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Rio+20 : Jobs and the issue of Youth unemployment
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Jobs and the issue of Youth unemployment
One of the critical issues on the agenda for Rio+20 is jobs. As member states start their negotiations on the first two sections of the zero draft--the Major Group of Children and Youth urge them not to forget the growing crisis of youth employment.

Why Youth?

Youth unemployment differs substantially from adult unemployment in both cause and solution. In 2010, an estimated 75.1 million young people in the world struggled to find work, and youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. Tackling youth unemployment and underemployment , by ensuring decent jobs will directly contribute to the promotion of environmentally-sustainable growth and poverty eradication . Hence, the youth bulge and associated labour market conditions should be critical factors in the evaluation of sustainable development policies, especially those designed to increase green jobs.

Meaningful youth participation is paramount to design new programmes, and enhance existing ones that are effective and work for young people themselves. Young people should be involved as solid partners in all stages when planning policy and programmes.

Tackling Youth Unemployment --Raising youth up in an economic down-turn

Job creation programs and policy frameworks must mitigate the global economic downturn?s disproportionate impact on youth. Long term analysis has shown that part of the issue is a ?transition? problem, with young people needing time to accumulate the experience and skills required to find good jobs . However, policy programs -- such as tax breaks for youth-hiring employers, vocational training programs, financial support for young entrepreneurs, and micro finance -- can greatly increase youth participation in the overall economy. Partnerships between the private sector, governments and civil society organizations are needed to improve the targeting of young workers, and the effective deployment of capacity building programs. To promote job growth, governments and the international community should also implement financial and macroeconomic measures, including bank and debt restructuring, and eliminate discriminatory regulations. Policy frameworks must emphasize the need for adequate labour market information, policy monitoring, and program evaluation to help provide better jobs for young people.

Some initial recommendations:

1. Including a Youth Guarantee in the social protection schemes, including the UN sponsored Social Protection Floor Initiative:

A Youth Guarantee will ensure that youth labour market inactivity would not exceed a period of four months. Such a policy measure will help young people keep in touch with the labour market and keep updating their skills and competences, and contributing to their employ-ability. A Youth Guarantees will offer a more tailored approach in helping young people deal with the structural failures of the labour market will eventually build trust and confidence, and are more likely to strengthen the labour market ties and participation rates for the future. This should become a standard feature in social protection schemes, especially when these are devised with the assistance of the UN.

2. The creation of a Global Education Fund:

In many countries, globalisation and technological changes have created urgent demands for new forms of skill development to meet economic and social needs. The promotion of education for sustainable development, and the establishment of training institutions, vocational programs for professional development, as well as the recognition of non-formal education are crucial.

A Global Education Fund must be co-managed by donors, recipient countries, non-governmental organizations, and experienced intergovernmental organisations such as UNESCO. The fund must include an independent secretariat with effective ownership of global education initiatives and ability to manage its own funding.

3. Record and consider the impacts on youth of labour and macroeconomic policies

Promoting labour-intensive sectors such as green jobs are key to generating employment opportunities for young persons, particularly in transition economies. Yet, governments cannot fix what they cannot measure. An UN-sponsored collaboration between the ILO YEN, UNEP and other relevant agencies should systemically monitor how much youth are benefiting from these programs and provide assistance to national labour statistics agencies on tracking these data.

4. Improving Youth Participation
The Adoption of either one global, or several regional conventions based on principle 10 of the Rio Declaration . Such instrument could serve as a tool of enshrining participation as a right, and upgrade existing participation practices. Hence a compliance mechanism is crucial and could potentially be modeled to the compliance mechanism of the Aarhus Convention.

The inclusion of civil society representatives and youth representatives in bureaus and boards of relevant bodies for youth development is necessary, regardless of its political process or implementing instrument nature. This could be inspired by different models already in existence, such as the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board or the Council of Europe?s Joint Council on Youth. In case a Sustainable Development Council is established, a strong youth-presence in the governance of the Council should be one of the criteria guiding its establishment.

The support of young people and their organisations to participate in the decision-making process, though the recognition that participation is more than access and needs empowered actors. It is crucial to give an explicit mandate and adequate resources for UNDESA to empower young people to be involved into decision making.

The de-facto inclusion of youth-representatives in the National Sustainable Development Councils (NSDCs). Youth are one of the Agenda 21 Civil Society Sectors that are too easily forgotten in the make-up of these NSDCs. In councils where young people are included, their membership is often limited to an observer role. Hence a balanced representation of the Agenda 21 interests is crucial when redesigning the NSDCs. Where such councils already exist, they should be strengthened and provided with the adequate resources, political leverage and support by exchanging best-practices.

5. Improving representation of young and future generations
Furthermore, we call for the establishment of an independent Office of the UN High Commissioner for Future Generations. The High Commissioner would have both an agenda-setting and advisory role with regard to the long-term environmental and social coherence and impacts of UN agencies, policies and programmes and other multilateral treaties. It would function in close cooperation with civil society. This office would also support the capacity of developing countries to establish effective mechanisms of intergenerational accountability.

Please note this article is based on the UNCSD Major Group of Children and Youth's contribution to input for the Global Sustainability Panel on youth unemployment and youth participation. We will soon have more on jobs....so keep reading!

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