The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.
MS. RAHMAN: Good morning, everybody. Each August, the world celebrates International Youth Day, and today is International Youth Day. This year, we’re celebrating youth populations around the world and discussing the theme of Youth Migration – Moving Development Forward. Today we’ll discuss the challenges and opportunities young migrants face as well as talk about how young people are making a tremendous impact in development all around the world.
My name is Zeenat Rahman. I’m the Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues. And I think this is a really exciting time to be a young person. We face myriad challenges, but the opportunities are also abundant. And I think particularly opportunity to have policymakers and senior officials listen to young people’s voices and ideas at this point in history where we have the largest generation of young people that’s ever existed gives us a very important moment of opportunity. And I think that success for all of us will depend on whether or not young people are able to realize their full potential to be drivers of innovation, economic growth, positive change, because we know when we talk about development and we have all of these massive challenges, we can’t solve them without the participation of young people.
So today I have a great panel of colleagues from the interagency with me, as well as a couple of youth advocates, and we’re going to be speaking about youth migration. Now, as we go down the row, I will introduce you and ask you to just offer a few comments from your perspective. And I’d like to start with our Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Elizabeth Hopkins. Welcome, and can you offer a few words?
MS. HOPKINS: Yes. Thank you so much, Zeenat. And hi to all my other panelists. You all have fantastic backgrounds and resumes. I’m really happy to be here to commemorate and mark International Youth Day. As you said, youth is really one of the most vibrant and important sectors of society today, and we’re all focusing on it. In my bureau, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, we provide assistance to the world’s most vulnerable people: refugees, victims of conflict, stateless people. And this population very often includes children and young people. We work with many international partners – you’ve heard of them – UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, and many very experienced NGOs – to make sure that young people in these very stressful circumstances have a place to be children, to be young, to be educated, and to make something of their lives.
We also protect migrants and asylum seekers, not only with special programs aimed at these individuals, but also by helping to shape international migration policy. That’s important because it ensures security for the people and their human rights. In these efforts, we work really closely with the International Organization of Migration, or IOM.
So you might have seen some of those statistics, but I’ll throw them out there. Young migrants between 15 and 24 are powerful agents of change in development around the world, including here in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, 40 million foreign-born people live in the United States, 13 percent of the population. And most of those are between the ages of 15 and 29. By mid-2010, the total number of migrant youth worldwide was estimated at about 27 million – this is according to a UN report – or about one-eighth of the total of 214 million international migrants in the world today.
But again, my bureau is focused on the ones that are the most vulnerable, and young people become vulnerable for a variety of reasons. First of all, they want to migrate because they know of opportunities or they want to be reunited with their families, but they lack the resources or the experience to do so safely. They lack family support and structure, often. They’re more vulnerable to recruitment or even kidnapping by illegal armed groups. And then finally, they face legal and, again, knowledge-based obstacles for advocating and organizing themselves.
So our bureau is working very hard not only to get these programs directed at vulnerable young migrants that would ensure that they get the education and the livelihoods that – life skills they need to participate actively in their economies, their new economies, but also to track migration trends and make sure we know what problems we’re dealing with.
I can talk more about specific programs in the Q&A, but thank you again.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you very much, Elizabeth. I’d like to now go to Chernor Bah. Chernor is a youth advocate, a former refugee from Sierra Leone. We met in his role as a youth representative on the High-Level Steering Committee for the Global Education First Initiative of the UN. And you’re an inspiration to me, so please inspire us all and give us a little bit of background about you, Chernor.
MR. BAH: Thank you very much, Zeenat. And you are obviously an outstanding inspiration to all of us in the role you continue to play. Thanks for having me. My name is Chernor Bah, as you said, and I’m from Sierra Leone. I was, myself, affected by conflict at some point. I had to run away from my country, Sierra Leone, and spend some time as a refugee and as an internally displaced person. So I come to this issue today both from a personal perspective, but also I’ve also seen, I think, and am excited by the role young people are playing, as you said, in international policies. So I think at the core of the migration issue, there are two important issues – and this is what my advocacy is on, and this is the issue of education. Both the push factor and the pull factors that – for this huge movement of young people from where they are, I think are all punctuated by one critical issue, and that’s the issue of education.
So if you look at why young people move away from the countries that they are to seek greener pastures, as all of the reports state, oftentimes it’s because they want to – we want to better our lives. We want to go to a place where our lives will be much better. And what would make lives better is the critical issue of education. That’s number one.
Number two: When we’re also pushed out of our countries – like, in my case, in Sierra Leone – where, because of conflict, we had to run for our lives, and now we have a huge task for our people living outside of our country, it’s also – if you look at the critical root cause of why that movement happens, it’s because of education. Because I think a lot of the times with conflict, it’s because you have a huge population of young people who are not empowered. So my life and my role has been dedicated towards trying to close that education gap and give a voice to marginalized young people. And I’m currently serving as the chairperson, as you know, of the Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initiative. And what we try to do is to continue to work with the UN Secretary General’s initiative and the partners that have been involved in that, to continue to increase the political profile of education, and call on governments and all the critical actors to make the promise of education that was made in – with the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000, that we’ll get every child in school. That was a promise, and we want that promise to be kept.
And I think on a day like today, on International Youth Day, we want to remind world leaders, to remind young people around the world, that this is a critical issue and this is something that we will not fail to continue to mention.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you, Chernor. That’s really good. I want to move on to Maryanne Yerkes, who is a colleague of mine at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She wears many hats, but among the most important is that she’s USAID’s Youth Coordinator. Maryanne, the floor is yours.
We can’t hear you. I’m not sure if you have it on mute.
MS. YERKES: There. Is that better?
MS. RAHMAN: Yes. Now we can hear you.
MS. YERKES: All right. Sorry about that, everybody – the first glitch. But I wanted to thank the State Department and the Office of Global Youth Issues, first of all, for organizing this event and for inviting us to come and speak about this important issue, and to focus on the contributions of young people to development. As many of you know, the U.S. Agency for International Development is the U.S. Government’s development agency that works in a number of countries around the world in areas such as education, trying to strengthen opportunities for young people in these countries in the areas of education, health, economic growth, democracy, and governance. In addition to being the agency’s youth coordinator, I’m also working with the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance within that space. So we do a number of programs in more than 80 countries around the world to try to improve the lives of people in those countries.
In terms of this issue of youth migration, I think it’s an incredibly important topic. It’s been getting some attention, and it’s important that we’re having this conversation today. But it’s critical that we keep discussing it, that it remains on the agenda of the global development discussions, and that young people such as our colleagues here today have a voice in those discussions. I feel that we, as policymakers and development practitioners, have an obligation to work closely with young people to try to find and explore opportunities or strategies and approaches that can help to enhance, on the one hand, the impact of youth migration – because there are many positive aspects of youth migration – as well as to mitigate and to address some of the challenges and risks associated with youth migration.
And I also want to emphasize that we should give more attention to the positive aspects of youth migration. I know that there are number of challenges that are out there in terms of human trafficking, social exclusion, et cetera, but there are also many ways in which young migrants are contributing to development. So I think that needs to be an important part of our conversation as well.
I’ll keep this opening rather brief so that we can get into more substance as we move forward, but thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from our youth colleagues more as well.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you, Maryanne. Now we move on to Claire, who is the cofounder and Executive Director of Women LEAD, which is a leadership development organization for young women in Kathmandu, Nepal. Claire.
MS. CHARAMNAC: Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m very excited to be here. So my name is Claire Charamnac. I cofounded Woman LEAD in 2010, and we’re the first and only leadership development organization for young women. And sort of what I want to bring to this discussion is talking about how migration affects women, obviously, differently, also how all this intersects in terms of education and employment for young women. And of course, when we’re talking about, for example, working in a country like Nepal where migration is a huge issue, what are the steps we can take beyond education? Why we started – why I started Women LEAD was because we believe education is not enough. Obviously, education is the first and most important step, but we have to talk about what happens to women, young women once they get out of high school. What are their education or employment opportunities or education opportunities, and what can we do to really make sure that they succeed and they become leaders and are able to talk about these issues of migration in their communities and in their nation? So I’m happy to talk about more of the perspective from young women around the world.
MS. RAHMAN: Great. Fantastic. DAS Hopkins, you have said that in the U.S. alone, there are 40 million migrants, 13 percent of the population in the U.S., but around the world that there are 27 million. And then in thinking of what Chernor said about – actually, what Maryanne said about seeing what the positive aspects of migration, and I’m wondering if you have any success stories of young migrants that you’d like to share, or if you’d like to speak about what programs PRM is doing through your grant – through our grantees, how are we helping to support young migrants in particular?
MS. HOPKINS: Sure. Well, one thing I want to make sure that everyone knows is that we work very closely in concert with U.S. Agency for International Development, so many of our goals are parallel and complementary. So I’m really glad that Maryanne’s here today.
Well, I’ll give you the famous success stories, which a lot of you know, but they’re important to point out. In the United States, a lot of our senior officials are, in fact, people that were born overseas. For example, our Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, is a Chinese American. Our Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, is – her parents are coming from Nicaragua and Mexico. Eight members of Congress were born overseas. So there’s no limit – I hope, anyway – to the amount of contributions that people can make in the United States, especially despite coming from a migrant background.
But as Maryanne and others were saying, the important thing really is to capitalize on the positive contributions migrants can make in societies once they arrive. First of all, of course, they send remittances often back to their home countries. That’s an increasingly well-analyzed aspect of migration, but I think it hasn’t quite – we haven’t quite honed in on how much it is helping countries around the world, even the migrant-producing countries.
As Chernor was saying, education is huge. Once these migrants become educated and get into the educational systems, again, there’s really no limit as long as they are guaranteed human rights and the legal rights that we are all working for them to have in their countries of – where they land.
I can talk a little bit about some of our programs, but maybe I’ll leave that to another question. We do do skills-training and education in Egypt, and in other places we, again, work in concert with AID on skills-training and education. But in other places, we are still focusing on the public awareness as to the dangers of irregular migration. So I’ll talk about that perhaps in another question.
MS. RAHMAN: Sounds good. Maryanne, you said that one of our goals as policymakers is how do we ensure that young people have a voice. And obviously, we are working at the State Department as well to do that. But I’m wondering if you can speak from USAID’s perspective about – what is USAID doing to partner with young people around the world, and how can we, again, tell these positive stories so that there are more stories out there of young people leading change?
MS. YERKES: Right, right. Thank you. First of all, from USAID’s perspective, young people are central to development, and this has been the case for many years. We have numerous youth programs and activities with young people. But the agency is proud, however, that recently we’ve been more prominently featuring young people in our work. So as some of you may know, last year we released our first ever agency-wide Youth and Development Policy. And so we are very pleased about that. I hope you know about it. And I think the title is noteworthy, because it’s not just on youth policy, but it’s youth and development, so it’s acknowledging the role of young people in development.
And just briefly to note kind of the two central objectives of this policy, the first is in strengthening our youth programming, which is critical, and the second is mainstreaming and integrating youth and youth issues into the work that we do and to our agency initiatives and to the procedures, and especially in trying to elevate the voice of young people. And so that is essential. If you read the policy, you will see that piece, and I would call on all of you young people, if you have ideas of better ways in which USAID can do this, you can let me know and my colleagues working on this.
But to get back to the point about just the role of young people in development, you’ve already heard the numbers of the youth population around the world, and many of you know the statistics that in many of the countries in which USAID operates, up to 70 percent of this population – of the population is under 30. So it’s very obvious that we have to engage young people.
The frequently made point that young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow I think cannot be overstated, especially emphasizing the role of leaders of today. We see that around the world. We’ve seen that time and time again historically. If you look at the role of young people in Serbia through Otpor, if you look at the role of youth movements and youth groups throughout the color revolutions and more recently as well in the Middle East, and young people trying to bring change. So I think that’s really important.
Also, USAID recognizes, as several of my other colleagues have mentioned here, that young people need, in order to contribute and to effectively, as we say, transition to adulthood, that young people need the support structures, opportunities, and services to actually effectively make that transition to adulthood. And so that’s where if they do not have that, and they don’t have those opportunities, they may migrate. But in some cases in a number of the countries where we work, where youth populations are huge, then they become frustrated and they can then in some cases be more susceptible to less democratic forces. So I think it’s important to recognize that we need to acknowledge these needs and challenges of young people and address them. And I’ll just give one quick example, also that’s frequently mentioned here in Washington DC, of one of your successful youth programs overseas. But since this is hopefully a global audience, I think that it will be useful for other people to hear about it, and that’s our Yes Youth Can program in Kenya.
As many people may know, the 2007 elections in Kenya were quite violent, and young people were very affected by that violence, in some cases contributed to it. So this program was designed in order to address that issue, in order to engage with vulnerable young people in some of the communities that were affected by the violence and to try to work with them to give them opportunities or allow them to take the opportunity to become leaders, and also to have socioeconomic opportunities as well.
Through this program --
MS. RAHMAN: Maryanne, I think you can go on if you are there. I see two Chernors, and then I see Maryanne’s screen frozen.
MR. BAH: I’m back. I don’t know if you can hear me.
MS. RAHMAN: Okay, yeah. We can hear you. (Inaudible) –
MR. BAH: Sorry.
MS. RAHMAN: It’s okay.
Okay. I’m sorry. We’re going to wait for Maryanne to come back on, but Claire, I was going to ask you in the meantime, given what Maryanne was saying, can you speak about the perspective of – how, in particular, do these issues affect women and girls?
MS. CHARAMNAC: Absolutely. Well, I think it was really great that she’s pointing out that giving a voice to youth is one of the most critical things that USAID can do, and I think that’s very, very true, and we see that in our work. The simplest things you can think about, including building confidence or having girls speak up in public, that is actually a really, really critical intervention. And we’ve seen that time and time again, that that really gives young women the tools and the ability to see how they can move forward in their lives. And so I think even things that we think may be small interventions on the ground, we see are actually really, really very important and building up these young women, and making sure that they have a voice in development issues. So I think that one critical piece of increasing sort of access to different forums and councils and opportunities for young women to – or young people in general to really have a voice in these discussions is very important, which is why I’m very glad that I’m here as well, because I think being able to speak for these young women, I’m very excited to be able to do so.
MS. RAHMAN: We have a question from Twitter that I’m just going to throw out there. And I’m going to ask Chernor to respond first, but it’s: What can we do to keep young people from migrating out of their countries, i.e., the brain drain? And are there ways to counter this?
MR. BAH: Well, two things about that. First, I just want to say that on migration, as I think we’ve been pointing out here, is not inherently a bad thing. You are in this age, you have the – we’re the most – we’re the largest cohort of young people in history, the most connected group of young people in history, and also the most mobile. And a lot of that is for good reasons. Young people move away from where they are to seek better opportunities to engage in different cultures, to interact with other people, and the brain drain is an issue, but obviously one critical important way of countering the brain drain is to invest in education in poor countries and make sure that there are opportunities for young people that keep them in their country to have access to good, quality education and then good, quality jobs afterwards.
But I just wanted to point out as well, one of the things that my colleague was making earlier about the importance of these other skills, but from the traditional education. Now a critical part of the work that we do – as you all know, the 12th of July we had the biggest group of young people ever to come to the United Nations, and you were there, Zeenat, in helping to kick us off with that. And young people came up to the UN to take – and of course, we had incredible speech that Malala gave.
But one of the critical things out of that two days was the youth resolution, which was the outcome of an extensive consultation process from young people when we asked them, “What (inaudible) do you want?” And one of the key things coming out of that is this whole concept of global citizenship. And the UN Secretary General as well, in his initiative, the Global Education First Initiative, highlights that as one of the critical things. And what we are trying to do now is begin to build on that. What does global citizenship mean? What does it mean to be a citizen of the world, both for a male and a female? And we – we’re beginning to look at building on the excellent work that the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education has been working on through their learning metrics task force. They’ve been identifying all these metrics whereby we will be able to measure what education is. And one of those is being a citizen of the world. And as young people, that’s something we’re excited by, to be able to point at that as an important educational metrics by which we’re judging our outputs; we’re judging the equality and standard of the educational system in the world. And I think that’s a really critical discussion that’s going to happen in the next few months.
MS. RAHMAN: Do either of you want to react to that as well? I think Maryanne might be back.
MS. CHARAMNAC: Yeah, I think it’s – I think that’s critical. I think I would add making sure that young people feel invested in their own communities where they are. For us, we’ve seen with the young women that we work with, the more excited they are that they see that they’re able to participate in their families and their communities and their nations in talking about how to build a democracy, talking about how they can be change-makers within their communities, that also becomes a really important factor for them to want to say, to feel that they have a voice in this discussion, to feel that they can impact their communities and they can be leaders in their communities. So I would just add, of course, global citizenship, very important, but adding feeling that they can make a difference where they are and have a voice where they are.
MS. RAHMAN: Well, you know one of the way – I’ll just speak from the perspective of the State Department Youth Issues. One of the ways that we’ve tried to make sure that young people have a voice and have input into policy processes is by starting youth councils. And so we have about over 65 youth councils through our embassies and posts throughout the world.
And one of our youth councils, which is the one in Latvia, is addressing and dealing with migration and youth unemployment directly. Now migration is really a big policy issue in Latvia. Thirty percent of the country is unemployed and so you have a lot of young people who are unemployed, so you have a lot of young people leaving to search for other opportunities. And our youth council organized campaigns and have actually been meeting with high-level government officials to talk about solutions and to really try to elevate the power of their collective voice as a whole.
And so I think there’s some promising moves being made where we have to establish a framework, I think as Chernor was saying, because we don’t know what the challenges or opportunities are going to be in a world that is changing very frequently. But if we have the frameworks for input, then we know that we’re getting a lot of participation, the proper voices informing policies.
Maryanne, you left us for a while, but I actually have a question that I’ll direct to you and DAS Hopkins that came from Twitter. It says: What more can be done to ensure that reproductive health services, which addresses specific needs, concerns, and vulnerabilities of young people in refugee settings, are available and accessible to them?
MS. YERKES: Thank you. I don’t – can you hear me?
MS. RAHMAN: Yeah.
MS. YERKES: Okay. Sorry. (Inaudible.)
MS. HOPKINS: If Maryanne’s not on audio, I can take a stab at that one. As Chernor said, the UN resolution was very important, because it extended the recognition of those rights to adolescents and young people, that is reproductive health, awareness, the right to make own decisions about your own health. So that was a very, very key development.
For our part, we’re – in our Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, we are looking specifically at programs that can target vulnerable women, especially women that are victims of gender-based violence. Too often, that is a given in a camp setting or other displacement settings. We find that there’s a lot of programs that seek to respond to gender-based violence and other reproductive health issues, but very few that are preventative. So we’re trying to look at the beginning of a crisis, at the beginning of a displacement or refugee situation and see what we can do to help these women, again, through this very stressful situation.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you. Maryanne, do you have something to add?
MS. YERKES: I would just add, maybe not necessarily in the refugee camps or IDP camps, but we do have at USAID a number of programs targeting young people and the area of reproductive health. In Liberia, we have a program that works closely with young people in training youth to be peers and to share services and go out and inform other young people about the reproductive health services.
We’ve also used information communication technologies, the mobile technologies, in kind of unique and different ways in order to inform people who are very much on the move – and young people in particular – about services. So we have several different programs that use mobile technology and to inform people about where services are available, what they might need to consider, et cetera. So I think that’s also an interesting development that we’re seeing, as well as using this new technology in a way to reach more people, recognizing that there are access issues. So we do have some innovative programs in that area targeting young people and reproductive health issues as well.
MS. RAHMAN: I have a related question, which I’m going to throw out there, also coming from Twitter, and see if you – if my colleagues have anything to add. It says: Young migrants are susceptible to sexual violence and exploitation during migration. How are we – what steps are we taking to address this?
MS. YERKES: I would say – I mean for – one important factor, at least in USAID’s programs, a lot of times that’s in the prevention space as well as in services for victims in countries with internal migration, is information-sharing, first and foremost. So we have a lot of programs that are focused (inaudible) of challenges facing young migrants. Just to give you a couple of examples of some of the programs that do that at USAID, we have a large MTB exit program, which (inaudible) trafficking program that was started in 2006, and it’s very much about finding ways to reach young people, to inform them about the challenges related to trafficking. And that program is in a number of different countries around the world, reaching up to 750,000 young people in some cases.
We also are doing other kind of efforts to raise awareness about trafficking and to address prevention. That includes research. For example, we have a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Campus Challenge that was launched in October 2012 to raise awareness among young people at universities, et cetera, and to try to find more innovative ways to inform people about – and to address issues related to trafficking.
And also another program that I would like to highlight that’s very important as well is new and it uses some of the technologies I mentioned before, which is a program called Safe from Cell, and that’s a mobile application, which has been developed to raise awareness, again, about trafficking. Right now, it’s planned to be implemented in Albania, but it can be used in other places as well. It’s using mobile phones to basically inform people about services, where there might be health services, victim services, police stations, et cetera, and a map for how do you get to those services. And it also includes a database on general information and on the possibility of a – reporting incidents of trafficking function.
So again, it’s just trying to find more ways to reach young people using technology that is accessible, so that’s critical, and to raise that awareness with youth, potential migrants in communities, before they leave, and they also hopefully as they move forward. Because there are a lot of internal migrants as well, and so our programs in a number of the countries in which we operate can target those young people in those countries as well and connect them to the services that we’re already supporting.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you. We have another question, which I’ll throw out to the group: Women migrants frequently end up in low-status, low-wage production and service jobs. How is this being tackled? I wonder if any of you have a comment on that.
MS. YERKES: I guess --
MS. HOPKINS: I can – sorry. Zeenat, I don’t – can’t hear Maryanne, so if I’m interrupting or repeating, I – please forgive me.
I think actually this is something that USAID is very involved in, but we are tangentially as well, in that, you’re right, women are traditionally funneled into these low-wage jobs. And sometimes, in fact, we’ve been part of that problem in sort of assuming that women’s enterprises are always going to be sort of rug-making or hairstyling or something.
And so we’ve been trying to work within cultural norms and sensitivities to get women educated in areas where they can feel comfortable working, but also are working in more productive and high-wage situations. In some cases, that’s – it’s not easy because of the cultural sensitivities. Sometimes it even involves separating the men from the women. But I agree, it’s important, and in the end it all goes back to what Chernor was saying, which is education is really key.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you. Claire, I wonder if you have anything to add to that?
MS. CHARAMNAC: So – well, specifically in the work that I do, I’m not working with – to respond to that question exactly. But I’m happy to talk a bit more about just specifically in Nepal what we see, I mean, when we’re talking about, of course – and I keep on kind of stressing this, of course, that the education piece is very important. But obviously also making sure that we have women in leadership positions that can speak to this, not just on the ground in their nations, as to what those solutions are. Because I think, of course, it’s very important to have different groups and organizations working on these issues, but honestly the people who have the best answer to that question are the women who are affected by that and other women who should be in leadership positions who can speak to the issue.
So I think the work that we do tries to address that by saying how can we get the women who are most affected by this issue to be at the table to give us what they think are the solutions to that specific problem. So I think that’s just pointing, as well, to another solution, another aspect to this, which is women in leadership positions, which I think is very critical in addressing these issues.
MS. YERKES: Zeenat.
MS. RAHMAN: Yes.
MS. YERKES: Can I add – sorry about the technical challenges there and glitches. I do want to emphasize that in addition to focusing heavily on youth, USAID has a major focus on gender issues. We have a policy that had come out and it’s being implemented on gender equality and female empowerment. We also have work related to ending child marriages and working on gender-based violence.
So this is a major component of our work, and that does include leadership programs, as Claire was mentioning and referencing. And really in all of our youth programs recognizing that there are young girls and adolescent girls that sometimes get lost in the mix. So a lot of times youth programming people think about the young boys. And then some of our women’s programs might focus on older women. So I think there’s more an attention to this issue of the kind of young girls and adolescents that might fall through the cracks, trying to address those issues. We also have labor programs and other programs that work in that area and that can address the issue of gender.
So a major push of our work right now is looking at our development efforts and how gender plays a part in that and how we can address some of these challenges, as Claire mentioned, working very, very closely with young girls, women, and the people that are actually affected. So I do want to highlight that. People can find more information on our gender programs as well by looking at our website.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Maryanne, that’s really helpful and really important. I want to – it seems like we’ve spoken about education for most of this conversation, and I’d like to ask Chernor to deconstruct that a little bit. I mean, I think education sounds very big and nobody would disagree with it, but what are the specific interventions or ways that you all are looking through GEFI to address this, whether you’re talking about global citizenship, the soft skills, piece of this, or actually primary school education? And what are some things that we can kind of learn from what’s happening with GEFI to apply to other issues or other social issues that young people face and particularly young migrants?
MR. BAH: Thank you very much. First of all, I think that one of the important realizations now with the young people around the world, and I think – speaking back to the issue that Claire mentioned – is that with a lot of the other things that we talk about, with leadership, with having (inaudible) prominent seat at the table, at the core you need some form of education, and education should be seen as well in a very broad – in rather broad terms so that you’re not looking at only the traditional going to school and the rote memorization. This is why I think the metrics that I mentioned, which is citizens of the world, is (inaudible). The question about what we’re doing, what the (inaudible) group is doing with partners and with the Global Education First Initiative is actually – the initiative is actually to again make education the top of the global international agenda. So the Secretary General in his second term looked at all the issues around and decided that the one critical thing that he needs to focus on, that will have the maximum dividend in his second term, will be investments in education. And there are good reasons for this.
One is we saw that in the past few years the progress in education was actually stalling, which is a big shame because we had seen incredible progress in the late ‘90s and coming up in to the 2000s, and then some of that progress began to stop. So we needed to again inject new energy into the education issue, and also, as you know, unfortunately when donor countries want to cut funds, the first culprit, unfortunately, often times is education. So the education investment is actually reduced over the years due to multiple factors, but that’s obviously not right.
So what GEFI seeks to do, the initiative seeks to do as well, is to bring together a broad array of partners who are doing excellent things in their own sphere to coordinate all of those activities – that’s number one – to work with donor countries and champion countries to increase investments in education, but also to focus on specific countries.
So if you look at the countries that are the most affected or – we have 57 million kids who are out of school. Nigeria alone has 10 million of those kids – 10.5 million of those kids. So our advocacy with A World At School, with the Youth Advocacy Group, is going to look at focusing through this Global Education First Initiative. It’s going to look at focusing at these critical countries.
So in April they had the fourth Learning for All meeting that brought together the finance ministers and education ministers of some of these countries to begin to look at what can be done in these countries to accelerate progress. And now, coming up on Malala Day, when all of this starts to put together with youth leaders around the world, we’ve seen an incredible kind of momentum and people – young people are saying, what can we do in Nigeria where we have 1 in 5 of the children in the world who are out school in this country? And it’s also not a coincidence that a lot of my grants around the world come from Niger. Nigeria has a huge cohort of young people who are leaving that country seeking opportunities overseas.
But secondly, how countries like Pakistan, Malala’s own country, that only spends about 2 percent of its GDP on education, whereas the minimum recommended is about 20 percent, some countries spend 25 percent. So we’re looking, again: How do you mobilize young people around the world to draw attention to these (inaudible) issues and demand action from world leaders and from these countries?
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you.
MR. BAH: When that happens (inaudible) is that – sorry. The final point I’m going to make on this is that we’re seeing for the first time young people around the world who are committed to this issue, who are saying that education and participation is no longer about having a seat at the table. It’s about actually also being part of the policy discussion, so we’re not only going to be called in to say, “What do you think about what’s already been done?” or being there when we’re (inaudible) into policies and we’re looking forward to working with your office and all of you guys on this, and also kind of following through on the action on the ground.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you, Chernor. So this conversation is meant to kind of be the tip of the iceberg and promote awareness around both youth leadership, youth populations, and the particular challenges facing young people around migration and development. So I’d like to just kind of quickly go down the line and have each of you offer a point to resources of where more information would be from your purview on any of the things that you’re working on.
I’d like to start with DAS Hopkins. If people are interested who are listening and following up and learning more about PRM programs, where should they go?
MS. HOPKINS: They should go to our website at State.gov and then Population, Refugees, Migration, and you can also contact us through that website as well, and we’d be happy to provide more information. So, State.gov.
MS. RAHMAN: Okay, thank you. Maryanne, the youth policy and all things youth related at USAID, where should people go?
MS. YERKES: Yes, also you can visit our USAID.gov website, and we have a youth impact page on there as well. I just wanted – if you don’t mind, really quickly – to make one additional point, since I was cut off, if that’s okay.
MS. RAHMAN: Yeah, just – sure. Quickly.
MS. YERKES: Thanks. The other point, and I think this relates to what Chernor was saying is to emphasize the role of some of the youth programming, youth development programs that are specifically focused on ensuring young people have a voice in policy, that they have opportunities, skills, et cetera, and I think that looking more carefully at how we can support these systemic programs that work at youth development systems within the country that ensure young people are part of the policy dialogue.
The example of Kenya that I was giving – I was cut off in the negative side when I was talking about the violence, et cetera – but they have done incredible work to get close to a million young people directly involved in decision-making and programming that affects their communities. They created village parliaments, youth-led village parliaments that are in 20,000 different cities – I mean villages – across Kenya. And they had a tremendous effect on the recent elections in 2013, just two examples where that they were able to mobilize and get 400,000 young people to apply for their national ID cards, which are critical to be able to vote, but also to have opportunities for schooling and formal employment.
So when others have tried this program of working with youth – not with youth; it’s youth-managed, youth-led, youth-governed, youth-owned completely – they were able to do this, and they also managed an incredible peace campaign and involved some of the presidential candidates in ensuring that there was messaging out there about peaceful elections. So I just want to mention that there are programs out there that really are doing what Chernor says, to ensure that young people are at the forefront. And to find out more about those and a number of other efforts related to youth participation, you can visit our website, you can contact me as well, and you can look at our Youth Impact website, which we are building out, so it’s still new.
MS. RAHMAN: Okay. Great. People should visit your website, just usaid.gov?
MS. YERKES: If you go to usaid.gov, you can get to our Youth Impact page from that.
MS. RAHMAN: Fantastic, thank you. Claire.
MS. CHARAMNAC: For all those interested in everything to do with women, young women’s leadership, what I’ve been talking about, I would really recommend a look at The Girl Effect. I think The Girl Effect, Girl Up, are all doing – this is UN, different agencies working together on this issue. I think they’re a great umbrella and a great start to looking at these different issues. And of course, our organization, Women LEAD, women-lead.org, we do specifically women’s leadership in Nepal, but we’re connected to other organizations around the world that do young women’s leadership. So start with The Girl Effect, and from there, there’s a lot of really great resources to look into.
MS. RAHMAN: Thank you. Awesome. Chernor, GEFI. I can’t hear you, Chernor. Okay.
MR. BAH: Yes, yes, I was on the inside. Thank you very much, Claire, and I just want to say thanks for calling out The Girl Effect, because that’s something I’ve been involved with and --
MS. RAHMAN: Oh, boy.
MR. BAH: -- now and for a while. So for the Global Education First Initiative, you should go to (inaudible), globaleducationfirst – you spell that out full – .org. And also, join the campaign at A World At School – aworldatschool.org. We are building a movement of young people through this platform that are being engaged in all of these policy discussions we are talking about. And we also ask young people today, if you go there, there’s a blog post that I did asking young people to take action, (inaudible), continue to build on this momentum and stand up for our rights.
MS. RAHMAN: Fantastic. And we will share all of these links and resources on our Facebook page, which is Global Youth @State, Global Youth @State. And I’m on Twitter @Zeenat if you have a follow-up, but we’ve been following the conversation on the hashtag #IYD2013. So if you have additional questions, feel free to kind of send them, and I’m sorry if we weren’t able to address them, but we’ll try to do so via social media.
Thanks to my panelists, or my co-speakers for joining me today and really taking the time out to recognize the legitimate contribution of young people around the world. Thank you very much.
PARTICIPANT: Thank you.
MR. BAH: Thank you very much.