focused on joint action by the UN system in five areas: employment and entrepreneurship, protection of rights and civic engagement, political inclusion, education, and health. At its twenty-fifth session in May 2013, HLCP positively reviewed the Youth-SWAP, and CEB endorsed it at its first regular session of 2013.       

Much progress has been made since CEB first discussed youth development in 2012; however, the Chair stated that this item was being brought to the Committee at this juncture to determine whether the employment challenges currently facing young women and men were acute enough to warrant increased attention by HLCP and CEB. If so, the Committee was asked to consider establishing a time-bound task team to prepare a global initiative to respond to the youth employment crisis. 

Citing a dire forecast for economic growth, Mr. Philippe Egger, Director, Strategic Programming and Management Department, ILO, described the proposal as an opportunity to bring the best of the UN system to bear on an issue that is integrated, universal and inclusive. In most countries, youth faced high rates of unemployment, non-employment, working poverty and informal employment. The challenge needed to be addressed from both the supply and demand sides through a holistic agenda. The issue had been a priority both within the UN system and among Member States. A call for a global strategy for youth employment was included under the proposed sustainable development goal on employment and decent work that had been presented to the General Assembly by the Open Working Group’s (OWG).

Against this background, ILO was proposing the development of a global UN system effort to address youth employment. If supported, a task team of interested HLCP member organizations would be established to shape the proposal for an initiative that would bring appropriate political and policy attention to youth employment both within UN system organizations and Member States. It would focus on relevant, workable solutions at a scale appropriate to the problem. Areas in which the initiative could work included: building multi-stakeholder partnerships, supporting regional- and country-level initiatives, sharing knowledge on youth employment policies and programmes, mapping applicable UN system expertise, better monitoring employment trends, and mobilizing resources (e.g., through a facility or multi-donor trust fund). The representative of ILO noted that the World Bank Group had recently launched a significant initiative on youth employment (the “Solutions for Youth Employment” coalition, briefly described in the ensuing discussion on this item by the representative of the Bank), and he stressed the need to mobilize the rest of the UN system. He observed that there seemed to be interest among the Committee to focus on this issue and looked forward to working with others to further develop the concept.

Addressing the Committee by video, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, recalled the significant normative power of the UN system on youth employment and acknowledged the work that had been undertaken at country level. However, he observed that there was no mechanism to facilitate coordinated programming on the matter. The proposal to the Committee was timely and, in particular, would respond to the call for a global strategy for youth employment that had been proposed by the OWG. He stressed that a youth employment  crisis and that the UN system needed to respond accordingly. Reiterating the key elements of the proposal, the Envoy on Youth indicated that there were already good examples of joint programming that could be leveraged, and noted that the proposal could help to overcome some of the existing barriers, including funding. He urged the Committee to support the proposal to strengthen UN system coordination on youth employment and deliver more support at the country level. He agreed to serve as an honorary advisor to the task team, if it were to be endorsed.

The Committee strongly welcomed and supported the proposal, seeing the youth employment crisis as a universal challenge to which many organizations of the UN system could contribute. While the focus on youth was firmly endorsed, the challenge of unemployment amongst older persons was recalled and in this regard members saw the generation of jobs for workers of all ages as an important consideration.  Several agencies expressed their interest in serving on the task team and in sharing expertise and experience. There was a call for terms of reference to be developed to define the scope, form and timeline of the task team’s work. Practical focus on speedy implementation and impact on the ground was stressed as important; the situation warranted quick action, not prolonged study.  Recognizing the significant work that has already been undertaken on the subject, it was emphasized that the initiative should build on existing platforms and mechanisms. In this vein, there was an inquiry about the impact of and lessons learned from the Youth Employment Network launched in 2001. Some members felt this proposal was a good candidate to serve as a prototype for an issue-based coalition, where private sector engagement would be crucial because of its role in creating decent and productive jobs. With regard to the title of the initiative, it was suggested that a reference to quality of employment should be incorporated so that this critical aspect would be prominent.

Some members questioned whether the proposed “joint UN mechanism” was needed to support Member States, or whether using existing mechanisms to ensure more functional coordination and action would suffice. Others stressed the need to move beyond a UN-only platform. While some members supported establishing a trust fund, others queried whether a resource mobilization facility was necessary.  Many felt that efforts to both support states and mobilize funds should be multi-stakeholder in nature.

Support was strongly expressed for engaging at the country level as soon as possible, noting that this is where the work would have the greatest impact. The importance of including youth employment in UNDAFs was underscored. However, given the universal nature of the problem, it was acknowledged that the UN system would need to find a suitable alternative mechanism in locations without a UN country team. It was suggested that any funds raised should be used to finance innovative solutions at country level. 

Members shared a number of further observations and suggestions about the proposal. Several felt that it was necessary to ensure that youth in all situations, including in fragile states and within displaced populations, would benefit from the coordinated effort, which would therefore require multi-dimensional methods of implementation. It was stressed that the initiative should be formulated with the specific needs of young women and girls in mind and that gender must be mainstreamed through tailored programming. In terms of monitoring, it was suggested that mobile technology could be used to measure the impact of interventions and as a tool for youth engagement.  

Other factors that could be considered in defining and shaping the initiative were discussed by the Committee. The opportunity to build on and invest in the “demographic dividend” was highlighted.  International labour and human rights standards must not be lowered in the process of addressing the employment problem or other youth issues; it was crucial to uphold the existing normative frameworks . To effectively address the employment problem, a larger perspective of inclusive growth and a better understanding of how youth were excluded from growth would be needed.  It was necessary to emphasize stimulating labor demand at all levels; regional and sub-regional labor markets would have to be targeted in addition to those at the country level. Unemployment was in part due to a structural failure of job supply and of formal education systems, and therefore needed to be linked to education policy and systems.  The importance of digital literacy was stressed in this context, noting that the ICT sector faces a significant skills shortfall.

The global UN system response could build on ongoing work to generate awareness of, stimulate interest in, and provide education for employment in sectors with growing job demands, such as information technology and aviation. Rural jobs were also important, in particular in the context of making employment in agriculture attractive. There should be an effort to drive green growth and generate new green jobs and ensure that youth benefit. More prominence needed to be given to unpaid contributions to care economies.

The Chair observed that the issue was of concern to all HLCP members, but acknowledged that it may not be of equal relevance to all from an operational perspective. He asked that ILO, as the lead agency, form a core group to adjust the proposal by reflecting the comments made. Stressing the common view that the initiative must be operationalized quickly, the Chair asked the core group, led by ILO, to develop as soon as feasible terms of reference for the task team and a timeline of its work, for approval by the HLCP and, upon its recommendation, the CEB.

Action

The Committee:

Supported the establishment of a time-bound task team on youth employment and requested a core group led by ILO to develop terms of reference and a timeline of its work for consideration by HLCP and eventual endorsement by CEB.